How to study private law: logic and memory techniques.

How to study private law: logic and memory techniques.

More specifically, Giacomo asks me how to use the loci technique and the memory building to study law, and he gives me an example of a typical article of the code to memorize:

Publicity of the power of attorney

We will therefore see how to use memory techniques to remember it, but in the meantime, let me introduce you to a guest who helped me write this article on how to study private law.

Because, you see, to graduate in medicine I had to take the forensic exam at the time, but certainly this is not enough experience to know how to study private law, which is the cornerstone of the law degree.

So I asked a lawyer friend, P. Jay, to help me.

P. Jay is the right person, because before becoming a lawyer she was on both sides of the fence.

In fact, she was a law student, taking four months to prepare private law, her first exam.

Then, after graduating a few years later with full marks and on time, she went on with a research doctorate and a series of research grants, which led her to teach and question boys often only 5-6 years younger than she.

This allowed her to develop a very solid idea of ​​how a good law study method should be done, and how to study private law, the “brick” exam par excellence.

I leave them to the word.

Studying private law is like studying the basics of a language

Whether you are a student of law, economics or still in high school, the first thing you absolutely need to focus on is that learning law means, first and foremost, learning a new language.

In fact, law is a universe of terms only apparently of common sense. In reality, behind each term there are a series of concepts which are the domain of the jurist and which are unknown to common language.

For example, when in law you hear about agents, attorneys, representatives and principals, you have to prick up your ears.

You are sure in fact, even knowing how much jurisprudence there is on the subject, of how close they are, but in reality very different, each of those terms and situations.

While for the common person, who does not deal with law, each of those words has a vague, imprecise, and indistinct definition from the others.

Therefore, any law study you undertake:

  • First you have to learn the meaning of the terms that must be used in every single circumstance;
  • Secondly, you must know that the law is very strict and that - at least in most cases - only one is the correct term to use.

For this reason, private law is studied in the first year. And again for this reason, if you learn it well, all the following jurisprudence will be easier for you.

Just like, when you learn a language, it is easier to proceed if you have built up the initial core of vocabulary and grammar structures well.

How to study private law in 3 weeks?!? I don't think it suits you

For this reason, I always shake my head when I read about people who want to teach you how to study private law in 3 weeks.

Beware, it's not impossible!

With a little luck and studying only the most important pieces and the “professor's questions”, you can do it even in less time.

But then you'll scramble for the other 20 and pass university exams, never being able to solve the usual problems:

  • lack of adequate legal terminology
  • lack of fundamental logical structures
  • poor ability to link different legal concepts
  • total gaps on this or that aspect of the law

So don't ask yourself “how to study private law in 3 weeks”, but ask yourself “how to study private law well”. And if the weeks are 6, or as more likely, 12, don't worry. You are making an investment of time that will save you thousands of hours as you continue your studies.

Having said that, however, I didn't like spending months on books either. So let's see how you can speed up your study time within certain limits.

How to study private law well and quickly

At the end of the post we will see the entire memorization process, with memory techniques, of the example article proposed by Giacomo (a more typical topic of commercial law).

But first, let's see some general elements of how to study private law:

Move from words to concepts

When you study law, you have to start from the meaning of a term and understand the concept behind it.

So forget the idea of ​​learning words by heart, but use memory techniques to fix the concept behind the words.

Let me explain better by returning to the analogy with languages:

When you learn the word 'cat' in English you assign it to a very specific image, with whiskers, tail, legs, hair and any other attribute that identifies the cat as a concept for you.

So, even if "cat" is a sequence of consonants and vowels, at the same time it represents a concept that is widely known and understood for you. And you are therefore able to learn how to say it in English, perhaps with memory techniques.

For the law you have to do the same operation in abstract terms: that is, understand which are the keywords and which are the concepts that are connected to them.

For example in the art. 2206 cc that Giacomo mentions, it is absurd to be able to think of remembering the word principal if you do not have a clear concept of what it is.

