July 17, 2016

How I Take Notes in Law School

People have their different preferences on whether to type or write your notes in class, but today I wanted to show you how I take notes both ways. law school notes. law student notes. typed or hand written class notes. law class notes. law student notes. law school blog. law student blog. law school blogger. law student blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

So with all this orientation talk, I thought I should write about one thing they talked about in orientation that I completely disagreed with, and that's how to take notes. People from academic support basically spent like 3 hours telling us how to take notes. What I didn't like is that they suggested we take pre-class notes in one color of pen and in-class notes in another color to see what we were missing from our pre-class notes. I get where they're coming from, but this just ended up making a mess in my notes and did more to confuse me than help me. What I suggest you do for your notes isn't to copy someone else's system but to be honest with yourself about how you study and only use their ideas if it fits in with your writing style. 

I know that everyone takes notes differently, so I'm sharing with y'all my personal method of taking notes just to give you another opinion to consider. For another opinion, check out this post by Caffeine and Case Briefs 

Why I prefer typing

The academic support people also mentioned about how there's been studies that show that you're more likely to remember something if you write it down rather than type, but I still prefer to type. The main reason why I prefer to type is that sometimes professors or classmates talk fast, and typing is way faster for me than hand writing (also why I prefer to type my essays on finals). It really bothers me to have holes in my notes so it's just easier this way. 

And because I can type faster, that means I spend less time typing and more time listening (because sometimes it's hard to listen to one topic while still trying to type about another). I think the best way to take notes is to first listen to your professor, and then summarize what he just said in a way that will be helpful to you when you go back over them later. 

Another pro in the typing column is that you can edit it and it will still look clean and easy to read. Often my professors would take a few minutes every class to review what we went over last class, and if I left something out of my notes, then I could easily go back in and add it and it'll look like it was there all along, instead of just having it written on the side with an arrow drawn to it like in handwritten notes.

So yeah idgaf about statistics telling me to hand write my notes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

how I take notes | brazenandbrunette.com

How I type my notes

I've said it before, but really Evernote is superior to Word. If you have a Mac, there's an app in the MacApp store so you can get it on your computer, and it syncs with your phone and iPad (idk if you can do this on a different brand of computer because I don't have one, so comment below if it works for yours). Unfortunately, they've recently announced that you can only use it on two devices for free so I'm kinda pissed at them that I'm not going to be able to use it on my phone anymore. Update: I just found out that they give a student discount so you can get 50% off the premium plan here.

Related: My favorite law school apps

Anywhoo, what I do is make a notebook for each class. I never delete these because you never know when someone might need your notes and you can share these through email. 

how I take notes | brazenandbrunette.com

For each notebook, I make one "note" for each chapter. In undergrad I would just make a new note for every day, but this got confusing on the days when we would finish a chapter and start on a new one in the same class. Now, I just start each day where we left off and if we begin a new chapter then I'll just make a new note. This is so much easier later when I'm reviewing my notes.

how I take notes | brazenandbrunette.com

I really liked how my property professor would put up a slide when we were starting a new chapter that basically gave us an outline of that chapter. This was really helpful when I was making my own outlines. I'm a big fan of bullet points because they force me to write concise notes instead of full sentences—this makes sure that I only get what I really need and I'm not wasting my time with the little stuff. You might also see on the bottom left that there's some drawings, and that's another thing I really like about Evernote is that I could draw out exactly what my professor was drawing by using my iPad and a stylus, so that was super helpful. Usually if a professor has posted the slides online, I would do a split screen on my computer with Evernote on one side and the slides right beside it. 

Usually each note has a section for a summary, a section for vocab, a section for the rules that come from the cases (also referred to as "black letter law"), and sometimes a section for anything that I've highlighted in my text book. I like to make these little subheadings that are bolded just like what I do on here, so that I can quickly find what I need.

Handwritten notes

I've had a few of my professors explicitly say no electronics allowed in the classroom at all. I get this because it's common for people to pop on over to Facebook or whatever in the middle of class. My argument to this is that it's not much better than when you're zoned out just doodling in your notes because if you don't want to pay attention, then you'll find a way to do it with or without a computer. 

But, alas, sometimes I was forced to take notes like a pioneer so I might as well share what I've learned there too. Or, ya know, if you're one of those people who prefer to write then I guess I should offer my advice to you too lol. 

The number one best thing I discovered this past year is CURSIVE! Like I've already said, people talk fast and it's better for your brain if you spend more time listening and less time writing. I started off taking my notes the normal way, but one day was just too damn lazy to pick up my pen and that's when I realized how much faster you can take notes when you don't have to raise your hand from the paper after every letter. I'll admit, if you're like me and haven't written in cursive since you learned in 3rd grade, your writing might be a little hard to read at first. Just make sure that it's not too sloppy that you can't go back and read it.

how I take notes | brazenandbrunette.com

For some reason, my handwritten notes ended up being a lot more bare boned than my typed notes. All they would be is the name of the case, the page in my book it was on, what section of the book it was under, and what the rule of the case was. Very basic. Usually what'd happen would be that I'd make a note in my book or highlight something that my professor said, write down what page I did this on in my notes, and then I could just go back and look at it later rather than taking up time and space to write it in my notes.

Even though I had to hand-write these, I still took the time to type them up in Evernote later. I guess technically this probably did help me study when I had to rewrite everything, but it still was a pain in the ass and took a while so idk how beneficial it actually was to me.

how I take notes | brazenandbrunette.com

Another thing I'll say about taking notes is that as pretentious as legal pads may seem, I really grew to love them because without that big metal ring of traditional notebooks, my hand had more room to write all the way to the edge. However, the down side of legal pads is that I had to keep up with more than one for my different classes, so if I didn't have one I definitely would've just got one multi-subject notebook so that I would only have to remember to pack one thing in my backpack. 

I also found that ballpoint pens are the best for taking notes because they glide so smoothy for when you're taking rushed notes. I'd suggest maybe going ahead and buying 2 packs because my first semester was the first time in my life that I actually used up all of the ink in a pen before losing it. And I was only taking handwritten notes in 2 classes! 

Final thoughts

I know this was another long, rambling, over-detailed note. I just think it'll help you feel more prepared for that first day of class when you've seen how someone else actually took notes during class, and not the BS people say they did but didn't actually do because it was too time consuming. And remember, that just because someone is taking way more notes than you, doesn't mean that they're a better student than you are!



  1. Do you pay for Evernote or just use the basic? Just read an article/review about how prices have gone up a ton. Wondering if $69.99/year for Premium (or even $34.99/year for Plus) is worth it??

    If it makes a big difference, I don't think it's a bad investment. Just don't want to waste money either.

    Thanks in advance :) Love your site!!

    1. No I definitely do NOT pay for Evernote. I'm sticking with the basic and so far the only downside is that they've started limiting your devices. I have over 30 notebooks and still use less than 10% of the available memory in the basic package so I don't think it's worth it to upgrade if all you're using it for is taking notes.

  2. I use windows 10 and it sounds similar to your Mac, in that you just download an app. It also syncs to my iPhone with no problems :)

    1. Thank you! I know that PC has OneNote so I didn't know if you could get Evernote or not since it is an app, but I'm glad that you checked for me!