Effective Note Taking in Law School
Taking good notes in law school is vital but can be difficult. Because many professors use the Socratic Method, classes may seem to lack structure, and it may be hard to discern what’s important.
- If the professor writes anything on the board, it’s probably important. (You knew this.)
- Pay close attention in the first and last few minutes of class. Professors may use this time to summarize and provide valuable signposts.
- Write down the questions the professor asks. Your classmates’ answers may or may not be helpful, and you may not see any answer yourself at first, but you can come back to these questions later when you review. Often in law school there is no simple answer and it’s the questions that really matter. If your professor poses a hypothetical, write it down: this may become a test question later on.
- Come to class with some of your notes already in place. Brief your cases: they provide the skeleton for your class notes. Leave space so you can annotate your briefs as the professor elucidates them.
- Review your notes, at least once a week, daily if possible. Often what seemed confusing during class will become clear by the end of the day or the week. Highlight key definitions and rules in your notes. Try writing a short summary of the major points made in the class. Mark what is confusing in the notes, then follow up with the professor, your learning assistants, and your study partners to clarify things. Don’t wait until the end of the semester!
- It’s not easy to strike the right balance between taking complete notes and listening actively in class. Don’t let yourself go on auto-pilot, mechanically transcribing the professor’s words. As long as you review your notes soon after class, you can fill in any blanks. Strive to be focused and fully engaged in class.
Your class notes, distilled and synthesized, will become your course outline (and other study tools) that you’ll need to get you ready for the exam.
Please email Kiyana Kiel, call (619) 260-6876 or stop by Warren Hall, Room 117.