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In my previous article, ‘POV: you're a graduate non-law student with no training contract’, I wrote about what circumstances led me to pursue a Master’s in Law (LLM) online, from home, to convert my English undergraduate degree.
Four months later and my first exam season in nearly four years looming, I take a breather to look back on what I have learnt so far.
1. You thought lockdown learning was hard?
I think one thing I underestimated going into this process is the sheer fact that I was starting an entirely new subject on my own, from home, with very little live interaction with my peers and tutors. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed being an independent learner. This probably comes from having been an English student with my head down in a book of poetry for the last three years.
But the lack of live seminars has been a learning curve. One of the key skills I have had to work on here is self-motivation – a skill that is very much still developing. I think one of the benefits of online learning I have found is that I am now very sensitive to which working habits are going to work for me on that given day.
The only person I am accountable to is myself and so it pays to be kind when you wake up feeling like you couldn’t bear to look at another page of partial defences to murder…
2. Nothing beats an in-person library, truly
I don’t think this is anything particularly new for me but working from home constantly makes me long for the studious buzz of a library. Doing my Master’s remotely is convenient as I live in a rural area and can’t drive (yet!), plus I save on the extra tuition cost of a campus degree – but, being unable to pop into a library after a seminar means there is less opportunity to break up my day.
I would recommend, if you are considering online study, that you find a campus near you; my nearest is London and spending the occasional day using library facilities has had a huge benefit on my productivity. Sometimes it can be as simple as switching up your location to the kitchen table, however!
3. There’s a lot less pressure
One thing I have noticed from sitting in a law school library on the odd occasion is that the level of stress and tension in the room is palpable to say the least. Copious stressed and studious faces paired with the hardly relaxing ambience of furious keyboard banging and sighs of frustration.
The beauty of learning from home and having little peer-to-peer contact means that the stress-through-osmosis side-effect of studying alongside everyone does not happen to a particularly high degree. I hardly ever find myself comparing my own progress to that of my classmates, causing myself undue stress, because I’m in my own lane to a degree.
That’s not to say it doesn’t slightly effect your sense of urgency when it comes to mock exams BUT it does mean that the work I do is to benefit my own learning, it is not done so I can tick the same boxes as my peers.
Find out more about how to manage stress in this LCN Blog: ‘Managing stress: taking a break isn’t procrastinating’.
4. Find an online community
I will only touch on this point briefly as I want to go into more depth in a post to come but this is something that I have found valuable. Finding a community to share common experiences with online is super beneficial, even if it is just a WhatsApp group chat for your course.
For me, because I am applying for vacation schemes this year, I have been practically glued to The Corporate Law Academy forums where we share tips and support each other on applications. It does pay to know that other people are in the same boat as you.
Find out more about vacation schemes in this LCN Features: ‘How to research law firms when applying for vacation schemes.’
I am not even halfway through my course yet and I already feel like online learning has taught me a huge amount about my personal working style which will be valuable in the years to come.
For now, however, I need to work out how on earth I am going to cope with two weeks of online exams! Time to put these reflections into practice...