01/11/2017 There is more to being a law student than studying the law

There is more to being a law student than studying the law

There are many things that a degree is not supposed to teach you. In fact, some of the most valuable lessons are self-taught and if you manage your time well they can enhance your academic performance significantly.

The purpose of university is to provide you with a deep understanding of a niche subject. For a law student it’s highly likely to spend hours in the library reading cases, writing and revising notes and schematizing information. While this might make you an expert in your chosen field, it will not necessarily make you a well-rounded person or a good candidate when interviewed. Paradoxically, focusing exclusively on your coursework might not even make you happy and content with your chosen degree, as routine can be a strong deterrent from enjoying your studies.

What truly gives you awareness of the bigger picture and develops your critical thinking skills is learning things outside your subject area, which need not be completely unrelated to it as long as they are beyond the university curriculum. For a law student, the best way to enhance your educational process is to have more than a tangential understanding of current affairs. In my view, a law degree comes with the priviledge of aiding you in grasping the issues that are of general importance in society. What you study at university will make it easier for you to make sense of news and discover the underlying motivations that trigger opposing parties to pursue their interests. Saving time to focus on widening your perspective upon the mechanisms that make the world function matters because it opens your eyes towards your place in the greater spectrum of agents that shape the world as you know it.

Moreover, it is intrinsically satisfying when legal concepts that you come across in your textbook automatically link with real-world examples that you happened to read in the news. For instance, during our last public law lecture we were discussing the flexibility of the UK constitution, which is easier to amend than constitutions in continental Europe given its uncodified nature. A clear illustration of this crucial characteristic of constitutions is the issue of the Catalan referendum that has been making the headlines for the past few weeks. It illustrates the conflict between a central government advocating for the rule of law, upholding the Spanish Constitution and a separatist movement which regards breaking the law as a last resort due to the lack of an accessible procedure to change an entrenched constitution. Studying becomes less tedious when you can actually see how the law interferes with the world you live in.

The best part is that you have control over everything you read and learn. The Internet is endless in resources; the only limit is your wilingness to trade the next episode of your favourite TV series for a few articles in The Economist or Foreign Policy. Even if you don’t understand everything from the very beginning, it’s very likely that is has already been explained by other sources and you can check, compare, research.

Immerse yourself in the topics that interest you, explore new ones and you’ll discover real life application of legal concepts, which will not appear so abstract anymore. Being informed about matters which do not affect you directly proves social responsibility and dedication to grasping how the law interferes with our conduct on so many levels.

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