Lawskool

How to Study Law

By M & M

Introduction
Work in spurts
Teamwork
Become well-rounded
Lectures
Exams

'cause lawskool gives a damn!

Introduction

You don't have to be born brilliant to succeed at law school. It helps, but it's not mandatory. M & M were the 'Jamaican bob-sled team' of their law school. They started at the back of the pack, not very sure of themselves to begin with. But with a lot of determination and teamwork they built momentum, powered home and finished the race, having a lot of fun along the way. M & M graduated and scored interesting jobs where they are well-valued by their team.

First year at law school can be a stressful and demoralising experience for students straight out of college or high school, with a substantial dropout rate being a feature of many law schools around the country. lawskool is committed to helping early year law students’ benefit from our five years of ups and downs at law school.

Perhaps this is you. You worked hard at school and have ambition to succeed in a challenging and rewarding career. You may not know exactly what you want to do career-wise. You have the marks to study law and decide to enroll in law because 'what the hey, it sounds kinda cool'. Is it for me you may be asking yourself?

The job market in the early 21st century is as tough as it has ever been. For a young person who is not all together sure where he or she is going career-wise, securing a solid, well-rounded tertiary qualification is a wise path to follow. A law degree, combined with another undergraduate degree (Arts, Economics, Commerce, Sciences, Asian Studies) is arguably as valuable a degree as one could attain. A law degree will give you the reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills that today's employers hold in high regard. In other words, there are definitely worse ways to spend 4-5 years of your life. A law degree will open doors. It's as simple as that.

Of course in order to secure that valuable piece of paper you have to go some serious 'hard-yards.' Full-time tertiary studies are far more onerous than they were in your parents' era. Due to job insecurity there's much more pressure these days to go to uni, work hard and get a solid degree so you can secure a good job. The vast majority of students have to work part-time to support themselves, some even working up to 20hrs a week. Many academics either don't seem to realise this or don't care and pile on the assignments regardless. On the whole, law is a strict, traditional discipline where there is a great bulk of work to get through and extensions for assignments are rarely granted. Students must learn to work hard and prioritise tasks.

Have a read of the following points. Think about them, put them into practice and keep coming back to them to refresh your memory. Consciously acting on the principles below will make your law degree a rewarding and pleasurable experience and you will come out the other end well rounded and highly employable. In essence, you must work hard and smart.

Work in spurts

While student life can be stressful, lets face it - who can complain when you have 3 months of holidays each summer?! Don't become one of those latte-sipping law students who sit around all day whining about their lives. Get in there and work hard. Once those exams are over you'll have 3 months to do whatever takes your fancy. Go traveling, work an interesting summer job, bum around. The choice is yours!

Teamwork

Developing a network of good friends is vital to success at law school. Going it alone for five years straight will just stress you out. It's so much easier to have a group of like-minded peers who you can draw strength from and share the ups and downs with. We always found end of semester study groups to be indispensable and even lots of fun. Discussing the law and solving problem questions together really is the best way to learn it. There are good people everywhere. You just have to seek them out. Go to the social events in your first year, be open and friendly and you'll have no problems. If you have moved to uni from interstate and are living in a college on campus, try not to just hang around your non-law college friends. In the end, employers are looking for graduates who are well rounded and who can communicate with a wide variety of people.

Become well-rounded

Most employers would favour a well-rounded graduate with teamwork skills and a strong work ethic over an unsociable person with a comprehensive knowledge of the law. There's plenty of time to learn the nuts and bolts of the law once you start full-time work. Don't spend all your time studying because any employer will tell you that marks aren't everything. It’s important to work part-time jobs throughout your degree so you can show employers that you can balance your workload. You can play sport for your uni and go to your uni gym between classes. There are always plenty of clubs and societies on campus as well. Volunteer work is a great idea. Most cities have some sort of community legal project that is often staffed by law students. You really should make the most of your uni years.

Lectures

A law lecture is an hour of your life that you will never get back. Some win in that hour and some lose. Spend that time wisely. You don't want to get into the habit of 'attending' lectures and walking out having achieved nothing. It’s best to concentrate fully and take comprehensive notes that you can synthesise into study notes later on. It is very important to do at least some reading before class so you know what to expect. It’s usually impractical to read everything that the lecturers expect you to read but reading the relevant section of your lawskool.com.au summary before class will be greatly beneficial to you. Read the summary before class, listen attentively in class and then do your set class reading after class, focusing on the key points that were emphasised in class. Most students learn best by repetition, which wears 'grooves' of knowledge in the brain. Thus, it's a good idea to read through your summary regularly throughout the semester. Come exam time you will have a broader conceptual understanding of the course and be well prepared to start tackling problem questions.

Exams

Exams cannot be avoided at law school, but don't let them get you down. There are three crucial steps for exam preparation:

  1. Keep up with the work during the semester i.e go to all classes and do the relevant reading.
  2. Revise and synthesize your class notes and notes from other texts with a lawskool summary, to create your own summary.
  3. Do lots and lots of practice exams!

This third step is the real key. Before you sit your exam you must be confident that you can apply the law to any question your lecturer might throw at you.

Lawyers solve people's problems so law exams are designed to test your ability to apply the law you have learnt to a hypothetical fact situation and come up with a solution for your hypothetical client. As such, legal analysis is very pedantic. In an exam you will have to answer questions in order and focus on the significant issues. There are often multiple answers to problems and to get the best marks you will have to tease out the best possible solution to your client's problem. Above all make sure you answer the question and don't waffle on about irrelevant things. Markers will look favorably upon short concise answers that cover the major points.

We sincerely hope that the above guide helps you to get the most out of your time at university. We welcome feedback from current and former students so that we can add more hints and tips. Right now you're probably more concerned about partying up your first year and rightly so. As long as you come back and re-read this guide occasionally, you'll be in good stead to cruise through your degree with ease. Best of luck!