Studying law can be a daunting task. You have heard the horror stories about caffeine fuelled all-nighters at the library, books so dull they make your eyes water and the fierce competition for jobs at the end of it all. Needless to say, a lot of these stories are gross exaggerations, and with sufficient preparation law school can be a lot of fun.
As a recent legal graduate, I know how tough the degree can be; but I also know it is an incredibly rewarding subject to study. Here are a few things that any future law student should expect.
1. A lot of reading
It is the oldest and most well worn out cliché about studying law, but unfortunately it is true. Law students have a lot of reading! Whether it be reading the judgments of important cases or a chapter of a textbook to prepare for a seminar, the majority of any law student’s time is spent reading. However, fear not, as you will quickly learn how to prioritise your reading and skim through large bodies of text for the relevant information. By the end of your degree, you may even find yourself enjoying all of the reading!
2. Active participation in seminars
For those of you who hate speaking in class, look away now. Law schools often ask for active participation from students in seminars, discussing legal questions with their peers and tutors. Some courses even have graded seminars. Seminars are often a fantastic way to learn through debate, so as long as you are prepared and willing to engage then you should have no problem succeeding.
3. Spending a lot of time in the Library
Most students spend a lot of time in the library, especially in the later years of their degrees. This is especially true for law students, due to the significant amount of reading mentioned earlier. University libraries are filled with works from some of the greatest minds who ever lived. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to read through some of these ideas, and use them in your work. Good quotes from scholars and academics are a vital part of achieving a 2.1 or above in your work.
4. Using legal search engines most days of the week
Any law student hoping to succeed in their degree should expect to add a legal search engine alongside Facebook and YouTube in the list of their most used websites. Legal research skills are vital to managing a law degree, and websites such as LexisNexis and Westlaw help to facilitate this research. Students can use the sites to find cases, statutes and commentary, and are an extremely valuable research tool. Some universities even have ambassadors and training courses for these websites, meaning there is no excuse not to make the most of these essential facilities.
5. Getting involved with Law related societies
Societies are often the social hub of any student’s life. Alongside the traditional societies such as drama or dance, most universities have a number of law related societies which law students can (and should) get involved with. I was involved with the Miscarriages of Justice Society and the European Law Students Association in my final year, alongside the Sheffield Law society during my years at university. These societies are a great way to improve your legal knowledge, socialise with other law students, and take part in related activities such as trips away and charity events. Even if your university doesn’t have many law related societies, you can always set a new one up yourself. Keep an eye out for societies such as Street Law, The Innocence Project and Mooting societies (discussed below) if you really want to give your CV that extra glow.
The closest any law student can get to being a practising lawyer is through the use of moot court competitions. Students get the opportunity to prepare trial bundles, engage with arguments and present submissions, in the presence of a mock judge. Mooting is a lot of fun, and helps to prepare students for the realities of legal practice. For those wishing to pursue a career at the Bar, it is essential to have mooting experience on you CV. For a comprehensive guide to mooting, you should check out the Legal Loop guide, click here for part one (written submissions) and here for part two (oral submissions)
7. Legal Competitions
In addition to mooting, there are a number of other opportunities for competitions which law students can get involved with. These include competitions in fields such as legal negotiation, arbitration and specialist essay writing. The competitions can be internal to the university or external at other institutions, offering the chance to travel to interesting places. Some competitions even offer prizes, and the skills gained from these competitions will boost a law students career prospects immensely.
8. The possibility for Exchange Abroad
Whilst this is not open to all law students, many do seem to have the opportunity to study abroad. Law with languages degrees and international law degrees often involve exchange periods. Even if you choose to study law on its own, it remains possible at some universities to study abroad for a period. Studying abroad will give allow a student to experience new cultures, new languages and new legal regimes. It is also an excuse to have a lot of fun exploring a foreign country! Studying abroad is extremely attractive to future employers and can help to improve a student’s grades once he/she returns.
9. Careers eventsIn today’s competitive environment, many students arrive at university with one eye on the job market at the end of it. Luckily for law students, the course is often complimented by a huge variety of career events which can help a student to decide on career paths. Top law firms often hold networking events such as cocktail masterclasses, which allow them to get to know the brightest students in the country. They also hold informative workshops on how to acquire training contracts or pupillages. For those not following the traditional routes into the profession, workshops are often offered by law schools on careers in international law, postgraduate legal studies or many other career choices (such as working for the police or a bank). One of the great things about studying law is that it does not limit your choice of career options after graduation. Students would be wise to take advantage of the wealth of options available, in order to make the best possible career choice.
10. An incredibly rewarding experienceDespite the warnings to the contrary, studying law is an amazing experience. It is a fascinating subject in which students study an incredibly diverse range of topics. It is most definitely true that law provides something for everyone. Coupled with the large amount of related extra-curricular activities and opportunities, there is no reason why time at university studying law should not be among the most rewarding in a person’s life.
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