I’m going to start out talking about the most important thing when it comes to studying for law school, your brain. If your brain is not in a healthy state, you will not be able to study effectively. If you need a break from the books for a few minutes, take a walk or run around outside. Play with your dog or cat for fifteen minutes! These activities are essential if you want to live an overall healthy life and want to be able to study well in law school.
Now that we’ve covered how important it is that your “brain” is working efficiently, let’s talk about how it works! I know this may seem obvious but here goes: You have two ears and one mouth, use them in equal amounts when reading! I know this sentence makes some people crazy because they feel like reading should be done at least 80% of the time by listening and 20% by reading. But no matter what ratio you come up with I think we can all agree that we should read while listening at some point during our studying process. This helps us retain information more easily just like taking notes while listening does (more on this later though). The main reason why students probably don’t do this is that they’re still hung up on just memorizing everything similar to what they did in high school and college classes where lectures were primary sources of information for their tests/exams/quizzes/etc. I need to learn survival study skills!
Alright, now I’m going to start getting into the meat of my blog. I want to talk about outlining! If you want to be able to retain information well enough for a test in law school you need a good outline. But how do we make sure we have a good outline? Well, if you’re in law school right now or read this blog often then you probably already know the answer: It’s all about taking notes while listening! You can create your own method of note-taking that works best for you but here is what I do when it comes time to take my notes. In study groups when we’re discussing cases and concepts with our classmates, I feel like the only way that my brain will remember something from our discussion is if I write it down after hearing it from someone else or me explaining it out loud using a different example than what was just discussed among our group members. So once everyone has had their say on whatever case/concept/etc. it is that we’re discussing, I’ll ask for a few minutes to jot down what I can remember. If you’ve ever heard of the 180-degree rule, then you know that the first thing you should do when outlining is take notes on everything that was said on your topic. This will help you remember things more clearly if they come up again later in your outline. Then I try to summarize what was said using my own words so it’s easier to remember it all rather than just have random things stuck in my head. Otherwise, I’ll just write down what someone else said on the topic. You can also take notes while reading your course materials if you prefer to do that instead.
After I’ve taken my notes and had a chance to absorb everything, it’s time to write an outline! If you’re using the 180-degree rule correctly then this shouldn’t be too hard of a process for you. Just go through all of your notes and see if there is any repeating information that needs to be written down in your outline. My preferred method is writing out my outline by hand on notebook paper with pen or pencil (because typing it out on computer would take way too long). I recommend doing this because you’ll have a physical copy of your work which will help when trying to study from it later as well as making it easier for you to adjust/change/etc. if something doesn’t really work for whatever reason. Most law students I know prefer typing their outlines because they feel like it’s easier to change/adjust/etc. but I think it’s harder because you have to go through the whole process of adjusting it again if you decide that something needs changing after typing it out.
After you’ve written your outline, see if there are any things in your notes that are missing from your outline. If there are then add them to your outline immediately! If not, then move on to organizing everything inside each section of the outline into an easy-to-follow format for yourself. This is where things can get really interesting.
After you’ve taken your notes and written out your outline, you can test yourself with that outline on whatever topic it is that you’re studying! If there’s still something that you don’t know then go back to the source of the information you are trying to remember. I was told by one of my professors once, “If it isn’t in your notes or in your outline, then it is not in your head!”
There are two things left to talk about here. One thing is committing yourself mentally to studying for law school just as hard as any other class. I’m not going into the details on this because I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory but if anyone wants more information on this subject just comment below and ask me! The last thing I want to talk about before finishing this blog post off is utilizing all three types of memory: short-term memory, long-term memory, and working memory. When using these three types of memory together while studying for law school with taking notes while listening (or reading) will make sure that you retain information well enough for a test/exam/quiz/etc.