How To Effectively Write Notes in Law School

Now that the LSAT exam is behind you and your first semester of law school has begun, you may have already noticed how different the environment is from that of your previous university. Your classes are structured differently, your professors are stricter and more professional, and it likely feels as though all you do is take notes. After all, there is so much information being passed on to you in each and every class, you could not possibly retain it all by memory alone.

Therefore, it is imperative you refine your note-taking process to accommodate your learning style and any class policies that may be in place as well. With that in mind, let us explore some effective methods of writing notes in law school.

Consider preparing notes prior to class

Sometimes, professors will send outlines of the topics that will be covered in your next meeting. If that is the case in one or more of your courses, be sure to take advantage of and utilize those documents throughout the week. This can be achieved by adding any pertinent, reading-related notes to each corresponding section of the outline and reviewing the full document before your next class.

By taking such an approach, you will already have a decent understanding of each concept before your professor covers them, meaning you will have the time to take additional notes and fill in other concepts as they crop up during class.

Choose your note-taking method and stick to it

Whether you prefer handwriting notes or taking them on a computer or tablet, it is imperative you keep your note-taking habits consistent, as frequently switching up methods or softwares will often lead to confusion and disorganization.

However, if one or more of your professors has a no-computer policy in their classes, be sure to improve your handwriting skills and dedicate a bit of time to typing up and organizing those notes on the device of your choice. That way, your notes remain consistent and easy to find.

Do not write what your professor says verbatim

Nothing will slow you down more than spending time writing every last thing your professor says. Instead, put your energy into engaging with the class materials and discussions, then take quick notes as important points come. Otherwise, you will find yourself with lengthy transcriptions of every class that hold little to no value.

Do not rely on a classmate’s notes instead of taking your own

Regardless of how skilled said classmate is at recording important facts from class, it is scientifically proven that writing — specifically, handwriting — your own notes boosts retention and fosters a deeper understanding of concepts. Therefore, it is better that you take the time to write your own notes or observations, no matter how tedious or unappealing the task may seem.

Taking notes in law school is not necessarily rocket science. However, it requires much more thought and intention than taking notes in undergraduate school did. By following the above steps, you will set yourself up for long-term success inside and outside of the classroom.

Originally published at chartwestcott.org on April 27, 2018.

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