A Novel Listening Technique for Law Students: “Professor Says”

DSC_0006-002-1It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of information (and the rather disjointed way it’s presented) in a typical law school class. Today, we’re excited to have Jennifer Murphy Romig — creator of the Listen Like a Lawyer website and instructor of legal writing, research, and advocacy at Emory Law School — here to share a very useful technique for cutting through the clutter!

Welcome, Jennifer.

When I was a law student, one effective note-taking technique I developed was to insert a key phrase into my class notes: “Professor Says.” This was a signal that the professor had emphasized a particular point in class.

Obviously everything from my notes had to do with what the professor said, but these “Professor Says” signals represented high points in class discussion.

These signals were extremely valuable to me in studying for exams later. I would look through my notes, highlight these handwritten segments, and incorporate them into a typed exam outline. (Handwriting: so quaint, I know.)

But the “Professor Says” method also evolved into a useful method for listening to class discussion itself.

What is the Professor Saying?

Once I started highlighting “Professor Says” moments, I listened more closely to analyze what exactly the professor was emphasizing. The discipline of identifying and labeling high points in my class notes led me to listen more carefully in several ways.

I paid closer attention, searching for high points to label “Professor Says.”

(I still wrote down other valuable information but not with the special label.) And searching for these moments helped me to analyze what I was hearing throughout a class session.

This technique worked with individual cases: 

  • What was the “Professor Says” moment for each case we read and discussed?

And the technique worked for overall doctrines as well:

  • What was the “Professor Says” moment for assumption of risk, or consideration, or tag jurisdiction?
Technology and “Professor Says”

Technology available today could make this technique even more effective:

  • By using the “Professor Says” method and inserting this phrase into your notes, you could later do a full-text search for all such signals in your notes for the semester. Going into a folder and searching for the phrase “Professor Says” should pull up all documents with this phrase, and highlight the phrases for easy access.
  • Likewise the “Professor Says” technique would work with notes services such as Evernote. Using hashtags could enhance searchability even more, allowing a targeted search for all instances where your notes contain the tag #professorsays.

Listening during a law school class can be challenging due to many factors such as the density of the information; the unpredictable role of student comments and the Socratic Method; the professor’s expertise compared with the student’s role as a beginner; and the uncertainty of how to use class discussion later in an exam context.

I personally found that using the “Professor Says” method helped to address some of these challenges and lead to more effective listening throughout class sessions.

— – —
Thanks, Jennifer! This is a fantastic idea, and one I wish I’d thought of…

Got questions for Jennifer? Leave them in the comments.

More about Jennifer:
Jennifer Murphy Romig teaches legal writing, research, and advocacy at Emory Law School. She also consults with practicing attorneys on legal writing and is the creator of Listen Like a Lawyer, which you’ll find on Twitter at @ListenLikeaLawyr.

Read On:

Need more advice on making sense of the law? Check out these posts:

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  1. […] It helped me with my focus during class, and it helped with studying for exams as well. Here, in a guest post at The Girls’ Guide to Law School, I expand on the “Professor Says” note-taking […]

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