6 Things I Wish I had Learned Before Entering Law School. By: Shivani Nair
Once you choose a lifestyle, it gets very hard to steer your life back on the right track. So here I am, with a few tips that I have learned over the course of my law school days that I wish to share with everyone who is currently in law school or is planning to join law school. Now that I have completed almost three years of my law school out of five, I feel like I am now in a position to share my thoughts.
Even if you are not a law student and are reading this blog, I want you to know that a lot of these tips may actually apply to you as well.
The first week of Law School obviously might seem overwhelming, considering you have entered into a completely new sphere of life. The next few years of your college life is what determines how you are going to proceed with your career. So here, I have listed a few things that I wish I had learned before-hand.
1. Mentally Prepare Yourself
As much as I would love to say that you need to be carefree, I would also want to suggest preparing yourself mentally about the area you are soon going to be a part of.
Be it your university or your law course, it is always better to have researched about it before entering the place.
This was something that I had not considered in my initial days of law school. For someone like me, who hails from a science background, it can be considerably difficult to adjust to a field like law without prior knowledge about the same.
Any kind of research actually works but here are a few things that you could try out on your own. -
Watch movies and TV shows - As cliche as it sounds, watching movies about your stream actually gives you something to look forward to in your Law School. Although movies and TV shows are mostly factually incorrect, but they do help you motivate yourself to learn more and visualise yourself like them.
Read Books- This is probably more important than watching TV shows and movies. The best part about reading books related to your field whether or not they are fictitious or non-fictitious is, you will realise that there are a lot of things that can be read between the lines. This is also the first thing you will learn in law - to read between the lines. Sometimes, things are not what they seem to be so you need to understand the depths of a statement made. Books are a healthy way to understand the field you are going to be a part of. I will soon write down the best books that every law enthusiast must go through, at least once in their lifetime.
While these two may be the easiest way to know your field, there are many other ways by which you can conduct research about your field such as reading articles, papers, clippings, watching YouTube, talking to the seniors of the university you have applied to beforehand, etc. also helps. Doing all of these, enlighten your mind and broaden your horizons about your field.
2. Do not Pre-Learn the Subjects but Pre-Read them Before Each Class
This is one thing I wish I had learned even at my high school and that is to pre-read the subjects before each class. I have come across many students who tend to pre-learn the subjects before the semester begins and are always enthusiastic about learning the subjects that would be taught early. Although I would definitely recommend knowing your subjects for the next semester beforehand, I would not recommend learning them.
The difference between pre-learning the subjects before the semester and pre-reading the subjects before each class is actually quite simple which you may figure out from the names itself. However, to give a brief differentiation, I must put forward that pre-learning means to learn a particular subject before the semester even begins. People who do this generally learn the lectures from YouTube or other social media platforms and demonstrate their ideas in the classroom while learning. However, most of the times, things which are learned online can be a bit different from what the University plans on teaching. Although, any knowledge is wonderful, but if your objective is to do well in your classrooms, pre-learning the subjects will not be of much help considering the fact that you will have to revise it again and again.
Pre-reading before each class, on the other hand, can turn out to be quite useful. Of course, going through your course material before-hand helps you to make an outline (I will definitely provide a post on how to create an outline), it is always better to read them right before the next day's class.
Pre-reading consists of going through the topic that would be taught in your class the next day. Instead of memorising the whole text, one could go through the text and mark the queries. Pre-reading before sleeping not only helps you in your next class, but studies have also proven that pre-reading right before you sleep can help you in improving your memory. This way, you will be more attentive in your next class.
3. Paying Attention within the Classroom Lectures rather than Reading the Materials Back at your Room.
Sometimes, we prefer to laze around and not pay attention to the teachers in our lectures, (we have all been there) especially when we do not find the subject to be very appealing, or any subject that does not gain our interest. However, no matter how disinterested you may seem, you must never lose your focus from the classroom. The idea of "I will study later back in my room" never works out for the simple fact that if you were disinterested in the classroom, you are most likely to be disinterested in your room too. This will lead to you procrastinating the subject until the very last day right before the exams. This will add to your burden in the end, and believe me, it gets very difficult.
If I had known that my ability to study at my room is far greater than the professor's ability to make me understand stuff, I would have probably not taken admission into the Law School classroom programme. But it is not true and therefore, paying attention to the lectures in your classrooms is an added benefit while revising your notes.
