When the professor gave us the reading list in my first law class, I felt like crying. It was so long! I kept a brave face, but I was dying on the inside. Ok, I’m a bit of a drama queen but I’m sure everyone was feeling the same. I wondered how on earth I was going to do get through it, and this was just for one class.
Through a combination of fear and pride I came up with some strategies to handle my law reading lists. These strategies helped me make it all the way through my undergrad and master and I hope they help you too.
1. Having your own squad is essential
This will look familiar to anyone who has read my post on what I wish I knew before I started law school. Having a reliable squad can be the difference between passing and failing. Up until I started university I was a very independent student. French high school does not give any marks for teamwork. But I quickly learnt that such a long reading list would require a change of strategy.
With a squad you can divide up your reading list and then meet up to share your notes and knowledge. This saves you so much time and gives you insights and viewpoints that you might not have otherwise thought of.
This is a great life lesson as well – you will need help. When I started my businesses, I knew that I would need other people to assist me - designers, accountants, manufacturers, photographers, builders. I could have tried to do it all myself, but I would probably still be trying to make the accounts balance.
2. Be strategic
The reading list will normally be divided into three sections, for example:
- Landmark cases
- Key textbook chapters
- Further reading
Firstly, realise that you cannot read and learn everything. If you attempt to learn the whole reading list, you will only gain a superficial level of knowledge (if you manage to get through it all). To get the marks you need to go deeper in your analysis. You would be much better off learning everything you can about the landmark cases, two or three key chapters and one article from the further reading list. Make sure that you write clear, structured notes as you read, or you will have to do it all over again when you revise.
Note that some professors will only give you a first if you can show a deeper level of research. How do you do that? By understanding and citing an article from the further reading list. Note that you must first demonstrate your understanding of the landmark cases and key textbook chapters before citing a title from the further reading list. Also, don’t cite anything that you don’t fully understand. Your professor will know instantly and that will annoy them, which is not something you want to do when they are marking your work.
3. It's never too early to start
I know this might not be the most popular advice, but it is true. You simply manage if you leave things too late before your exam. Your brain needs time to commit new knowledge to memory. By starting early you will also have time to actually write out your notes which will further aid your recall. Planning out your reading and revision is a skill that will help you out later in life. Almost everything you will achieve will come from a plan.
4. Go on a social media detox
Social media can be great, but it will also take up a lot of your time. If you can manage to only check your accounts for a few minutes a day, then you are a much more disciplined person than me. I always end up scrolling mindlessly, mostly through pictures of Pomeranians. So, when you really need to get some reading done, turn off notifications and put your phone away.
Law reading lists can be intimidating but if you follow these four tips your life will be a lot easier. Have I missed any? I’d love to hear your suggestions.