So you’ve taken an interest in studying Law for your undergraduate degree. Whether you’ve been inspired by the fiery passion of justice, or the intellectual rigour of analysis, it’s important to know just what will be expected of you in the course of your studies.
Unlike more ‘contact-heavy’ subjects, the study of law requires a lot of self-scheduled study time, meaning that a ‘typical’ day can look quite different for students in the same cohort. Much will depend and vary on your extra-curricular commitments, when you work best, and what time of day you and your new-found friends socialise during the most.
What follows is a rough idea of what your day might consist of. Bear in mind you’ll also need to slot in tutorials, exercising or sports, doctor’s appointments etc. Not to mention making use of those cherished high street vouchers!
Leap out of bed refreshed and ready to roll / crawl out following a heavy night on the town…
– Lectures are generally not compulsory though they are certainly advisable. Very quickly after commencing your degree, you’ll come to realise you simply won’t have time to attend all lectures listed. Not to worry at all – this is the case for everyone. The key is to attend as many as possible in the first week or two and then pick whichever ones seem most interesting, helpful or just downright easy to follow at 9am on a Friday.
- The number you ‘shortlist’ down to is really a question of personal choice. Some will feel comfortable attending two or three a week just to keep them in the ‘flow’ of the subject – others will wish to attend more if they feel it actively assists in their weekly study.
Following a lecture…
Reading a textbook on your week’s tutorial topic
– You’ll probably begin work on a new tutorial topic by first reading the relevant textbook chapter. This is generally the most advisable way to start learning about a topic – though some people do feel more comfortable jumping straight into cases. You’ll get to know what works best for you after a while.
- The length of textbook readings can vary between areas of law and even more so between sub-topics. A helpful way to approach it is to consider the reading first, as an introduction to the topic, then later, as a source of detail on cases etc. Don’t get bogged down in reading it too thoroughly. Keep your reading agile and active (ask questions of the material etc.)
- Note: textbooks can often be laden with opinion in law so keep an eye out for subjective viewpoints and interpretations.
Lunch in your College hall / canteen
Reading cases and articles
– First thing to acknowledge – yes the case lists are long.
– Second thing to realise – you don’t in fact have to sit trawling through dusty volumes for hours to get the list done. How? Strategy…
- Reading the textbook and glancing at the footnotes will give you an idea of the most important cases and the most relevant supplementary ones. Start with those. You don’t have time to read the judgments for every single case, but it’s worth scanning the main judgments in the leading cases for that week’s work. It just gives you a bit more of an edge in your understanding and allows you to feel comfortable with the big ideas that week.
- The key here, as with reading the textbook, is to keep your reading light and agile. So use the Ctrl+F function to look for key words or phrases. Scan the judgments. Use the textbook to help summarise facts.
- You’ll pick these tips up yourself as you go along. After a year it will just become instinctive – so don’t worry too much about them now.
- These are there to expand on and deepen your understanding of the big issues in the topic that may (or may not) have arisen in the judgments of the cases you read.
- You will come across a variety of opinions – some with very subtle distinctions, so if you have time it helps to try and summarise an article to yourself after you’ve read it.
- From a practical point of view, the main use of articles in your week’s essay is to give you a stronger theoretical standpoint from which to base your discussion. Rather than simply referring to cases and producing an arbitrary opinion, you will be able to access a relevant, engaging and higher level of understanding that will allow you to work on a level nearer to that of your tutors. And this makes tutorial discussions all the more fruitful.
Dinner – in your College hall or in your own kitchen
– Some Colleges put on good entertainment evenings during the week (mainly nearer the weekend) but you’ll undoubtedly concoct a variety ways of keeping yourself amused on other nights…
– This is down as part of a daily schedule mainly because it is arguably as equally as important as studying itself. The workload for Law can often be intense, and without breaks during the day and some proper time out in the evening, you won’t have the energy or the motivation to continue with the workload for too long. So ensure you make relaxing as crucial a part of your routine as buckling down in the library!
So that’s a general idea of what you can expect as a Law undergraduate. Hopefully you’ll get the impression that although it is a challenge (and what is life without a challenge?) it is also an immensely rewarding experience. Best of luck with it.