5 things I would tell my first-year self

5 things I would tell my first-year self

“Hindsight is 20/20”, an expression we are all, no doubt familiar with. At times, it can be frustrating to look back at our past selves. There is a desire to say how we would now do things differently. However, looking back is also an important and cathartic method of reflection. In this article, I share the top five things I wish I could have told myself as I undertook the first year of LLB Law, written with the hindsight of a final year law student.

Don’t believe the rumours – first year counts!

The first tip addresses the old adage any student will have heard during freshers and beyond, that “first year doesn’t count”. Whilst this is in theory true for almost all UK universities – in that it does not count towards your final degree mark or classification, in actuality it holds great importance. Not only will your first year of studying law require you to cement the definition of key concepts such as the ratio decidendi of a case, you must also learn to identify this quickly and succinctly from lengthy judgments. Additionally, if applying for vacation schemes in your second year, your first-year grades are the most recent evidence of your academic achievement and will be given weight by firms. So whilst you must certainly not place too much pressure on yourself in your first year, securing a 2:1 would help your chances in this competitive area. 

Stay on top of your workload

The second piece of advice concerns the sheer amount of compulsory reading on a law course. Feeling prepared for lectures and seminars may feel impossible at times. I would tell my overwhelmed first-year self that the reading is split into the ‘required’, ‘recommended’ and ‘further’ categories for good reason. One useful technique is to ensure you complete and understand all of the ‘required’ reading for the seminar itself. And then, if the unit is assessed by coursework, once you have selected your essay question, use the ‘recommended’ and ‘further’ readings as a starting point for your research. Contrastingly, if the unit is assessed by examination, I would suggest completing the ‘recommended’ and ‘further’ reading as a means of revision.

Take time to make decisions

Thirdly, I found myself overcome with the task of choosing my optional units for second year in early March, partly due to the vast choice of over 30 units and because I felt that my time studying law had only really just started. Nonetheless, I would advise any law student to relish this opportunity. To be able to choose from such an unprecedented array of subject material is highly beneficial, since you may stumble upon an undiscovered interest in an area of law that you may not have previously considered. You should read the unit guides and reports for any module you are considering taking, as well as speaking to students who have previously studied these subjects. This is where your LexisNexis Student Associate can provide advice specific to your university. 

Get involved!

The fourth reflection is not specific to a law degree, it is simply that you should get involved. Whether this be in law or non-law societies, of which there will be hundreds to choose from at any university. Extra-curriculars such as mooting can be fun and great legal experience, and an activity in which LexisLibrary’s Halsbury’s Laws of England can prove extremely useful. To pursue something you enjoy outside of academics is evidence of a well-rounded individual who will stand out in applications and interviews.

Don’t compare yourself to others

The fifth and final thing I wish I was able to tell my first-year self is perhaps the most important, and one that many of us are still working on. Try not to compare yourself to other people. While it is easier said than done, this mantra is vital to surviving your years studying law. It may often appear, especially in your first year, that everyone except you has got their lives together. Although this is highly unlikely to be the case, I cannot stress enough how much smoother your law degree will go if you focus only on improving yourself, academically and mentally.

I hope that these reflections will resonate with others and hopefully discourage the need for hindsight’s perfect vision. 

For more advice inspired by past and present law students, check out our Law School Survival Guide.


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About the author:
Lucy is an aspiring solicitor and a University of Bristol Law graduate, where she was a 2019-2020 LexisNexis Student Associate.