Things I wish I knew before I studied law

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Accurate representation of me throughout my 4 years of studying law

When I went to law school, there were a lot of surprises: the workload, the content and above all else, the career prospects.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED studying law and even to this day I am still keen to read my course books over and over again in order to keep my memory fresh. But there are a few things I wish someone had told me before I started my studies and I would like to share those with you now.

1. Dry, Dry and Dry

Something to be aware of about law school is the unbelievably dry content of the topics. The undergraduate degree is a lot more focused on the theory behind laws rather than the actual law itself: Nothing is straight-forward. While you may have a few subjects that have really interesting cases (criminal, here’s looking at you!) the majority of other subjects such as contract, tort, land and equity are all very much focused on the interpretation of the law and the consequences of such interpretations. In a nutshell, while the law may say one thing, a judge may say the complete opposite based on interpretation and thus that is a new spanner to throw into the already heaving works.

2. Be prepared for some weirdness

This relates to the above note quite a lot and I would like to warn you before hand to be ready to hear some really weird stuff while you study. Especially when it comes to criminal law. If you are someone who is more conservative or uncomfortable discussing the nasty habits of society then this may not be a nice few years of study for you: In my second year of undergraduate degree, my Monday mornings consisted of learning about cases that dealt with sadomasochistic sex and acts that not even 50 Shades would condone (I will not go into details but most cases involved candles, nails and man-bits). Then again, some of the situations that people managed to get themselves into regarding contract law and land disputes will also make you stare in both shock and disbelief that so many people can have so little common sense. But do not fret because this brings me onto the next point…

3. You will become desensitised to all of the weirdness

Eventually, you really will have heard everything. It is very rare, especially when studying, to read about a situation that has absolutely no precedent and after a while all of these situations will begin to be funny rather than shocking. Furthermore, it always stands to remember that an entire field of law was founded because one man found a snail in his bottle of ginger beer. The more cases you read, the more you stop being shocked by what you have read and simply add it to the long list of cases that already exist. So bear with it all…after the fourth or fifth case of the same scenario, it no longer seems that weird.

4. Law is not a single destination

When you begin law school, it is drilled into you from that point onwards that you have two options: Solicitor or barrister. It can sometimes be difficult to see any other career path as all work experience and lectures are focused on getting you into one of those two fields. If you are lucky, you already know which path you want to take and this is not news to you. However if you are like me and want to study law simply because you think it will be interesting, then there are a few more things to be aware of. Law is a wonderful subject and it will redoubtably be useful no matter what profession you later decide to go into: become an estate agent based on land law, a journalist based on media law, a news presenter based on public law and so on and so forth…the list really is endless! I have many classmates who have gone on to work as television producers, research assistants, bankruptcy officers and even company secretaries. Other careers such as patent attorneys or IP consultants have their own training programmes available so that you can do more or less the same role as a solicitor but be more specialised in an area of law that you find most appealing.

Also, the life of a solicitor and a barrister is not for everyone: the responsibility and the stress of such a job can be too much for some people to cope with. Therefore jobs as a paralegal, legal secretary, legal assistant or even as a personal assistant to a solicitor allow people to work closely with the law without having to shoulder so much pressure while doing so.

5. Breathe.

This is probably the most important. Throughout my time at university, my classmates and I spent the majority of our time racing to keep up with the work load (even when we were on top of our workload) and no surprise we would burn out every few months. So my advice, my main piece of advice, is to breathe. Research has shown that the optimum amount of time you can spend studying is roughly 2 hours…any more than that and your brain is no longer paying attention and you shall remember nothing new. Set yourself a target (I used an alarm clock) to work for 2 hours on any given topic and then take a break for 15-30 minutes: Enough time to make a cup of tea and actually drink it all, or to watch one YouTube video, or even to walk around the block quickly. When you come back to studying you will be more refreshed and more ready to start again and thus avoid any chances for burning out. Also, set yourself at least one nice social event or pamper evening a week: See a friend for coffee, have a movie night with your partner, go out for dinner with your parents. Whatever it is, do something that is completely unrelated to your studies so that you can completely decompress after a week of solid studying. It will be worth it and you will be able to keep up momentum for much longer.

NOTE: This last comment isn’t exclusive to law, as it should be remembered that no matter what course you are studying or what career you are aiming to go into, your own mental health is worth so much more than a qualification!

NOW GO GET ‘EM!

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T xx

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