Breaking Good: How breaking down legal cases into flashcards is a great way to learn the law

Welcome to the newly established Wisdomap Legal Education Blog.

Because Wisdomap wants to provide law students with the best possible service, we've launched this blog to supplement the tools we have on offer. We hope to provide you with an insight into the world of legal education in this space fairly regularly, whether that be mentioning new cases in the courts, suggesting effective revision techniques, or just commenting on the legal education system. We're always looking for new ideas so if you have a comment on the blog, or want to contribute, please get in touch. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy reading!.

Lorren, a law student at the University of Oxford, is a power user of Wisdomap Law (600 legal case flashcards and counting!). She has kindly contributed to the blog by providing some tips on how to create the perfect flashcard for studying law.

Enter Lorren.

As legal case flashcards are a key feature of Wisdomap Law, we thought you might be interested in finding out how you might want to approach making your own legal flashcards. My case notes are constructed using a combination of the original case reports, legal textbooks and, where appropriate, commentary from legal academics, in that order. The aim is to provide a source that has all of the vital information on pivotal cases in one place, so that your revision can be quicker, easier, and more effective. I can then take these flashcards with me using the Wisdomap mobile site. What follows is a suggestion of how to utilise the features that the Wisdomap flashcard featureoffers, but is by no means the only possible approach.

Firstly, it's useful to have a clear, easy to recall title for your case notes. Wisdomap will automatically order your notes in alphabetical order, so if you start similarly themed cases with the same words, they'll be close together and easier to access. In my case notes, I start the case names with the area of law that they refer to, but you can also use the folder function to keep unit separate from each other. This is followed by a general theme title, and then by the actual case name used by the courts. Using the full case names is useful if you need to look them up later, but now that Wisdomap has a 'Citation' field you may prefer to use shorter case names that are easier to remember.

The 'Court' field may seem unnecessary for many cases, but it can be very useful when you're looking at a chain of precedents. For example, in Contract Law, there are a chain of cases on modification of consideration in different courts, and when considering them the courts they were decided in are very relevant because it seems that the Court of Appeal may have acted outside of its powers in departing from an earlier House of Lords decision. Without the court the case was decided in in the note, this might not be obvious.

The 'Facts' field is probably the least important in most cases, and many law students don't learn the facts in regards to many cases. However, I include concise facts in my content because having the facts of a case can help you to understand the context of the law being discussed, and can also make a case more memorable, so it's easier to recall in an exam. In one example, Associated Provincial Picture Houses v Wednesbury Corporation, the facts of the case didn't contribute to the important Administrative Law principle that arose from the case, but they may make it more memorable: rather than having to recall just the quote about unreasonableness, having the facts gives you something more to grasp when you're trying to associate the case name with the principle. Although this may seem pointless with a case as pivotal as this one, with more obscure cases, or where you're trying to learn a large number of cases, it can be very helpful.

Wisdomap separates what the judges held from the legal principles in cases. This means that you can ensure you know the result of a case, and what the judges said, as well as knowing why it matters. Legal examiners are often looking for an extra depth in answers, such as knowing which judge said what, and having it in a separate field in your case notes can help you to recall that sort of information, instead of it becoming absorbed into a discussion of the legal principles. I haven't used bullet points in my case notes, although I have used section headings in some complicated cases, but the important thing is to break the information down into a structure that works for you. If you prefer to have one fact or one principle per bullet point, the bullet point function lets you do that. If you want to use colour coding, that's available too. What Wisdomap aims to do as a tool is to help you get from a long-winded case report to a concise, memorable summary of the important things you need to remember.

The final section in Wisdomap is the 'Notes' section. Although it may not be necessary to use it all of the time, it offers the opportunity to include commentary from legal academics and textbooks in your case notes, so that you have all of your information in one place. I always included such notes and full references to the sources. Source referencing not only means that you can find the material again quickly if you need to, but also helps you to avoid plagiarism by properly citing other people's ideas.