As a disabled student myself, I know just how intimidating a law degree can seem. For someone with a visual impairment, the sheer amount of reading might seem off-putting.
However, like the profession itself, law degrees are becoming increasingly more accessible for disabled students. This means there should be no reason why anyone cannot study law.
Here are four things I’ve learnt so far as a disabled student studying law.
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As soon as you start university, if you are struggling to cope with anything then speak up about it. You have the privilege of having a personal tutor that will help you. Take advantage of this.
Lecturers might seem intimidating, but they really can be accommodating. It’s not too dissimilar to school where teachers are willing to adapt their style.
Be respectful obviously but remember that this is your education and you have a right to thrive, not struggle.
Law exams vary from university to university. In my first year, I had three exams to sit, but I know at other universities this number may be greater. They may seem lengthy but disabled students will most definitely benefit from extra time in law exams.
Unlike school, you are responsible for making sure things such as exam arrangements are sorted early on in the academic year. If you apply for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) then your assessor will write up a report on what arrangements you will need. But you’ve got to be the one to get these things implemented.
Go and find out who the exams officers are and make them aware of your needs. Discuss what the exam period is like and how your needs will be handled.
I cannot stress how important this is. During my first year, I thought all arrangements were sorted as I had faith in the DSA report. What I did not do was clarify my arrangements with the exam officers.
Although things were sorted, it was a bit annoying having to get things sorted last minute on the day of my exams.
Don’t be like me; be proactive from the start.
When at school, I had heard that studying law might not be the best option for me. I was told that there was so much reading and writing – not a smart move for someone with a visual impairment.
I was very nervous to say the least when I started studying law, thinking there would be parts of the course where I’d be at a disadvantage to my peers.
What I found was that this was not ever going to be the case. Law is a subject that evolves over time. This certainly translates to how it can now be accessed.
Gone are the days where a student needs to look through thick law journals and statute books. With the invention of Westlaw, LexisNexis and Google Scholar, finding cases and journal articles electronically has never been simpler.
In terms of lectures and seminars, these are easy to access as well. Lecturers always publish their PowerPoint presentations online and my university has even begun recording lectures and making these available for students.
Now is the best time to study law. Don’t worry about what you might hear about accessibility.
You often worry that you’re missing out on networking because travelling to events can be difficult as a disabled student. But networking can very much be done at your leisure by attending campus events.
Many law schools have connections with both smaller and larger law firms, chambers and legal training schools. Whilst it is true that top universities can benefit from contact with international firms, every university offers their students on-campus networking events.
Take advantage of these as often they might lead to further opportunities.
In addition to this, you have the power of the Internet on your side. Use LinkedIn to network with people. It may seem daunting but you may find that it’s easier to talk online than face-to-face.
This is not to say that online networking is a substitute to attending events in person. What I mean here is that there is more than one way to network within the profession.
Although I had my worries, I can honestly say that choosing to study law was the best choice I have ever made. I hope that the things I’ve learnt can be useful for prospective students who might have worries about the course, university life or how their disability might affect their experience.
Find out more about what it’s like to study at law school:
Author: Ali Chaudhry
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