How to study law effectively
To say that studying law isn’t easy is an understatement of the century. Admittedly, studying law is super hard and to do it effectively requires a combination of good study habits, active learning and critical thinking. As an intellectually demanding discipline, you need not only a deep understanding of complex legal concepts but also the ability to apply them. To help you a bit, we prepared some useful study tips.
Engage in active learning
Law students must navigate a multitude of cases, statutes and legal principles while dealing with dense legal texts. As such, passive reading is simply not enough. To remember information much more effectively, you have to really engage with the study material. This can include summarising cases in your own words, discussing things you aren’t sure about with others or teaching what you’ve learned to someone else.
You can test yourself and practice answering legal questions which develops your legal thinking. When taking notes, make use of outlines. Break down and organise your study material by topics and try to cover key points. If you want more ideas on how to tackle dense study material, read our article on how to study from textbooks.
Although analytical thinking is of utmost importance to future lawyers, law is one of those fields that rely heavily on your ability to retain information long-term. Don’t make a mere study schedule, make a review schedule as well! Have you ever heard of spaced repetition? This miraculous technique based on a scientifically proven algorithm is a literal live-saver so be sure to look it up.
Use memory techniques
There are several memory techniques you can readily use because they work in any context. Flashcards can be used for memorising legal terms and cases. We’re sure you must have heard of those before. They’re a great tool for reviewing and testing your knowledge. The good news is that they don’t have to be done on paper, just use a handy app like Anki or Memrise.
Mnemonics are also a great way how to make information, which is seemingly impossible to remember, stick. For instance, you can easily remember all seven articles of the United States Constitution in a sequence using this funny mnemonic: Large Elephants Jump Slowly and Sink Rapidly. The first letters in each word stand for Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Statehood, Amendment, Supremacy and Ratification. Clever, right?
Consistent study schedule
Forget cramming right from the start. It might have worked in the past, but it won’t do you any good at university. Legal studies are simply too heavily information-based and even with the best study techniques you can’t magically absorb a whole law textbook over one weekend before your exam. You need to create a consistent study schedule and work on your time-management skills.
Join forces with others
Even the biggest introverts can benefit from finding a study group of similarly-minded classmates who have the same goal. It’s not just a motivational tool to overcome procrastination. Discussing complex legal concepts with others can deepen your understanding and boost your memory. Just don’t fall into chatting with your classmates about non-academic stuff when your study session is on.
We’d also strongly advise you to seek out help from your professors and tutors. Make use of their office hours to clarify points that are hard to understand or downright confusing and ambiguous. You can also use this opportunity to ask about the topics your upcoming test is going to cover. Trust us, your lecturers will be happy to see that you’re proactive.
Don’t be afraid to use technology
Physical books and libraries have their magic and unique atmosphere but don’t forget that we live in the twenty-first century. There are several apps and useful websites out there that can help you with your studies. We handpicked a few of the best ones for you:
- Law Dojo is a light-hearted quiz app that tests you on various legal questions. This app might not help you pass your difficult exams, but its adorable gameplay, levelling system and the practicality of questions should convince you to give it a try. Gamification for the win!
- LawStack is a serious study tool that provides access to a wide range of legal texts, documents, cases, statutes and regulations. It’s basically a library of legal documents covering all areas of legislation. Since this app also specialises in tax law, it’s very useful to accountants and small business owners.
- Audio Law Reader combines its growing library of legal documents with gamification and productivity techniques. This is not just another legal library, but a powerful study tool that utilises the principles of study skills like spaced repetition, pomodoro sessions and even AI-generated test questions. The best part? You can upload your own documents, listen to them on the go and highlight important parts for review.
- Legal Dictionary by Farlex is an app filled with more than 14,500 definitions of legal terms and entries on important legal cases and precedents. This app has the ambition to replace your bulky physical dictionary and serve as your loyal reference compendium.
Think like a lawyer
Yes, you’re still a student, we get it. However, you can’t go wrong with upgrading your mindset! Don’t wait for your first job and start thinking like a lawyer immediately. Actively search for interesting lectures outside your curriculum, attend elective seminars, participate in workshops, apply for internships to get hands-on experience as soon as possible and stay up-to-date with new cases and legal news.
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Focus on developing critical and analytical thinking skills. Always ask ‘why’ a decision was made in a case or ‘how’ it applies to real-world situations that might occur in future. Remember that studying law isn’t just about memorising facts, but learning how to analyse case decisions and apply legal principles.
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