This guest post is by law graduate, Annie Rockson. Annie studied Law and International studies at the University of Surrey, graduating with an Upper Second-Class Honours in summer 2012.
She is currently working on a government programme for a social integration charity. In this post, Annie offers advice- by way of a letter to her younger self as a new Law Student- on how to study Law.
Law is tough
Going into law I did not know what to expect. I hadn’t studied law before but I knew that I wanted to work really hard and excel in the subject. My aim was to get a first (equivalent to an A) and I was determined to put the work in to get this. I remember the first thing that stood out for me was the referencing; I had not done this before and it seemed really long and complicated! I also remember the first piece of homework I did. I worked really hard on it and it came back covered in red ink and I received a 2:2 for it (equivalent to a C) I was absolutely devastated!
That was one of the first lessons that I learned during the degree, working really hard on something does not necessarily get you the best results.
Time management and organisation is something that is essential when carrying out a Law degree as the workload is a lot. I remember it once took me 6 hours to reach three chapters of a law textbook. In a week, you will probably have two to three books of required reading for every subject, in addition to cases and then extra reading if you have the time! One thing I began to realise is that it is important to have a network of people to study and bounce off ideas as it is very hard to do it by yourself. A system that worked for me was sharing the workload with my friend, that way we would be able to get twice as much reading done!
Looking at the course from a long-term perspective is key. Make sure you try really hard and get good grades in the first year even though your first-year grades don’t count to your overall degree. This will help you to get great work experience for the second year. Also, after every topic we covered me and my friend would make revision notes so that we would not waste time compiling revision notes when exams were near approaching. I was quite a visual learner so my revision notes were in the form of spider diagrams.
Hints & Tips
I also came across a lot of tips and tricks whilst on the course, for example getting casebooks, which summarised the key points of a case. Purchasing law books which had example essays, all helped to make the overall process easier. I also found that the case books with commentaries were very helpful. I would always try and add something extra into my work whether it be a case from another jurisdiction or an interesting article, every little bit helps! However make sure this does not take up the majority of the essay as you have to focus on the question.
Law is very intense, and I personally wasn’t in the best place mentally, that is why it is so important to try and find a support network at the university and that can be quite hard when you are with people you don’t know. I was definitely very lucky to find a best friend at university in which we were both able to offer support to each other.
Of course living in a society that is systematically racist you may find this creeping into your experience at the university. There was one lecturer in particular who I felt was pretty unsupportive of me aiming for a first. However, it is important to stay focused and don’t let others, not even the lecturers, bring you down.
I think the most important thing is to focus on your journey in law and not compare yourselves to other people, we all learn at different paces and if you are a slow learner there is no shame in that, just be prepared to put in twice as much work!
In the end I didn’t get a first and it really hurt me as I worked extremely hard, nevertheless I was only two marks away which was enough to get me into Oxford/ Cambridge if I wanted to, furthermore I was awarded a title as a Future Leader and Top Black Graduate due to my extracurricular activities.
Getting your dream job at the end is what really counts so make sure to focus on establishing and nurturing those really important relationships.
That being said, I wish you the best of luck with starting your Law degree!
Many thanks to Annie for sharing her insightful reflections aimed at new LLB1 cohort.