So you want to be a law student?
Starting law this year? On behalf of all current and past law students, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words, or actually just one word: RUN!
In all seriousness though you are about to embark on the long and hopefully rewarding journey that is being a law student. To help you adjust to law school life, here are the answers to some common first year questions…
What does a law student even do?
We study… a lot. But just like every other degree, there are a tonne of extra-curricular activities to develop your skills and make new friends. Join your uni’s law students’ society, go to study groups, and try mooting or client interviewing competitions. Put your hand up for anything that interests you, it doesn’t have to be law-related. Join the social soccer team or try your hand (or voice) at community radio; sometimes skill you learn in other areas can help with your law study, and it’s always great to have non-law friends.
What should I do to get started?
First things first, buy a law dictionary, a normal dictionary and get your hands on a copy of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (3rd edition) – they’ll be an absolute lifesaver when you’re confused by your readings or working on an assignment.
Sign up for a campus tour and go to events for new students as it not only gives you a quick intro to uni life, it’s also a great way to meet new friends and potential study buddies. If your law school has a mentoring program make sure you sign up – it’s great to have the advice of someone who has been there before.
Is the law boring or enjoyable to study?
It’s very unlikely that you will enjoy every subject you have to study in any degree, and that includes law. There will be units you will absolutely hate and units you’ll love. The important thing to remember is to not neglect the units you don’t like in favour of the ones you do, or you’ll risk losing marks. Split your study evenly and instead look for electives in areas where your passion will be rewarded.
How much reading is actually expected?
The first thing to realise is that university is not like high school. If you don’t do your homework the lecturers do not care. The readings are there for your benefit, although most students don’t read all the recommended readings. You’ll find that being a law student involves a lot of reading, and that it’s not always possible to make it through the hours and hours of weekly readings. If you find yourself in this position, start with the essential readings, and then have a go at the supplementary readings if you have time. Developing some reading strategies and mastering speed reading will also make a huge difference.
Do they even care about class participation?
Class participation is the same as readings, except that it benefits the entire class, not just yourself. Class participation is a great way to see all the sides of an argument and perhaps even new perspectives that you hadn’t even considered. So go ahead and put your hand up – don’t worry about getting it wrong as half the time everyone else is just a confused as you.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and make the most of your time at law school. Don’t be too overwhelmed: remember that even Justice Kirby was once a first year law student too.
Welcome to law school!
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