Ready to level up? Try these tips
When you’re aiming for a first in law, academic ability and legal knowledge are of obvious importance.
But that’s only the start, says Sarah Hall, study skills co-ordinator at The University of Law. Personal qualities count too.
“Determination, dedication, organisation and attention to detail are all important, as well as a genuine interest in the law,” she says.
If that sounds like you - and you’re planning on a glittering graduation day - these study tips from Sarah and TSR’s community of law students can help you get ahead.
1. Absorb yourself in the law
Having strong legal knowledge is one thing, but to really stand out you need the ability to understand and apply that knowledge.
“You not only need to know and understand the law, but have good legal research skills, and be able to apply the law to practical everyday scenarios,” says Sarah.
Building these skills will help you strengthen and broaden the scope of your written arguments. “Get the law right, apply the law to the facts and include depth of analysis,” says PhD law student IpsaLoquitur on the forums.
To improve in these areas, you’ll want to immerse yourself in all things law. That means case studies, of course, but also wider reading and analysis in journals, blogs, podcasts and so on. You need to look beyond the confines of your course.
Look out for ways to meet useful contacts, too. Get along to networking events and talks – whether those be online or offline – or try to pick up work placements. You’ll be able to speak with lawyers and close the gap between law in theory and law in practice.
2. Find your weaknesses
You might be all over probate and trusts and estates, but what about other aspects of family law, if that’s your thing?
Or your advocacy skills may be on point, but do you falter when it comes to offering an opinion on a topic in a way that a client will find easy to grasp?
Find these soft spots and focus on toning them up. One way to achieve this is by increasing how much you participate in workshops, seminars and group work.
“You’ll get input from fellow students and your tutors which will help you identify if you’ve understood key concepts or not,” says Sarah.
Talk to your lecturers and talk to your tutors. They’ll be able to help you focus your efforts and provide the guidance you need.
Be specific: tell them you want to get a first and get their advice on what you might be missing. Where possible, keep checking in with them to make sure you’re on track.
3. Get more feedback
Don’t stop with just getting feedback on your blindspots - you’ll need to also build on areas where you’re already confident.
Sarah recommends mock exams as a chance to get detailed written analysis of your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
On the forums, law graduate Nibbler09 agrees: “Practice exam papers, give them to lecturers and ask them to tear it apart and show you where you’re going wrong and where you’re going right.”
And it’s not just tutors who can help you - ask your classmates for feedback to get a fresh perspective. “Using other students as a resource rather than seeing them as competition is really helpful,” says Sarah.
Finally, as with so much in law, it’s about the follow-up questions. “If you don’t agree with or understand the feedback you’ve been given, it’s really important to clarify this with the person who gave it,” says Sarah.
Keep pushing until you’re clear. (Maybe don’t bang your hand down on the table and bellow “You can’t handle the truth!” though.)
4. Plan ahead
If you’re nodding along with this advice and you’re ready to level up, it’s time to go back to basics and get organised.
Get an academic planner, get all your assessment dates and deadlines in: plan a schedule that lets you hit all those important moments.
“Create a study schedule so that you get into the habit of doing the same thing at the same time each week,” explains Sarah.
“This frees up headspace so you can focus on the content of your course rather than what you should be doing when.”
On the forums, law graduate GoingToBurst shares their own process. “As soon as your course guides come out, mark all of your assignment due dates down.
“I print off a four-month calendar to cover the semester and mark all of my deadlines and contact hours down.
“Then I slot in my exercise times, my other commitments - such as work and travel and then I figure out my study times.”
5. Keep your coursemates close and your friends closer
Finally, don’t forget the human side of being a student. To get a first, you’re going to need to work hard but you’re going to need to look after yourself as well.
Get that support network going. “Peer support is very important, I strongly advise students to set up study groups from the start of their course,” says Sarah.
Your friends can help, too. Sometimes that’ll be by leaving you alone to study, and sometimes it’ll be by making you take a break when you’ve forgotten whether habeas corpus is a legal thing or a Harry Potter spell.
Need more help than a cuppa can provide? Don’t suffer in silence. Your personal tutor is a good first port of call. “Ask for help sooner rather than later if a problem arises,” says Sarah.
Get that work/life balance right and you’ll be set up to get the best from your law degree - and whatever comes next.
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