As well as business register, representation, notarized… If you don't know exactly what these words represent in legal terms, learning the article by heart will be very difficult and very useless. And memory techniques won't help you.

If, on the other hand, you know exactly what the word "principal" conceptually corresponds to, then you can use the image that represents it and tie it into a locus, then remembering it forever.

Think for concrete cases

Law is not an abstract entity, but a series of norms that describe what happens in real situations.

Private law then, precisely because it is a fundamental element of the entire jurisprudence:

  • always responds to concrete cases
  • always has a logic

And therefore it is much easier to memorize the language of law if every time a case is constructed to describe a rule.

And you can build a case, or an example, only if you understand the rule.

Study "onion"

My recommendation is to use an onion method. Start from the leaves and slowly deepen.

To start browsing the onion, especially in the fundamental courses, namely private law, constitutional law, commercial law, civil procedure, etc. always start from the index and study it.

Normally the indexes of law books are divided into macro-parts and then into chapters and then into chapters. Those are the basic lines of your onion, and if you learn them:

  • you will have determined the general context in which you move
  • you will find that what is in the deeper layers of the onion will make the most sense

Personally, I have always studied indexes with the memory palace technique.

By assigning to each chapter a very large room, which can be further divided into many parts.

Because as you deepen the layers of the onion you go to build an ever larger and more branched palace of memory.

I will give an example on how to study private law by taking as a reference the manual by Vincenzo Roppo on private law, latest edition.

The book is divided into 13 parts: The law, The rights, The subjects, The rights over things, The obligations, The contract, The individual contracts, The non-contractual liability, Other sources of obligations, Company and society Organization of the company, The family, successions and donations.

These 13 parts are the outermost parts of your onion, and each goes into a large "room" of your memory palace. Examples of large rooms are: your home; your parents' house; your city; your university… places that can be subdivided into many parts which can be subdivided in turn.

Let's continue with the example by going into room number 10, or “Business and Society”. Let's say I put it in my parents' house.

Business and society is in turn divided into 6 sub-chapters: the company (where the main concepts related to the "company" are defined), the categories of companies, the companies (where the main concepts of "company" are defined), partnerships, joint stock companies, mutual societies.

In the large room number 10 of my building I will then find a place for each of these sub-chapters (also here, thinking by concepts): the entrance, the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, the bedroom, the attic.

The sub-chapter "business categories", identified by the kitchen, as well as all the others, will be further divided into smaller parts. Each time finding images / concepts that bind to the locus.

Proceeding in this way, I will perhaps find myself in the locus occupied by the grandmother's pot, art. 2206 cel cc, or the publicity of the power of attorney….

(Note: at the end of the post I propose an alternative method that for some is easier).

Art. 2206 of the civil code, the publicity of the power of attorney

Layer by layer, you have thus arrived at Grandma's pot. Inside it you will find the chief prosecutor of your city dressed as a sandwich man: to represent "the publicity of the prosecutor".

(Note: these images must be constructed as correctly as possible, as I describe in several articles on the blog. In this case, for example, there can be some confusion between the different meanings of power of attorney and power of attorney of the Republic. It is not serious, however).

Let's see what the article says:

"The power of attorney with signature of the principal must be filed for registration with the competent office of the business register.

In the absence of registration, the representation is considered general and its limitations are not opposable to third parties, unless it is proved that they knew them at the time of the conclusion of the deal. "

If I tried to study it free of any legal context, memorizing it would be more or less like memorizing a sentence in ancient Greek.

You should:

  • take the words subscription, principal, notarized, filed, registration, company register, representation limitations, third parties, proof, deal.
  • find an image for each of them
  • associate the image to each locus of a path you have done previously.

And perhaps it still would not be enough to remember precisely what is said and what the hell is talking about in this article.

Unfortunately, most of the kids who have taken a weekend memory course try to use memory techniques in this way. And obviously they abandon them immediately, without having found any answers to their study problems.

