Top Note-Taking Tips for Legal Secretaries

Whether you are studying one of ILSPA's courses or working in a law firm, note taking is a significant part of a Legal Secretary’s role whatever stage you are at in your career. Efficient note taking can save you time, help your understanding and memory, and keep you organised.

Here are ILSPA’s top 10 tips for note taking.

  1. Find the format that works for you when taking notes so that it becomes natural and easy, whether it’s bullet points, annotations around text, short sentences, colour-coding or creating mind maps. Having your notes in a clear and relatable format will speed up your note taking and also help you find information again when you need to return to it.

  2. Learn common abbreviations and use them. Shorthand may not be as common as it was in the past, but there are definite advantages that can be taken from it. Even if you just apply a few principles to your notes, it will save you time, space and writing.

  3. Rephrase what you are hearing. This will not only speed up your note taking but will also help you process the information. Don’t be too concerned with the exact words that were said (within reason), instead try to note down the key points in your own words.

  4. Improve your vocabulary. The more words you know, the less you have to think about which words to use when taking notes.

  5. After a class or meeting, rewrite your notes. This gives you the opportunity to review them. You’ll remember more, and this moves the information into your long-term memory rather than it disappearing.

  6. If you are making notes about something you are reading, check over them as soon as you finish reading each section. You may need to add points, ask yourself questions to clarify your understanding of the material and note anything you need to follow up.

  7. Develop the habit of distinguishing between essential and non-essential information. Strip away all excess information that is not important and does not contribute to understanding.

  8. Note references if you decide to include a direct quote.

  9. Why not make your notes visual? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so don’t be afraid to doodle or draw next to the notes you write. It can jog your memory about what you were thinking and bring your notes to life.

  10. Ask for clarification. Your notes are not going to be useful if you don’t understand them. Make sure to ask the tutor or meeting host any questions you may have.