Starting the LLB: Tips & Hints – Rabah Kherbane
Starting a law degree can be daunting. The glorified ‘law student’ label comes with excitement, but also pressure, and many times uncertainty.
Any cohort at the start of a law course tend to have varied, or undetermined career ambitions, which makes providing general advice for Freshers difficult.
Nevertheless, I am confident that the following information will be of some assistance to anyone starting the LLB.
Whether you want to be a barrister, solicitor, legal journalist, or have not yet decided, building your CV must be an ongoing process throughout your law degree.
Fortunately, for students aiming for a legal career, initial work experience is easily obtainable at your local Citizens Advice Bureau, law center, or high street law firm. Otherwise, non-legal work experience, like a university’s student ambassador scheme also provides for invaluable transferrable skills. More so, constantly engaging in some form of volunteering or work experience will build your confidence and communication skills, which are vital for personal development irrespective of your chosen career path.
Most importantly, gathering small pieces of work experience throughout your first year of law school will open the door to greater opportunities further down the line. This is because better opportunities tend to require some form of experience. So, do not be fooled into a ‘work comes later’ attitude – work experience certainly starts sooner rather than later.
Studying law is challenging in many ways, and becoming familiar with the different avenues of learning is, again, an ongoing process. In this respect, I can offer three main pointers.
First, law is heavy on memorisation. By way of example, Criminal Law alone (a common first year module) has dozens of cases in the form of case law which law students must understand and be able to readily discuss or apply during exams. Remembering and understanding this much information across various subjects requires longevity. By this, I mean ‘growing up’ with the knowledge throughout the academic year rather than last-minute cramming. In essence, attending lectures, taking good notes, and reviewing them every week.
Secondly, do not treat your exams as separate, isolated instances. They are a cumulative experience. Learn what you did well in one exam, and carry it through to the next exams. Similarly, drop what did not work so well. An attitude of introspection and constant self-analysis is required. Personally, I kept a note of everything I thought went well after a good exam, and emulated this for upcoming exams. My marks have consistently increased as a result.
Lastly, organise your time. LLB timetables are mostly blank. This does not mean you have a lot of free time. It means you have a lot of responsibility. Strictly managing your time between different subjects on one hand, and personal time on the other will be both a source of great relief, and academic progress.
Law exams are difficult. Particularly the first time.
They are designed to test your memory, comprehension, application, analysis, and time-management skills. I would recommend becoming familiar with the format of these exams, which is set by your university, as soon as possible. And although these exams are not easy, the grades achieved are certainly a reflection of the amount of work put in.
Universities offer many great opportunities which are rarely taken advantage of. Go to your Careers Centre, Student Center, or Student Union – ask what you can do to build your skills and academic profile, or what advice they can provide for the LLB.
More crucially, email your tutors and lecturers with any and all questions that you have. Stay behind after lectures and bother them! They will be writing your exams, and they are experts in their respected fields. If you are interested in postgraduate studies or academia, they can even offer practical career advice. Academic staff are passionate about their research and their students – do not be too shy to approach them.
Law is fun. It really is. You will find subjects interesting, and you will develop incredible personal and academic skills. You may even find a life-long passion.
Work hard, study hard, prepare well, and get involved –
Besides that, enjoy the experience and I wish you the best of luck!
Thanks to Rabah for this piece aimed at our new LLB1 cohort. Rabah is going into the third year of his LLB at City.