The best strategies for taking notes in law school

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When it comes to studying for your law school exams, your class notes are by far your best resource. Why? Your professors write their own exams -- and they’ll test what they teach in class! Good class notes will help you focus your study on the most important rules and concepts. If you’re wondering about the best strategies for taking notes in law school, you’ve come to the right place!

Handwriting Notes vs. Typing

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’ll type your notes or write them by hand. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach, but we recommend at least trying taking notes by hand to see what you think. Studies show that students retain more important information when handwriting notes compared to typing. You might not have a choice -- some professors ban the use of laptops in their classroom!

Quality over Quantity

If your class notes are an attempt to copy verbatim everything your professor says, there’s a good chance most of that won’t help when it comes to creating your outline. In most classes, the cases you discuss are important because they illustrate a particular rule. Don’t waste your time copying down every single fact or date. Instead, focus on the material the professor highlights.

Use an Old Outline as a Guide

If you can get an outline or class notes from a student who already took your class with the same professor, it can be a great resource. Not only can an old outline help you structure your own, it can also help you follow along in class and focus on the key points. For this reason, it’s a great idea to get to know students outside of your year!

Create a System

Ultimately, the best class notes are the ones that are most useful to you. Generally, that means having a good strategy for taking and organizing your notes. Many students find that using abbreviations helps them take more efficient notes. Other students use a color-coded system to identify different parts of the case. For example, you might decide to write every rule in red. When it’s time to turn your class notes into an outline, spotting the rules will be a snap!

For most students, success in law school requires efficiency. Efficient class notes are those that highlight key rules and concepts without wasting time or space. If you follow our strategies for taking notes in law school, you’re well on your way to success!