Studying law can feel like a battle of self-control. Most law degrees have just twelve hours of contact time a week, so you need to be organised to stay on track.
This isn’t always easy. You know you should be saving money. You know you should be planning ahead. But sometimes, all you can think of is how you’re going to get that last-minute reading done or what’s to come in your favourite boxset.
We asked current law students and our own panel of law-degree-brandishing personal injury specialists for their tips on how to survive a law degree.
Hack #1: Get social to save on books
A great way to blow your student finance while simultaneously weight training. Law books are a necessary expense that demand a knack for savvy spending. As Kimberley Wallace, a third year LLB law student at the University of Lincoln, comments: “Law books can be a huge hidden course cost, relatively unique to a law course.”
According to Wallace, social media presents an excellent first step towards saving. Instead of marching straight out to your local bookshop chain to buy the latest edition of Blackstone’s EU Treaties and Legislation, start by joining social media groups relating to your course and university, says Wallace. “It’s a great way to meet older students who are often interested in selling their old books, making book shopping much cheaper.”
UCAS forums can also help you reach out to new and current students and you may find that your university has a book recycling scheme. Get in contact with your programme leader or students’ union to seek out the opportunities to save.
Hack #2: Nail your moot by puzzling it out
It’s easy to think studying law requires you to be insular and book-focused, but a simple hack towards success is to build and maintain relationships with current law students and alumni. You can then use these contacts to network and use as a sounding board for your ideas and arguments – a valuable asset when it comes to ‘mooting’.
Mooting, essentially a mock case in a court setting, is just one example of what makes a law degree unique.
“Legal research is different to other types of research,” comments Leah Usher, National Accident Helpline’s Legal Manager. Kelly Affronti, the firm’s Legal and Compliance Officer, agrees, adding:
“Law, by its very nature, is a very fast changing industry. There is an expectation on law students to keep themselves up to date with its progressions.”
Handily, studying law at university tests your ability to keep up with the ever-changing nature of law and determines what these developments mean to you. Often, this test takes form in the unique experience of ‘mooting’.
We won’t spoil the surprise of a real moot, but we will say puzzling out a difficult topic with friends and current law students will help you nail your moot and is a really simple hack.
You might not have a court room available, but we’re sure you have friends. We’re also sure your new social media contacts will be able to provide an insight to your university’s take on the moot. Wallace also points out the wisdom of “using any legal issues experienced by alumni or current students.” This may help you strengthen your argument by allowing you to “puzzle” out their unique situations, she says.
Hack #3: Revise all year to beat exams
Citations, cases, journal names, your mum’s birthday, your own name. There is a lot to remember when studying law, especially during exam season. We know it’s easy to leave yourself only a short revision window. However, a hack to beating exam time stress is to trick yourself into revising throughout the year.
Adding another task to your already demanding study can seem undesirable. But with structure to your directed learning, you can create revision notes that will save you heaps of time when exams are nearing. Wallace suggests “making case flash cards to test yourself throughout the year.”
“This can make a world of difference,” she adds, “as it allows you to learn cases gradually, rather than having to retain a large amount of vital cases in a short period of time, during the highly pressured exam time.”
There are so many elements to law and it can be confusing. According to our panel of experts, you can avoid the last minute panic and stress by fine-tuning your summaries, notes or flash cards before you even think about revising. Not only will it save you rewriting your notes (again), but it will help you retain a lot of information.
Also, bear in mind that you are wanting to retain information and create habits for your career, not just exams! As Matthew Hector, a senior consultant in the legal department at National Accident Helpline, says: “Don’t leave things until the last minute. Planning your time also means you won’t end up trying to meet three deadlines, or study for multiple exams all at once.”
Hack #4: Research & volunteer your way to a perfect job
Graduation strikes fear into the most prepared student. The light at the end of the undergraduate tunnel is often dimmed by the prospect of further study and an increasingly competitive field. Usher suggests strengthening your applications through work experience or summer placements and finding out “what makes you stand out from your peers.”
You don’t need to go it alone, though. Calling into your career service or student union can help you understand how your application should look or even help you put your foot in the door.
If a work experience opportunity arises, make sure you’ve done your research on the industry, as well as the firm. “Students need to demonstrate that they understand what being a lawyer entails and that they are committed to it,” says Hector. This can be as simple as signing up to legal blogs such as Legal Futures, reading Modern Law Magazine or even brushing up on what law firms are looking for at the interview stage.
Some law firms provide work experience opportunities, as well, so it’s worth researching which firms you’d like to work for and what opportunities they have available. Take a look at our Future Legal Mind essay competition, where the winning student wins a £5,000 grant and a two-week work experience at a top law firm.