What is Jury Duty Like & My Thoughts on Truth

Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with an idea for a blog post. You can think and think, yet nothing interesting comes to mind. Then you can be doing something which isn’t related to blogging or law at all, and an idea will jump out at you.

That happened when I went a walk earlier. It was a really obvious idea too. I’m going to tell you about the time I was on jury duty. Nothing too specific, just my general feelings and thoughts. This post was actually longer and a bit more interesting. But I didn’t want to give too much away and be in contempt of court so I deleted some!

Getting jury duty at the time was actually really convenient. As anyone who has been on jury duty (or has worked in courts) knows, there can be a lot of waiting around. This was good because it gave me time to read my law books for the upcoming year. I literally had nothing else to do. No distractions. No chance to procrastinate. And then I got to see bits of what I was reading in action.

There was so much waiting because, if you’re not assigned to a case, you just wait until you’re needed. It comes down to luck really. In theory you could be called up for jury duty and not be put on an actual case. Alternatively you could be called onto a case which lasts several months. I was on 2 cases over a two week period. And if I remember correctly I was only doing something jury related about half of that time.

The case started with your name being called along with the other people who may serve on the jury. You were then led by the court clerks to the location outside the courtroom. You got a brief overview of what would happen next. When in court the 12 jurors were randomly picked and sworn in. More than 12 people are initially selected to be potential jurors just in case one of them knows the defendant / others in the courtroom.

Obviously I can’t say much about the trial itself. But the offences in question weren’t overly serious. The facts of one of the cases was actually mildly comical.

Thinking about more general philosophical matters, one of the cases essentially came down to one persons word against the other. So believing that one person was telling the truth, rather than the other person, would decide the outcome. This made me think – can you ever be sure beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty when it comes down to this? I don’t think so. Not without further evidence. And the evidence wasn’t conclusive one way or the other.

Although you would think one person more reliable, and more likely to tell the truth than the other, this still wasn’t enough. Hypothetically speaking if there was a witness on the stand who I knew to be very truthful, what would I think? In my opinion it would still be very hard to say beyond reasonable doubt that they were telling the truth.

Think of all the times you’ve felt so sure that you’ve seen something happen. Or so sure that you’ve done something. You’d say “I’m 100% sure I locked the door.” And that wouldn’t be a lie. Yet you check the door and it’s unlocked. This happens from time to time – people make mistakes. They may also have preconceptions about a person and just believe they’ve seen something. They also could have other reasons to lie. Reasons you don’t know about.

Now think about the above in relation to, not someone you know to be truthful, but a complete stranger. You don’t know them, you don’t know if they hold any bias, you don’t know if they though they saw something when they didn’t.

I think there needs to be some more physical evidence there, apart from a witness. Otherwise you’re claiming some sort of psychic insight into others…

I’ve never liked the idea of one person essentially being able to get the other sent to jail because they seem more trustworthy. However I’ve seen a lot of TV/moves where someone get framed, so I’m probably a little paranoid.

However if you discount all witness evidence then it would be very hard to get a conviction. I suppose that’s why it’s better to have several witnesses and make sure their stories match up.

Overall I actually enjoyed the experience. My fellow jurors were reasonable and I believe the correct verdicts were reached in both cases. It was also a good chance to test some legal skills too. You need to put forward your own justifications for your decision and express yourself clearly.

If only law students could volunteer for jury duty!

A day in the Life of a Solicitor

Every wondered what a typical day is like for a solicitor? If you’re studying law with the view of becoming a practising solicitor then it’s a good idea to have a firm grasp of the type of working day you’ll be likely to endure.

Listed below is a one day diary from a real-life motoring solicitor who works at Just Motor Law. She recorded her movements throughout her typical working day to give students an insight into what their life could possibly be like once they have obtained the grades they need to become a solicitor.

07.50 – Set off on my journey to the office.

08.50 – Quick stop at the coffee shop for my usual Café Latte fix (a necessity to function for the busy day!)

09.00 – Now at my piled high desk – where do I start?

09.05 – Review my diary – what is on today’s agenda?

09.15 – Telephone call from a new potential client – accused of driving without due care and attention, failing to stop and failing to report an accident. Client denies the allegation and wanted advice on how we could assist. Advised client we could assist and took full details of his case. Payment on account also obtained.

09.30 – Set off to court to represent client at local Magistrates court for an offence of Driving Whilst under the influence of alcohol.

09.50 – Arrived at court and met with the prosecution lawyer and obtained disclosure of evidence. Reviewed its content in detail.

10.05 – Met with client at court and advised in relation to the disclosure of evidence. Evidence appeared fine and nothing to suggest that police station drink driving procedures not followed correctly. Advised client that best way to proceed would be to plead guilty and obtain credit for an early guilty plea. Also advised client that would be disqualified from driving for a minimum of 12 months but due to his alcohol reading being so high, the disqualification is likely to be higher.

