A-Levels in hand and en route to law school? Congratulations. You are about to embark on a course that can inspire, frustrate and empower, often in unequal measure. Though it will feel like it on occasions, studying law is not just about Red Bull-fuelled library nights, jargon-filled lectures, book-burdened bags and headache-inducing judgments.
Be it Grisham-inspired impulse, the worldlier need for career prospects, or plain curiosity, hold on to your motivation for choosing the subject. Law will challenge, provoke and push you out of your comfort zone. It’s worth it. Here are some tips.
Get used to feeling lost
Whether scribbling notes about easements, indirect directives or promissory estoppel, you may find yourself lost in lectures. Law is not meant to be easy and you won’t be the only one who feels at times that you are “not getting it”. Recall how your A-Levels were once a step up. Remember lectures are where your understanding begins rather than it ending. Don’t self-doubt. Gain support from peers, be pragmatic and work consistently rather than cram.
Take Class Notes
Do not, however, get so caught up in trying to take down everything your professor says that you are not actively engaged in the class discussion. Review your class notes before starting your next reading assignment and analyze how the new cases you read affect those cases you already have reviewed in class.
Follow law’s four R’s: Read, Research, Write and Reference
Read widely using a range of sources beyond textbooks and cases. You may think you can avoid it, but learn how to use LexisNexis and Westlaw; they are a god-send. Mooting will propel your researching skills so give it a go. Redescribing lecture notes in essays is unlikely to get you very far. Analyse, evaluate and avoid fence-sitting. Referencing is easy to get right but getting it wrong is a sure-fire way to frustrate over-burdened academics. Ensure your essay sticks out for the right reasons.
Prepare an Outline for Each of Your Classes
Outlines prepared by more senior students or commercial outlines are not acceptable substitutes for making your own outlines. According to John Bales, The analysis necessary to prepare a course outline helps you determine the rules of law applicable to the subject matter of the course, as well as determine how the rules relate to one another. If you do not go through this process, you are less likely to master the subject matter. Also, not all professors teach a subject the same way.
Review, Review, Review
Â Just because you don’t have an exam until the end of the semester does not mean that you should wait until the reading period to begin your review. This is not undergraduate school. You cannot cram right before finals and get good grades. Therefore, make time for frequent review over the course of the semester.
Some professors and/or Academic Fellows hold review sessions prior to exams. This is a great way to clarify the issues about which you are confused without having to stand in line outside your professor’s office.