A How-To Guide to Law School Classes


Class—The period during which a body of students meeting regularly to study the same subject meets.”
-Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

So you’re probably wondering what makes me take forever to post a new blog post on here.  Sometimes the day-to-day of school, plus the extras of trying to find a summer internship and writing my legal writing motion, have me so crazy by the end of the week that all I want to do is sleep and that’s pretty much how spring break went too!  But, now I’m back and hopefully, once my motion is turned in on Monday, I can have more time to devoting to my blog (comment below on what you’d like me to write about next!).  Since my daily class preparation has been consuming my life, I’ve decided to let you in on how I get ready for class and how I make the most of my actual class time.

Prior to Class

My outside of class work really depends on whether or not I know I’m close to being called on for the day.  Some of my professors go in alphabetical order, and in those classes, it’s very easy to determine when I’m going and also what case I’ll likely get called on for.  However, my other professors use cards to randomly call on people to go over a case, but the nice thing is once I get called on, I’m typically done for a while.  For the days I know I’m not going to be called on, I typically just book brief.  My post about casebooks tells you all about my system.  For days that I know I might be called on and some days when the cases are a little harder or have more information to digest, I’ll actually write out a brief for those cases.  Last semester, I tried to book brief and have a written brief for every single class.  However, this semester I realized that written briefs take up time that I can use for other important tasks I need to do.  But here’s how I write out my written briefs:

Plaintiff (π) v. Defendant (Δ)
Citation of the Case

FACTS:            This section includes a brief description of what the case was about and what theories the plaintiff is suing under.  Anything I highlighted in pink goes in this section.

PROCEDURE:  This section includes what the lower courts have decided about the case and the final disposition of the case.  This comes from the information in green in my book brief.

HOLDING:      For the holding of the case, I really like to focus on the more general application of the important outcome of the case, not just what the court determined about the specific facts of the case.  This could also be called the rule of law, but these holdings help when it comes to outlining at the end of the semester.  This is the orange highlighted material in my book.

ANALYSIS:      Depending on the case, this section may not be included in my brief.  Certain cases, like those for my Property class, are more in the book to provide the general rule of law and not how the court got there.  But for those cases with detailed explanations of the law, I like to include prior law that the court decided wasn’t quite right anymore, further explanatory rules, etc.  This section tends to be one of the more helpful sections when getting called on in class.

No matter if I actually right out the brief or just book brief, I really tend to focus on the same material in both cases.  I ideally try to get a lot of my reading done on the weekends so by the time it’s the day before class, I don’t’ really remember what happened in the cases.  I like to use the process of writing out a brief to refresh my memory the night before class and even during class.

During Class

When it comes to notetaking during class, there are a variety of approaches, and while I’m going to tell you about how I take my own notes, everyone has their own way of taking note of what they find important during class.  Some people prefer using laptops to type their notes rather than writing out their notes, but for me, I really internalize information when I write it out by hand.  Also, it’s a lot harder to get distracted by other things when you write out notes.  On a computer, you can look up emails, work on other class homework, go on Facebook, etc.  Also, the repetition of writing down notes during class and then typing up an outline helps to reinforce the information I learned during class.

To take the best notes for yourself, you first need to find the right supplies to organize your class notes.  I personally really like using Five Star Flex Notebinders.  I’ve used these notebooks all throughout high school and college, and they make organization so easy.  They come with multiple folder pockets, file dividers, and loose leaf paper.  I typically use one of the file dividers for the syllabus of the class and the folder pockets for handouts and my written case briefs.  Having loose leaf paper for notes is great because it’s easy to move notes around to fit where they belong in the class or to include handouts where it would be most helpful.   I also use the pen which corresponds to the class as I set out in my post here about my planner for highlighting important information.

For my actual notes, I always start by indicating what section of the book we are at on the top of the page.  Even though cases are included in casebooks as a way for law students to understand legal rules and their applications, I still like to write down a little summary of the case facts so I can easily use them on exams for comparisons with the fact pattern.  The most important things to get out of a class are the legal rules and principles that are the basis for that area of law.  I really like to highlight them in my notes.  As you can see, I ensure that the rule sticks out on a page of notes.  If there is any explanatory language for the rule, I like to include that under the rule statement.  This makes it easier when I go to outline a specific part of the course.  Some classes also have a lot of definitions, which I like to include in my notes so I don’t miss them in the textbook when I go back. 

What do you find is the best way for you to take notes during class?  Hope classes are going well and that all your motions and writing assignments don’t put too much stress on you!


  1. Yep, this pretty much described my process as well. It revolves entirely around whether you're going to get called on or not. In good news, by the time I was a 3L I didn't really care about that too much. For new blog posts, have you written about your summer plans?

    1. That's definitely what I was thinking towards the end of the semester. Outlines were too important to focus solely on the readings. My summer externship post will be up sometime in the next few weeks!

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