Law Students: Create an Online Outline

There are lots of ways to succeed in law school. Although I think that acquiring practical experience can be just as important as getting good grades, there is no doubt that grades are very important.

If you are trying to boost your GPA and need a new way to study and prepare for finals, try working on your outlines throughout the semester, instead of at the end.

Why you should make them

By now, hopefully you realize that the process of creating finals outlines is more helpful than the end product. Creating the outline forces you to re-examine concepts and try and distill them into easier to remember (and apply) concepts.

One problem with outline creation, however, is that many students do not work on their outlines until the eve of an exam. At that point, you do not have much time to review your outline and beat the information into your brain.

If you can work on outlines for each class as the semester progresses, you can force yourself to distill information during the semester, instead of at the end of it. That should be beneficial by itself. On top of that, however, by creating an online document you can review your outline from anywhere. Whether you are on the bus to school, or flying to Mexico for spring break, those snippets of learning will add up in the long run.

What to use

Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online (Microsoft Live) are free and easy to use. If you want to use Microsoft Office on your desktop, you can also install Google Cloud Connect to make your documents cloud accessible.

Using Cloud Connect might be the best option, because it means you have copies on your hard drive and in the cloud. If you only use Google Docs, there is always the danger the cloud fails and you lose everything. If you do use Cloud Connect, make sure you properly set your security settings for each document to make them private and not viewable to the public (unless you want them to be).

Law school is a lot of work. But spending some extra time each week (or even every other week) to start working on outlines can make a big difference. Spending an extra hour of studying a week can be the difference between an A and a B.




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  • The bigger difference between an A and B is your willingness to cheat.

    46% of your classmates already do anyways. What percentage of your curve gets As?

    • 0% of the ones who cheat.

      • Statistically speaking, that’s almost certainly false.

        And a minor correction, it’s 45%. Typo, my bad.

  • Sylvia

    I would just like to say how much I appreciate all the articles and information for Law School students. I’ll be a 1L in just a few short months and I’ve found all the articles I’ve read so far to be really helpful and encouraging. And before anyone tells me it’s not too late to change my mind, (I run across that quite a bit) I’ve worked as a paralegal for the last 9 years so I’m pretty aware of what I’m getting myself into and the hard work it will require. A big thank you for your articles, I’ve found them to be very helpful and encouraging (the comments others have made maybe not so much…)

    • I’d like to second Sylvia’s comment. I too, have worked in the field for six years and am fully aware of what I’m getting myself into – and no I do not need my head examined! Ha! I really enjoy reading the lawyerist articles and have also shared many with my lawyer friends, too. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks! Although I think the legal economy is still fairly bleak, I fully support law students who have taken the time to think through their decision—good luck!

      And, if there are any topics you would like to see, please let us know.

      • Thanks Randall! I would love to hear more about what type of software or programs you use for notetaking (or anything else) in law school. I just picked up a refurbished MBP (your recommendation, BTW was quite helpful!) and am new to Mac. I absolutely adore OneNote but am not sure if its worth running bootcamp to have (I’m currently using Office 2011 for Mac and love it). I would also love to hear any study tips or anything that will make me a more efficient law student.

        Thanks and keep up the good work!

        • Use Evernote. It’s different than OneNote, but I prefer it.

          Or use OneNote on Works just fine.

          • If you are using a Mac, you are bound to succeed in law school and all future endeavors. I would not run bootcamp just to use OneNote, you can switch to notepad view in Word for Mac, and that should do the trick.

        • Brooke Hembree

          If you’re on the fence about running bootcamp and you’re planning to type exams, you might want to check your law school’s exam sooner rather than later. A year or so ago, my law school switched to Windows-only exam software. (The name escapes me now.) The year it was instituted, second and third years could take advantage of a laptop loaner program, but first year Mac users had to either use bootcamp or type. If you find out you’re going to have use bootcamp for finals and you’re really happy with OneNote, then you might as well set up bootcamp before you start so you can use the program you’re most comfortable with.

  • Jordan

    Outline portability, or document portability in general, is definitely beneficial in law school. I have used OneNote for all three years with my notebooks stored in a dedicated Dropbox folder. That way, everything automatically syncs between school laptop and home desktop. It works like a charm, always saves correctly, and provides a redundant backup.

    • Good call. I use Dropbox for my firm, but I wish I had used it during law school, it would have made life a lot easier.