How I Take Notes in Law School


You'll notice that the title doesn't say this is how you should take notes in law school--this is just the way I choose to do it. I'm a big believer in the idea that everyone approaches law school in a different way, so the way that I take notes may not be the way that works for you, but it could inspire you to figure out what note-taking method works best for you. 

I use Microsoft OneNote to take notes in class. This semester, the only class I'm in is Constitutional Law II, so I'll be using my notes from that to show you how I prepare for class and take notes during class. Here's what a typical day of notes looks like for me: 

As an overview, I read through and brief all my cases once before taking notes in OneNote. I find that it takes me too long to read through a case and take notes at the same time because I lose my place or train of thought too often. 

The notes I take on my own are in the white font. Typically, this makes up the bulk of my notes for that section. During class, I'll add information I didn't put down on my own in red font so I can make sure to pay attention to which parts of a case I didn't understand. I also put the black letter law overview (if there is one) in red font so it sticks out to me when I go through my notes and outline. 

Currently, my casebook for Constitutional Law II is broken up into shorter summaries of cases and opinions, with more important decisions put in a longer excerpt. For those longer cases, I do a full case brief, which involves going through the procedural history, facts, a traditional IRAC analysis, and a brief one-liner about any additional opinions. I'm usually a bit more thorough with these cases, since this is typically where important rules of constitutional law come from. 

For the shorter cases, I don't put an entire case brief in my notes. Instead, I take the most important points, such as the holding, and make sure I have those written down. However, I do make sure to have summaries of any concurrences or dissents that are mentioned in the case overviews. Since these cases aren't set off in a table like my longer case briefs, I'll highlight the case name in blue, which is the same color I have used since 1L in both my notes and my outlines to indicate a case. 

There are two other things about OneNote that you might find useful. First, the tags can be really useful for when you need to quickly glance at your notes or keep track of thoughts you're having during class. I like to use the star to mark important information (typically something that my professor is going to be looking for on the final) and the question mark to make a note of things I'm confused about so I can ask my professor about it later. You can also create your own tags to fit your note-taking needs. 

The "Draw" section can be really useful, too, especially if you're like me and visual aids help you out. I've made many different flow charts and diagrams using the tools provided in this section. 

How do you take notes? 




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