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Why Do Law Students Love Highlighters?

photo by -Nat

Maybe I’m dense. But I don’t understand why fellow law students use 4-5 different colors of highlighters in their case books. It’s almost an obsession with the brilliant colors in this happy little markers.

Why do I care?

Most of the time, I don’t. I can choose how to highlight in my own books. You choose how to color yours.

But when I buy a used book, this can sometimes be a problem. I guess that’s the price I pay saving some money on text books.

More importantly, I think using lots of highlighter colors is anti-productive.

When I’m reading, I don’t want to think about what sentence or words should be highlighted in what color. Isn’t it just quicker to think “that’s important,” and then highlight it?

Two reasons I change colors

With all that said, my books do have multiple colors in them. But I don’t consider myself a hypocrite.

First, I use a separate color for case names. I’ve found this incredibly useful for cases in the “notes” of case books. Some professors like to discuss these cases in class, and having a distinctive color to scan for makes it quicker to find what the heck they’re talking about.

Second, I sometimes change colors when my highlighter runs dry. I generally prefer orange highlighting for regular text. But I’ve been known to use pink, green, yellow, etc. But I only change colors when a highlighter expires or is lost.

How many colors are in your book?

I’m interested to hear what other people think about this. Do you use lots of colors? What are the benefits? Do you highlight at all?

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9 Responses to “Why Do Law Students Love Highlighters?”

  1. Blaine
    April 12th, 2007

    I only use one color, whatever happens to be in my backpack (my favorites are yellow and blue). I too marvel at the people who use 4 or 5 colors in a single case. How much time do they waste picking up and putting down highlighters? Do the different colors actually help them understand or remember the text better?

    In my experience, the people who do that much highlighting don’t brief the cases, so maybe that’s why they do it.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    April 12th, 2007


    I’m absolutely with you on this. Dealing with 4-5 colors must take lots of time, and I don’t see how it adds value to the reading of the case.

    Although, I don’t actually brief cases, so I’m not sure if I’m a good example of great reading practices. ;)

  3. [...] Why Do Law Students Love Highlighters? [...]

  4. Tripp
    April 13th, 2007

    When I was in law school, I used a few different colors in my casebooks so I could keep up with all of the different things I was looking for (e.g. issue, procedure, material facts, holding, etc.). It made it a lot easier when I went back and briefed the cases before class.

  5. Andrew Flusche
    April 13th, 2007

    Hi Tripp,

    I know of other people who use colors like this. It sounds like a fairly common thing to do. I guess if it helps, then more power to them. I think I would get confused about which color is which. :)

    Thanks for commenting,

  6. 2Legant
    April 15th, 2007

    I actually use a ballpoint pen. I find it quicker to underline and make notes in the margins while circling interesting terms/words. That way I don’t have to put down the highlighter to pick up a pen…

  7. Andrew Flusche
    April 15th, 2007

    Hi 2Legant,

    This sounds like a really good solution. Just using one pen would help a lot with picking up & putting down things. Plus, if you really need a separate color, you could use colored ink.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

  8. Dave
    May 10th, 2007

    Have you tried the new TempoTape removable highlighter? I love it because I can remove it when I want to sell my used books and they still look new. Also, I can borrow books and return them in the same condition….it comes in three colors and they are in pocket size dispensers so I can always carry one and I use whatever color I happen to have….

  9. Andrew Flusche
    May 10th, 2007


    That’s a great tip. I haven’t seen these things before, but I think I’ll look for them now.

    I’m happy to report that I never have to read another casebook, but I’m always needing to highlight things. And your point about borrowing books is excellent.

    Thanks for commenting,

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