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LawCrossing Feature

Secrets of Success at Law School Part-3 The ‘How to’ of Note-Taking and Reviewing Notes: Successful law students show a radically different approach to note-taking and reviewing notes compared to average students. There are certain common approaches found in almost all highly successful law students when it comes to these activities. In concise, the differentiating traits include:


Spending more time taking notes outside of class


Spending more time in reviewing both class

reading to get the gist, and one thorough sec-

notes and notes taken out of class

ond reading to understand if anything has been

Taking extensive notes outside class when study-

missed out or whether any wrong interpretation


16. Two readings are given to each case – one fast

ing rules and cases 4. 5.

had been made

‘Thinking’ through the analysis when studying

17. When working on assignments, above-average

rules and cases

students use head notes to narrow focus and

Taking notes in ‘own words’ to internalize the

start their research with seminal cases

learning 6.


8. 9.

Creating extensive case summaries including

The above traits are found in almost all students

predictions of how an opponent would use the

who remain ahead of the competition in law schools.

same cases

Conversely, students who fared poorly in comparison

Taking notes of analyses of ‘own thoughts on

to the toppers spent much less time in taking and

distinguishing’ the application of relevant cases

reviewing notes thoroughly. Most students with average

on issues

results have a propensity of doing it and carrying it ‘in

Reviewing class notes before starting on any por-

their heads’ instead of writing everything down and

tion of the brief

reviewing periodically

Reviewing notes while creating briefs to check While building their analytical capacities, most above-

whether things are on track 10. Quoting ‘key language’ when taking notes

average students also show a propensity of finding the

11. Combining notes in a typed outline to use for

ratio decidendi of a case by reading the full judgment and not looking at the head notes. They try to arrive at

preparing briefs 12. Taking notes by hand rather than accumulating a

the ratio by themselves and then check with the head notes to find out whether their logic and attention was

library of direct printouts 13. Most toppers devote more time to writing than

correctly used, and learn why they missed things, if they did.

they devote solely to researching cases 14. Toppers focus on trying to understand the crux of the argument they want to make rather than

Source: Anne M. Enquist, “Unlocking the Secrets of

getting distracted in research that does not bear

Highly Successful Legal Writing Students,” St. John’s

directly upon the argument at hand

Law Review 82, no. 2 (2008)

15. Toppers first understand the issue, then do the research


Secrets of Success at Law School Part-3  

Secrets of success at law school part-3 discussing effective habits of successful law students.

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