“Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession”
One of the striking features of a profession, especially law is the complexity in its terminologies. A layman may not be able to distinguish between ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, words that have similar meanings but have been used separately in the Indian Constitution, thus, being clothed with different meanings. The language in drafting is also highly technical, often employing different clauses with complex structures and capable of varied interpretations.
In this post, we touch upon some tips to remember complex legal jargon:
- Making notes in our own handwriting
Quite often, we find typing out on our phone and laptop screens much easier compared to the conventional way of taking notes with pen and paper. There are various psychological studies that show that our minds are more adept at understanding and retaining information expressed in our own handwriting. Thus, for law students preparing for an exam, or a legal professional taking case notes, legalese is best remembered in our own handwriting.
- Using Mnemonics
Mnemonics refers to a branch of studying memorization improving techniques. Mnemonic techniques can be applied to memorisation of most legal materials like case names, features of a section, legal maxims etc. It involves techniques like using the initial letters to form a funny or a logical acronym, or weaving names or features into a story. For example, when it comes to legal history, a good way of remembering the first Governor General of India (Warren Hastings) is to ask oneself, who was in the most haste to hold this post and remember Hastings as the answer.
- Creating mind-maps with highlights
Mind-mapping is a technique of using bubbles and flowcharts to synthesise information that is complex, procedural and analytical. So, tracing amendments to the law could be made much easier if we make pointers on what changed, and lead it to how it was changed and by whom. Similarly, mind maps could be used to arrange facts of a case in a logical sequence and remember key terms associated with the same by using bubbles, highlights and pointers.
- Pictures and Visuals
While we may have long forgotten the text, some of us would still remember our school books for the sketches, drawings and pictures they had. Drawing a pictorial representation is one of the easiest ways to remember the factual matrix. For example, a contract between parties A and B for a specific date to buy a house can pictorially be represented by making a line with A and B on either end and a house in the middle with the date of the agreement. It’s much faster to read, easier to find on a page, more logical and much better remembered.
- Talking to Oneself and Others
While reading a case aloud may be helpful to some, others may find discussing case ratios, facts, arguments and outcomes with their peers very beneficial. Another advantage of this technique is that it builds multiple points of view and improves our ability to compare different thoughts on the same factual matrix.
- No substitute for Reading
All the above-mentioned techniques would work only as long we read and are willing to absorb new concepts, as the law is an ever-changing field of study. Whether you’re a law student, a researcher, paralegal or a practising professional, there is no substitute for reading. Extensive reading reinforces learning, as new dynamics are built over the existing base of information, which is a great way to learn legal terminologies and their application.