5 Top Tips for The Almost Graduate
It's late. Thankfully I'm not talking about my assignment. I've been doing law for a few years now. It's challenging to keep up with the industry, but I am grateful for the lessons I've learned. However, as I get closer to the finish line, not only am I more eager than before to finish, but my relationship with the law has changed. Does that resonate with you too? When I started, I knew absolutely nothing about prerogative powers, the separation of powers or how adverse possession occurred. In an ironic twist, the more I learned, the less confident I felt about changing the law because I suddenly became aware of the parameters.
However, although I acknowledge that each law student's path is different, I recently found myself reading this helpful book 'Connecting with Law' by Michelle Sanson. One chapter of hers, in particular, discusses what you can do as a law student to become the lawyer you want to be. I'm one hundred per cent here for this conversation.
1. Get good grades
Yes, this statement makes me want to crawl into myself since it can be hard to prioritise studying, eating well, seeing your friends and exercising regularly. But Sanson explains that good grades don't insist on or demand perfection. But instead, she stresses that it's important to 'have the skills and flexibility to inform oneself about new developments in [the] law...rather than applying dated rote learning.'
2. Persevere when it's difficult
This title genuinely made me cackle because sometimes, when you're trying to balance many things, it's tempting to avalanche into thoughts such as why is everything so difficult or when you have no interest in a subject, it's easy to think, why is this so hard? Trust me, if someone tried to force me to read about theoretical physics, a subject I'm not interested in I would be dragging my feet too and silently protesting. Sanson highlights the need for perseverance because so much of it predicates your success.
"Law schools often involve problem-based learning. [It] is a method of teaching [that] relies heavily on student participation for its success. It is predicated on reading material before class, attending, and being prepared to contribute to group discussion and resolve legal problems."
As a law student currently appreciating the value of perseverance, I would encourage you to take regular breaks. Schedule the time to reward yourself once you achieve or improve your understanding of a legal concept. It's tough to persevere when you feel like you're never catching a break or don't prioritise adequate rest. You can get through this and even exceed your current expectations of yourself.
3. Be aware of your attitude
Being conscious of your attitude also involves you being in tune with the structures you have in place to support your well-being. Sanson states, "Lawyers need to be adaptable and flexible in their approaches to their work. As a lawyer, you will be a problem solver, and you must be able to think laterally. Your mind, expertise, and capacity for intellectual innovation will set you apart from the rest." I would also add that prioritising your wellness helps you stay alert and respond more succinctly to legal hypotheticals.
4. Extra-curricular activities set you apart
When I first started studying, I thought any extracurricular activity would do. However, there is an advantage that comes with having extracurriculars that support your legal studies. Michelle expands on this by explaining that "many activities can complement your emerging legal abilities. These include mooting, taking an active role in your law students’ society, volunteering at a community legal centre, or participating in a United Nations student association, to give you a few examples. Mooting and client interviewing competitions give you [the] other experience constructing legal arguments and presenting them to a ‘court’ in partnership with another student."
One of the best tips from the book affirms that "a critical part of obtaining legal employment appears to be finding work experience at firms before you graduate. This can be through a clerkship (usually over the summer break) or volunteering." However, participating in a clerkship is not essential if you don't have an interest in Corporate Law. Also, and ironically it's not always financially feasible to volunteer, so if you are looking for paid positions, we encourage you to check out BeyondLaw or a search engine relevant to your industry of interest.