What I Wish I Knew Before Starting Law
What I wish I knew before starting law…
Law is NOTHING like “Suits”!
Brace yourselves! Studying law isn’t as glamourous and exciting as “Suits” portrays it to be. Its’ actually rather bland and dry like oatmeal crackers. And there are a ton of content and readings to cover. But fret not! First year isn’t as horrid as you’re imagining it to be - or is it?
If you’re still undecided if a legal career is for you, first year (law) is a brilliant sampler period to find out what it involves and if its your thing! So be brave, take it all in and most importantly DON’T STRESS it! To those who are experiencing a little trepidation and would like some help, hope these pointers will ease your legal journey:
1. (You don’t have to) READ ALL YOUR READINGS OR YOUR CASEBOOKS!
I’ll let you in on a biggie! You don’t have to read all your readings and materials. Even if you wanted to, you definitely wouldn’t be able to get through all those readings. Take this from someone who has tried to do so. In my endeavour, I “almost” literally stripped myself of a life. There was JUST TOO MUCH CONTENT! I remember all those nights where I was cramming ALL those readings and juggling the workload from my commerce conjoint while other more fortunate souls were out partying and having loads of fun (RIP). It was only in semester two that I learnt to pick the content to study. This was all thanks to my seniors who selflessly gave of their intel and tips. Hence, I strongly suggest asking a year 2 and above law student to advise you on which casebooks or readings to read and focus on. For example, I didn’t even touch law 131’s casebook… Didn’t have to. The lecturer literally explains the key points of the readings in class… Don’t study hard, study smart!
2. TEAM UP, SHARE & BE NICE!
Please DO NOT be meanies, sabotage each other, spread rumours or lies! Let’s face it - the intense competition in law, may bring out the evil Hyde in even the nicest Jekyll. However, my advice to you is to make friends (not foes) and work in teams! Help each other out! Remember, “many hands make light work”. The concepts you’ll study can sometimes be convoluted and quite confusing. Being able to discuss it and see different perspectives will help you understand those concepts better. I for one, saw a significant increase in my grades and decrease in the amount of time I took to study after forming a study group.
Having a study group also increases the quality of your notes. My friends and I even created a google document for our notes during each lecture. It was the best thing ever! Seeing the different approaches my peers took to understand each lecture really broadened my horizons!
3. Nothing’s going in? FIND YOUR STUDY STYLE!
Everyone goes through a phase where nothing makes sense. Neither the lectures nor readings are getting through… or perhaps you’re the exception (genius?). Well, we’ll skip the advice to the smart ones and focus on the larger majority - who tend to try harder when this happens. Watch your lecture recordings! Re- read your notes! Have a discussion - ASK! This journey is no walk in the park. You won’t get everything the first time. You’ve got to actively search for other ways or study tricks to get around the concepts.
You’ve got to find your study style. Everyone learns differently. For example, I learnt better watching the lecture recordings at 2x the speed. Simply because some lecturers speak so sloooowly… and literally nothing would go in at real time.
4. STAY POSITIVE! BE ORIGINAL!
Don’t let an assignment or a test grade get you down. Always think positively. Once you’re down, you can only go up, so keep your chin up and your spirits higher!
I recall feeling completely lost for my first test. I felt like a rat in a maze trying to find my way out of mountains of content. Unsurprisingly, loads of my peers felt the same. We didn’t know what the lecturers were looking for nor what to focus on.
In time, I learnt that it wasn’t about the quantity but quality of content! The lecturers already know the content of the course. What they want to know are our thoughts of the concepts and how we apply them. So, go crazy and share your views!
5. Exams: Past Year Papers help!!
Gosh! Who else detests tests and exams! The overwhelming tsunami of content you have to digest within a finite timeframe, the immense stress and pressure… I remember having my midnight pre work-outs to get that caffeine rush to stay awake till 4 or 5 am. The trick is to do past year papers! Trust me, its way easier as the exams are rather repetitive.
Over the course of my first year, I discovered two gems that made everything so much clearer and relatively easier! Hold your horses cause your life’s about to get wayyyy easier with these!!
You know it! It’s gonna feel like Christmas came early!!
A. Top Students Notes!
First, the note bank. YAS! EUREKA! We have a note bank that’s accessible to every law student! The note bank is an outlet where top students share their notes and exam scripts. Nothing’s better than finding a cache filled with model answers and hand-picked main pointers from the sea of content! I’d highly recommend utilising this powerful outlet. From the model answers and notes of these top students you’d be able to find the answers the school is looking for and which parts of the content you should be focusing on. It will help you focus and have a better gauge of phrasing for your answers. With this, you will achieve efficiency!
