The Law Student Tool Kit
The law student's weapons of choice are usually strong comprehension skills, a keen sense of the broad picture, and a powerful reaction to caffeine. However, as is the case with paintball, visiting the dentist, bungee jumping, and arguing the interpretive principle in constitutional law, it's nice to have some support regardless of your talents.
Here are some things I rely on during a busy assessment block…
When you have been locked in the law library for a week, the Daystar can burn something fierce. Yes, the prudent law student always has a pair of sunglasses. Here are some handy tips for integrating sunglasses into your study timetable:
It is theoretically possible to wear sunglasses inside the library. Nobody has ever attempted it, however. Please don't be the first.
If you are wearing sunglasses and still hear a disturbing sizzling sound, that could be your skin. In this case, consider applying sunscreen as well.
When you need sunglasses to deal with the glare from your monitor, then you need help, friend.
Internet-based storage solutions are important to the prudent law student. Like the Ghost of Old Hamlet, I could tell you stories of smashed USBs, overwritten files, broken file formats, and unsent emails which would freeze your young blood. While revenge won't bring your essay back, Google Drive and Dropbox will. Here are a few ways to use these services that are quite excellent:
Drive has a word processor, so you get to create notes that are automatically available on all your computers and can be shared with others.
Dropbox allows you to look at previous versions of a document (!!!!!)
I sure hope you guys do this. Seriously.
Lawcite/Noteup/Halsbury's Laws of Australia
This is the Internet's response to the tedium of research. Sick of chasing cases and articles through labyrinthine footnotes and epic quests for the One Judgement to Rule Them All? Lawcite fulfils this role admirably, as does AustLII's noteup function. By means of witchcraft, sorcery, and astrology, these tools link you to cases and articles considered or relevant to the one you are looking at. Great for finding more recent applications of ratios from decided case law, or articles about your area of interest. If you wish to be freed from the consuming nuisance of physically tracking down relevant materials, but not freed from the consuming nuisance of writing a great essay, these two work a treat.
By contrast, Halsbury's Laws are like that faithful old pooch who can point you in the general direction of the perp, but can't chase down the criminal like she did in her puppy days. Often out of date (and occasionally just plain wrong), this is still a great starting point to law you're encountering for the first time. It's not a free service, but many universities have online access to it. It's also good for exam revision, as it distils the principles under nice subheadings for ease of printing and memorising. By way of summary;
Lawcite and Noteup are great if you know the general picture but lack cases
Halsbury's is great if you have no idea what you're doing
Some unholy union between the two is a fairly effective study/research strategy
Highlighters, sticky notes and other stationery
This story wouldn’t be on Survive Law if it didn’t mention stationery at some point. I will never understand this blog’s obsession with it! Some people cannot even face class participation without tricolour fluorescent war paint, and others are satisfied with a few tabs in the side of their textbook. My approach is to hastily scrawl illegible notes in the margins of my notes and hope that I can understand them later. They all end up saying things like “Cool story Justice Broreton” (or Broby, Middlebro, Bronnan... you get the idea), so why do I bother?
At any rate, the prudent law student realises that a wall of plain text is damn intimidating, so we have to mark our mastery of the material by drawing all over it. Keep in mind that using a highlighter on somebody else’s notes doesn’t make them your notes. Not that it should stop you, but you might not understand the material as well as you think you do.
Statutory body and industry association websites
Though it is occasionally difficult to believe, the law that you’re studying is the basis for the work of countless lawyers, industries, government departments, and even conveyancers. These people will get together and form associations, publish websites, and discuss developments in the law. All of this can be most useful to the prudent law student, who always seeks to understand their subject better and mention the most recent judgements considering a matter.
I will give you two examples; while I performed quite poorly in Litigation 2, things would have been much worse were it not for the NSW Judicial Commission's Civil Trial Bench Book. I’m mystified as to why the lecturer did not suggest this resource, though perhaps doing so would have impacted on lecture attendance. Secondly, my final essay for Dispute Resolution was a somewhat awkward nexus between regulatory theory and ADR. NADRAC, the ACCC, and ANU’s REGNET had published information not readily available in textbooks or law journals that was highly relevant to my work.
You can use the websites of industry bodies, major and boutique law firms, and government agencies to understand legal issues and complement the legal research in your essays with points about public policy and market attitudes.
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