Navigating any university course is no easy feat. Adjusting to university is an intimidating process in itself, and between finding a study technique that works for you and figuring out which internships and societies to participate in, it can get overwhelming and confusing. So as an LLB Laws student, I hope to share some advice I have picked up along the way that has helped me both in my studies and in establishing my career path.
1. Do not focus on making your notes pretty - be efficient with your time!
Before studying law, I had expected to make thorough, presentable notes for each of my modules, so throughout the first half of the year, I spent hours on notability annotating, condensing, and formatting notes for a single topic. It was simply not a sustainable method of revising and consumed a lot of my time which could have been spent doing more productive things. Thankfully, my seniors were quick to point me in the right direction. They told me that lecturers often provide slides or handouts, so annotating these documents throughout the lecture would do just fine. This is now my chosen method of notetaking; not only does it save me time, but as an unexpected bonus, the handouts often include OSCOLA citations needed for key cases, which come in handy for creating citations for essays.
2. Work with your coursemates
As candidates enter the legal field, they will often find that one thing remains consistent across law firms or other legal employers—they are all looking for people capable of working in a group and collaborating with a diverse pool of people. Teamwork is an extremely important skill acquired in law school, which sets you up for success in and outside of academic studies. The syllabus for the program is dense and the reading lists are long, so it is much more efficient to split the reading with your coursemates. This cuts down on reading time, but still gets the important parts of the reading extracted for you. I also collaborated with my teammates in preparation for tutorials, where we would go through tutorial handouts and discuss the questions before and after class. Doing so has clarified many key concepts for me, and considering the course does not offer office hours, it allowed me to ask my peers about the content I find difficult to understand.
3. Imposter’s syndrome is real
This is especially true in a degree that has a clear-cut route for the paths into the legal profession. It is easy to look at peers and their accomplishments and feel pressured to be doing the same. However, the duck analogy is true: the struggles people go through are well-hidden and often overlooked. Behind every successful vacation scheme offer is a pile of rejections, and behind every good grade are hours poured into understanding the material. Everyone is in the same boat and there is no one true way to success, so finding a pace and routine that suits you best should be a priority. Also, limit your time on Linkedin, as it can easily become a rabbit hole of scrolling through people’s accomplishments and feeling like you aren’t doing enough, though the reality is far from that!
4. Don’t feel guilty about falling behind
One of the biggest pieces of advice I was given by my seniors was to not worry about falling behind, as it is normal and ultimately inevitable to miss a lecture or have to catch up with readings. After all, the course load is heavy and there is only so much time. When I first began my degree, I would prioritise the work I had fallen behind on before moving on to readings or lectures I had for that week. However, I quickly realised that doing so would create a perpetual cycle of being behind and doing work from weeks ago, which was not only frustrating but also not helpful because although I was behind, tutorials were not! Hence, something that has worked for me is leaving the work that I had to catch up on for breaks or reading weeks and focusing on continuing with the syllabus as planned. Typically, the topics for each week are different (with exceptions), so not completing the prior topic usually will not hinder your understanding of the following week’s material.
5. Use your resources wisely
Lawtrove, Westlaw, and Lawteacher will be your best friend in understanding the law and getting different perspectives on certain issues. What differentiated my good marks from the bad ones was my motivation in exploring the class material, as it translated to my ability to understand and evaluate arguments well. Therefore, being proactive in learning and using the resources efficiently is crucial to success in law. In terms of careers, UCL has a variety of resources available to you; use them! UCL Laws have a dedicated careers counselor who has been so helpful in helping me navigate my many career options, especially since the path I want to go down is more unconventional. In addition, UCL has a careers team who can look over your CV, cover letter, and other documents and give advice on tailoring your application to the role you are applying for.
6. Don’t be afraid to explore your options
Finally, I would say to keep exploring your options, even those outside of law. University is a formative experience and a lot can change, so don’t be afraid to try other avenues, especially if they differ from the more “conventional” routes. Attending workshops, networking sessions, and applying for internships are great ways to get a taste of what other career fields have to offer. It may not feel like it, but a decent amount of people use their legal degree in other fields and find a lot of satisfaction in it. Furthermore, transferable skills are highly valued, so experiences that are not legal are still more than applicable to a legal career if you do decide to go in that direction.
Getting a law degree is an experience that is difficult but fulfilling. The challenges I faced along the way have allowed me to create strong bonds with my peers who are in the same boat and have also given me many opportunities to figure out what it is I want from a career. The takeaways I have so far have been instrumental in making this year a much easier transition, but I look forward to adding to the list of lessons learned!