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Life as a law student: What to expect

"Extracurriculars are great fun and look impressive on your resume."

Students often juggle their academic pursuits with everyday things like a job, social life and regular sleep!

But whether you’re the first in your family to study law or you come from a long line of legal eagles, law school is a new opportunity and perhaps a daunting experience for the majority of students.

Here’s what many students didn’t know, but wish they did, before they started law school.

Feeling overwhelmed is normal

Law school is challenging for even the most diligent student. No university subject is ‘easy’, but most law subjects involve hundreds of pages of reading per trimester, something matched by only few other study areas.

It can be difficult to keep up with all your readings. Despairing if you fall behind is not helpful: just get back to your study when you can.

You can have a life away from uni

It is possible to balance life and law school, but you should study consistently, and often. This doesn’t mean holing up in your room all trimester: a couple of hours of study a day should keep you out of trouble.

If you go at study too hard you risk total burnout and you’ll want to throw your uni notes on the ground and stomp on them.  Take some time out for yourself. See friends, go for a swim, do some work on your latest painting – anything.

Swotvac is not a holiday

We’re all guilty of cramming for exams, but the sheer amount of content makes this next to impossible to do properly in law. Use reading weeks, mid-trimester break and swotvac to catch up on your readings and revision as much as you can. 

Be textbook savvy

You haven’t truly experienced the joy of law school until you’ve spent several hundred dollars on a trimester worth of textbooks. Ask your lecturer if a cheaper alternative, or older editions of the prescribed textbook, would place you at any disadvantage. While the law changes rapidly, new editions aren’t always required reading for every course. Also check stores and websites dedicated to second-hand books, and sell textbooks you won’t need again.

Avoid information overload

Every uni student knows the sweet sense of victory that comes from fitting all your classes into only two days a week. But if you have the luxury of spreading your timetable out, consider it.

You need to get the most out of your classes: while some students can take in two hours of Advanced Taxation Law after four hours of back-to-back Contracts and Equity many need a break.

Don’t overcommit

Extracurriculars are great fun and look impressive on your resume; you meet new people and improve your skills in legal writing and problem solving. And work experience – whether you clerk at a law firm, volunteer at a community legal centre or do research work for a barrister – is always an impressive feather in your cap. But, don’t fall behind in your coursework because all your time is consumed by clerking and competitions. Your first commitment is your degree; everything else law-related should be done on the side.

Problem solved

The ‘problem question’ will pop up in most law exams and assignments and take some practice to master. You do not want your first attempt at one to be in the exam.

Your lecturers will often have samples of well-written problem questions, or can tell you where some are available.

Above all, relax

A trimester is only twelve weeks long, roughly, after all.

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