How much study should I be doing each week?
So it’s Semester 1, and the eager baby law student enquiries have started filtering into my academic inbox: “Can I have full list of the latest textbooks so I can do some extra reading? Do you prefer gin and tonics or vintage wine as a gift of grading bribery?” (Gin and tonics, please, with a cucumber slice to soften the blow of that gin*).
One of the most commonly posed questions is how much study per subject per week should you do?
So you’ve (hopefully) seen your uni timetable by now. You probably figured out how many class hours you have per week and thought, ‘Score!! Only 4-5 hours of Torts means I can definitely squeeze in the last of the summer sun tan time in March…”
You may have also read the recommended uni study hours – usually 1 to 2 hours of private study per hour spent in class. Do the maths. 3 x subjects (15 hours per week of class time + 15 to 30 hours per week of study time) = 30 to 45 hours per week.
It’s more than a full-time job (except in law, of course, where your billable hours per week are exhilaratingly uncapped… but hey, so is the income, eventually). Surely the board shorts-wearing, thong-sporting law students casually café-ing up a storm while their law books decay in Country Road bags aren’t averaging 30 to 45 hours per week. Look at their tans! Look at their wide (read: non-sleep deprived) eyes!
Truth: The study maxim that applies in most disciplines does also apply in law – you can indeed study as much or as little as you like, and you do get what you give. The only catch: the bar is much higher. You need to do a lot more to avoid simply flunking out. Unlike many disciplines, where a last-minute-exam cram approach can be (depending on how much pain and caffeine your body can take) quite workable, law is less forgiving. This is due to the sheer volume of information you need to process in every subject.
As a ballpark estimate (individual results may vary, etc), you can expect that if you put in 30 to 45 hours of (effective) study and class attendance per week, you are probably shooting for the Distinction to High Distinction grade range. Most law students do start off in earnest and drop off as the semester intensifies, and work commitments, relationships, parties, and life intervenes. It’s really the lack of consistent (and effective) study that sees most students drop below a Distinction to the Credit or mere Pass level. Of course, you may be working all the time just to afford your rent and textbooks, which is understandable.
However, if you do have a choice – and you have the long game in mind – don’t subscribe to the usual ‘Ps get degrees’ mentality. Law school is thrilling because of the people you meet – talented, driven, clever – and in such a cohort, it will be difficult to distinguish yourself when you leave law school to kick start your career if you’re on a pass average. Half these people have ditched overachieving in their regular lives to you know, try that crazy little thing called law. Your fellow law students are impressive enough as it is. Don’t undersell yourself further by giving any less than your best.
There. Naggy tutor hat discarded. Phew. Now to get back to reading Kirby’s ‘A Private Life’…
Good Luck with Semester 1, Survivors!
*Hendricks or Bombay Sapphire only please.
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