Some students love flashcards. They used them in college and undergrad, and want to find a way to incorporate them into law school (or bar exam) studying. Flashcards can be a great way to memorize the details of the law. They can also help you “actively learn” the law (you can learn a lot more from making flashcards than you can from simply rereading class notes or cases!) However, there are two significant downsides to using flashcards when studying for law school. There are also ways to overcome those downsides. We will explain both in this post.
The Disadvantages of Using Flashcards in Law School:
- They take a long time to make. It is of course, good to make your own flashcards if you plan on studying by using flashcards, but I’ve found that a lot of people spend hours making them, while, for example, watching TV, so they are not really learning much from them. There are some good law school flashcard companies out there — but the best way to get the most out of flascharding, outlining, etc., is to make your own.
- They do not give you the bigger picture. Some students who religiously use law school flashcards (instead of, say, outlining) know the details really well but lack any kind of “bigger picture” of the law that an outline can give you. In law school, a bigger picture is very important. It is crucial to help you issue-spot on exams.
We recommend starting by outlining (and here is a guide to creating a law school outline if you do not know where to start!). If you still think it would be beneficial to study using flashcards then we recommend making the most of it by maximizing the advantages of using flashcards and minimizing the potential disadvantages.
Ideas to Use Flashcards the Correct Way in law School:
- Color-code your law school flashcards. If you are making flashcards for Real Property, use green flashcards for, say, present and future interests, yellow flashcards for easements, purple for adverse possession, etc. Color-coded flashcards will help you keep the topic areas straight; it will also help you learn your flashcards.
- Make some “overview” flashcards – for example, flashcards that list all of the present and future interests rather than just one. This will help you to get the bigger picture of the law in the same way that an outline would.
- Fight the temptation to put everything on a flashcard. If you are learning using other methods – for example, outlining (which you really should be doing regardless of whether you use flashcards!) then it is not important that you put every detail of the law on a flashcard. Some of the most productive flashcard-users only make flashcards of specific areas of law. If they understand adverse possession, they won’t flashcard it at all! If they really struggle with present and future interests, they might put those topics on flashcards instead. Or they might only use flashcards for one or two classes where they find memorizing the details of the law to be especially burdensome.
Law school flashcards can be a great study tool. However, make sure you are using them the right way!
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She, along with a team of tutors, tutors for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school.