10.35 – Met with court usher who advised there was a case on before our case but would get our case on as soon as that case finished.

11.15 – Still waiting at court for our case to be heard.

11.45 – Usher called our case into court.

11.50 – Court hearing begins. Client entered a plea of guilty and I mitigated to the court on client’s behalf in an effort to get him the very best possible sentence and to try and keep the disqualification to a minimum. Magistrates imposed a disqualification of 12 months with the option of undertaking a Drink Drivers Awareness Course where if successfully completed, will reduce the disqualification by 25%.

12.15 – Meeting with client following court hearing. Very good result for the client in the circumstances. Client happy with result.

12.20 – Travel back to office.

12.40 – Chat with my colleagues about my case and cases they had dealt with that morning.

13.00 – Off out to lunch with my colleagues – a pub local to our office that makes delicious homemade food! Steak and Ale pie with mash potato!

14.00 – Back at the office with an afternoon of paperwork to get through.

15.15 – Reception calls – an existing client of mine has called into the office and would like a quick word.

15.20 – Unexpected meeting with client in office regarding her ongoing case. My client has 9 points on her driving licence and now faces another 3 points for a speeding offence. 12 or more penalty points would result in my client being disqualified as a totter for a minimum of 12 months. Client accepts she was speeding but would like representation at court to argue exceptional hardship. If she were to be disqualified she would lose her job as a care worker, which would not only impact on the patients she cares for but also on her family as without her income she could not financially support her family. Reassured client that everything ready for her court hearing the following week.

16.20 – Back at my desk – another shot at getting through all my paperwork.

16.30 – My clerk enters my office and asks if can I attend the police station to represent an existing client. It is 16.30, 30 minutes before I am supposed to finish for the day! The police interview is due to commence at 17.15 which means I will be working late again!

16.50 – Set off on my journey to the police station.

17.10 – Telephone call from the office to say that the investigating officer will not be available to interview our client until 18.30. The solicitor on out of hours duty will cover the police station which means I do not have to attend the police station.

17.15 – Turn around – set off on my journey home.

As you can see, the day of a solicitor is quite like no other. It’s one which requires perseverance, concentration and the ability to manage and interchange between different cases and clients. It’s clear to see that it’s a fast-paced environment and this excellent insight into a day of working life as a solicitor demonstrates that no two days will ever be the same!

European Union Legal Careers – Have you Considered them?

Found these two videos which could be pretty useful. It’s all about a career in the EU. Working for the EU of course sounds very interesting. But many students from the UK aren’t eligible because of the language requirements.

As part of the application process of working for the EU, you need to take a test in your second language. Therefore a strong grasp of one of the (non English) languages of the EU is essential. Depending on the role sometimes yet another language is required.



Some LLBs offer a year abroad with a combined language degree. This sounds like a seriously good idea for those who know they want to work for the EU.

But the problem is knowing you want a career in EU law from a young age and picking the subjects you take at college and university accordingly.

Other nationalities usually start learning another language from a young age. So many are fluent from very early on in life. Unfortunately in our education, unless languages is a real passion, you’re not going to know another language by the end of uni. So by the time you’re doing some proper thinking about your future career it could be too late.

So even if you love EU law, and were really good at it, if language wasn’t a passion of yours in earlier education you could be out of luck. This is really unfortunate. Ideally you’d want to know of your desire to work in EU law before college. But that’s virtually impossible. People don’t even know if they want to go to university at that stage!

Ahh well, if you’re passionate enough about it you can always learn a language in your spare time…

For more information go to http://europa.eu/epso/index_en.htm

What is the BPTC Like?

Provides a good overview of what to expect on the Bar Professional Training Course. This video is from Northumbria Law. Although alternative providers will be similar their may be slight differences in their courses.

This is why it’s essential to go to an open day when picking an BPTC provider.

The Law Diet – 5 Tips For Boosting Brain Power During Revision

During exam and revision time I needed all the brain power I could get.

A single mark could make the difference between a good grade and an ok grade.

So before my exams I had a look at a few ways that I could boost my brain power. I don’t know which of these tips had the biggest impact, but I felt focused, thought I was working efficiently, and I remembered case names much easier than before.

I don’t want to claim that they these methods will 100% work, or that something I mention is completely scientifically proven. All I can say is this; it seemed to work for me. These tips should work for any sort of revision or exam preparation. I believe they are especially important for law students with such a massive quantity of information to remember.

1. Caffeine / Liquids

law students love coffeeWe all know that coffee helps keep you awake. It binds to certain receptors in the brain preventing neural activity slowing down. This is why we feel more awake when drinking coffee. It also increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine can play a role in many brain functions such as cognition, memory and learning.

