First of all, congratulations. Law School admittance is a bit like running a race blindfolded. It’s a competition, but you can’t see who you’re competing with until you turn up on the first day of lectures.
Either way, you’ve made it through the first hurdle and won the first race, now that you’re in. Relax, despite what you will hear or might hear law school is not a race. Yes everyone is competitive but LAW SCHOOL IS NOT A RACE. You’ll find that the competitive students are just racing each other to burn out and develop all sorts of stress related illnesses.
Here are some tips on things to do if you’re brand spanking new at law school and are struggling to find your bearings.
- Seriously, law school is not a race. There are no prizes for doing twenty subjects in a semester, or for finishing it all in two months. There are no medals dished out for overloading your subjects. You will feel pressure to perform from yourself (mainly yourself), your peers and your lecturers. Accept that much, but pressure to perform does not mean pressure to crash and burn. Perform well and be excellent, but don’t do it at the expense of your sanity.
- Law school can best be viewed as a project, with a start, middle and end. I’m a project manager by trade, so I approached law school as a project that needed to be managed. It worked for me, it might work for you. Plan your semester in advance. Have a look at when assessments are due and when your quieter periods will be. Knowing when your time will be stretched in advance helps you prepare mentally.
- Buddy up. Seriously, find a good support network of fellow students and use each other. Studying law is like learning a new language, you wouldn’t do it alone so don’t do law school alone. Make networks and get networking.
- Now is the time to update your LinkedIn profile. Seek out alumni from your law school, invite your lecturers to connect, connect with your fellow students and keep up in what’s happening in the legal profession. Legal practice and law school are two very different things, so stay abreast of developments. The legal profession is one big massive network. The sooner you are a part of it the easier your progress through it will be.
- Join the Law Institute of Victoria, It’s free for students. Being a member gives you access not only to their impressive calendar of events for law students and new lawyers but also their mentorship service.
- Seriously, get a mentor. Whether it’s an alumni of your law school, a lecturer, a practicing lawyer. Get a mentor. Someone you can talk to about possible career progression, placements, internships or just how awful Trusts and Equity Law is.
- Do this right now, Go to the Law Institute of Victoria bookshop (members get a discount, seriously, become a member of the LIV) and buy yourself the LexisNexis Q&A Series of books. There is one for every single core law school subject and they are BRILLIANT. They cover the material you need to know, they explain it to you including the relevant case law and legislation and also show you how to answer questions and why you should answer them that way. Seriously invaluable, get them here.
- Join a community that is larger than your own community. My favourite legal community was SurviveLaw. Check them out here. With tips on how to write a resume to how to waste time effectively. It’s seriously the best. Another thing, listen to my podcast because what's a bit of a cheeky shameless plug every now and then.
- Be kind to yourself. Law school, if done properly, is going to teach you how to think and approach problems. The way lawyers solve problems is different to how you are probably used to solving problems. The first couple of subjects are all about trying to sharpen your mind, don’t be surprised if your grades dip a bit while you get the hang of what’s required from you.
- Remember, law school is not a race.