So, to answer Giacomo's initial question: the palace of memory should not be used to memorize an article in this way, word for word. But it should be used within an effective study method, as a tool to go faster and remember better and more precisely.

If you have leafed through your onion patiently, by the time you get to this article you know exactly where you are: you are in the macro-area related to the business, and more particularly in the one concerning the special provisions on commercial enterprises.

And here things begin to make sense and simplify themselves… And remembering the article becomes a question of logic even more than memory.

What is the problem, the real case, the example, that the code article is about?

The article talks about how the entrepreneur of a commercial enterprise protects himself against the work of the people he has appointed to represent him. It does so, in fact, by filing a special power of attorney.

As we have seen, private law speaks of concrete things and problems. And if you are able to give an example, it means that you understand, and also that you will remember better.

Imagine then that you are not Giacomo, a law student, but Mr. Giacomo, head and owner of a commercial enterprise.

Let's say this company specializes in wine sales, and it's so big that you can't go in person to sell wine around, but have to hire people for you.

But you don't completely trust them, and you want to protect yourself from them not doing things you don't want. For this you give them a special power of attorney limiting their powers. That is, something which indicates what they can do, and consequently the rest is excluded: for example, you can write to us that they can sign contracts of less than 100 liters of wine. Or to the 5 thousand euros. Or that they can only sell A wine.

You can find thousands of such examples, where special power of attorney is the solution.

What is the main keyword?

For me it is "deposited". Because the difference between the first and second paragraphs of the article lies precisely in whether the power of attorney has been filed or not. And this is the only word that I would go to put in my palace of memory.

Maybe representing it with an image, like Uncle Scrooge's deposit. Which I associate with the DA dressed as a sandwich man. For example, imagine that he advertises in front of Uncle Scrooge's store.

What is logically deductible?

Okey, having established that the fundamental problem relates to whether or not the power of attorney is filed, there are a number of obvious questions, with answers almost as obvious:

  • Who is the power of attorney? The principal, of course. At least if you know what the word "principal" means in law. (Remember? We talked about the importance of knowing the terminology above). Attention: he does it, but it is not said that he will deposit it (indeed, it is unlikely).
  • Where should it be deposited? To the competent office at the commercial register. If this isn't obvious !! Should we take it to a pizzeria? Or to the incompetent office? Even this then, if you have studied so far as it has been indicated to you, it should not be a problem.
  • What if it is not filed? Well, then the limitations contained therein are not enforceable against third parties (remember? It was precisely the reason why it must be filed) and it is then assumed that it is a general representation. Even here, it is quite obvious to ask the problem, because in the law there is always you, the parties and third parties. And if I do deposit it, it is precisely to inform third parties! That is, returning to the example, the problem that the law arises is: what happens to the guy who buys me wine if he buys it through an employee who does not have the powers to sell it to him?

Now, there is a series of "missed" information.

For example the one that the power of attorney must be authenticated; as well as the fact that, to be enforceable if not filed, you must prove that third parties were in any case known. These are certainly things that are neither illogical nor impossible to remember, but certainly with a higher level of difficulty.

You can then attach secondary images to the image of the deposit you have placed in the locus: for example, a nice notary, to remind you of the authentication of the power of attorney. But that's probably not necessary.

In fact, on the second / third repetition, thanks to the feedbcak mechanism (discussed in the article on how to memorize definitions in English) and to natural memory, you will have acquired all these additional info.

The importance of patterns

An article on eidetic memory talks about the fact that a chess champion is able to memorize the pieces on the board very well not because he has an extraordinary memory, but because they make sense to him.

The same is true in law.

And so, if you are a law student, before you get to memorize this rule, which is found in section 10 of the Roppo, you will have engraved in your long-term memory:

  • specific terminology
  • a number of other related rules
  • similarities, similarities, differences

Which will naturally lead you to remember these aspects. Keep in mind, for example, that representation in general is already mentioned in chapter 6.

