How To

How to: Take notes for effective studying

Besides reading, taking notes is by far one of the most time consuming things you’ll do during law school. I mean, you should be taking notes in every class so that’s a big chunk of your time. There are plenty of good ways to take notes and I see people do it all different ways. In the end, it boils down to two options: handwrite or type. You could try a typewriter or something along those lines but I doubt your classmates and professors would enjoy the clack, clack, clack noise all through class.

There are definitely benefits to taking notes on a computer. It’s quicker for a lot of people and lets you get more information down. The downside to computers for note taking is the endless distractions. I used a computer for part of my first semester and I could not focus on what was going on in class. There’s just too much shopping and too many cat pictures to be paying attention to subject matter jurisdiction. But, there are plenty of people out there who have much better focus than I do and use a computer to take notes. Most people use one of a few programs to help them with notes: Evernote, OneNote, or good ‘ole Microsoft Word.

I handwrite almost all of my notes now. Occasionally, depending on the class I use a computer and I still get really distracted by it. I definitely use a computer if I don’t feel good because my handwriting is terrible if I’m sick. My notes are still not as organized as I would ideally like them but I have a good system for each class to make sure that I keep things in order. Each class gets a binder with a printout that has the name, days, time, and location of the class. I, honestly, never look at them; I just know by color which goes to which class. I have reinforced looseleaf in each that I take a few sheets out for each class so I don’t do the annoying opening/closing a binder thing. A lot of people use notebooks or legal pads instead of binders. I can see the appeal to each but it’s just not for me.

Regardless of how you take notes, it’s important the notes be organized and complete enough that you can go back to review everything that you’ve learned. My notes for each class are different based on what I need to know for the class. My notes are usually color coordinated with black being the reading notes and blue being class notes. Class notes, though, are all completely differently. I have my payment system, admin, and adoption:

Payment Systems
Payment Systems

Payment Systems: For this class, we go over hypotheticals instead of cases so I don’t have to worry about holdings or anything but I do have to worry about which part of the UCC things come from. I make sure to completely write out the section of the UCC we are dealing with for that particular section. I wrote out 3-403(a) and highlighted what I didn’t understand it in so I would remember to go back to it later. All the section numbers are in green and I write notes on the margins to keep me focused on who is who in the problem.

Admin: We don’t focus a whole lot on cases but here Londoner was a big case. My professor consistently repeats what due process is and how it applies to admin law so I’ve made sure I highlight that to stand out. When I have something that applies “only” or “if” or “when” the word gets highlighted so I know what criteria I need to focus on for that to happen.

Adoption: Adoption is very case heavy. We learn a lot of words we’ve never heard before and focus a lot on what the code is for adoption in our state. New words are highlighted and so is the Ohio code for different parts of adoption. This way, it’s easy to go back and see exactly what the statute says in certain circumstances.

All the methods I use to take notes and review notes have worked for me so far. It’s a lot of work but ultimately that’s what law school is. I don’t mind taking notes because I know the hard work for when finals come around is already done.


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