Taking notes in law school is both similar to other types of note taking and different from any other type of note taking. In undergrad, for most classes, you probably had assigned reading and then went to either a lecture class or discussion based class revolving around the assigned reading. Your notes were probably a combination of items from the reading and things said in class.
In law school, you have assigned reading and then you go to a class that is usually part lecture, and part socratic method. Like in undergrad, your notes will be a combination of things from the readings and things said in class.
The difference in law school is that you are reading cases, which can be digested in a very particular way, i.e. a case brief.
When I started law school I tried to take notes like I did in undergrad and wrote my case briefs on separate paper. See example of my notes from this time below:
I quickly found that I wasn't gathering the information I needed and I was spending too much time flipping from my case briefs to my notes. I did a little research on note taking systems and looked at the Cornell System, where you have a wide column to the left and a narrow column to the right. The wide column is for class notes and the narrow column is for indexing your notes and defining key terms. Somehow, while trying this method, I ended up with a sort of modified Cornell System.
As you can see I have divided the page into a wide and a narrow column. On the left I put a case brief, and on the right I take notes. That being said this method isn't always strictly case brief to one side and notes to the other. I usually write the case brief in class as we go over the case, so that the case brief in my brief focuses on what our professor wants to focus on. For the most part this has been successful, however every once in a while we have returned to a case to discuss a nuanced detail that was not in my in class brief.
I have also shown two in note brief formats in my example, I alternate between these fairly regularly. The alternative/ abbreviated brief is really useful if you are going to highlight multiple issues in a case because you can do something like:
When note taking space runs out on the right and you aren't ready to move to the next page you can always block off some space at the bottom of the page for extra notes.
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like posts specifically about any topics mentioned (ex. Socratic Method, Law School Classes, Case Briefs, etc.).
Here is a link to a downloadable version of the my format for Microsoft word. Though I discourage taking notes on a computer, see first part of this series for why, you may want to type your brief before class and then write notes in.