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Answers to Common First Year Questions

Student with questions above his head

Where is the lecture hall? Am I supposed to call my lecturers by their first name? Why does every tutorial sound like it’s in a completely different language? So many questions!

If you’re trying to navigate your first few weeks of law school, here are some answers to common first year questions about law school life…

I haven't done legal studies, am I going to struggle?

First year students who have taken legal studies (or a similar high school course) will probably be more familiar with the names and functions of courts and tribunals, major pieces of legislation and the like, but don’t worry if you opted for ancient history over legal studies – you’ll pick up this knowledge in the first few weeks of term.

Is first year law hard to pass?

The workload for law is pretty intense and it can be a difficult transition, but if you do your best to stay on top of the readings and tutorial preparation work each week, you should be fine.

How much work should I be doing outside of class?

Lecturers recommend two to three hours for every hour of class (lecture and tutorial time). If you have 12 hours of classes each week, this equates to 24 to 36 hours a week of independent study at home. This includes doing the readings, preparing your answers to tutorial questions and writing up your notes after class.

Not all students spend that much time studying each week, although those that do are often the ones who score the higher subject marks at exam time.

What marks are considered 'good' in law school?

If you were a high school high achiever, 95% or higher was probably a good mark for you. At law school, a Distinction (usually 75 to 84%) or a High Distinction (85% and up) is typically considered a very good mark.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re getting Pass and Credit marks in your first few semesters; it can take a while to work out how all the information fits together, and what’s expected in assignments and exams, but you’ll get there!

Am I allowed to ask questions in lectures?

It depends on the lecturer, but questions are usually encouraged. If you have lots of questions, it may be worth saving some of these for the tutorial discussion.

I don't understand this topic/subject. Where should I go for help?

If asking questions in class hasn’t really helped and you’re still feeling totally lost, approach your tutor after class and see if they have a moment to clarify things for you. Failing that, start or join a study group and see if any of your peers can explain it.

The law students’ society or law students’ association at your uni may also have tutoring programs for first years, and one of the student tutors may be able to answer your questions.

How do I get an extension?

If you think you’re going to need an extension, speak to the subject coordinator before the assignment due date about your circumstances. That may be all you need to do. If not, they’ll be able to advise you of what needs to happen next, or you can find this information in your university’s handbook.

I’m not happy with my assignment mark. What can I do about it?

The first thing you should do is make a time to chat to the subject coordinator about the assignment to get some feedback on where you lost marks and how you can improve for next time. If you still feel that your assignment should have received a higher mark, you can apply to have it re-marked or appeal the grade.

Should I have a law job already?

You’ve been at law school for a few days (or maybe even hours) and it seems like everyone in your classes has a law job already. Don’t freak out! There’s no need to ditch your current employment for a frenzied ‘career catch up’ of internships and paralegal roles.

Whether you’re doing admin work, hospitality, working in retail, or doing something else entirely, you’re still learning skills that will be helpful to you in a legal career: communication skills, time management, interpersonal skills, etc. There’s plenty of time for you to get a law job, so just focus on settling into law school life for now.

What extra-curricular activities are there for law students to participate in?

Be on the lookout for mooting, witness examination, negotiation and client interviewing competitions, as well as law revue and opportunities to write for the law students’ society magazine. Chat to the law students’ society/association at your uni about the activities they offer and how you can get involved.

Do law students have a life?

Yes, even the most studious law students have hobbies and friends – the key is to make time for the things you enjoy. Even if you’re missing out on a few hours at your desk, the time you spend away from the books will help you to feel more focused and motivated when you come back to your readings.

Welcome to law school!

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