Monday, October 1st, 2012...9:09 pm

Mindmapping Software – Essential for Law School

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A few years back my employer (California Western School of Law) contracted with Mindjet to give every student, faculty and staff member access to MindManager mind-mapping software.  I encouraged this collaboration as I felt the graphical qualities of  mind-maps were particularly well suited to breaking down complex legal concepts into more digestible components, something our students would find appealing in preparing class outlines or studying for the bar.


A mind-map is a visual representation of relationships between concepts, words and ideas (the graphic below is an example). Mind-mapping is not new: according to a  2007 Law Library Journal article, it was developed by researchers in the 1960s. 99 Law Libr. J. 175 (2007)  Software and the internet have made maps easy to create in both basic text and multimedia form, and as a result mind mapping has become quite popular.


Attorneys can use maps in a number of ways, including litigation and case management, as well as research tracking. Our program has been quite popular with students and faculty.  Some faculty have found it useful for teaching, either in class presentations or via handouts.  Others found it extremely helpful for outlining, drafting and organizing their scholarship.  (The iPad version of MindManager was used heavily by some faculty especially because they could transfer files back and forth between the full version of the software and the iPad app.)


Many students raved about the software.  It was quite a surprise when a student actually came up and thanked us for providing the program after a training presentation.  I’ve seen bar studiers thrilled with their discovery of mind-mapping as a study tool.   On the other hand, it is not for everyone.  A few students recoiled at the graphical qualities of mind-maps and favored ‘regular’ linear outlining.

I’m not sure why the reaction for and against mind-mapping can be so strong.  That sounds like a research project for an educational psychologist.  However, the benefits provided to those that do respond positively have made me conclude that it is definitely worth introducing in a law school environment.



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