A law professor at Georgetown has banned laptops from his classroom, and here's why.

Much of Professor Cole's complaints regarding students dicking around on the Internet during class come across as somewhat crotchety, and don't, in my opinion, form a legitimate basis for banning laptops. Students will pay attention or they won't, and those who are rating kittens when they should be larning themselves some Commerce Clause knowingly run the risks appurtenant thereto.

That being said, Cole's other, less developed reason, is something I fully agree with:

"Note-taking on a laptop encourages verbatim transcription. The note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes."

At some point during my last year of law school I stopped bringing my laptop to school, mainly because it was heavy and I was sick of carrying it around. I discovered that my handwritten notes were significantly more helpful than my previous stenographer-style typed notes, likely for the reasons that Cole states. Handwriting forces you to digest the information as you take it down, so you're engaging the material more critically as it's presented and recording it in a way that will be more useful later on. It's something I'd recommend at least trying while in law school. Incidentally, I also observed a quantum leap in my grades during my 3L year after I switched to spiral notebooks.

But, again, this choice should be left to the student, not dictated by the professor. Professors might extoll the virtues of handwritten notes to their students and encourage them to ditch the laptops, but it's not something that should be mandated.


I don't understand the conclusion. Why not mandate only handwritten notes? Sometimes law students won't do the thing that's best for them in the long run because of short term gain. Crotchety professors can be our biggest ally.

i went handwritten all the way because i was too poor to buy a laptop. not only did i have better notes, i had very strong finger muscles.

Because law students are adults and should be left to decide for themselves what's best for them, given the available information. For some, having Internet or Solitaire access in class may be more important than any increased usefulness of handwritten notes.

I had the same experience. I had exponentially better notes when I experimented with handwritten notes during my first semester. Unfortunately my writing is chicken scratch and I've had to sacrifice quality notes I couldn't read for verbatim notes I could read. I think professors should require it as a trial run for the first month of law school. Then people can decide for themselves which method is better. Of course, I would argue that some professors drive students to rating kittens or playing Solitaire, but that's another argument for another day.

I spend a lot of time building cross-referenced, indexed outlines. The idea is that I can reuse them for Bar stuff. Can't do that with handwritten.

In fact, I find myself reusing outlines all the time -- I've gone back to my Business Associations outline frequently during this semester's Bankruptcy seminar, to double-check myself on various fiduciary rules. Not to mention going back to my Bankruptcy outline.

My laptop contains easily searchable and handy references I can use my entire legal life. Don't take that way from me!

I actually took notes by hand and then typed up ny handwritten notes, and then made outlines. I found that to be the most useful approach.

Other Blogs

Law-Type Blogs

Other Webcomics

Log Archives

eXTReMe Tracker

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by hb published on April 7, 2007 3:52 PM.

A Law Geek's Guide to Massachusetts v. EPA was the previous entry in this blog.

Huntington Beach v. Santa Cruz - Where Do Your Loyalties Lie? is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 5.04