As a first-year law student, you might not really know what to expect. When I first came to university, I was struggling to make sense of a lot of things. But as time passed, I began to learn and adapt myself to the life of a law student.
While there are more things to be learned in law school, here are some of the things that I’ve learnt as a first-year law student:
1. Law school is what you make of it
At the end of the day, law school might not be what you expected it to be. But then again, expectations can always change and you should always keep an open mind.
Many prospective and even current students have this notion that law school is extremely difficult, boring and stressful. But this is not the case at all. Your university life is dependent on how you approach things.
Don’t fully rely on other people’s experiences, but rather go out, make your own experiences and judge them on your own. At the end of the day, if you truly feel that law school isn’t the right fit for you, then that’s alright too because you’re learning about yourself!
While you may not know much about building a CV at the start of term, go learn more about it from your university’s careers service or find templates online. You should probably have a CV by November, as that’s when opportunities start to become available.
After building it, ask your friends or seniors for advice. Your CV shouldn’t just be about the positions that you have taken on, but it should also detail the skills that you have learnt, be it communication skills, organisation skills, or even leadership skills.
Remember that CVs aren’t set in stone and should always be revised and updated with new activities.
This might be one of the most useful tips that I’ve learnt in university. University is full of choices and opportunities, and it is up to you be take advantage of them.
Join your university’s law club, or even other societies that you are interested in. Run for course rep. Join the sports team. Campaign for a position in the JCR. Even better, find some activities that are law related or even be a volunteer!
These activities will look impressive on your CV, especially since you are doing it as a first-year.
First-year grades in university do not count. However, that does not mean that you should not care about your grades at all.
If you intend to apply for vacation schemes or pupillage in your second year, employers tend to judge you based on your first-year grades. If your first-year grades aren’t as good as they should be, you will have a hard time finding work experience in the law field.
Also, it is so important to build a solid foundation for second year as the readings and assignments will be more intense, and what better way to learn from your mistakes than in your first-year? Complete your readings as much as you can and try your best to attend all tutorials because you will get to further understand the material through discussing it with your peers and tutor.
Law is notoriously known to be a difficult subject. Before I started law school, I underestimated how stressful law can be. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but keep in mind that you are not alone and that help is always available should you need it. It is important that you find friends that you can rely on and talk to them if you are overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that university isn’t just about studying, but rather it’s about gaining experience and learning more about yourself. Law is known to be difficult because it challenges you, and you can always take this opportunity to accept the challenge and adapt to stressful circumstances. But even so, don’t push yourself too hard and always take breaks!
Law school can be competitive, and more often than not, I find myself comparing myself to others. I would look at other people’s achievements – their previous work experiences, their grades – and begin to berate myself for not doing better.
This will be difficult if you are a perfectionist. While it is easy to compare yourself to others and scrutinise your own shortcomings, what’s important is to focus on your own achievements and celebrate them.
Even the simple things like going through a bad day are achievements on their own and are things worth being proud of. You should always let yourself grow on your own pace and on your own terms.
This also applies in terms of the advice that others give you. For example, if another student prefers a specific method of studying, it does not necessarily mean that you should take their word for it and completely change your routine. You know what’s best for you. If the studying method does not work for you, then you are not at all obliged to follow it. University is basically about exploring ways that work for you.
7. Law school is about exercising discipline
When you come to university, you will very quickly realise that it is all about discipline. Perhaps it is more so in law given that it is such a demanding subject, but either way discipline is about learning when to limit yourself and when to enjoy yourself.
While first year results don’t contribute to your final grade, it won’t hurt to try to do well in your exams or assignments. Same goes for your social life in law school too!
Law is just one of those subjects that really require you to put effort into it. You need to go to the library at least twice a week and revise the material that you have learned as it is really easy to get distracted until everything snowballs, resulting in more stress and anxiety for you down the road.
This also applies to your coursework. Do try as best to start as early as possible so that you have more time to absorb the topic and in turn produce a work that is of higher quality. If possible, set yourself a schedule to accomplish certain things by and try as hard as you can to be organised.
You don’t need to finish an assignment one day prior to the due date (I really don’t recommend this)! So if it’s a Monday night and you have an assignment due in a few days, try staying in to finish it rather than going out, and who knows? It might benefit you in the long run.
8. Make use of the resources available to you
When I refer to resources, I don’t just mean your textbooks or the recorded lectures, but also your lecturers and tutors! They probably have more experience understanding and explaining a topic than you will, and it would certainly be more efficient and effective in terms of grasping the material.
If your tutors or lecturers are not a viable option for you, do talk to some of the seniors that you know as they might have gone through the same topic before and would be able to give you some helpful guidelines.
Also, some universities do offer study sessions for students in which they teach students how to approach critical reading/writing or even revision sessions too! So do keep a look out for activities like these.
Some students drop out of university after a term and that’s okay. University isn’t for everyone and there is a possibility that it might not be for you. Always listen to your instincts and interests – whether it’s about leaving university or changing your course or even choosing second year modules, you probably know more about yourself than anyone else.
If you’re struggling to dissect your thoughts, speak to your personal tutor, friends or even family. It’s not healthy for you to ignore your instincts as the choices that you make will eventually shape who you will become.
And last but not least…
10. Don’t worry
While law school can be chaotic and overwhelming at times, it is important to keep note that you are not alone in this and you need to seek help if you are facing difficulties.
In times of stress, try to take in the positive moments around you and remember that if other students are able to overcome this, so are you.
Have a cup of tea, and start again!
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