We recently talked about why you may want to ditch the laptop and opt for handwriting your law school class notes. In case you weren’t convinced, here are four more reasons you may have more success with a pen than the keyboard.
I handwrote my entire 1L year, and found that – especially in Property and Torts – there were consistently things I wanted to draw rather than write down. For example, adjacent tracts of land involved in easements, or the idea of transferred intent – these were ideas I understood better when their explanations were accompanied by pictures. I still remember my diagram of a little guy in a purple car zooming from his land across his neighbor’s, and the dotted lines between stick people that I used to illustrate a defendant trying to hit one person and ending up hitting someone else instead.
Yes, you could probably keep a note pad handy for diagrams in class and still use a laptop for notes. But, you may then have to spend time incorporating those drawings into your typed notes later, or matching them up sequentially, which you won’t need to do if you’ve drawn them right into your binder. This brings me to our next point: visual cues.
You can compile more visual cues for later.
I don’t know about you, but I remember handwritten words on a page better than typed text. For example, one time at work at a law firm, a colleague and I were trying to remember a decision we had come to a few months before. I said something like, “No, remember, our plan was highlighted in green on that packet of papers with the yellow tabs; it was scribbled in blue ink in the upper right-hand corner of the first page.”
And you know what? She remembered exactly what I was talking about! These visual cues, such as color, the distinct loops and curves of a particular person’s handwriting, and the layout of the page, helped us remember what we had written by recalling how we had written it and what it looked like.
Another example: when studying for the Bar, my Evidence outline included all of the federal rule distinctions in red and the state laws in green. Now, when it comes to black letter law on relevance, I may not remember the precise wording of FRE 403 versus CEC 352, but I can still recall that the latter was written in red—and that tells me it was a California rule. If you have an easier time processing and remembering material when you have more visual cues to go off of, rather than pages and pages of uniform text, you may want to consider handwriting.
You may make debriefing and outlining easier.
I found that going through my notes after class and outlining were both much easier when I hand-wrote my lecture notes. First, since you are synthesizing as you go, you are weighing yourself down with much less actual written material to work with and memorize later. After all, it’s much easier to remember 10 pages than 20, right? Second, drawing on the same sorts of visual cues as discussed above, with handwriting, it is often easier to make your debriefing memorable.
For example, say you took notes in black, reviewed those notes after class using blue, and then marked everything important your Professor said (as opposed to student questions or comments) in red. You will be giving yourself a map of who said what and when, and it will be clearer which notes are things you wrote down during lecture, as opposed to your outside-of-class elaborations or explanations. You could probably do this with track changes on a type-written page, or even handwritten marginalia if you want to print your typed notes, but I personally find that that this can look more sloppy and jumbled when it comes to turning these notes into an outline.
You won’t be as tempted to multi-task.
Finally, it should go without saying, but the answer to whether it is a good idea to surf the net during lecture in law school, should be an emphatic “NO!” Did that stop the woman in front of me during our first year who spent almost every lecture shopping for shoes, checking out Perez Hilton and playing Jewel Quest? No. I know, I know! We all have our blog, Pinterest and social media weaknesses. I certainly do. The impulse is hard to fight! Wifi is free and easily-accessible in most law school classrooms, and chances are your professor will never even know anyway, right? Maybe not, but that’s not the point.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to divide your tuition expenses by the number of courses and lectures you have to sit through from now until reading week. Chances are, whatever you’re texting, tweeting, buying or playing is costing a lot more than you think! You paid for each lecture, and you owe it to yourself to pay attention. Even if you don’t pay tuition, you will be held accountable when exams roll around, so you still owe it to yourself to give every class your best shot – and that means actively listening to what your professor is saying.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Why Ditching the Laptop for Lecture May be Better Than You Think
- Is Handwriting Notes a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
- 5 Things to Include in Your Law School Class Notes
- Evidence-Backed Law School Study Tips
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