The important thing about law school is, apparently, that there is so much to do that it is easy to lose oneself in the many pressures and commitments. I’m afraid this blog has suffered as a result. From the first week of September onwards, I have been trying to achieve a balance with several things.
Foremost, course work. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that nearly every lecture concerns a lot of cases. In order to avoid having to reread them, we brief them. Briefing concerns making notes about what they say about the law. Then, by referring to the briefs (provided they are concise and accurate), we can synthesise the law on various subjects, spotting concurring opinions and differences. A lot of success in courses, say second- and third-year students, comes from having well-organised information of the law based on the cases assigned for each class. The upshot is that I am, very slowly, learning to read cases for what they say about the law rather than for who wins the judgment or what the facts are—not that those are unimportant or that they don’t give insight into the judgment.
Most of our exams and tests are open-book. This is lucky, because they seem to be worth between 85 and 100 per cent of the mark of most courses. In most cases, too, the exams to be written at Christmas time are worth about 25 per cent of the exam mark, but only if the mark increases as a result of counting the Christmas exam. These measures seem designed to relieve some anxiety, which remains significant nevertheless. I am, however, glad to have the security of my course summary notes so that I don’t have to worry about learning by heart what the law was in a case whose name sounds like Brinkibon Ltd. v. Stahag Stahl und Stahlwarenhandelsgesellschaft mbH.
Apart from the readings, there are many other commitments and things to think about. I didn’t manage to get involved with LSLAP, the Law Students Legal Advice Programme, this term. Some people love it, but I know one person who stopped doing it after the first time because she was interested in other commitments. I hope that by next term enough people may have dropped out that they will be glad for some new faces, whereupon I shall join. It sounds like great experience for legal work to come.
Then there are the things not related to law, such as the balanced lifestyle. I have a friend whose goal truly is to work sixty hours or more per week. I am hoping for a healthier subsistence. I got somewhat off track when it came to sleeping. I would do my readings before going to bed, but then I would have to get up early and go to class, whereupon I felt like drifting off to sleep all day. As soon as I got home, or for any other reason was out of class, I would be reasonably alert, but not otherwise. I realised that there was absolutely no point in going to class if I could hardly concentrate, no matter how important it was. As a result, I have started forcing myself always to get enough sleep. Within about two days of that decision, my productivity in reading and my alertness in lectures increased dramatically. I also pay attention to eating well for the important nutrition. I figure that starting out well and being stalwart in good habits will make a big difference for the better when the time for real work comes along.
I’m sure most law students will go through similar things: better that they should be now than later!
Great post, Graham! You’ve given a really good glimpse into the life of a law student and, while I’m not a law student myself, I enjoy reading about what it’s like to be in any sort of graduate program. I’m more than glad you’re back in the blogging game.