There have also been studies which suggest caffeine can directly increase short term memory [source]. So a cup of coffee before revision can really help increase alertness – especially if you’re feeling tired. Don’t overdo it though. Drinking so much that you can’t sleep isn’t going to be beneficial!

I nearly always had a coffee before revision, a lecture, or exam. In a way I got used to learning when I was drinking coffee. This was great when I was feeling unproductive – a cup really kick started my revision.

But you must stay hydrated – not just on coffee! Even when you lose 2% of normal water volume the impact is noticeable – you get sleepy, headaches, and lose the ability to concentrate. But it makes sense to always be well hydrated so you’re always performing at an optimal rate. Don’t even get close to the stage when you’re starting to lose concentration.

I suffer from a horrible illness I like to call hangover brain. Essentially it means when I’m hungover I can barely master a belt, let alone the finer points of the Trustee Act. So keep your alcohol intake to a minimum the night before your revision & exams.

Unfortunately the The Buffalo Theory just isn’t true. The Buffalo Theory states that a herd can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. When the herd is hunted the slowest buffalo at the back are killed. This means the herd speed is improved overall by the predator killing the weakest & slowest buffalo. Likewise alcohol first kills the weakest & slowest brain cells, therefore improving the overall speed & efficiency of the brain. I would love to use this theory as justification for having a drink! Unfortunately it’s little more than a joke.

2. Multi Vitamins

not a real vitamin pill!Being a student you’re probably not going to have the best diet. Come exam time you’ll have even less time to eat and nutrition will get pushed down your list of priorities even further.

I frequently got cheap take away food on the way home from the law library just because it would save time. Cooking just took too long! Hopefully you’re a much more efficient cook that me but if you’re not there’s something you can do.

Be on the lookout for multi vitamin tablets which can help provide the body with the nutrients it needs while your diet isn’t that great. You don’t want to starve your brain of any key nutrients. They’re not too expensive. You should be able to pick some up from your pharmacy for around £6. But remember that they will never be as good as eating a proper balanced diet.

3. Brain Foods

The following foods should have some positive impact on your brain. These foods may also help reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s disease too:

  • Blueberries – Research suggests they can help improve short term memory loss. They can also help boost concentration for up to 5 hours.
  • Spinach – Spinach contains vitamin K which is thought to protect brain function. And it’s again a food which some studies suggest can improve memory and learning abilities.
  • Salmon – Salmon and other fatty fish are rich in Omega3 fatty acids which are one of the building blocks of brain tissue. In addition it can also boost your mood. A tasty way to beat the depression blues.
  • Chocolate – Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which is linked to brain health; especially memory storage. Apples, sprouts and strawberries also contain flavonoids.

4. Sleep & Rest

We all reach stage where we can’t learn any more and need a break. Try to take a break at least once an hour for 5-10 mins. Do something different. This will keep you refreshed and ready to constantly absorb new information. Research states that we’re better at remembering incomplete tasks or topics. Humans don’t like unfinished tasks so our brain lingers on the unfinished topic more than a finished one. So even if you feel slightly uncomfortable taking a break half way through reading a case, it could actually be beneficial. [Source]

Take a break from this article with a game of Pacman and see if you find it any easier to recall what’s been said so far! (Sorry I just wanted an excuse to put a game on the site!)


Sleep plays major role in our learning process. A good night’s sleep will provide optimal conditions for learning and remembering. You’re going to be doing more harm than good by having 4 hours sleep a night so you can revise more. You’re pretty much useless when sleep deprived. Try and get at least 7-8 hours.

Acquisition, consolidation and recall are the major steps in learning. Research states that consolidation may be done during sleep; it strengthens the neural connections that help memory. [Source] From personal experience I’d agree with this. So many times I remember being useless at remembering a certain case, but then after sleep I had no problem recalling it.  The bottom line is that adequate sleep is important for learning and memory. So get enough.

5. Exercise

heatrateExercise boosts metabolism, decreases stress and improves mood and attention. It also helps increase circulation throughout the body; that includes the brain too.

This will be especially beneficial if you’re a mature student of 30+. Different parts of the brain age faster than others resulting in blood flow being decreased. By doing exercise you can counter this.

There are more immediate advantages that come about after exercise too. Lots of tests have been done that show after a brisk walk, or exercise on a treadmill, the brain is able to recall information faster. So walk to your exams if you can. Or get there early and take a walk around campus. It will help you burn off some of that nervous energy & stress too. This should put you in the optimal state of mind to sit the exam.

You should be exercising, eating well, staying well hydrated and getting enough sleep anyway. But make sure you pay particular attention to this during exam period. It will do wonders not only for the health of your brain, but also for your state of mind. If you can keep this routine up in your day to day life then it should help you stay sharp and alert with pretty much everything you do.

