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How to Read Judgements Quickly?

All legal professionals strive to master the skill of reading judgements quickly. But, of what use is speed reading if the same does not result in capturing of the relevant facts and issues at hand? Smart reading then takes precedence over purely quick reading. Here’s how to do it- a simple breakdown of the approach to reading judgements like a pro:

Definition of Purpose:

Before jumping into the text of the judgement, it is advisable to define for yourself the purpose of reading the particular judgement. What do you want to have achieved after having read it? For example:

  • Is it just the order you are concerned with?
  • Are you looking for a precedent to cite in your favour?
  • Is it purely for academic learning?

Taking two minutes to understand what you wish to gain from reading the judgement helps you go in with a more focussed approach.

Readying the Tools:

  • Undistracted period of time- Read the judgement in one sitting and ensure in advance that you will not face any distractions while reading. This is especially important in case of longer judgments.. Leaving it midway and coming back to it later may cause you to lose the link and you may have to start over.
  • Stationery- On the first reading ensure that you highlight the relevant extracts and make notes for future reference so that all subsequent readings can be conducted in a matter of literally a few minutes. For this purpose, keep handy stationery items such as adhesive bookmarks, highlighters, pens, etc.

Speed It Up:

One way to increase your reading speed by leaps and bounds is to learn how to turn off the voice in your head. As you read this very sentence, pay attention to how you read- is there a narrator’s voice reading out each and every word in your brain? It is quite a common occurrence and is known as subvocalization[1]. For most of us, it tends to be what we think is our own voice as we hear it every day. This is your biggest obstacle. Quieten down that voice. Push yourself to read faster such that the voice cannot catch up. Initially, your comprehension rate will suffer but keep at it with full concentration. Try seeing entire sentences at a time instead of going word by word. Keep practising till you get the hang of it.

Active Reading Over Passive Reading:

You must have heard the phrase ‘Listen, don’t just hear’. Similarly, you can and should apply the same reasoning once you start reading the judgement. Don’t just read in order to absorb information, but in order to understand the emerging patterns and to construct your own views. Else, you might have to reread initial parts as you go further into the judgement.

Facts and Legal Issues:

Ideally, you should be moving quickly through those parts of the judgement which provide the facts of the individual case at hand as these parts tend to be pretty straightforward. Slightly more time can be spent while reading the legal issues in the judgement as this would require you to thoroughly understand the buildup of the case, laws referred to and rules relied upon. If you find that this is not the case, pay attention to where you might be spending a disproportionate amount of time and then course correct.

Some Cheat Codes:

Note that these work if you are in a tearing hurry so apply selectively!

  • You can start off by reading the conclusions which are usually found at the very end of the judgements and then skim through the text of the judgement from beginning to end for a quick overview.
  • Important judgements are summarised in compilers by authors who make your job easy for you. But you lose out on building a legal mind of your own when you look for ready-made summaries. So again, apply judiciously! Or better yet, read such summaries as an addition to the judgement in order to better understand it.
  • A lot of the times you will find that the counsels of both parties put forward and try to dismantle numerous arguments. This may give you an idea of their thought processes but ultimately may end up becoming very long-winded and time-consuming to wade through. This is something which you may consider skimming through with only a passing glance.

Finally, in order to master the art of quickly and effectively reading judgements, do just that- read as many judgements as you can! Most people get slowed down because of the legal language and maxims which are used liberally throughout judgements. Constant reading builds a sense of familiarity with these, which can only be developed over a period of time. If you do this, you will see your speed increase almost automatically. As they say, practice makes perfect.

[1] For more on subvocalization refer

This Article Written by Amie Ayaaz Fazulbhoy, student of G J Advani Law College (Mumbai University).

Read Also: Tips to Read Law Book Fast

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