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Before you even step on to your university campus, you are likely to be confronted by a barrage of worrying ‘facts’ about life as a law student: “There’s so much reading!”, “It’s impossible to get a first”, and “Lawyers are boring”, are just a few comments that you may have heard already.
However, this isn’t the truth. The truth about law school is radically different from the scary picture that law students and law lectures enjoy painting for wide-eyed and bushy-tailed freshers.
This article, therefore, seeks to unveil the mystery of studying law and remove any misconceptions you may have.
😩 “Law is Difficult”
This is misleading.
There are a couple of reasons why people say that law is difficult. Firstly, on paper, law is technically the hardest subject. With approximately 10% of law students graduating with first class honours every year – the lowest of all degree disciplines in fact – it certainly seems as though you will have very little chance of walking away with top grades. However, this masks the fact that law has one of the highest percentage of 2:1 graduates (which is more than sufficient to get nearly any legal job you want). Overall, the percentage of individuals who graduate with a first or 2:1 hovers around 75%, so as long as you put in the work a good grade is almost in the bag.
Secondly, current law students LOVE to tell freshers (and students from other disciplines) that their degree is the hardest. For some strange reason, law students think it is impressive to work harder and longer than other students, and gain satisfaction from claiming that they had to hustle more to get to where they are today. The truth is, a law degree is no harder than any other respected degree, and those that say otherwise are frankly narcissistic.
👩🏫 The Degree – Lectures and Lecturers
Law has very few contact hours and those contact hours you do have aren’t always that useful.
As a law student, you’re going to see 90% of your peers scribbling down endless notes throughout your lectures and seminars, but don’t let this worry you. I can guarantee that very few are taking in what the lecturer is actually saying. If anything, they are tricking themselves into thinking that they are being productive so they can justify waking up early to get to their 9am lecture.
You will achieve much more success by sitting down and simply listening to what the lecturer is saying. Focus on understanding not transcribing. The reason for this is that most of what is being said is either 1) on the slide and 2) found in the textbook. Therefore, the only information you should be writing down is anything the lecturer states is particularly useful or relevant, short summaries of each slide, and fun doodles to ensure you stay awake.
Furthermore, many law students fear approaching their lecturers. They perceive them as some ghastly, unapproachable monster that has no interest in helping them out. The truth is that while you aren’t their number one priority (writing journal articles and publishing stuff is!), it is still in their best interest to help you out. After all, if you perform well it reflects well on their teaching and institution. So, please do go and speak to them during their office hours and ask them any questions or concerns you may be having about the relevant module you are struggling with.
📚 “There’s So Much Reading”
I’d be lying if I said the reading lists for law aren’t long. In fact, I remember before I joined university being given a lengthy list of 10 or 20 books that they wanted me to read before matriculating in September. So it all felt pretty overwhelming before I’d even begun my studies as a law student.
However, even though the reading LIST is long, the reading you NEED to do is short. Just because you are told to read a bunch of textbooks, articles, and cases, doesn’t mean you need to complete it all (or do it properly) in order to get good grades. In fact, if you did try to read it all there would be very little chance of you actually completing it. And even if you did complete it all, you would then be faced with the problem of having too much information, which risks you acquiring only a rudimentary understanding of any legal topic.
The better approach is to take ‘logical shortcuts’. For example, most law cases don’t need to be read from start to finish, and simply reading the case headnote or an online summary will suffice. Similarly, textbooks often go into a lot of unnecessary depth and there are plenty of fantastic resources to learn everything you need to know in a more condensed (but equally comprehensive) manner.
In other words, don’t put in loads of hardwork if someone has already done the hardwork for you. Read what you need to read and you will do well.
👨💻 Life After Law School
Lastly, just because you did a law degree that doesn’t mean you have to become a lawyer – regardless of the pressure you face from friends, family, and law firms. The reality is that most law graduates never pursue a legal career and are much happier because of it.
It’s very easy to be swept away by the glamour of becoming a lawyer, with many law firms and barristers’ chambers hosting university events to entice you with their offerings. However, you need to approach these events with a bit of caution and not be persuaded by the thoughts of infinite wealth and the Harvey Specter lifestyle. The reality is often far different.
My advice is that you do your own research and seek out work experience as soon as possible. Learn what it’s truly like to practice law in order to decide whether or not this is something you really want to do.
As a law student you have your whole life ahead of you and there is no need to pigeonhole your life into a legal career because of the choice you took to study law when you were 16 or 17.
Law school isn’t as scary or as difficult as you may have first thought. The workload is manageable, the lecturers want to help you, and the opportunities upon graduation are endless. Don’t let current law students persuade you otherwise. Simply believe in yourself and know that you’re going to do well.