Everyone has their own way of remembering things. For some people it’s flashcards, for others it’s taking extensive notes, and for others it’s creating detailed outlines. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after a year of law school, it’s that there’s no best way to memorize the facts and law that may come in handy when you’re taking an exam. In the end it all comes down to your style of learning.
You can even see the differences in the classroom. Certain classes don’t allow laptops in class. Some may have difficulty keeping track of everything without their computer, while those that are used to handwriting remain organized with ease. Sometimes writing things by hand can help to process the information you receive from the professor. If not, then transferring handwritten notes to an electronic format can help those who are used to working on computers.
Outlines are heavily emphasized during the first year of law school, and for good reason. Though, the length of an outline can vary greatly. Some outlines are encyclopedic collections of every case mentioned in class, while others are more like pocketbooks filled with only the relevant rules of law. While an outline can be helpful during an exam, it’s important not to rely on it completely. It can be used as a reference, but it should not become a crutch for your legal analysis.
Exams come in many different forms as well. Open-book, limited open-book, closed book, essay, multiple choice, short answer. Studying past exams can give you an idea of the structure and format, but when the exam finally comes it’s up to you to spot the issues, analyze them, and come up with an argument with persuasive reasoning and support from the law.
Class attendance is crucial. Books and supplements can help clarify complex legal concepts, but your professors will be your best resource when it comes to learning the law. They can best explain the relevance of each case you will study and will be there to answer whatever questions you may have. The usefulness of office hours cannot be overstated.
Memorization of case names may not be required, but a solid grasp of the rules that come from a court’s holding can prove invaluable. By the time you make it to law school you will most likely know which method of studying works best for you. Do what you need to do to memorize the things that will make your arguments stronger on exams. Outside of that, prepare as much as you can to make sure that your arguments have a solid foundation.