Having completed half of my undergraduate law degree, I feel it is important to reflect on how my choice to study law has impacted my personal development. In this blog, I will draw some conclusions that will hopefully be useful to aspiring law students.
I cannot speak on behalf of all students, but for me, the small amount of contact hours is one of the things I like most about my university’s course structure. Being required to physically be on campus only around 10 to 11 hours per week has allowed me great freedom in managing my time.
The biggest gain for me is that I have been able to work part-time since my first year. Being able to fit my revision time around my work shifts has been incredibly useful in staying on top of all of my commitments. On a different note, a degree focused on individual study can easily turn into countless occasions to procrastinate. For this reason, I have learned how to be organised and have developed a habit of always assessing how to do things more efficiently. The downside is that I could live without food for a few days (probably), but certainly not without my diary (oops)!
Another incredibly useful feature of doing a law degree – which I took utmost advantage of – is the propensity for practical application. Law is an academically focused discipline and there is plenty of room for reading, criticism and speculation. However, because law is also a profession, I cannot overemphasise how many opportunities students have to get hands-on experience.
Formal vacation schemes are one way to gain experience, but there are also a wide range of extra-curricular activities. In my view, law students can have the upper hand in competitions like mooting, debating and Model UN conferences given the common skillset gleaned from our courses. When it comes to volunteering, access to justice and free legal advice organisations are delighted to take on students. I have not even mentioned the editorial work available!
Having acclaimed the perks of a law degree, some criticism must follow. Can I just mention how much reading there is? Surely, the life recipe of a law student is equal parts reading and complaining about reading. But, on a more serious note, revising for a law exam is mostly comprised of hours of reading and trying to rationalise cases and legal rules. It certainly helps to realise that trying to fit all of the rules and cases into boxes is futile. The lack of moments of immediate gratification during revision – which may be more common in science degrees, when suddenly your piece of code delivers the intended result – has taught me patience.
Lastly, I would like to point out the elephant in the room: law applications. The legal profession is incredibly competitive, which in turn has generated a lengthy, difficult and time-consuming selection process for aspiring trainee solicitors. With time, after submitting successful and unsuccessful applications, I have learned that the application process is a test in itself. How well can you manage your time when it comes to writing applications, doing well in exams, completing extra-curricular activities and getting some sleep once in a while? Have you put your networking skills to good use at law fairs? Have you paid attention to your personal life and wellbeing?
Do I regret choosing to study law? Absolutely not! I am enjoying my degree with all of its ups and downs. Law degrees come with many perks and, believe it or not, can be fun. However, behind the glamourous idea of law school, there is hard work.