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Having made it through first year, I can honestly say that law school is filled with different kinds of stress – and that’s not always bad thing. Law is such a valued degree because employers recognise the rigour and character-building nature of it. However, there are some common worries that stress law students unnecessarily.
Here are 4 of the biggest things that stress law students in their first year, and how to combat them.
Many students, myself included, arrive at law school with the idea that they need to achieve a First class in their first year as the bare minimum to gaining mini-pupillages and vacation schemes, so think that they need to be intensely focused on academics.
During my first year, I attended several networking events with city firms and at each one, I began to realise exactly what these firms want. Achieving a stellar grade in the first year is a good thing, however, students should not rely on this. Firms are interested in the person, and what skills or experiences they can bring.
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It’s no secret that law school can be challenging – reading lists can seem never-ending, deadlines can often creep up at the worst of times and tutors only have so many office hours.
After freshers week, first-year students will be expected to read and prepare for seminars, actively take in information during lectures, research and write up coursework, conduct further reading and well as getting to grips with legal research. All of this can really pile up and cause law students stress.
In order to cope with this mammoth workload, you come up with ways to maximise your productivity. There are several apps such as Forest which help you work to a timer, whereby you can work for a certain period without being distracted by your phone. Come up with a timetable organised into 25-minute slots with a 5 or 10-minute break in-between. If you feel that you are struggling with the workload then tell someone. Your personal tutor might be able to help you by making suggestions.
Students often believe that the key to securing vacation schemes in second year is to have legal work experience, so they search tirelessly for placements only to find that many of these are for penultimate year students.
For the students that do manage to get legal work experience, it may feel like the right number of placements is quantifiable. Both of these views are misguided and cause stress to law students. Firms do appreciate that not every student has legal links in the family or can get a legal placement when the normal expectation is to be at least a penultimate year student if not a law graduate.
The best way to combat this area of stress is to be creative with what can be considered legal work experience. Go and visit a Magistrates or Crown court, go and volunteer with your local Citizens Advice Bureau, even just take up positions of responsibility within your law school such as course representative. There are several opportunities open to first-year students that may not be working in an office, but still demonstrate to employers that they have an interest in a legal career.
Whether you live in halls or commute, financing your time at university is an important consideration. Living costs are ultimately dependant on where you study. Law textbooks are not cheap, and neither are train tickets to London for work experience. Even if money is not an issue, some law students can get become stressed at the thought of having no real work experience on their CV.
Lucky for first year students, universities are very good at providing opportunities for students to earn some cash while they study. Equally, some law firms actually employ students to represent them on campus. It is important to see the value in the skills you can obtain from having a part-time job.
With all this in mind, the key message of this article is to enjoy first year as much as you can. Part of the battle in becoming a lawyer is working under pressure and stress. Always have a goal in mind, visualise it and always come back to it when you start to feel the stress. It is even more important that if you begin to struggle, you seek help from someone. Always look after your mental health and enjoy your time at law school.
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Author: Ali Chaudhry
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