Advice

‘I got into law school. Any advice or tips?’

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Soon-to-be fresher seeks readers’ advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a soon-to-be law fresher is seeking readers’ advice and tips.

“I recently received my A Level results and I have accepted a place to study law at Warwick Uni. My question isn’t really a career conundrum but more just a general request for advice and/or top tips to hit the ground running and make the most out of my first year. Thank you.”

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32 Comments

Stefan Douglas-Caric

Law School is tough, some things will click, some things wont and that’s fine. Law requires real world knowledge and that can be hard to ascertain when you’re fresh out of education (I’m looking at you Land Law O_O). Ask questions, when you find it hard, ask even more questions and do your case law reading. Lexis Nexis is your friend, and look at the footnotes!!

First Class Oxbridge Graduate

The notion of having to read cases is the biggest lie of law school.

Go ahead and read all the cases you want if you enjoy it, but it does not help at all for exams and can even confuse you.

What you need to identify from each case is the legal rule. Facts are almost always irrelevant except in specific areas where you need to draw analogies to past cases. Facts often distract from the main point (the law), and you aren’t going to impress an examiner by regurgitating irrelevant facts.

All you need is the rule. A few sentences is usually more than enough. Get it from tertiary sources such as a textbook, or Wikipedia, or a journal article, or online resources. You should only be reading cases if you are confused about a rule, or if you think the tertiary source is incorrect or incomplete.

I graduated with a high ranking from Oxbridge. I have never read a case since I was a fresher. I did this by focusing heavily on exam prep and exam technique. Don’t waste your time by reading cases unless you genuinely like it.

Anonymous

Good to see that the intellectual curiosity and academic integrity of the Oxbridge environment rubbed off on you.

ox law 2nd year

literally everyone i know uses summaries (lawprof <3) – reading the case is self sabotage, especially when we’re given about 50 a week to read + journal + textbook

First Class Oxbridge Graduate

You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you read cases. As the above commenter alluded to, you will simply be swamped with utterly useless trivia.

The insinuation of plagiarism is absurd. There is nothing dishonest about using summaries written by other people, just as it is not dishonest to use a summary from your lecturer or from a textbook. You are not presenting their ideas as your own. In an exam context, there is no expectation that you will be citing tertiary sources other than cases and articles.

Get off your high horse about intellectual curiosity. Exam preparation is not the time or the place for that. Last I checked, law firms’ assessment of your intellectual ability is not based on whether you think you are ‘intellectually curious’. Unless you have no life and spend every waking hour reading cases, your exam performance will suffer from your intellectual curiosity.

Curiosity killed the cat, and will kill your grades if you allow it to.

ox law finalist

You are absolutely correct. Especially in the open-book era, where concise and effective knowledge is key.

Anon

I didn’t go to Oxbridge but did get a first and agree. The cases are too long to read all of them in full. On my reading list, I started with the textbook to get an overall understanding and then supplemented with a text, cases and materials book. Then I would pick some journals to read. The cases came last, time permitting. I’d have a timetable and would stick to it. You need to understand the legal principle, and then the discussion areas around that. I’d often do a general Google scholar or whatever it’s called search and maybe a westlaw search too. Frankly, a Law Commission paper, even the summary, might be better investment than a case.

Didn’t go to Oxbridge, so actually studied for my first

It’s more nuanced than that. Facts can absolutely be highly relevant. Some ‘legal principles’ are largely severable from the factual matrix but others are more rigorously connected to the facts. Whilst subsequent case law can make sometimes make clear if a legal principle is amenable to very general application, it’s often not until you have an appreciation of the facts of the initial case that you can appreciate if the legal principle is one which can be extracted from the factual matrix. Christ, the job of a barrister would be trivial indeed if it were as easy to extract ‘legal principles’ as you suggest.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“it’s often not until you have an appreciation of the facts of the initial case that you can appreciate if the legal principle is one which can be extracted from the factual matrix”

For crying out loud, write clearly and simply. If your professional work is similar to your style when trying to impress Legal Check readers, then God help the poor judges who have to read it.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“The notion of having to read cases is the biggest lie of law school.”

Ah…so it’s a little like studying English Literature, then? Just learn a few quotes and read the plot summary from “Hamlet for Dummies” and you’re set for exam with minimal masted time.

Oxford 2:1

I did read all the cases, which was hard work and took ages… and I narrowly missed out on a First, so I suppose I can confirm what you’re saying. On the other hand, I’m at the Chancery Bar now (where you do have to read the authorities, and the facts can be really important). Perhaps the way I did my degree wasn’t the ideal way to prepare for university exams, but I think it did prepare me for my career.

If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I’d not necessarily say, ‘Don’t read the cases’, but rather ‘spend more time on the textbooks’. That makes it easier to identify which parts of the cases are important and which you can skim.

Giles

Make the most of university life. Make sure you get though your exams but have a rounded experience is important. Don’t just focus on law related activities (which can be pretty dull). Rock climb, sing, play rugby, join the knitting club. Show yourself to be a normal person not just a law geek!

U-Neigh

You may hear from friends on other courses that “first year grades don’t count” and whilst that may be true with respect to your overall grade, if you are seeking to become a solicitor, firms often ask for a full breakdown of your module grades (including those sat in year one), so be sure to prepare properly for them.

Law school graduate

This is very true! Whilst it is important to embrace all of the social aspects of your first year and to try new things, it is vital to get yourself into good studying habits from the start. Otherwise when workloads ramp up in your second and third years as the work becomes more advanced, you may find yourself trying to play catch up.

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lol warwick

Lord Smart-arse Supreme Court Justice

Keep a copy of AV Dicey under your pillow and try to be as ruthlessly logical as Lord Sumption when debating topics in seminars/tutorials.

