Dear new City Law student,
For a start, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you to our student community and mention just how happy we are you’ve joined us this September. Now that UCAS is slowly disappearing from “Frequently visited” section of your browser, you probably start questioning: “What’s next?”. To make your university start more enjoyable and stress free, let me tell you something I wish I was told ten months ago.
You are talented, knowledgeable and hardworking enough to graduate with a first class degree in three years time. Despite students’ common misconceptions, none of your future lecturers want you to fail. Yet again, none of them are prepared to award a 2:1 to those who hardly spell the modules’ names correctly. If you made it to City University, then the University thinks you have the opportunity to succeed. And believe me, you do.
There are no Top Law Firm Partners in your LLB1 student cohort. This is exactly why there is no reason to stress about “I cannot even name 10 cases”. Just because you have no idea what exactly you will be taught does not mean your performance on the course is destined to be weaker than that of those who did Law in their A-levels.
In the end, the material you will be tested on is yet to be delivered to you, or acquired by you independently (say “Hey!” to legal research). There are no secret lectures or tutorials for certain students, no prejudice and no bias. What grades you put on your CV in July next year depends entirely on you.
University is not all about studying. And before you start regretting all the time spent scrutinising pre-law school reading lists, I mean just studying is not enough. When one gets an unlimited pass to a gym, they do not visit it once a month for a 500 metre run on a treadmill, do they? It certainly gives one a right to tick the box “used my membership”, but is it the best use of their opportunities? Think about everything your first year can give you: Legal Pro Bono, mooting and writing experience (special greetings to those of you who will write for Lawbore too!), in addition to a strong start to a first class degree. Can you afford to miss out on this?
Law School is not boring, not even for a second. Do not let anyone convince you that it is. Any subject is boring if one learns it from textbooks only. Read judgments, participate in court tours, attend career events, listen to what people in your future profession have to say, volunteer for Pro Bono and mooting and I am sure never again will you think about putting words “Law” and “boring” in one sentence.
Some practical advice:
Prepare your case notes in advance. If I had a chance to give prospective Law students just one piece of advice, this would be it. What works for me is skimming (or full reading for key cases) the case script, and describing (in writing) in three to four sentences the facts of the case, the judgment, and the importance of this case with reference to previous case law. It is useful to summarise journal articles as well. Do this after every lecture and tutorial, and when exam period starts you will be one of the happiest students in the cohort.
Read journal articles. At least those under “Further reading” heading on your tutorial sheets. Trust me, they are not there for decoration. It is commendable if you know the law, but the knowledge is never complete until you can discuss with confidence where notable academics’ opinions on it differ.
So if you have three new friends this year, let two of them be Westlaw and LexisLibrary.
Listen to your lecturers’ advice. They have more than sufficient experience to know what mistakes students usually make, and they sincerely want to prevent you from repeating those. If a lecturer states that a case is highly important and should be given special attention, the words are to be believed, the case script – read, and case comments – noted.
Study the way that works for you. There is no one method of learning the material. Your friend might let their studies be interrupted every time a fly buzzes around, while you might not find the silence of library a productive working environment. If you grasp knowledge more effectively with loud music turned on, let it be it (…except late night studying, your neighbours will not thank me for this).
Find the balance. Ensure you do not “overdo” legal work experience sacrifice to your studies. Gaining relevant work experience is important, but so is gaining theoretical knowledge. Your first year grades are the only ones recruiters see when you apply for a vacation scheme or a mini-pupillage in your second year, and therefore, they are to be prioritised.
Enjoy your fresher’s week and upcoming year. I wish you every success with the very challenging, yet highly rewarding year you have ahead. Ace your exams, impress everyone with your ability to work and let your CV talk for itself!
I believe in you, so should you.
Thanks to Narmina Huseynova for this uplifting piece – Narmina has just begun the second year of her LLB at City.