A Student’s Perspective: 7 Tips For The New Law Student
This post is a reflection on my first and second years studying law. It aims to enlighten the 1st year students on what it is like being a law student, the expectations and the sacrifices you might have to make along the way. This has been divided into seven tips that might help you cope with the issues you might encounter.
- The Misconception
Amongst many is the misconception that your first year does not count. Technically, it doesn’t but there is a reason why this year exits; to lay the foundations for your future career. Surely, if the year is of no relevance and should not be taken seriously, it will not be a requirement. It is of utmost importance that you view the year as time to get acquainted with the styles of teaching and find out what area of law interests you. To achieve this, you need to familiarise yourself with your module requirements and seek legal experience. Your ability to get good grades will demonstrate a genuine interest in your course. How else will you prove that you have a genuine interest in your course if you cannot pass the basics? Whilst many might think the year is of no importance, I urge you to list ten things that you want to achieve by the end of the year. There are many things to do: learn a new language, receive excellence awards, be a course representative or volunteer with a local charity.
- The Pretences
At this stage, you are most likely trying to have a grasp of your modules. Most of what the lecturers say might not even make sense. The goals that are set seem to be unachievable. I assure you that it will all make sense. Do not worry about those that seem to be extremely knowledgeable or confident now. Nobody is all-knowing and some are just pretending to. Take your time, attend the lectures, seminars and do the extra work. This is not always easy and might mean that you spend some of your nights in an empty library. You have to ask yourself what the goal is? By the 5th week, if you continue to put in the work, you will be at the same stage knowledge- wise with those with some background in the course. By June, it will all fall into place and you will be ready to smash the exam!
- Knowledge is Power
I cannot emphasize enough that you need to know and want to know. Start researching different areas of law, when law firms recruit, the deadlines for summer placement application and write to the local law firms for legal experience. Be a sponge and soak it all in. One thing most students don’t expect from University is that it plays on your mental well-being. There will be times that you question your capability but that is perfectly fine. After all, your course mates have come from different backgrounds with different abilities and what appears to be an impressive interest in the course. If you feel that you are struggling, it is important that you let someone know. This could be a friend or your Student Support Guidance Tutor (SSGT).
- Styles of Learning
Your style of learning might differ from others. However, do not let that be discouraging. One thing I have learnt is that you don’t have to be the smartest, you just have to be highly dedicated and do whatever works for you. I have two friends that I study with, we explain things to each other and sometimes use acronyms, abbreviations and even make posters for each topic. Add drawings, quiz yourselves, play games and this might make it more bearable. Whilst some can complete their assignment the night before and get a first, remember that you are different so consider starting yours as soon as you can. You might have to put in more effort but it will be worth it.
- Healthy Living
It is of utmost importance to remain healthy even when you feel like there is not enough time in a day. Going to the library and staying the night was like going home for the weekend for me (a bit of an exaggeration). I pack all that I will need: a warm scarf (in case it got cold), fruits, hot water, snacks and chewing gum when I feel sleepy. Some days, I achieved so much and other days did not go as planned. Persistence and understanding your body is key. Be healthy- go for walks, drink lots of water (Red Bull is a play on your mind- water is better!), eat fruits and do not skip meals. It is important that you do not try and do all the work a couple of weeks before your examinations. This way, you will not put any unnecessary stress on your body. My formula is:
Attend the lecture + Pre-seminar preparation + Engage during the seminar + score excellently in course work + Practice exam questions + Give yourself at least 7 days for revision before your exam (per module) = Getting a 1st
- Utilise your resources
Everyone and everything around you now will not always be there. Make the most out of the people you meet and the resources that the University provides you with. Below are some of the things that I engaged in my 1st year:
- Learn a new language for free through- http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/ease/languages
- Join the Momentum Mentoring Scheme- http://about.brighton.ac.uk/careers/develop-your-skills/momentum-mentoring-scheme/.
- Ask your lecturers if they know of any opportunities.
- Make friends with people a year or two above you. Use their intelligence and don’t make their mistakes.
- Go for the talks and question times, the events and competitions. You will learn a lot by just watching and taking notes. If you feel up to it, you can partake in competitions. This is all free but at the cost of your efforts.
- Join LinkedIn Now!
As much as I will urge you not to compare yourself with others, LinkedIn provides you with an avenue to evaluate your progress against other first year students from other universities. Get one now even though you might have nothing to put on it. It is of utmost importance that you start building your online presence. It is competitive out there but you can be a part of that competition.
I hope that with this post, you now understand that your first year as a law student is not just for you to pass. There are several things that you are expected to do. You will not have this much time on your hands in your subsequent years. Use it wisely!
Disclaimer: I expressly disclaim any liability for damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on any information contained within this publication. I am not responsible for the sites, pictures or diagrams presented in this publication and do not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or functioning of these.