Don’t start writing law essays like how Lord Denning wrote his judgments in his later years.

A

Try to create a good routine and structure in first year (in terms of lecture notes, studying, figuring out how you work best), to carry on throughout university. The grades matter less in first year but don’t let yourself become complacent, as you’ll find yourself panicking later on. Good luck!

Ben Jennin

It’s a marathon not a sprint, aim for 4-5 hours work a day and stick to it; law can be crammed but it’s messy and results in poor 2.1s.

Ryan

Do not think that you are stuck to being a solicitor or advocate because you have done a law degree. Law degrees are incredibly versatile so make sure you explore all of the options outside of law. Join LinkedIn and get used to using it. Follow firms, notable lawyers, and network. It’ll stand you in great stead for when you are applying for training contracts. Also, be mindful that law firms ask for a breakdown of all of your grades when applying for training contracts. If grades don’t count for your classification, they will still count when you apply for jobs, so keep your head down.

Anon

Apply for CC Spark.

Anon

If you have even a slight ambition of being a corporate solicitor, apply for first year schemes at City law firms.

They can lead to Vacation Schemes, which are much-coveted internships undertaken in your second year.

Even if you don’t plan on practising in the end, they are still valuable experience to put on your CV.

Trainee

1. Don’t call it law school.

Muppett

“Law School”

Scouser of Counsel

For essays, coursework and exams, remember the following:

IDENTIFY – UNPACK – APPLY.

IDENTIFY the law applicable to your scenario.

UNPACK it. Explain the principles.

APPLY it to the facts of your case and reach a reasoned conclusion.

Good luck.

Archibald Pomp O'City

IDENTIFY – UNPACK – APPLY.

Well, this is incredibly insightful. Just a smidgen more meaningful than saying “write the essay”!

Sportsfan

Scouser won an olympic medal for Freestyle Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious in 1988.

Jane

Law firms look at every exam grade on every module (which you have to submit in applications) even in year 1 so do well in all the exams.
Look at law firms’ websites for dates. In year 2 you may be applying for vacation schemes and summer after year 2 training contracts and Autumn term year 3 who might sponsor your SQE courses / year/ SQE exams. You apply years ahead. This is not something to think about at the end of your LLB. (Assuming here you may want to be a solicitor)

I did moots, volunteering in a law centre in years 2 and 3, 2 weeks of informal work experience in a regional firm in year 1 summer holiday and I did a lot of applications for a TC before getting one in year 3 of my LLB.

I remember even now cases I read and was taught over the 3 years, years later. So do enjoy the law. It is fun.

Anon

Congratulations! You have made an important first step. What I’d say as an 8PQE solicitor is that law as a career is a journey. Everyone on your course will be pretty clever. My advice would be work hard but not too hard! Remember to enjoy other opportunities at uni such as societies & clubs, and don’t forget to take time to care for you. If you get on with your family, make time for them too – don’t become a stranger as they won’t be around forever.

Practically, be organised & take time to really understand what the course requires. How will it be assessed? When? What modules count & how much?

Plan ahead for assessments (use a diary) including time to consolidate your notes, revise and keep in mind (and know about) when deadlines might conflict or converge. No point planning to do that essay the week of 3 exams, etc.

Do the recommended reading – start to think critically about what is interesting. Look for further reading for topics that interest you but be strategic – try to get past papers & look & listen for clues as to what might come up. Like everything, this is all about gaming the system!

Address problem areas – I struggled with equity & trusts but found some podcasts online which helped me. Be an autonomous learner – don’t expect to be spoon fed but go & get the knowledge you want!

Good luck & enjoy it.

..

dude no one cares about your insights as an “8PQE solicitor”, chances are that you turn documents/comments/emails all day and night and look like an abandoned mcdonalds bag as a result

Anon

To get the best grades possible…

Always be well prepared for seminars, you don’t need to know everything verbatim but have it ready to refer to when you’re asked a question.

For exams, revise past papers and you’ll see the most common things that crop up in exams. Learn these – this will accelerate your grades massively.

Get to know fellow law students that are in second and third year, especially ones who are doing really well. Ask them for advice. If they aren’t willing to help – ask another! Don’t be put off be one selfish person.

All the best! Ah another tip – if you can do a joint honours (but still an LL.B) then consider it… Why not? You cover relevant areas of law on a training contact or pupillage anyway so don’t worry if you didn’t choose law for the modules that you can choose outside the basic foundations of law that result in an LLB. Doing something different for these modules may make your degree easier, make you stand out on a job application and may make university more interesting (I found law students a bit reserved and held their cards to their chest in relation to other courses – I’m so glad I chose a foreign language for my electives).

All the best!
X

Fellow student

Contact lawyers of opposite sex on LinkedIn and say “Hey, I came across your profile. You look like a smart and knowledgeable person with much to teach. Would you be interested in a coffee sometimes just to give me some tips and tricks; I can do after work if that suits you better”.
And then agree to meet person in a bar, go back to their place and just go with it. This would be much appreciated. You’ll learn stuff, you’ll get some inside scoops. There’s only positives in this. Thanks.
All of my girlfriends have done this and have learnt so much, and have training contracts everywhere. Super good tip – just try it a few times, the amount of knowledge you’ll get will set you apart at application, interview and will also help you ace your studies, and make you happier in life generally.

LSE LLB

For each module, try and see if you can take out a bit of time to also reflect on first principles, i.e. the philosophy behind a rule. Is it principled? Coherent? Does it reflect your beliefs about what the law *should* be? You’ll start writing your essays with a whole paragraph on the premise (good or bad) of a doctrine, which will help to make your arguments more punchy. The reflexive way of approaching exams/essays made a massive difference to my grades and I’m slightly disappointed I only realised the importance of this in my final year! Good luck.

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