In this article, we have a look at mind mapping for lawyers. Mind mapping is a commonly used and highly effective tool that assists in creative intellectual processes. Yet, somehow most lawyers seem to be unfamiliar with mind maps. So, in this article we will introduce you to mind maps. We answer questions like, “What is mind mapping?’, ‘What are the benefits of mind mapping?’, ‘How can lawyers use mind maps?’, and ‘How to create a mind map?’ We also have a cursory glance at the benefits of mind mapping software.
What is mind mapping?
A mind map is a visual diagram that is composed of concepts, texts, relations and/or pictures. These are arranged in the form of a tree structure – or hierarchy – around a central theme. It shows the relationships among the pieces of the whole. In mind maps, the major ideas are typically connected directly to the central concept, while other ideas branch out from those major ideas. One author defines a mind map as a multidimensional graphic way of generating, visually representing and organizing information and ideas. Another author describes them as a form of fluid, visual notetaking arranged around a core idea.
Mind maps are used to support creative processes and to assist in capturing and structuring ideas and information. This also makes them useful for remembering and learning.
Mind maps have the following key characteristics:
- Mind maps usually have one central topic. All information and ideas in the mind map relate to that central topic.
- Mind maps have an expansive tree structure. One author describes mind maps as having “one core in the center, with dendrites (lines) branching out from the core to connect different concepts. The lines may incorporate images, words, colors, numbers, and other visual representations of concepts.”
- Mind maps are keyword focused. Mind maps consist of ideas and key words, rather than long sentences or blocks of text. This makes it easier to scan for the relevant information.
What are the benefits of mind mapping?
The major benefit of mind mapping is that it helps develop and organize ideas and information. It does this in three ways. The first is simplification. Visually working with keywords is easier to understand and memorize. A second way is that mind maps use tree structures which assist in categorization. Categories are branches and subcategories are sub-branches, etc. The tree structure makes it easy to navigate and can present complex information in a way that is easier to grasp. A third way is contextualization. The mind map maps out the relationships between the key words. So, we can see how all the pieces of information connect to one another. As a result, mind maps help distinguish the main issues from the secondary ones.
Mind maps offer several other benefits. They boost productivity. If you are using mind mapping software, it is possible to share and collaborate on mind maps. Creating the mind map helps you identify the key concepts and their relationships, which assists in storing the information more effectively in long-term memory. They make the information compact and manageable. This in turn also helps prevent information overload.
How can lawyers use mind maps?
Mind maps are useful for notetaking, writing, brainstorming and choosing ideas, planning and strategizing, problem solving and decision making, learning new information, and for collaborating with others. All of these are things that lawyers do.
In general, whether you are working on some advice, a contract, or preparing for negotiations or litigation, mind maps can assist you in focusing on the key legal issues. They contribute to intelligent information management through better analyses, structured files, and improved communication with colleagues and clients. They also are ideal tools for working out strategies.
More specifically for litigation, winning a case is about information and how it is presented. Mind maps offer the best way to collect, organize, and present information. Another benefit of mind maps is that they make it easier to present your oral arguments. With a mind map, you can go through all the relevant information in structured and exhaustive way, without having to rely on printed text with long sentences. Your mind map acts as a navigation and orientation point that allows you to present your case in a complete, comprehensible, and coherent way.
Mind maps are also ideal tools to prepare for legal tests and exams, to keep track of changes in law and jurisprudence, and for legal research in general.
How to create a mind map?
Creating mind maps is easy as it follows the natural flow of your thinking. You always start with the central theme. That can be a litigation case; it can be a specific legal subject you want to explore, a contract or a legal advice you want to prepare, etc. Then you think of items that are relevant to this theme and write them down. You can do this by yourself, or you can do it together with others in a brainstorming session. Then you start structuring the information, where you identify the main categories and sub-categories, and you organize them accordingly in the tree structure. Then, you can start formatting the mind map: add colour to topics and branches, change fonts, thickness of lines, add images, etc. If you are using an electronic mind map, you can add notes, links to other mind maps or to documents or to research, etc. At any stage, you can ask for feedback, and with electronic mind maps, you can share them and collaborate on them.
Mind mapping software
Mind maps can be drawn manually, or they can be created with software. Several free and paying options are available. The last article mentioned in the sources gives an overview of current popular software packages.
Using mind mapping software offers several additional benefits. 1) It simplifies mind map creation. Adding a branch is usually as simple as pressing a key and reorganizing the information typically can be done by dragging and dropping the branches in a different location. 2) Mind mapping software enables map collaboration. Typically, one can assign different permissions to different users you share the mind map with, where some can comment, while others can restructure and/or add information. 3) Mind maps created with software typically allow you to go beyond the simple tree map. One keyword in a branch can be clickable and lead to another mind map. This is very useful for legal research and for working with legal concepts. You can even integrate videos and other diagrams. 4) Software mind maps often also integrate with your other apps. 5) Finally, mind mapping software frequently offers additional tools like export, backup, version control, access management, etc.
Mind maps offer a useful tool to organize and present information. They are ideal for the intellectual work lawyers do. They boost productivity and keep information manageable. Unfortunately, most lawyers still are not familiar with them. But that can easily be changed. Mind mapping is easy to learn and offers fast and tangible benefits. If you are not using them yet, what are you waiting for?