Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Do What Works Best For You: Evernote

I remember those six words being the most annoying thing that I heard during our 1L orientation, and it seemed like a broken record by the end of the week.
How do we take notes?
Do what works best for you.
How do we brief cases?
Do what works best for you.
How do we most efficiently study?
Do what works best for you.

Seriously, it was as if that was the only thing that the orientation leaders and faculty had been told to say to us. I mean I get it, doing what works best for you is ultimately what is going to be the best for you. BUT we were in the position of not even knowing where to start. This series will go through some of the many trial and errors that I went through as I tried to figure out "what works best for you" for me. First up - Evernote.

Evernote is a free that is definitely available on Macs and iPhones, I am not sure about other devices - but I'm sure it is available on most others! You simply go to www.evernote.com and set up an account and start the downloading process.

I don't remember exactly how I came across Evernote, but initially when I started using it I really liked the ability to access all of my notes at one time in one place - and I could search among all of my documents.

A view like this one (above) is available at all times, depending on which settings you use of course, but it is the default setting to show this list.

I also had all of my classes divided into their own notebooks to keep everything straight. This is especially important for classes that are on the same day and you would have more than one "Class Notes 12.02.14." There is also the option to join certain notebooks into a larger notebook. For instance, all of my 1L Fall classes were grouped together to keep it more streamlined.

Additionally, you can "tag" the notes so that when you needed to look up a specific rule or topic, it was possible to narrow down the documents that included that "tag."

This was especially helpful to ensure that when I was making an outline I didn't leave out one of the cases that covered the rule I was outlining.

In terms of how I actually took notes - it was easiest for me to keep case briefs separate from the class notes for that day. I did this because if we didn't get to a certain case by the end of that class, it wouldn't be mismatched in terms of what day the case was covered.
In conjunction with this, I had a "Notes" section at the bottom of my briefs so that I could put information with the corresponding case and make it easier at the end of the semester to trace back where the rules came from.

As you may have picked up on, I did my best to prepare a written brief before class. Let's be real, it is very nerve-wracking to be called on or just think that you're going to be called on, so in my opinion it was best for me to be as prepared as possible. Because as a 1L I wasn't always sure what I needed to get from the cases, especially early in the semester when you are also trying to figure out each professor's preference, a lot of things would end up in my brief that weren't as important as I thought they were. To keep straight what I wrote and what what my professor said was actually important, I would highlight and change the color of the text if she, or he, identified it as an important lesson to take away - see below. The black text is what I wrote and the pink is what I already had and that my professor reiterated.

Generally I liked the idea of Evernote, but when it was time to outline I wasn't as sold. Again, this is a preference of mine based on the way I outline - which I will cover in a few weeks. But generally I like to print out all of my notes and get a big picture idea of how I need to organize them to make the most sense when I am studying. Because of the way that Evernote saves, when a document was last "updated," the documents can get a little out of order if you go back and forth looking for information among all of them. That being said, it is still possible to print each document separately OR combine them all in to one document, but the order it combines is not always the order that makes the most sense. 

  • all documents in one place
  • easy to search
  • easy to use - not a lot of functions to get lost in 
  • saves on the Cloud, so you don't have to worry about losing notes to an unexpected disaster
  • accessible from more than one device 
  • difficult to sift through in a reasonable order at the end of the semester
  • minimal formatting available (lists, bullets, bold, colors)
  • if you copy/paste to a Word document the formatting doesn't carry over well
I hope this has been helpful, please feel free to leave a comment about what works best for you or if you have any questions about Evernote that I didn't mention!

Have a great day, y'all!

find me on twitter @legallysouthrn

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