• Wenee Yap

How did you do it? Andrew Taylor’s tips for surviving law school


Managing work, study … and everything else! 29 year old artist, schoolteacher and Juris Doctor student Andrew Taylor, feels the pain of older law students in our exclusive Q&A.

(Picture: ‘Warm Blues’ by Andrew Taylor)

What made you decide to study a JD?

My dad’s a judge, my sister’s a lawyer, my cousin is a magistrate, uncle’s a solicitor and my brother in ‘law’ a barrister. I had no intention of getting into law. I’m a schoolteacher by trade; however, I have spent the last few years working as a full-time artist. Whilst painting I would listen to News Radio. I naturally developed a growing interest in our society and how things work at a State and Federal level. I subsequently decided to undertake a law degree.

What was the hardest part of doing the JD?

Going from earning a full-time income to a student’s income– with the drop in pay and lack of prestige – that’s the most challenging part. Being a student again!

Studying full time and working, in terms of time, hasn’t been that difficult. If you manage your time and you start things early and you don’t procrastinate, you can achieve good results. I still paint now in my holidays. It supplements my income combined with casual teaching. The nature of the work means that I can actually pull out my law book in class. My experience and what I’ve learnt thus far has been positive. It’s not dry. There’s a human story behind everything.

What advice would you have for incoming postgrad law students?

To really closely follow the course outline and the structure of the course. You need to be meticulous and consistent in the preparation of your notes. It’s about sustained and consistent effort. You need to be enthusiastic in Week 10 and still be doing your readings and coursework.

There’s no point in doing a law degree if you are obsessed with wanting semester to finish and wanting your degree to finish. It’s about developing an interest for the law which means you can travel along the path without – as the schoolteacher would say – always ‘looking forward to holidays.’

What do you like about law?

I’m definitely a creative person. I have had a terrible history with maths and science. I like how the law is a hybrid of the two. I often get to apply a formulaic approach to a concept or a problem. In doing so I am tapping into a side of my brain that may have been a little bit too quiet for too long.

The confidence you get from studying Law translates into everyday conversations with family, friends, and colleagues– that different way of thinking certainly creeps up on you.

What is the persona of lawyer?

Often serious. Able to see shades of grey. A lawyer is often a very driven person. Someone who really likes the idea of intellectually fulfilling who they are capable of being. The perfectionist is quite common too.

Have you ever hit any dark clouds?

I made a pact with a friend in the very beginning that if either of us felt like pulling out of the course, we’d always remind each other of the bigger picture and why we’re doing this. When you first start, you don’t quite know what those first grades are going to look like. I might cast into the future a low mark, or a fail and see it quite clearly. Challenging that negative thinking is definitely an area I think a lot of students could work on. The reality of it is that the majority of people get back good grades when they put in the work. Dark clouds that lurk in the corridors only happen to people who skip lectures or don’t apply themselves.

I also play Rugby Union on the weekends and in a mixed netball team on Tuesday nights. These recreational activities are fun and recharge me by breaking up the routine of work, study, sleep.

What will you do with your JD?

One option I am considering is possibly getting my hands dirty and working in crime in the country. Criminal defence really interests me. However, I also haven’t ruled out working as commercial lawyer. Deep down, I like the idea of putting my beliefs to the test. Upholding the right that everyone has to a fair trial, the right that everyone has to a lawyer who will defend them with all their zeal, regardless of what they have done. Working with underprivileged people, or in the indigenous community in remote areas is definitely an option.

Andrew’s artwork can be seen at www.sydneygalleries.com.au

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