We are in August, but September is around the corner and some of you are going to start law school soon. It is a big deal, and nothing beats preparation. Going to law school will require you to adjust to a new way of thinking, a new type of workload and a new mindset. If you want to succeed at law school, you need to be equipped. I have listed some of my top tips to help you below.
1. From high school to law school
This transition can be brutal if you are not prepared. If you are a student that finds learning easy and managed to get good grades with minimal effort at high school, you are in for a big shock if you think you can do that at law school. You will need to put in the graft and spend several hours a day if you want to have a chance of getting through it. I would personally spend 6 to 8 hours a day studying. Not every day but most days. I was also working four evenings a week at a restaurant. Before my exams, I would literally spend my life at the library. When I completed my Master of Law at UCL, they had a 24-hour library facility and I am not lying nor exaggerating to tell you that before the exam period the library was packed at 3 am every night.
2. Time management is key if you want to survive
It is essential that you learn how to divide your time between specific activities effectively. The benefits of good time management are immense. You will feel less stressed, your work will be of better quality and you will retain more knowledge. But most importantly you will have time to tackle the tasks that will get you the grades and not waste your time with irrelevant work. When I was doing my undergrad law degree my friend gifted me a beautiful desk planner. It was so useful for me to have a weekly overview of my tasks. I would mix my study schedule up so I did not get bored because, let’s face it, the reading at law school especially during your first year can be quite boring, challenging and tedious. Which leads me to my next point...
3. Learn how to read your reading list effectively
I have previously written an article about how to manage your law reading lists here but let me summarise. You don’t read a legal case the same way as you read a novel. You need to be clear about what you are looking for. Before reading any articles or cases, make sure you already know what you want to extract from it because this will help you scan your material more productively. For example, when you are reading a case, look for the ratio decidendi i.e. the reasons why the judge came to their conclusions. Also, look for the application of the law because that’s where the marks are. There is no point in reading pages and pages of facts, no one cares and certainly not the person marking your paper!
4. Law books cost a fortune
I was shocked when I saw the price of textbooks during my first year at law school. I remember spending more than £200 on textbooks that were in the compulsory list. Please be aware and make sure have extra money to cover this cost. You might think you can loan textbooks from the library but there is a lot of competition for these books so I wouldn’t rely on this approach. Sometimes you can pick up a second-hand copy but make sure you have the right edition, or you might not be able to find the reading your professor is referring to.
5. Learn the language of the law
It is never too early to start your preparation and I recommend that you buy a legal dictionary and start browsing. The first six months of law school were like I landed at a university in China where the professor was speaking Mandarin. Familiarise yourself with key terms and meanings of important terms such as ratio decidendi, material facts, actus reus, and mens rea. You will prepare your mind to receive the information and knowledge from your professor and it will not feel so daunting. Some professors will not wait for you. They have a strict schedule and if you are left behind, the duty rests upon you to meet them after your class to ask questions.
- Many universities will link first law students with a mentor (usually a student in their third year). Ask if this program is available at your university because you will learn so much helpful information from them.
- Join a Facebook group. This is an almost essential way to get information these days that you might not be able to pick from your lectures and readings.
- Join a study group or create your own but pick the participants wisely. This is no time for politeness; you must think strategically and pick hard-working students or this will be a waste of your time.
- Attend talks, fairs and networking events. We still live in a world where it is who you know rather than what you know.
Hopefully, these tips help ease your transition to law school. The list is not exhaustive, it is your job to research and ask as many questions as you can. I would love to hear what you think so please leave a comment in the section below. Best of luck with your law studies!