Law school is a challenge for even the best students, especially first year. But there are plenty of ways for law students to stay organized and on top of their coursework. And while we have a lot of love for hornbooks and Black's Law Dictionary, there's a whole world of tools out there that take up no more space than your iPhone.
These apps and tech-based study aids can help you study smarter, not harder.
There's nothing wrong with taking notes by hand or using a tried-and-true word processor. But if you want to up your note-taking game, try using Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote, or Evernote. By keeping your notes online, you can access your notes from any computer and alleviate the stress of losing everything should something happen to your laptop. It also helps keep things organized - for example, OneNote allows you to organize your notes into different "notebooks." If you're on a tight budget (like many law students are), the free version of Evernote offers many of the same features as OneNote without a subscription.
For auditory learners, recorded lectures can be a great asset. Playing back the lectures while you go over your notes can help you ensure you didn't miss any important points, and hearing the lecture again solidifies legal concepts in your memory. You can record lectures using a voice notes app or go old school and get a mini-recorder.
Be sure to talk to your instructor before recording their class - most don't mind, but it's better not to assume. They may also wish to bring it up with the rest of the students since they will likely be recorded during class discussions.
Ever wish you could work on your research paper while you're waiting for the bus? With the Westlaw mobile app, you can access one of the most powerful legal research databases from anywhere. Unlike other research platforms, Westlaw is available for both Android and iOS systems. And it was voted Best Legal Research App of 2022!
The app is free, but you'll need a Westlaw subscription. Luckily, many law schools provide students free access to Westlaw while enrolled. Talk to the nice folks in the law library at your school to find out how.
(Full disclosure: FindLaw and Westlaw are both Thomson Reuters businesses.)
And speaking of Black's Law Dictionary, there's an app for that too! Thomson Reuters developed a digital version of the most widely-used law dictionary in the industry, available from the Mac App Store for $54.99. That's about $30 less than the physical book and about 300 pounds lighter. The app's functionality is at its best on an iPad, but you can also access it on your mobile phone.
Virtual Flashcards and Practice Questions
One of the best ways to prepare for a law school exam is by drilling through practice questions. Few teachers will administer a multiple-choice exam, but including multiple-choice questions in your exam prep can help you nail down the concepts.
You can even have fun with it - Law Dojo offers legal game apps to help students learn about criminal law, constitutional law, contracts, and more! They even have a game for the MPRE.
And what could be better than flashcards that live on your mobile device? Whether you're trying to memorize the rules of civil procedure or the elements of different torts, flashcards can be your best friend. And now, there are several apps out there to help.
Looking for new ways to stay on task? Try the Pomodoro Technique. This time-management method, named for the tomato-shaped timer used by its developer, Francesco Cirillo, breaks down long work periods into 25-minute sections.
The Pomodoro Technique works well for reading, writing, and researching and rewards every 25-minute work period with a five-minute break. It is particularly helpful for those days when you know you need to devote a whole afternoon (or a whole day) to your studies. The timer adds a sense of urgency, helping to jump-start productivity and avoid distractions. The best part is it's easy: Set a timer on your phone, or computer, or try a Pomodoro mobile app, and you're ready to go!
Law school can take a toll on a person both mentally and physically. Between the heavy workload and exposure to often brand-new concepts, you might begin to feel spread too thin. It's important to develop ways of managing stress and maintaining your mental health. Time with friends and family, exercise, and hobbies are often the best remedies, but when you're short on time, a meditation app can help. Not sure if meditation is for you? Most of these apps also include deep breathing exercises and sleep stories to help take your mind off of the parol evidence rule.
More Resources for Law Students
FindLaw for Law Students has resources for every stage of law school, from surviving first-year classes to studying for the bar exam. Learn how to make the most out of your study group, write case briefs, and begin your professional development with FindLaw.