Law students are always looking for new ways to be productive. Thanks to advancements in technology, it is easier than ever for law students to use apps and programs to be more productive and enhance his or her study of the law. At some point before or during law school, you will identify the type of learner you are. For those visual learners (and possibly the kinesthetic learners as well) creating and using flow charts to map out the law can be very helpful. There are many apps and programs out there to help you flow chart your way to legal mastery!
What Is a Flow Chart?
A flow chart is a diagram that is used to depict a process or system. The use of flow charts began in the world of engineering in the 1920s and 1930s where they were used to develop and communicate technical work processes in manufacturing and other areas of science and engineering. Their use has exploded and expanded to virtually every area from project planning to sales and marketing to education and learning. In “olden times” (like the 1980s) flow charts were created using paper, pencil, and plastic shape outlines to make it easier to create precise and uniform elements in the charts.
Today, we have the advantage of apps and programs that can allow us to map out the procedural history of caselaw; understand the elements of a particular statute; or piece together the interplay of the Black Letter Law, case law, and whatever else might affect how a law is applied.
Is there Psychology to Flow Charts?
Not only are flow charts a great way to map out a complex concept, they tap into some of the critical components of learning for visual learners: using graphs, charts, and diagrams. These can help the visual learner comprehend complex information and visualize the relevant patterns within an area of the law. Flow charts can help all learners increase the number of active retrieval pathways in the brain, lengthen memory of complex concepts, and significantly increase recall efficiency, all of which are critical to success in law school and during bar prep. The charts can help law students learn by seeing and comprehending the relationships between procedural steps within the legal system, elements or factors within the Black Letter Law, or the evolution of a particular legal principal or concept. Law students who actively construct their own flow charts with both text and graphic elements learn and remember how to follow the arrows within their charts, which leads to greater recall and retention of the law.
What Apps Can Help Me Get in the “Flow”?
Of course, each has its own look, feel, and process. Part of the process is finding one that works well with your study habits. Law students are not known for having an abundance of extra cash on hand, so most of these are free (or relatively cheap) and easy to use. This is not an endorsement of any of these apps and, of course, this list is far from exhaustive.
- Lucidchart is an online collaboration tool that allows users to create an unlimited number of free flow charts with up to 60 objects in each. Lucidchart has apps in the App Store and on Google Play.
- Microsoft Visio is part of the Microsoft Office package. Unfortunately, it is not an app and has to be downloaded through your Microsoft 365 account. My school-provided Microsoft 365 access does not include access, which means I have to pay to use the program. It is slick and intuitive, but the cost is an issue.
- Creately is another collaborative diagramming program that allows you to create flow charts offline or online. It is cloud-based or works on your desktop/laptop. You can get limited free diagrams, but a monthly subscription of just $5 gets you unlimited flow charts.
- Google Slides is great because it’s free and already part of the Google apps you are using. It’s a slide show app that gives the user the ability to create his or her own flow charts. This program can be used anywhere and has a great web-app. The cloud-based app lets you share with everyone in your study group.
- draw.io is great because it’s free and has a lot of templates to choose from. You can save your work to your Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive which gives you access to your flow charts from anywhere.
- Gliffy is not free but relatively cheap. If you plan to use flow charts a lot for studying in law school, it is well worth the cost. This is a great program because it is straightforward to use and can be installed on Chrome for greater flexibility when you don’t have Wi-Fi.
It’s Time to Start Charting Your Course…Pun Intended
If you know that you are a visual learner and haven’t tried using flow charts to grasp legal concepts yet, give it a go in one of your classes for exam prep. If nothing else, use one of the free resources above to see how you like it. Flow charts are not a silver bullet to master law, but they can go a long way at helping the visual learners (and really any law student) learn, retain, and recall legal concepts more effectively. Build your first flow chart today. You got this!
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