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Best Note Taking Tips

At orientation, they encourage you to at least try to take handwritten notes. In my experience, lots of students tried the old-school method initially but gave up within the first six weeks of law school. Typed notes are faster to take, easier to share, and easier to search through. However, there is always the risk of technical difficulties, so here are some tips to get you started off on the right note, pun intended.

1. Download a note taking software

I personally use Evernote, although I know students that use OneNote or other programs. Evernote allows you to make different virtual notebooks, so I have one for each class. It then allows you to make notes within each notebooks, so I divide my notes by chapter, date, or topic. You can also add tags, so if you make outlines or do practice tests, you could add a tag and be able to access them for all your classes at once. While the formatting isn’t as easy as in Word, the saving and accessing the notes is SOOO much easier than having to save each individual document. They also have an app so your notes can be accessed on your phone or tablet.

All my notebooks within Evernote

All my notebooks within Evernote

Inside my Contracts "notebook"

Inside my Contracts "notebook"--I organize notes for this class by chapter

2. Save everything to drop box. Save everything to drop box. Save everything to drop box.

I know on Apple computers you can add Dropbox to your finder menu, so you can hit “Save As” and select Dropbox as the location to save your work (see image)

. It’s way easier this way than uploading something to the internet every time. Saving everything to Dropbox makes it so that no matter what happens (laptop dies or gets forgotten at home), you can access your documents as long as you have internet access. Dropbox has an app too so you can send or share any documents from your phone or tablet.

3. Indicate where there are blanks in your notes

Sometimes, I’ll be in class and realize I haven’t been paying attention for the last five minutes. I’ll make sure to type (????) so that I can easily go back and find where I need to fill in blanks. It’s much easier than having to guess where you skipped over something when trying to make your outlines. For example:

4. Actually fill in those blanks

Ask a classmate for their notes to fill in anywhere you may have spaced out. Also, when making your outline, note where things don’t make sense to you and then go to your professor’s office hours for clarification. Usually, I find I can fill things in from the readings and power points, but it's best to go to your professor and ask so you know exactly what you need for the exam.

5. Create abbreviations that make sense to you

For example, I use “P” for plaintiff and “D” for defendant, since they’re long words that get used frequently. I also use “MR” for mens rea in criminal law; “K” for contract; “bc” for because… you get the picture. Don’t spend time typing out long words that can easily be abbreviated.

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