Top Tips for First Year Law Students
As I am currently in my first year and have had a fair share of university experience, here are some important tips to help you to maximise your success at university.
1. Stay on top of your workload
This is my first top tip and it is the most important. As a law student, you are not only expected to do a lot of reading, but to also memorise several cases. This discourages a lot of students from revising, causing them to leave it until the last minute; but believe me, if you do this, it will come back to haunt you.
Having to do so much reading on a regular basis can seem a little difficult and, if you ask me, the workload does not become smaller; you just become better at handling it. The good thing is that when you keep up with your reading, you improve your revision skills. Once you do this, you will notice that the same rules and cases studied in previous lectures will usually come up in subsequent lectures. Referring to notes from previous lectures can also help to make the learning process easier; this is something that can only be done if you have stayed on top of your workload and reading from the very beginning.
Although this may seem daunting, come exam time you will feel less overwhelmed with revision and more familiar with the set topics.
2. There’s time if you have a plan
The truth is that, compared to the amount of time you have, there will always be more things to do than you think you can manage. With this, it is always a good idea to work with a timetable, schedule or some sort of study plan. I use a weekly timetable and deciding to use one has been the best decision I have made at univeristy. It gives you just enough foresight to prepare for the week ahead and my favourite part is experiencing that feeling of success when I tick completed tasks off the checklist. This means that every day I give myself a reason to be successful and achieve my goals.
When making a plan, you need to ensure it is realistic and achievable so that you don’t set yourself up for frustration. It will take some time to get used to but once you get around to it, you will appreciate the many benefits. Ultimately, besides improving your skills in time management, you are also boosting your organisation skills, both of which are invaluable to help you succeed (particularly in a career in law). So, figure out which one works best for you and watch yourself become the master of your own time.
3. Take advantage of the legal opportunities
Aim to involve yourself in the opportunities that your school or university has provided for law students. Make sure to join your Law Society; get involved with pro bono projects; volunteer as much as you can; take part in mooting competitions; attend open days and go along to campus skill sessions run by firms. It is one thing to have a social life but another to be a well-rounded student. Trust me, there is no better time to do all these things than while you are still in your early years. Many firms even offer insight schemes to first year students, so make sure you are aware of all available opportunities.
4. Self-motivation is key
Before I came to university, I searched the internet for the skills required to study law. Thinking back, self-motivation was never given the importance it deserves. Considering the workload intensity of law students, if there is one skill you must possess, it is personal motivation. At some point, you will realise that there is only so much external help you can get. Therefore, for the rest of the time, you will need to be your own backbone.
However challenging it may be, you need to have the ability to continuously strengthen your willpower to complete your tasks. In first year, it is not uncommon to fail to meet your expectations, be it through the amount of work you have or a disappointing grade. This is where resilience, the ability to bounce back, comes in. Bear in mind that when you eventually get past this stage it will serve as a constant reminder of your potential. This will, in turn, reduce your chances of giving up in the future. During my first weeks, everyone said ‘it gets better’; my experience is that it does get better but only if you approach it with the right attitude.
5. Make time for yourself
Make sure you do not get so lost in the whole university experience that you forget to take some time off for yourself. It is essential that you spend a good amount of time alone to think about the other important things. You are a law student, unleash your creativity at this point. Reflect on your progress and commend yourself; think about your values; make time for whatever you’re passionate about; think about anything and everything you want to. The result is that it allows you to recharge your inner-self and approach your work with renewed strength. Remember, with everything that you are required to do, it is essential that you take regular, meaningful breaks.
6. Talk to other students if you need help
There is every possibility that your university will have a sound Student Services Centre or Careers Service at your disposal. Despite this, do not underestimate the extent of support you could get by talking to fellow students, especially the older ones. These people have recently been in your shoes so any help that they give you ought to be invaluable. You may think they will see it as a bother, but most of them will be happy to assist you. People love to share their opinions, so ask them for help where applicable. Likewise, aim to be supportive to your friends; try to actively listen to their problems and when they complain to you about the workload, fight off the temptation to say “I know right, me too!” What good could that possibly do? Instead, even if you are not in the best position, encourage them to work hard and chances are that you will end the conversation feeling uplifted.
7. Do not compare yourself to your peers
I came to university feeling confident about myself but, soon enough, I realised that a lot of my peers were exceptional; some of them just seemed to have it all. I also quickly figured out that, while we were all classmates, we each had something different to offer. Let’s face it, you all got into the same university, to study the same course, so you must have had similar qualifications as well as unique attributes. Therefore, while you may not be the best at recalling principles of cases, you may be excellent at making good notes. At this point, the best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on optimising your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Instead of feeling threatened, be humble and ask your friends for help, even form a study group if you wish, as collaborative study sessions are always beneficial.
8. Drop the books and have fun!
How could I possibly end without giving this last piece of advice? It is self-explanatory, but strike a balance between your academic life and social life. After you have worked hard, get immersed in whatever your definition of ‘fun’ is - you deserve it!