FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
If you Google “how to learn law” you will immediately see a range of articles explaining very complicated systems which you should follow when studying law. Reading most of those articles can make you want to give up on law school altogether. In reality, learning law is very easy and straightforward. All you need to do is follow the four steps below (nothing more, nothing less).
Step 1: Skim through the lecture slides
The key to learning law the easy way is doing a bit of preparation before the lectures. During most lectures the lecturers use complicated words and phrases which are difficult to understand for students who are hearing about the topic for the first time. Because of that confusion, many students get bored during lectures and don’t benefit from them at all.
But there is a way you can both enjoy the lectures and get a lot of your studying workload done during them. All that you have to do beforehand is to skim through the lecture slides and look for cases, statute sections and any difficult words or concepts which you don’t understand.
Once you have identified all of those, you should list them - either in a separate Word document or in the “notes” section under the slides in PowerPoint. If your prefer taking your notes on paper, then simply print off the slides and highlight the words, cases and statute sections your will need to define. You should also leave some space on the side of the printout to include explanations of those words, cases and statute sections. The point is for you to arrange your materials in a way that you can take notes and follow the slides simultaneously.
Note: For a video demonstration of how to select the right words, cases and statute sections from your slides check out the First Class Essay Writing Course.
Step 2: Take short notes during lectures
Most students struggle with taking notes during lectures because they are too perfectionist about it. They think that everything the lecturer says is important enough to be written down and struggle to select the most important takeaways. The reason for this is usually lack of preparation before lectures.
But if you follow Step 1 and prepare a list of words, cases and statute sections before the lecture, then you will be able to treat the lecture as a sort of a game in finding out the explanations to those concepts. As you will be listening to the lecture, pay special attention to anything that your lecturer says about those words, cases and statute sections which you selected.
Take notes on any of those words, cases and statute sections which the lecturer did talk about in detail. If you know that the lecturer mentioned a specific word or case but you didn’t quite get all that they said about it, just raise your hand and ask. Most lecturers won’t have a problem with it, if anything it will just show that you were paying attention and don’t want to miss anything.
Note: For an example of a first class revision note check out the 1st Class Law Essay Writing Course.
Step 3: Read the relevant textbook chapter
Rather than getting sucked into the “I need to read it all” mentality when it comes to textbooks, you should treat textbook reading just like you treated the lecture - as a game in finding out the explanations of the concepts you selected.
Before opening the textbook, look through the lecture slides with your notes to find out any missing explanations, or explanations which were not quite clear. Mark the words, cases and statute sections in your notes which still need more clarification, so that you know what to look for in the textbook.
Once you open the textbook, skim through the whole chapter so that you get a better idea about the topic. But only do a very thorough reading of parts which contain those words, cases and statute sections which you still require explanations for. Finally, use your textbook to fill in the missing explanations.
Note: If you want to learn how to skim read through textbooks, the 1st Class Law Essay Writing Course contains a video demonstration of an excellent quick ready technique for law books and articles.
Step 4: Consolidate your notes
If you have followed Steps 1 to 3 then you will find studying before your exams very simple. Your notes will be pretty much ready. All that you will have to do will be to go through them again and consolidate them. This will be a very straightforward process, given that your notes will already be quite short and to the point.
As you will be scanning through your notes before exams, look for any explanations which are longer than 1-3 sentences. In general, your brain will only be able to remember around 1-3 short sentences about each word, case and statute section. Because of that, there is no point in you trying to learn from notes which contain more information than that.
Typically when we take notes quickly, we tend to include a lot of unnecessary information in them or to express our thoughts in a complex and long way. This is your time to go over the notes again to identify any sentences or groups of sentences in which you were waffling a bit. Once you find those sentences, turn them into neat and short ones that still contain the same level of information. Once you do that, you are ready to begin your exam revisions.