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September means one thing - a new academic term. Whether you are preparing to begin your journey into the legal profession, or are reminiscing about those first few years studying, I am sure you have all had the same common thought: ‘How do I survive law school?’
Studying can be daunting at any level, but with the competitive and high standards of the legal profession, the pressure can feel even greater.
In part one of our series to help you navigate your law school journey, we spoke with law student Aaron Kirsopp to gather ‘top tips’ for surviving the, LLB (Bachelor of Laws).*
In beginning life as an undergraduate, there is always a huge element of the unknown. Not only are you having to settle in to a new way of life: moving into halls, making new friends and doing your own washing and ironing for the first time, but you are having to contend with the challenges of a new course. To help you make your first term a success, read our hints and tips below:
Many first-year students get wrapped up in the idea that the ‘first year doesn’t count’. Although your grades may not be weighted to your final degree, employers can still ask to see your transcript to weigh up which candidate should get the job. Work hard for yourself from the get go!
As well as studying hard, it is always worth attending as many law fairs and law firm events as early as you can. Your persistence, frequent attendance and dedication will not go unnoticed.
Work smart. Do this by understanding the structure of your course and how you will be examined. Making case briefs for every single case that comes up may not be the smartest way of working and may quite possibly, be detrimental to your studies. Instead, if you know you will be examined in particular ways, think about whether your study methods can be modified to get the most out of your time. For example, if your module is coursework based, make sure all the information you will need is in one place for when you begin writing, rather than studying for hours on that particular subject when you could be studying for your closed book written exam.
As a law student, you’ll already be reading large quantities of text. So, reading around your subject to have that ‘flair’ may not be feasible with all of your upcoming deadlines. In a way to get around this, take in information by other means, such as, YouTube, podcasts, Audible etc.
Your careers office is your bridge between education to the world of work and they will often know every law firm recruiter out there. Although it may feel too early to be thinking about life after graduation, it’s always best to pop in and say hello and find out if there’s anything you can do to give your career that extra head start.
Studying a law degree is not unfortunately enough to demonstrate why you deserve that training contract or vacation scheme. Law firms will be looking for well-rounded individuals who can demonstrate a plethora of practical skills and the application of law in practice. Have you ever seen job listings and thought: “how on earth am I supposed to gain so much experience before applying for my first job?” Well, your careers office provides an answer to such rhetoric, and will be able to connect you with your local institutions, charities and more, supplying you with the work experience you may have thought was only obtainable after working for decades.
Towards the end of each semester, evaluate how efficient you have been that semester in gathering information from classes and truly understanding it. In moments of apparent despair when exams are approaching, you may start to think that the study system or note taking format you were set on the whole semester wasn’t as effective as you thought it would be. Or, as you advance through law school and understand the exam techniques, you may realise you that you were working way harder than you should have been and in fact, you could have just been smarter in the way you were doing it (see tip 2.). In between the end of one semester, and the start of another, you will have a period of rest. Use this time to attempt different types of learning methods, download some new programs that help you take notes in class, or do the opposite of what you tried last semester; that is if you really think it did not work out so well. Adapt, and overcome.
Build good habits. Consider waking up a little earlier on some days. This doesn’t mean you have to go straight for the military style 5am alarm. Take it slow, set your alarm for 8:30am and not 10:00am on your day off. Those extra hours in the morning are perfect for building commercial awareness or preparing yourself for the day. Build a morning routine; “we are what we repeatedly do” as Aristotle once said - Facebook said it, so it must be true. Success is therefore not limited to the lucky ones, but those with discipline.
*This article was originally published in September 2019.
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