Paying attention in the classroom itself will clear a lot of doubts you have within the boundaries of your class. The benefit of this is, when you sit down to revise your lecture notes, you will be able to recall the materials easily and it will be simpler to learn and understand the concept.
Paying attention in your class also helps you to score better in your examination due to the fact that the professors generally emphasise on the important parts of the lectures which indicates that it is most likely to be a part of your examination. This helps you score better.
Also, do not feel overwhelmed by people who constantly ask doubts in the classroom. You do not need to question your understanding of the subject just because someone else asks questions. I do know a lot of people who get anxious about the fact that they are unable to find questions to ask even if they have understood the concept. You must keep in mind, that your intellect must not be compared to other people and each person has their own way of studying and understanding the subjects. Do not feel pressured to do something just because someone else has also done the same. Do what you think is best for yourself.
4. Make Your Own Notes
As appealing as it may sound for you to borrow notes from someone else because of the fact that it could be easily available or for the fact that the professors may provide you with notes, it is always a good option to make your own notes.
Having your own notes gives you benefits such as being able to comprehend the lessons and being able to interpret them. Having notes help you in understanding the concept better because you have written them down in your notebook. You can easily go through them whenever required instead of having to ask others for the same. Having your own notes help you to grasp the details and re-read them or make changes as and when required.
It is always a good idea to keep your own notes rather than constantly having to ask others for the same. At some point it may get tiring for both you and the person you have constantly asked for notes. Therefore, having notes with yourself saves a lot of time, energy and money.
Also, invest into books. I know Law books sometimes cost a fortune. But it is always better to invest into Bare Acts and other books related to your subject so that you can use them as references as and when required. Most of the times, especially during the exam season, the books in the library run out of stock and there are chances that if you have not read the books, you may not be able to write well in your examination.
Books are also helpful when you practise after graduating. No matter what legal work you do, books always help as references especially when you can see your sticky notes still marked in the books.
I will soon provide an effective method to take notes. There is no right way to take notes, but it could definitely help.
5. Update Your Resume and your CV
This is something that I should have known in my first year of Law School. In law school, you are generally required to intern after every semester during the winter break and subsequently in the summer break or after every year during the summer break depending upon your law school. What is important over here is that you need to be involved in academic-oriented activities and extra-curricular activities from the beginning of the semester. Do not try to take up all the load over yourself at once, but what helps is the fact that you were involved in the activities.
For example, you could be involved in college activities such as debates, or Model United Nations, etc. You could also write research papers and articles from the very first semester. Knowing the basics from the very first semester helps to build up a better prospect for your future.
As of now, a lot of your time could be invested into these activities so that you can improve your Curriculum Vitae or CV as we commonly know it as, and work on it while applying for internships.
Never miss your internships. They add on to your experiences which is good for you. Every Article, Research Paper, Case Study, etc. that you write adds another feather to your hat. So, develop your interests in such a manner that you do not need to work hard for it later. This is something that you can start working upon, since your first year.
6. Never be Afraid to Seek Out for Help
Even though this may sound very absurd yet a pretty common advice, this is actually important. A lot of students face this issue, where they cannot open up to ask queries even if they have one. This is because they may either be too shy, or they may not want to ask certain people for many different reasons.
However, it is important to make sure that there is a healthy atmosphere where the student can come up and ask for doubts.
If you are one of those people who don't seek out for help, start doing so, maybe not with people you are uncomfortable to talk to but with people who can help you out.
Most of the times, we overlook this advice for the fact that we accustom ourselves to the fact "It is not that important" or "I don't really need to know that". Whatever the reason may be, it is always advisable, to start asking your peers, if you are not yet comfortable to ask your professors. But most importantly, never shy away from asking questions.
Whether you are failing a class, or just need to clear a few questions related to a subject, you should always seek out for help. My best advice would be to seek help from your professors. They are the most supportive people you will meet in Law School. But if you cannot do so, definitely see out people you think and know, will help you.
So, these were a few things that I wish I had learned sooner. Nevertheless, it is never too late to learn and one must always keep learning new things. I hope this blog post has helped you prepare and has given you an insight into things you should probably focus on while joining law school.
Shivani Nair, India