“I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I’d make a difference.”Christopher Darden.
Studying law at university can be an invigorating intellectual challenge at times and a mentally taxing workload at others. Being able to balance the demands of your studies and social life is difficult, especially whilst also trying to be considerate of your future career plans and employability. Countless websites, blogs, podcasts and posts all offer their own advice for making the most of your university degree and I hope these law-specific ones will be of use to you regardless of what year you are currently in. Whilst not exhaustive, here are some key tips to help you manage the valuable commodity of time throughout your studies of law in the most optimal manner.
It’s no surprise that throughout your law degree you’ll be inundated with a plethora of reading, coursework, essays and paperwork. Keeping on top of all of these documents should be a top priority. Everyone works in different ways – be it on paper, a laptop, or through other means – and as such you will need to organise your work in the most effective way that accounts for:
- Security: How secure are your files and notes? What would happen should you lose them? Do you have a backup or recovery option should that happen? How can you make sure you only allow access to your files to those you want to share them with?
- Accessibility: Can you access your files from anywhere, or at any time? Can you access them across a variety of formats (mobile, desktop, smartboard)? Is your access reliant on any one network or device that could fail or break?
- Shareability: Should you need to collaborate with others, how easy is it for you to share or develop your notes? Can you do so in realtime? Is this reliant on having a physical device, such as a memory stick, or access to a specific digital user account?
- Usability: Once made, can you easily navigate through your notes, particularly by searching for key terms or cases? Can you utilise colour coding or highlighting to categorise your notes? Can you amend, comment or erase sections of your notes as necessary?
Go Beyond Your Textbook
A law degree is packed full of intellectually stimulating reading, cases and arguments – but law is increasingly starting to offer so much more than that. With a new wave of legal tech investment, alternate service provisions and a blending of the legal sector with a multitude of others, the average career path in the world of law is starting to fluctuate. Be sure to make time to network, attend keynote events and do some of your own research on what it is you want to specialise in. That way, you can augment what you learn in a textbook with some of your own passion-driven interests and further reading. When it then comes to applying for graduate roles, you’ll have a wide variety of experience and insight that can help demonstrate your interest in a particular field, firm or company.
First Year DOES Count
There’s always been somewhat of an urban myth that your first year of university doesn’t count and is therefore not a priority in the long-term. Whilst it is technically true that your first-year results won’t contribute toward your final degree classification, it will certainly contribute to your efforts to secure work experience or vacation scheme opportunities at university. Such first and second-year opportunities can be vital in helping you kick-start your career. Extremely poor first-year grades (for the sole reason that you did not take the year seriously, free of mitigating circumstances) will not only be a potential drawback on your initial applications, but will also not allow you to properly develop your writing and exam skills that will be vital throughout the later stages of your degree. The fundamental, basic concepts you will learn throughout your first year will also underpin everything you look at later on in your studies. Hit the ground running as best you can!
Think About Post-Degree Paths
Following on from the previous point, law is a unique industry that can start recruiting for your post-law-school graduate role as early as your second year at university. The fact that opportunities can open up so early means its vital to keep on top of application deadlines and what recruiters are looking for from their candidates. Schedule a meeting with your careers advisor to learn more about what pathways a law degree can offer, or try it yourself by attending law and non-law career fairs and events. Networking early is never a bad thing to try!
Keep It Short
Given the mass volume of information and paperwork you’ll have to process during your degree, you need to make sure your notes are up to scratch come revision time. Make sure to revisit key topics and build a concise set of notes you can quickly reference to understand the key points from any concepts or modules you’ll be tested on. Having easy-to-find, resourceful notes – be they digital or physical – will save you countless hours of unnecessary re-administration and research come the exam period, when you’ll most need your time. Making sure you’re as set up as you can be now by avoiding procrastination will help you tackle any tough deadlines or workloads later on.
If you don’t know something or are unsure of it – say so! Law juggles a lot of new concepts that you will likely not have learnt about before commencing your degree and it can easily feel overwhelming at times. There is no shame in using every single resource the uni can throw at you as and when you need it – it will be nothing but beneficial in the long-term, both for your mental wellbeing and (hopefully!) your final degree classification.
Be A Student
Law is an intensive course and you may have lots of lectures, reading lists or seminars to tend to (hopefully not too many of all three!). Make sure to make time for extracurricular clubs and activities, law-related or not. Not only will they help you manage your stress and improve your social circles, but also be great additional experiences to later talk about on an application or in an interview.
Build A Routine
Perhaps the most important and vital tip til last – build a routine! It will be nigh-impossible to even attempt the above tips without a solid foundation of a routine which must account for:
- Healthy diet
- Mental wellbeing
To do this most effectively, hack your habits! Take an honest assessment of which 10 negative habits you want to try and work out of your day-to-day routine (poor sleep, skipping meals etc.), as well as 10 positive habits (going to the gym, reading for 10 minutes etc.) that you want to encourage. Take 5 minutes to consider what you would like your life during your degree to look like across every axiom of your life – friends, family, health, studies etc. Then, spend 5 minutes thinking about what will happen if you allow your negative habits to spiral out of control and take hold of your progression through uni. Doing so will help you visualise where you feel you can focus on most to help you move toward that first plan for yourself and away from the latter. This is an example of future authoring, which I would heavily recommend to anyone, as it really helped me plot a pathway through how I wanted to approach my time at university.
I hope the above tips help you, regardless of what stage you’re currently at in your degree. If you’ve got any questions or want to learn more, feel free to get in touch with me.