I completed my law degree this year and having survived, I thought I'd share some of the stuff I wish I'd known before I started. Most of these will seem to be glaringly obvious but hindsight is 20:20 after all...
|Thing #0.5 - You won't get to wear a mortar board for your graduation|
1. You don't need to buy books
I spent over £300 on textbooks in my first year of uni. That's 39 churrasco thigh burgers from Nandos (or 50 veggie burgers if you're into that sort of thing). That's a lot of money considering the cost of tuition. I'd definitely recommend holding off for a few weeks before buying anything - some universities are making a conscious effort to reduce the hidden costs of degrees, for example, by ensuring that libraries are adequately stocked. By my final year of uni I'd realised that everything I needed was in the library or online, and I didn't have to buy a single book. If you must buy books, buy them from other students, or use Flubit to find the best deal.
2. There's no point reading something if you don't understand it
Getting through the reading list for a law tutorial is definitely an achievement (they.are.so.long.omg.) and as a fresher I was probably more concerned with getting through the reading list than making sure I understood what I was reading. As a result I wasted a lot of time reading texts that I found too long-winded/complicated/boring. Most tutors will give you different textbook options, but if you're really stuck on a particular topic look for something easier to read and understand - whether that's another textbook, e-law resources, or Wikipedia (We've all done it. At least once per tutorial.) before going back to the reading list and building on what you've learnt.
3. You're meant to use your lecture notes
This is one of those ones that should have been a no-brainer (don't judge me), but I think it's quite easy to forget that the textbooks you're reading probably aren't tailored to your university's syllabus. Lecture notes are often the best indicator of what you really need to know, and past exam questions (as long as the syllabus hasn't changed) are good for getting an idea of what kind of further reading you can do to enhance your answers.
4. You don't need to read the whole case
Not all the time anyway. But for the first few weeks of my law degree I thought it would be a good idea to read every single word of every single case (yes, even R v Brown). This meant spending hours wading through literally hundreds of pages of dicta by judges who were having way too much fun on thesaurus.com. There will be some cases that you will have to read fully, and some that you may want to read purely out of interest. For everything else, Westlaw summaries will be your best friend. And if it's not a Baroness Hale or Lord Denning judgment, it's probably not worth reading anyway.
5. Trusts law isn't as bad as everyone says it is
If you're starting or continuing a degree this year, I hope this has been somewhat helpful. Work smart, look after yourself, and have fun.
*cheesy/inspirational quote time*
"Treasure the luxury of time to read and learn, but most of all - be excited by life - be joyous."
- Alan J Gray