FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
How to Become a Good Law Student
Though it might at times seem that getting a first in law is nearly impossible, trust me when I say that becoming a good law student is just a matter of following a few simple tips. In my experience, good law students don't go overboard with anything. They just manage their time well enough to meet all of their needs, including studying, getting work experience, socialising, pursuing their hobbies and having plenty of rest. If you want me to get more specific, keep on reading!
Tip 1: Organise your study space
You might have heard it a hundred times already from various other sources, but I will mention it one more time at the risk of being a bore. One of the things that can really help you to become a good student by helping you to get more productive is keeping the space where you work on your essays and exam revisions really well organised. By ‘space’ I don’t just mean the desk you work on, but also the way you make and file your notes, the way you organise your journal articles and even how cluttered your laptop desktop is.
Working on several essays and managing multiple deadlines is a difficult task which can put an incredible amount of pressure on you. If on top of that your desk, notes and laptop desktop are cluttered to the extent that every time you think of working on your essay the thought of sorting through all of that mess makes you not want to do it, you are on a very good path to leaving everything to the last minute and stressing yourself out unnecessarily. And if you get too stressed out, well, there goes your stable routine and your ability to meet all of your needs...
Tip 2: Aim to submit your essays 3-4 days before deadline
Most students have at least once left submitting their essay to the last minute. When I was studying law at university myself, one very wise lecturer made a point of informing all students every term about the so called ‘curse of Grier’ (graciously named after him) which plagued the campus. Once I started lecturing myself I realised that the curse of Grier plagued practically every university campus. What it meant was that whenever a student tried to submit something last minute, all of the inanimate objects were suddenly working against them.
Photocopiers would break down unexpectedly, essay submission systems would switch off for no reason at all, and so on and so forth. All of that added an incredible amount of stress to the students’ lives, and often led to them failing to submit their assignments on time. The only way to avoid experiencing the curse of Grier is to aim to submit your essay on 3-4 days prior to the actual submission deadline = which is a practice commonly followed by good law students. If you do this, it will help take the pressure off your shoulders if anything unexpected happens, like a malfunctioning university system or even an unexpected cold.
Tip 3: Try not to isolate yourself
Another big thing is trying not to stay too isolated when working on your legal essays. Especially when you're stressed about submissions, you are likely to feel the urge to stay locked in your room and make sure that you finish the work before going out to socialise and have fun. But that’s exactly when you need it the most. If you stay on your own too often, what you will end up feeling is complete isolation and a sense of hopelessness. You will feel that you’re alone and no one can help you or actually understand what you’re going through.
That’s a mistake. There are probably around 30 other students in your year that do understand exactly what you’re going through. So don’t stay isolated, make sure that you go out to work on your law essays. True, there might be some days when you will want to stay in to focus on reading and not to get distracted outside. But try to identify the stages of your essay writing process or exam revision which you can easily do outside of the house., and take advantage of staying social. That's what all the good students do.
Tip 4: Get work experience early on in your degree
Though you might be tempted to wait with getting work experience in law until after graduating, I would strongly encourage you not to. There are many areas of law which you can end up working in and many career paths which you might want to choose. But you won't figure these things out until you actually dip your toes in them. I have met many good students who thought that they biggest dream was to become a solicitor, only to find out that they were bored to death with the work once they started their training contract.
The bottom line is that getting a law degree can open up many amazing doors for you. But you need to start taking a peek through those doors early on in your degree, to make sure that you choose the right ones for you when the time comes. And when I say "early" I really mean early. Don't wait with getting work experience until year three. The best law students start looking for a legal internship during the summer after year one. Many of them get it, and those who don't are that much closer to getting one in the following summer, because they are already experienced in networking, sending applications etc. etc.
Tip 5: Make time for yourself
The last thing that the best law students do is making sure that they stay healthy and happy in overall, despite all of those law essays and exam revisions they have to work on. The problem that most students have is that when it gets to this point where they have a month to write their essays, they basically shut off all of their friends, stay at home and don’t pursue any other activities that usually make them happy.
The key thing here is to make sure that you normalise your pace of living and your lifestyle as much as possible throughout the whole academic term. The worst thing that you can do is go between those stages when you don’t do any work at all at the beginning of the term and just binge watch Netflix or socialise with people all the time. Then, when it gets to the essay writing, you get really stressed out because you haven’t done any work before, and start getting anxious about the essay submissions.
The best thing you can do is try to look at this degree as a sort of training before going into the workplace. In the workplace you are asked to deliver some results consistently throughout the whole year. That helps professionals to have a more balanced lifestyle. Although you're not a professional yet, you can achieve the exact same effect by figuring out a stable routine that works for you and helps you to meet all of your needs. And if you are really struggling with understanding how to divide your workload when working on your assignments, check out my First Class Law Essay Writing course which will teach you the best way to approach writing your law essays so that you stress less (and get higher marks!).
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