FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
Your performance in law exams depends on your ability to revise strategically and for that you need well-organised law revision notes. While you may not pay a lot of attention to this at the beginning of your law school journey, having a proper system on how to organise law notes can be very useful. Without having organised revision notes you will struggle to revise properly for your modules and that will definitely affect how you perform in your exams. Fortunately, you can easily learn how to organise your law notes by applying a few easy-to-follow tips.
Keep your notes short and sweet
When taking notes during lectures or textbook study most law students make the mistake of trying to write down everything. They think that if they forget to note down even a few small things said by their lecturer, it will have serious consequences for their revisions. The fact is that you don't need to include everything in your notes. Instead, you should just select the most relevant definitions, cases and statute sections for each topic along with their explanations and a couple of examples.
Don't make it a habit to write down everything that comes out of your lecturer's mouth during lectures. That requires both mental and physical energy, which means that you will not only start to feel tired during the lecture but you also won't be able to focus properly. The lecturer will move on to the next topic or section and you will still be figuring out how to complete the notes on what was said earlier.
Apart from that, you will find it difficult to edit and organise your lengthy notes in a way which allows for strategic revisions. When you sit down for exam revision, you only need to have the most relevant things in front of you. Keeping your notes clean, short and well-organised will enable you to revise properly and cover the most crucial aspects of each topic which are likely to show up in your exam. This, in turn, will help you to perform well in your law school exam and especially to get a first.
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Organise your notes with headings
One of the best ways to organise your law notes is to divide them into headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Instead of going old school and writing long paragraphs, all you need is pointers. Don't forget that if and when you need the details, there are guides, books, and other explanatory course materials you can rely on to find what you're looking for. The primary purpose of notes is to cover every relevant topic and its essential, including definitions, related statute sections, and cases.
That's why it is a smart idea to divide each revision note into 2 to 4 sections depending on what your lecturer is teaching during the lecture. Then you can further organise each section into headings and subheadings along with bullet points to highlight key components which you will need for your strategic revision. This way you will be able to understand the lecture's structure and it will become much easier and quicker to revise everything. If you feel you need to study a certain bullet point or you can't recall a particular heading, you can always pull out your textbooks or revision guides for support.
Another mistake that many students make is that they take notes by hand rather than on their laptop. This old-fashioned way of taking notes can seem more productive at first, because you are physically wasting a lot of energy with your hands while reading or listening to your lecture. But the problem with handwritten notes is that there is no way you can organise them better and divide them into headings and subheadings once you have written them. Unless, of course, you rewrite the whole thing again, which will make you waste even more time and energy.
On the other hand, electronic notes written on a laptop can be easily reorganised into more fitting headings and subheadings. Not to mention that you can also get them automatically backed up and avoid losing all your hard work when your coffee spills next time! If that doesn’t convince you, then think about the fact that you can always print and reprint your electronic notes whenever you will want to study from a physical piece of paper.
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Revise your notes strategically
I have already mentioned the common mistake made by many law students of trying to write down everything that the lecturer says during the lecture word by word. But many students go a step further and make the situation even worse than that. When they follow up on the lectures by studying on their own from the textbook, they add even more new information to their revision notes. This habit leads to an extremely detailed yet poorly constructed and organised soup of information that's quite challenging to consume. Yes, you do end up having a lot of information – but what good is it if you cannot study it quickly and effectively before your exam?
Instead of doing this, you should make it a habit to prepare a list of the key definitions, cases and statute sections for every topic based on the lecture slides, and only try to fill in the gaps in the explanations of those definitions, cases and statute sections by adding information from the textbook. This will allow you to have more structured and complete law notes without having excess information that can distract you and make the revision process quite difficult during the law school exams period. Easy revision notes enable you to memorise more information and the more you revise from them, the more likely you are to do well in your exams and get a first.
Preparing organised notes is one of the essential elements of doing well in law school. Your notes reflect your understanding of a particular topic. That's why you need to keep them brief and succinct instead of attempting to cram everything in. Law students usually struggle to prepare organised notes because they don't have a plan or they use the wrong approach to note taking, which results in disorganised, excessively detailed, and incoherent law notes. That's why it is crucial that you learn how to organise law notes. Following the tips mentioned above will go a long way in terms of helping you to prepare well-organised, short and succinct law notes.