Note-Taking Tips for Online Law School

5 Note-Taking Tips for Online Law School

August 28, 2020 | Sheri Dennis, JD

Are you a law student who has suddenly found yourself facing the challenges of learning remotely? Law school was challenging enough without the sudden change from in-person to emergency remote learning. Or, perhaps you’re a Purdue Global Law School student who planned to go to law school online all along and simply looking for ways to improve your note-taking skills. Either way, this article is for you. Below are five essential tips to help law students get the most out of online learning. 

1. Organize Your Notes Around Legal Rules

Taking notes in law school differs greatly from note-taking in college or other graduate programs. When attending college or other graduate programs, you most likely wrote down all or most of what your professor said, knowing that if you reviewed and memorized your notes, you would ace the exam. 

Law school is quite different. To do well in law school, you do not need to memorize every word your professor says in each class. Indeed, doing so is counterproductive, since you will not be asked to spew back word-for-word what your professor said when you take an exam or quiz. Nor do you need to memorize everything in the cases (i.e., appellate opinions) that you will read and discuss.

Rather, you will need to understand the rules of law relied upon in the cases you read and be able to apply those rules to new scenarios and hypotheticals. This is true whether you attend a traditional law school or an online one. It is therefore important that you organize your notes around specific legal rules and principles rather than on individual cases.

2. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Handwriting vs Typing Your Notes

There is some debate as to whether it is preferable to type your notes or write them out by hand. While there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of note-taking, studies suggest that writing notes by hand promotes active learning and enables students to better understand and remember the material taught.

Additionally, when taking online classes, writing notes by hand may be more efficient since it alleviates the need for students to switch back-and-forth between their course and note-taking screens.

Nonetheless, it may still be useful for students who handwrite their notes to consider the note-taking software that is currently available on the market. Note-taking apps may assist students in organizing their handwritten notes after class and efficiently store notes for easy retrieval at a later time. Some note-taking apps I like include:

3. Consider the Cornell Method of Note-Taking

Many students rely on the Cornell Method of Note-Taking while in college. However, the Cornell Method’s usefulness is not limited to the undergraduate classroom. Law students, whether studying remotely or in a traditional classroom, often find following the Cornell Method to be beneficial.

By adhering to the Cornell Method of taking notes in class, using cues and creating summaries, students are compelled not only to focus in class, but also to continue to engage with the material after class is over. In this way, the Cornell Method promotes active learning by students and assists them in retaining the information.

4. Review Your Notes and Outline

In law school, being a good note-taker does not necessarily correlate with success. Rather, students must create course outlines and use those outlines as they study for quizzes and exams. Outlines should be structured around topics and concepts that are covered in each course.

During class, students should take notes as the professor discusses the topics and concepts, offers hypotheticals, and provides additional information. Later, students should review their notes and integrate the material into their outlines. Students should then utilize their outlines as study guides and memorize the information contained in them.

As with note-taking, the thought process of deciding what to include in an outline promotes critical thinking and memorization of key concepts.

5. Use a Note-Taking Style That Works Best for You

According to the Online Learning Consortium, the number of individuals seeking to continue their education online has increased in recent years. For those who are considering attending remote law programs after having been out of school for a while, the idea of online learning may be daunting. However, many of the learning tools and techniques used in traditional academic environments can be used in online schools as well.

This is certainly true when it comes to taking notes for online law school. While there are various methods of note-taking to consider, you ultimately have to choose a style that works best for you. The key thing to remember is you have to take notes—and use them!

Learn More About Online Law School

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many traditional law schools are scrambling to figure out how to offer online classes. However, long before the coronavirus was a concern, Purdue Global Law School recognized the value of online learning. Since 1998, Purdue Global Law School has been offering a world-class online legal education at a fraction of the cost of traditional law schools. We offer two online legal degrees:

  • The Juris Doctor, which trains you to become a California-licensed attorney

  • The Executive Juris Doctor, a doctorate in law for those who wish to build their legal expertise without practicing law

If you’re interested in earning an online law degree, request more information today.

About The Author

Sheri Dennis, JD

Sheri Dennis, JD, is a faculty member in the Department of Legal Writing at Purdue Global Law School. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Purdue Global Law School.

Filed In: