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Using flow charts to study law

Law practice is full of “If… then” statements. “If X is true what are the solutions?”, “If Y is claimed what is the evidence”? Law lends itself to being explained via flow charts where actions, rules and laws flow as consequences of prior actions, rules and laws.

Flow charts particularly suit students who have a visual learning style, but all learners can benefit from them. And now it’s even easier to create flow diagrams thanks to dedicated apps and programmes.

How flow charts work

Flow charts are graphical representations of key steps, processes or systems of thinking and have their origins in science and engineering. Since then, their use has ballooned to all areas of work especially project planning and systems programming although they’re also used extensively within some areas of education.
It’s standard for a flow chart to use a set of shapes, lines and arrows to depict the connections between things. A flow chart can show the history of legislation, explain the structure of a statute or map out how black letter law, case law, events, concepts and behaviour might work together. For example, a flow chart might map out an area of employment law with all the stages of a redundancy process, options for appeal and relevant legislation.
Each legal flow chart should be concerned with one specific subject and it can include a lot or little detail as required. However, whether it’s high-level or low level, the flow chart should include the key processes and decisions within its remit.

The benefits to learning

Flow charts make complex information more comprehensible and – used well – can capture all critical steps. They show how things are constructed, evolve and interrelate. Their graphics aid information storage and retrieval.

Creating a flow chart

Techniques can include:
  • Using specific shapes, e.g. circles or curved-edged rectangles to show the beginnings and ends of processes.
  • A rectangle for a step in the process.
  • A diamond to map a decision.
  • Popular flow chart apps and programmes

    Many in this list are free; the others cost around £4 a month subscription of which a number have free samples:
  • draw.io is free and has a lot of templates which you can save to Google Drive.
  • Download Lucidchart from Google Play. The app allows you to create charts with dozens of stages. Other free mobile apps include Flowdia Diagrams, Free FlowChart Office Templates, Flo Charts, Org Charts and Flowchart Editor.
  • Creately is cloud-based and works on your desktop/laptop. You can get a free basic plan.
  • Gliffy is very easy to use and can be installed on your laptop if you don’t have Wi-Fi.
  • To aid revision

  • Use a finger to follow the connections in your flow diagram.
  • Later in the day or a few days later, see if you can re-create the diagram from memory.
  • Memorise the key concepts categories and structures.
  • Repeat process regularly.
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