How to Study Law using Mindmaps
There has been much written on the best ways to study law. From personal experience, it was difficult to get first class grades in law exams without utilising the tool of mindmaps. The man credited with the invention of the mindmap is Tony Buzan. The below information details personal experience of their use, not necessarily Tony’s experiences. For further reading, Tony Buzan’s works are certainly to be highly recommended. Tony is also on Twitter. I’d suggest you follow Tony here.
The Mindmap Concept
A free example of an A3 legal mindmap is produced below. It follows these instructions:-
Get some blank paper. Put a central idea in the middle. Expand lines outward which lead to further ideas. Expand those ideas with further lines to create more ideas, again further from the centre. Now you have a mindmap. Add colour with a highlighter pen or insert pictures if desired. For example, the following mindmap colour code could be quite useful:-
Purple – Case Law
Yellow – Important Facts
Green – Comment
Why Do Mindmaps Work?
The whole idea, which was never really understood until starting law school, is that the brain does not operate in a linear fashion (e.g. working through a nice big list of things to remember: a commonality in lecture notes); instead, it works in a non-linear, planar way, much like a GPS satellite locating something.
As such, when trying to remember bits of information spread across a mindmap, the brain can remember the exact position of the information (assisted by the lines you have drawn from the centre) and everything else around it. It is hard to explain in words, but after trying it out and trying to reproduce an entire mindmap from memory, the principles behind it should be easily understood.
A further feature is the provision of a very complex yet comprehensive structure, with many more words and ideas forming on a single piece of paper than normally possible. You can see where ideas fit in the big picture. And you can see them quite literally at a glance.
How I’ve Used Legal Mindmaps
For honours law exams I used on average 10-20 mindmaps on A3 paper per course. These were in the smallest writing, spanning the entire page, with different highlight colours for different levels. These final products will be posted over the next few months on my website.
For each lecture attended in third year of law school, I started off with a blank sheet of A3 or A4 and put the lecture heading in the middle of the page and worked from there (not all that tricky when you have a lecture structure to assist you). Funny looks from other students (or even professors) now and then may be common, but these are from the people who are only making it harder for themselves when it comes to remembering everything they’re writing down in linear lists and paragraphs.
Principles of Memory
Again, much has been written on the theories of memory and it is not intended that these are reproduced here, other than a short mention of two of the main principles which are important to understand:
1. Your memory and your entire creative brain hemisphere improve when you improve your imagination, by such simple exercises as daydreaming or by trying to link or connect any two random ideas with each other, no matter how different or contrasting they may seem to be; and
2. When your analytical and logical brain hemisphere improves in conjunction with your creative side, a synergetic result is produced and you find yourself becoming a much more intelligent person who uses the full potential of his brain, instead of only one side (a half wit, perhaps).
The Future of Legal Mindmaps
While my days as a University student are now over, I am happy to share my mindmaps here over the next few months in the hope that someone will find them valuable, even if only for inspiration in creating their own.
Not only can mindmaps be applied to academic learning; they are also becoming more widely used for business purposes. Tony Buzan has, himself, written widely about the benefits to business from mindmapping with his recent book with Chris Griffiths: Mind Maps for Business: Revolutionise Your Business Thinking and Practice.
A couple of years ago, I also bought a licence for iMindMap for around £50 from ThinkBuzan – Official Mind Mapping software by Tony Buzan. This is certainly to be recommended if you prefer a textual version of mindmaps, with potential to transform them into pdfs or powerpoint presentations.
More widespread use of mindmaps in industry includes mindmaps becoming integrated with RSS readers as this article The advantage of using mind mapping software as an RSS feed reader demonstrates. Chuck Frey states:
“The fact is that mind mapping makes it possible to do some things with the content of your feeds that just aren’t possible with a conventional RSS feed reader.”
So there certainly are some interesting concepts still to be mapped out.
Example of a Legal Mindmap on Ecommerce Law
As an illustration, I have posted a rather detailed A3 mindmap on the legal regulation of e-commerce in the UK and in the EU HERE, including analysis of consumer rights and duties on businesses. These were notes for an honours exam on Computers and the Law at the University of Glasgow.
Ideas discussed in this single mindmap include the following:-
-Growing scale of e-commerce
-The E-Commerce Directive, esp Articles 9, 10, 11
-UK Implementation of the E-Commerce Directive in the 2002 Regulations
-International Private Law considerations for e-commerce including choice of law and jurisdiction
-The Distance Selling Directive including implementation, rights of redress including Articles 8, 11, 12, 16, the right of withdrawal, esp Article 6, the duty to provide pre-contractual information, the easyCar case and other exceptions;
-Comment on whether or not e-commerce regulation in its current form is bad for business and good for consumer rights
Again, the link is http://wardblawg.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/SDC14189.jpg
Post your own legal mindmaps
If you have legal mindmaps of your own – and I know some of you will – please share them by following these steps and I will retweet to give them maximum exposure across the UK’s legal networks…
1. Use a digital camera to take a photograph of the mindmap;
2. Upload to your PC or Mac;
3. Register for free at my sister website http://youblawg.com;
4. Create new post and upload the image from your PC or Mac
5. Add tags such as “legal mindmaps”, use the SEO plugin and publish
A further great article on legal mindmaps from personal experience should also be consulted. It states, for intance:-
You’ll notice I haven’t stuck strictly to Tony Buzan’s advice of writing one key word per line. Based on my experience, I believe that for subjects that require you to learn large amounts of complex information in a short space of time you want to put down important points of law (in more than one word) and perhaps even write whole definitions. If you feel the need to write out a definition on your mind map, make sure that you break it down into pictures (the more personalised, humorous and exaggerated the better).
I’ll be posting further mindmaps over the next few months. In the meantime, if you’d like to get in touch regarding mindmaps for legal studies, for business or even for personal use, please do so at http://wardblawg.com/contact or comment below with your own personal experiences. It would be great to hear from you!
PS we’ve started to publish guides to some of the best lawyers and law firms in the UK, including the following:-
Best Employment Lawyers UK (London, Bristol, Manchester, Scotland & Beyond)
Best Settlement Agreement Lawyers & Legal Advice in the UK
Best Commercial Law Firms UK (London, Bristol, Manchester, Scotland & Beyond)
If you have any suggestions for firms that should be in these lists or extra advice you can provide for these guides (which will, of course, be credited to you), please do get in touch.