• Tara Pratarelli

A Small Fish in a Big Pond: Getting Involved in your First Year of Law School


First year can be quite terrifying. You have to deal with not only being a new university student, but also a new law student – a whole different ball game. It can be easy just to keep to yourself, but there is a larger, legal world just waiting for you – even if you know zilch. Here are some options for getting involved in your first year that don’t involve reaching for a legal dictionary…

Get a Mentor

Most universities have mentoring programs for first year students, so don’t be scared to sign up. The best thing about them is that you get an instant friend (yay!). My mentor was a third year student who did the same degree as me; I met her on my first day at orientation. We got regular coffees throughout the semester so I could absorb her knowledge. Her main tip: don’t panic and don’t give up.

Be a Witness

Law students’ societies are constantly run competitions. In first year when you’re still trying to work out the basics (AGLC 3 what?) it’s an unlikely that you’ll feel up to competing, but NEVER FEAR! Competitors for client interviewing and witness examination competitions need ‘witnesses’ and ‘clients’ to ‘cross-examine’ and ‘interview.’

The job is pretty simple. You get a character and a backstory to learn, and then get to answer questions as that character. Once I played was ‘Kimmy K’ who was marrying ‘Chris H’ – lawyers do have a sense of humour! Even Lionel Hutz could be a witness. As an added bonus, you get to meet some of the older law students who, aside from being cool people, may even share some tips/notes with you.

Be on the Law Sports Team

I know what you’re all thinking. Law students and sports? Yet many law schools hold round robin tournaments that can include mixed netball, rugby, soccer and footy.

I was terrified when I turned up to the first ‘training’ session for our mixed netball team, but I soon found out that all law students are such book nerds, and hardly any of us knew the rules. The first game consisted of us running into each other and having a great laugh. So, even if you are completely uncoordinated, sign up! You meet some unlikely friends along the way, and if you’re competing in inter-faculty and intervarsity competitions you’ll get to meet students from other degrees and universities.

Go to the Free Lectures

High profile guest speakers are regular visitors on campus, and these events are an opportunity to hear from (and maybe even speak to) prominent lawyers, judges and barristers. I’ve have personally spoken to the Chief Justice of the WA Supreme Court, the President of the Children’s Court of WA and the Attorney-General of WA, although I was definitely a little star struck at the time.

Talks generally only go for an hour and afterwards you can mingle and network with fellow law nerds over tea and biscuits.

Go to the Ball

Law societies put on tonnes of events throughout the year. My law school’s social calendar includes a cocktail party, a cruise, a croquet evening, a quiz night, and an annual ball. As long as you are the right age (these events are normally 18+), having a night out with your cohort is an absolute blast. You always meet people there, so just buy a ticket! These events cement friendships and allow you to dress up and forget your assessments for a few hours.

Yep, first year can be overwhelming. However, with a bit of courage and a smidgeon of luck, it can also be a brilliant start to your time at law school. So get involved from the get-go; it makes all the difference. Be brave and good luck!

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