Every student swears by an idiosyncratic note-taking style, but when it comes to law school, any method that ensures organization scores brownie points. Unlike other academic or professional note-taking tasks that maintain a uniform stream and format of notes, law school class notes tend to have wide variations in note-taking needs.
Evernote has a few advantages that line up particularly well with the needs of law students.
The core benefit for most users is the workflow. There is a notebook making functionality that allows for multiple “notebooks” to be visible on the left side of the screen, and to see snippets of each note similar to the bird’s eye-view offered by Outlook’s default email setting. At the start of the semester, I created six notebooks: one for each class and one for general personal reminders.
For example, within the Property notebook, I opened a new individual note for each Property class meeting and review session (though you may choose to keep a single long one). With individual documents floating on my hard-drive, I used to procrastinate organizing files into folders. This ease of categorization forces me to label each note from the moment I create it. For those to whom organization comes naturally, optional tags can be added to each note to make tracking it down more easy – much like finding photos of friends on Facebook.
As a Contracts final approaches, anything remotely soothing is welcome. The stream-lined workflow that Evernote boasts slightly lessens the stress-factor.
With extensive note-taking, a screen of typed notes can cause visual-claustrophobia that translates to mental tension. Evernote’s wide margins and open white space layout wins out over the distractingly button-filled and margin ruler-lined page layout of more conventional word processors that are great for formatting the final product for printing but not for typing and saving notes.
To-do List Friendly
Aside from pencil boxes and planners, most law students are enamored by the to-do list. And while the most exciting list may be of the TV-shows you’ll catch up on over break, the mechanism to check off the reading you completed becomes even more satisfying when it comes in the form of an electronic checkbox, begging to be checked off.
What I find to be the most valuable and largely unknown function is the synchronicity Evernote shares with Skitch, a partner software designed by the same team. Skitch allows for easy screenshots, which automatically sync into a dedicated notebook with just a click of the sync button. As an added plus, Skitch allows for dragging and dropping the picture into iMessage–without even having to save it—thus bypassing the jpeg file-saving required by native software. Saving screenshots to Evernote is great for saving the questions you get wrong on electronic practice questions to review before a quiz. Another step-skipping feature is that Skitch offers textboxes, circles, and arrow stickers to mark up the screenshot, so I can take a screenshot of an ebook and text it to a classmate – all without having to save a single file.
A few caveats to keep in mind:
- The recording functionality is neither the most reliable nor the most flexible, as it does not allow more than one recording per note, and sometimes disappear.
- The search function is somewhat clunky, as it gets distracted by looking for similar words rather than the exact spelling.
- It autosaves continually.
- It can detect and search for text in pdfs.
- Notes can contain images to accompany text notes, so you can add in the photo you took of the board for each class meeting.
Have you tried Evernote for law school classes or exams? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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