Therefore you should already know something about opposability to third parties and advertising regimes in the various registers.

And here it comes back to why you have to ask yourself how to study private law well, not how to do it in 2 weeks. Because you will build a substrate on which it will be easy for you to memorize subsequent exams.

How to study private law with memory techniques: myth and reality

I think this long article has clarified how to study private law with techniques such as the memory palace.

It is not about learning the codes word for word by building long loci paths for each article of the code. In fact, you would have to create tens of thousands of loci and their respective images.

Instead, it is a question of building a large, branched, well-ordered building, with different levels of depth, consisting of large rooms that are divided into smaller spaces, and then even smaller ones, as the information is deepened in detail.

At each level of depth, the information is represented in a simple way, with a key concept / image. From it the definitions derive in a logical way, and in any case organic with respect to the rest of knowledge.

And when you are being examined, and the professor asks you about the public prosecutor's office, you see associated with this, in your memory building, the image of the "deposit". And you start asking yourself the obvious questions: who does it, where does it deposit it, what happens if it doesn't, what form it must have (signature authentication), what happens if it is not deposited…. all rules which, as you become familiar with the legal mentality and terminology, become more and more predictable.

And then the speech comes by itself: "the power of attorney with signature of the principal authenticated, must be filed for registration at the competent office of the register of companies .. In the absence of registration, etc. etc."

How to study private law with mnemonics: alternative method 1

We have seen how to study private law by building an elaborate memory palace. If I look at Roppo, or Trimarchi, or Torrente - Schlesinger or any other manual of private law, I can already imagine the size that the building will take.

Even without starting word-for-word paths of loci.

An alternative strategy that I recommend is to use the building only at the first levels of the index, to get the unitary idea of ​​the structure of private law. In principle, it is a question of building a palace with the names of the various parts and chapters. With paragraphs, at least in the first phase, it would be too complicated.

The single articles can instead be studied using phonetic conversion. In other words, by transforming the article number into an image, according to Leibniz's coding system. And then attach to this image the one that represents the key concept of the article, and possibly some of the secondary ones. For an exhaustive discussion of the method, go to the article on phonetic conversion. In any case, be aware that there are relatively few articles to know.

How to study private law with mnemonics: alternative method 2

Do you remember the story of you selling wine? It is a very simple example of an approach to the study of law based on the case method. The world experts in the field are the British and the Americans and their commn law system.

To learn the basics of civil law (which is the law you study) I suggest you start right away to give yourself examples also on the basic definitions that you find in all the manuals.

The recommendation I make to you is to put yourself at the center of the case you tell yourself and to imagine very simple situations of everyday life.

The law lives there.

For example: one of the first topics covered by all the texts is that on legal capacity, a topic always described together with the concept of capacity to act.

Now, if you take the textbook and read the definitions you will be able to fix the idea of ​​legal capacity by thinking of yourself and your 6 year old brother and that of the capacity to act by visualizing only yourself.

The concept will stop in your memory immediately and will put you in a position to understand all the other contexts in which skills will be talked about, thus enriching your initial image.

With time, study and a bit of training you will also learn to describe the institution of capacity in general terms, but the idea is in your brain from the first reading.

Starting from these simpler situations, you will then learn to exploit the great power of examples and the vivid images that derive from them to engrave even the most abstruse articles and cases of law in your memory.


This article on how to study private law is well over 3.500 words, and we've cut it out here and there as well. This is because private law to law, as well as anatomy to medicine, or financial mathematics to economics, is one of those monster exams par excellence.

They are made partly to give you the foundation, partly to block the way for those who are less motivated.

This means that in any case, with or without memory techniques, an examination as a private law is to be expected as very, very hard.

There is no magic formula to carry it out effortlessly! You can find out how to study private law quickly and well, but it will never be a health walk anyway. So, give it your all and good luck. A greeting. P. Jay and Anthony.

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