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Law is indeed a vast sea and many a times beginners tend to find themselves drowning without adequate instructions and guidance. Students today are not often taught study skills that can help them work with college textbooks. As a result, students have picked up methods that work against them instead of for them in studying textbooks. This is where the relevance of study methods comes in. For a law student library is something inevitable in his life, but a major question arises whether it is good to read in a library or in one’s own room-both may seem adequately sufficient.
As far as a law student is concerned, the major aims include to become a lawyer and to pass the exam with credits. For both, one must study cases and only then one can understand how the legal issues present themselves and how the legal argument is conducted. It is very important to understand if one’s objective is to solve exam questions or to give relevant points on legal practice.
Practicing lawyers require what Pollock called as “potential knowledge”, in depth knowledge about legal principles, sound skill of practice and procedure, ability to argue and the understanding of where to find relevant laws. Whereas in order to excel in exams, one must know how to argue, display first-hand knowledge of sources and by heart a number of laws. Even teachers tend to regret the amount of memorizing that is required in law programs, but unfortunately, they haven’t been able to agree upon other measures.
In many law universities, copies of statues and all other materials on which students have prepared on are permitted to be used. This methodology doesn’t degrade the quality of education but only enhances the student’s confidence and interest with regard to the subject.
Learning through the medium of textbook
The more often a book is read, the easier it becomes to comprehend. On the off chance, that if it is a book that investigates a specific theme, the preface will abridge the writer’s contention and present a layout of the book. So, a student should never skip reading this part of the book. When a book on unfamiliar subject is read for the first time, we often tend to feel at sea and we can barely recollect anything read. Thus, our understanding increases proportionately with increasing frequency of reading and by the fourth and fifth time, reading becomes easier and easier. Even the residue left in our mind mounts up every time we read. A lot of memory work is involved in learning law. Take a 10 moment walk or reward yourself with some amusement. You won’t concentrate well in case you’re depleted. Approach every part with a new mind. Learning by heart is best performed in short time span distributed over as long a time. For example, it is better to devote one hour a day to revise daily than to spend six hours in a stretch. It is always better to evenly distribute our studies than to crowd it as our brain tends to work slower when work is piled up. The best method of learning is to read a paragraph or page, immediately analyze its gist and then read it aloud than trying to recall it in the head. It is always advised to read it as many times so as to smoothly recollect the elements. The process is indeed highly daunting, so the students are advised to read the law texts without looking into the footnotes in the beginning and later take care of them when reading the texts again. Experts always tell that while reading any law book, one should keep note of the cases mentioned even if none of the long descriptions are memorized.
The common confusion lies wherein some teachers advice their students to read case books whereas some tell them to read the entire case and the judgment rather than contenting oneself with head notes and simplified versions of the case. Therefore, an ideal teacher should always consider the actual amount of time available to law students to read such descriptive and elaborative judgments. Teachers should always instruct the students to understand the concepts in the simplest manner rather than complicating the topic.
Advocates read a lot, perhaps, more than any other professional. Case books are an essential part of the law course. The first step involves in identifying the best case book for each branch of discussion. The major advantages of using case books are that it saves the time of making one’s own notes and it eliminates immaterial facts. Only those areas of discussion which requires to be highlighted are given to the students to ponder over. One ought to comprehend the historical backdrop of the case. There are three phases: (1) from the world to the lower court; (2) from the lower court to the higher court; (3) from the higher court to an air. One should separate the supposition and recognize which parts of it talk about every one of these three phases of the case.
At this point one must note that the use of case books in no way tell us to eliminate the use of original report books. It is always good to read the so called prominent, established and famous cases in its original content and use the case books only for revision. Also, the case books may not contain all the cases that we need to refer simply because they don’t print them.
One of the major disadvantages of law books is that they are quite expensive. The publishers make it even more extravagant by avoiding the paperbacks. Students can always prefer to buy second hand books. But caution has to be taken to look into the edition of the books available. As far as possible, latest editions should be sought and arranged for.
During the middle ages, lectures and tutoring were required because of the shortage of textbooks. Even though the print media has been well established and almost any information is available on internet, personally speaking lectures can have a profound impact on students and the ability to grasp concepts are always enhanced. They also increase interest on the subject. It offers current information (more up to date than most texts) from many sources. The monotony of gazing long into the books is avoided when lectures are taken. They provide basics of the subject by elucidating the broad principles and indicating what is the matter of detail. Lectures can also solve individual problems through interactions and lecturers can enhance understanding by even giving real life examples. Lecture methods are not exclusive of disadvantages. It might neglect to advance dynamic learning except if other techniques, for example, addressing and critical thinking exercises, are fused into the talk. It also doesn’t promote self learning.
Note taking is an art and students develop can their own system of note making. It is not just about writing down everything you hear or read. It is a process of reviewing, connecting and synthesizing ideas from one’s lectures. But there are some established systems of note makings like the “Cornell”. In this system, a vertical line is to be drawn from the left-hand edge of the paper, using the right-hand side to take the notes and left side to recollect and summarise the key ideas. Students should thus either concentrate on lectures and rely on books or form the habit of taking notes.
Many a times we find it hard to take notes as most of the lectures are in bullet speed. Shorthand and Powerpoints are advised to compound this shortfall. Abbreviations are often devised to take note. In law it is customary to refer to imaginary piece of land as blackacre, whiteacre etc. Use of backslashes are also very common-a/c for account, p/n for promissory note, b/e for bill of exchange, a/b for act of bankruptcy etc. Initial letters are also often used to create abbreviations, such as P-E for Prima Facie, B.F.(P) for Bona Fide and so on. Another classical method of creating abbreviations is to write the first pronounceable part of the word and then write its ending.
Healthy discussions should always be encouraged in the classes. Doubts should be cleared first hand especially with regard to case laws. Seminars or discussions are way more important than lectures. Students should always attend these decisions and prepare for them by attempting to work out problems by their own. Moreover, they should take an active participation in these discussions too. Larger the group, less likely is the chance of one being pressurised to speak, but opportunities should be grabbed to cultivate self-possession and to get used to your voice in public. In many professional professions, people should develop the skill to speak up in a group. They may need to offer information, question each other, and argue on different topics. People don’t learn to speak up in a group by reading theories or books about how to do it it is a purely practical skill. And it’s one of those skills that develop better with feedback.
As law students, one must work meticulously and the best time to do research, read case laws, revise notes etc is in the morning. It is never advised to do minor chores in the morning. Brain storming tasks should be done in the early hours. This helps one to enhance their memory skills which are essential for great conversationalists.
Thus, huge lecture notebooks should not be recommended for the students as it is cumbersome and also gravely time consuming. Also creating notebooks can sometimes prove difficult if you want to expand the meaning of the notes in your own facts, so loose-leaf system is always preferred. This system is very convenient from students’ point of view as notes can be rearranged and expanded whenever they feel so.
Study of history can help students immensely in their law course as well as career. Order and dates of kings and queens of England helps not only in constitutional study but also in pure legal history. Even if regal years are not learnt by students at least the name of the sovereigns whose reigns commenced at or shortly after the turn of each country should be noted. Knowledge of the names and the order of the sovereign will help students get an idea about the British legal system. Not only regal years but a general perception about historical event and dates can always be helpful to students. The most effective way to memories dates are to remember a few key dates and then the rest by working forward and backward from these.
Thus, studying law becomes easier if students are given proper guidelines as to how to approach the subject. Vague reading is useless unless students are able to comprehend and absorb the required facts. Textbooks, case books, lectures etc are a few effective and efficient techniques to familiarize students with various topics. Having a strong knowledge of history is also very helpful for students.
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