Read like a Lawyer : Law students (and a future lawyer) must read as much as possible. That said, many people think that if you don’t like reading you won’t enjoy being a lawyer. While I understand the point, I have to disagree.
I generally enjoy reading but do not enjoy reading cases, legislation or other legal materials. What I have realized, perhaps too late in my journey throughout law school, is that reading for law is very different from reading for pleasure.
I’ve found that reading cases can be just as captivating as reading a good novel although they aren’t a very efficient way to study or work. If you’re anything like me you enjoy being captivated and drawn into the storyline of a good book.
To help you out, I’ve done a list of quizzes and tips for reading more efficiently and effectively.
A good first step in reading is understanding the text you’re reading. If you’re reading legislation, it’s obvious every word matters, but if you’re reading a transcript or a journal article, you might approach reading the text differently.
Thinking about why you’re reading the text will help you determine the reading strategy you should employ. You may choose to do weekly readings for class discussion or to prepare notes for an exam.
There are two parts to this question: when are you required to read it by and when are the best times to read it? Knowing your deadlines and prioritizing your reading assignments are crucial to tackling the daunting number of required readings required in law school.
A similar consideration is knowing the best time of day to read. For example, you cannot start reading at 6AM when you are not an early bird. Set aside some time for reading during the day when you are most productive. Consistency is your best guide.
You can enforce some concentration by choosing a place to read that is suitable for you. I personally prefer to read in a park or a café, or in the park away from students. If you are unsure where works for you, try out a few places.
Preview the text
Previewing is a good way to get a general feeling for the text’s content without diving into the text. Use the table of contents, headings, the abstract, and chapter summaries to determine what the text is all about and which parts of the text are of interest to you.
If useful abstracts or summaries are unavailable, reading the first and last paragraph of each section or the first and last line of each paragraph can provide some insight.
The skimming method helps in searching for important information that is explained in the body of the text. Skimming involves staring quickly over the text and searching for formatting, such as italics, bolding or underlining, that might indicate this important information.
Scanning, or just scanning, is a reading technique that involves using a pointer and slowing down the speed at which you read. This is the technique I use the most, and it really helps me to focus my reading and speed mine up.
Before scanning, you first need to know why you are reading the document and what you’re looking for. Having this in mind, scan the document looking for key words. Stop as soon as you have found them and read through the document carefully before taking any notes.
I hope these tips will help you to read more efficiently and effectively. There’s definitely more to it than that, but finding strategies and strategies that work for you is ultimately what matters most. Happy reading!