A little bit about myself… I was born and raised in France and had the opportunity to live, study and work in several countries. After I obtained a Masters Degree in Education in the USA, I taught French and Math in a French immersion school in Kansas City, MO and then in and around London in 2009 and 2010.
Although I have not always dreamt of becoming a solicitor, I was from an early age quite an argumentative child and I always enjoyed thinking with a critical mind. Due to numerous interests, I felt a bit uneasy when I had to choose between becoming a teacher or a solicitor, as I was attracted to both careers. My personal experience of learning foreign languages and being able to communicate, live and work with people from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds was so positive that I felt the desire to share it by becoming a teacher.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching French and the aspects of the job I enjoyed the most were the instances where I would bring students to question and show interest in the language or cultural aspects they were not acquainted to. Although being a teacher has its own challenges, I believe my personality is drawn to a different type of challenge, which the legal studies have given me since I started studying law.
Although I had taken several law classes in the course of my previous studies, I realised how challenging this course is. Going back to school itself was a challenge: I remember my last day working as a teacher, feeling exhausted, excited and scared at the same time. I spent the summer 2010 preparing myself mentally to the idea that I was going to spend the next 2/3 years sitting in a classroom, taking notes, studying at the library, writing exams. I was happy to receive the list of recommended law books from the Law school and rushed to buy them all.
Now that I have accomplished the first year of the LLB programme, I can reflect on a few things, which I wished I had known as I started my studies.
Buying all the books was not a good idea! First it is costly. Second, not all the books I bought were as helpful as I -or the lecturers- had expected them to be. I can now admit that there are books (which I cannot cite here!), which I probably opened only once or twice, and which were so confusing that it made me feel like I was wasting my time trying to decode words.
Being a non-native English speaker added a little more ‘fun’ into my days! Hearing some teachers talk like books was even more impressive and intimidating at the same time. Was I going to learn how to master this ‘new’ language?! I decided to find books that had a simple, yet well organised layout. Moreover, I realised that having 3 or 4 books for every single subject taught is not helpful at all as it creates some confusion and unnecessary extra reading.
If I were to share a few tips, here is what I would say:
As far as the books are concerned, wait a few days before buying them.
Take the list of recommended books with you to the library after you have started attending classes. Grab a few of them (the most popular ones will be available there) and spend time reading through the books. If you are worried about struggling to find the books in the library, it is normal! Learning how to locate the material needed is something you will learn though classes and practice! The more time you spend at the library, the more comfortable you will become finding the material needed.
Then I would suggest buying one casebook per subject and, if possible, a textbook, which gives a list of recommended academic articles to read for each topic.
You will hear very soon from your teachers that, in order to get a First, you need not only to know the key cases but also show you can think critically by citing academic sources. At the end, becoming a lawyer is about being ready to respond to any argument the other party may bring to the case and therefore it is important to develop a sense of what arguments or counter arguments either party may use in order to win the case. And for those of you who do not wish to get a First, I would still highly recommend reading outside the textbooks as it helps making sense of and clarifying the legal issues anyway!
Aside from the lectures, seminars are a great opportunity to reinforce your learning. Be prepared for them! Showing up at seminars without preparing them in advance is a waste of time. I would recommend answering all the questions and trying to read a few articles as well. I also learnt that preparing a one-page summary for the articles already read is a very good thing to do as it will save you time in the future. It might not seem like it at the beginning, but as time passes, there is more and more things to study and therefore it is better to summarise articles immediately and systematically rather then wait for the next weekend or holiday, when you will be busy studying other things.
Depending what type of learner you are, you might want to think about teaming up with some students with whom you feel comfortable studying. It is obviously not something you can do on Day 1 as it take time to know people and see if studying with them would be beneficial at all.
I realised that attending classes and studying on my own at the library was a good habit but establishing a routine of meeting up with my teammates before attending a seminar or a lecture would positively affect my learning as well.
Finally, one thing I have done but wished I had done more effectively is the search for legal experience. The legal industry is very competitive and it is important not only to have good marks but also be able to make one’s CV interesting and original in terms of experiences. Attending the chambers’ evenings and other law firms’ presentations can help you stay focused and motivated throughout the year. It can also help decide what area of the law you would like to practise and where you may want to apply.
Things get a bit overwhelming at times but it is all worth it! As a Westlaw representative but also as a fellow Law student, I hope to meet many of you during the Westlaw clinics, which will take place in the Law Library Lab – drop in and see me between 11-1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Good luck to everyone!