B. All in One Solution!
“Save the best for last”. The next juicy shortcut I’m about to share literally encompasses all the little tips and tricks I’ve mentioned so far and more! Momentum Tutoring is its name. Small study groups, content summaries, a senior current top student at your assistance and internships?! Let me break it down for you:
Weekly sessions with small groups of students hosted by a top student doing content summaries and pointing out the main points of the week’s lectures. There are also different top students hosting the respective courses they excelled in. So, you really get the best from only the top achievers.
In addition, the students within the study group are mostly students who are also aiming for the best. This provides a highly beneficial weekly platform for everyone to congregate and share notes together. I remember how we’d do our law quizzes together and get full marks! Power to the Team!
It really does!
Momentum hosts workshops, summarising content that will be tested, sharing tailored notes and mock papers. During the workshop, a top student would go through the content that will be tested and summarise it. After which key factors of each topic will be identified and notes specific to the queries of each and every one of us will be shared. I attended a few of these and honestly, my heart and mind were put at ease after each session. Starting is always the hardest part of studying and these sessions really kick-started my revision and provided clarity in direction.
A little segment I found particularly useful was crafting model answers for past year papers. This was done within the small groups of students who attended their workshops. Students well versed with content from the summaries would come together, do past year papers in groups and exchange scripts. It was a time saver! We crafted model answers for up to 6 past year papers and exchanged possible stands we could take! This proved to be really useful as I was able to regurgitate several sections of the pre-written model answers.
You’d be the one with the answers
Everyone’s always lost on how to begin and stressing out about which stand we should take. But there is really no right or wrong answer! As long as you can justify your stand with well reasoned logical arguments and backing, you are good to go. But what backing do we use? How do we structure our essay? I found the assignment workshops hosted by Momentum Tutoring to be most informative and helpful. The summary of content being assessed, and a skeleton to follow really helps to give inspiration and direction on how to go about completing the assignment. If you’re a Momentum student, previous top students will be assigned to proof-read your completed assignments and give you feedback!!
YES! Until I went to those workshops
Momentum tutoring also offers support beyond your schooling needs, paving the way for your career before you even get to it! They offer internships at several law firms in New Zealand. So, you’ll get to receive first hand experience in the industry and build strong relationships with your potential employers.
7. Smile More, Stress Less
Last but not least, RELAX… First year can be rather stressful and taxing especially since we’re all doing a conjoint. Know when to stop! There will always be something to study, a case to review, a reading to go over. But we shouldn’t overwhelm ourselves. Take a breather from time to time! Exhale…. we should push ourselves but over-do it! You need to learn when to stop and rest. Just as muscles grow during rest times, information sinks in better with a rested mind.
8. Be consistent
We never know what the future holds but I’m a strong believer in meritocracy. As long as you’ve tried your best, your efforts will pay off! Be consistent though! I remember slacking off in my revision for Law 141, the only open book exam. I thought well, with model answers, my course book, notes by my side, do I really need to study this subject as well? YES, YOU DO! The “open book” exam had a very real time constraint. You must know where to look for information and have the content of the course in the palm of your hand. So be consistent and be prepared so you won’t have to spend sleepless nights before the paper, go blank during the exam and worse, forget to bring your pen or notes!
High pressure environments are often part of the game when it comes to being a law student or a lawyer, whether that’s working to tight deadlines, presenting or communicating with your peers or clients – you need to learn how to keep a level head, be able to de-stress and have a life outside of law.
Having done several internships now, I know that firms are looking for someone with hobbies and community involvement. Apart from this. I also recommend a good dose of exercise. Personally, I find that exercise or any type of active hobbies like Muay Thai, running, yoga or helps you de-stress, sweat your worries away!
Anyway, all the best!
Keep cool and stay happy!
Faith Siaw ❤
Want to make sure you are prepared for uni and can maximise your chances of getting into Part II Law? Due to popular demand, Momentum Tutoring are holding another Pre Law Summer Programme. Save your spot here!
Momentum Tutoring is an 8 year old private tutoring company in Auckland and Wellington that works with a small number of students each year, helping them to receive offers at competitive law schools. Last year, 100% of our student members received an offer for second year law