What is the LPC Like?

A video about what it’s like to study the LPC at Sheffiled. Although other courses will be similar in regards to the modules which are taught, the teaching structure may be different. For example there may be more / less face to face teaching.

To know exactly what a certain course is going to be like, we strongly encourage you to go to an open day.

Allowing you to choose when you take the teaching does sound like a great idea. Especially if you’re a parent or have a part time job.

What is the GDL Like?

The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is a very intensive post graduate course. Watch this video from Northumbria Law to see what it’s like.

Find out a little bit about the course structure and the workload.

When I was looking for law school, I was looking for one that was known to be successful and had staff that were enthusiastic about what they did. A law school with really good links to local firms in thinking of them. I was looking for one that had a good reputation both with employees and with the students alike. I wanted to go somewhere where it was a good city to be in.

GDL stands for the Graduate Diploma in Law and it’s essentially a program that can be taken over one or two years. It allows you to get into a career as a solicitor or a barrister if you don’t have a traditional law degree in your background so anybody with any sort of degree can come onto the Graduate Diploma in Law and then go onto the LPC or the PTC.

I previously studied at Durham University and I did music degree with French.
I studied geography and Newcastle University.
I studied at the University of Leeds and I studied French and German.

I chose Northumbria because I already lived in the Northeast so it was just a brilliant location for me anyway and because it’s got a great reputation amongst all schools that offer it.

I chose to study the GDL at Northumbria it’s got a great reputation amongst the students in a great city and it has got fantastic facilities in this building.

It has a lot of computers so there is always a free computer and there’s a as a library as well which has a lot of resources.

Because you set out with seven different modules in the different areas of the law and then have a further area of law which is like a dissertation you have chance to go and explore the different areas that really interest you.

From September to November each subject has two lectures per week and then from November to the end of May it drops down to one lecture per subject per week. Running alongside we have 10 seminars per subject on a fortnightly cycle so every two weeks you have a seminar in each particular subject.

I really enjoy the seminars because they emphasize the practical application of the law often we’re given fictional scenarios which you could really imagine happening so we get to apply what we learned in the classroom and put into practice, in a real-life situation. That’s great could really help in practice.

At Northumbria law school we have a dedicated law career service so they are able to provide one-to-one help with preparation of CV’s, application letters, interview practice and things like that. So that’s available year-round. In addition we have regular presentations, almost one week, where local and national firms come into the University and give presentations about life as a lawyer and what it takes to secure work experience in a training contract as well.

My tip to anybody looking for a training contract again do your research. You have to know the kind of them that you want to apply to. Look past the Graduate Recruitment pages you have to know the kind of clients, the kind of business the law firms interested in. You have to do with your research and don’t blanket apply, please do pick a handful of firms that have a genuine interest in and concentrate and tailor your application form to those firms.

Today my experience of Northumbria has been 100 percent positive. The lectures have been brilliant back in go to them whenever I need any help and the structure the course is absolutely brilliant as well.

My experience of Northumbria to-date has been fantastic. Everyone is so friendly and everyone really enjoys themselves her.

Stuff like teaching the credit timing of course many them taught it for many years students are really enthusiastic very committed they are focused on their legal careers it’s a really good course to teach on.

For anybody who wants to convert too law I would say definitely go for it. Especially if you’re like me and you a little bit an older student in your career change it but doesn’t matter there’s nothing holding you back. You need to be sure that is what you want to do because it’s hard work and is a big investment, but don’t let anything hold you back.

What I enjoyed most was going into studying the GDL not knowing a single thing and coming out the other end and feeling ready and able to use that knowledge to advise people. It was such a great sense of achievement because it was a very intensive year. And it did require a lot of hard, work, but it really paid off at the end. And what was nice through that process was that we made some good lasting friendships because you’re dropped in at the deep end and have to work together. You come out at the end feeling really proud of yourself knowing that you’ve got a great career ahead of you.

Answering Problem & Essay Questions [Study Tips 3/3]

law examThe final part of our study tips series. Read part one on writing good lecture notes here, and part two on seminar prep here. This post will focus on writing great answers for essays and exams.

Even if your knowledge of a legal area is amazing, it’s no use unless you have great exam technique. It’s like a boxer training his body for a fight without practising his punching technique. Exam practice is as important (if not more important) as case revision.

Problem questions

Problem questions are all about logically providing an answer to the scenario you’re presented with.

Yes it’s generic advice; but you need to make a rough plan. It doesn’t need to be massively detailed at all; a series of bullet points will do, but you need to get down all of the key points.

Your planning time is also your thinking time. Personally I found it very hard to think further about the question while I was writing. I was concentrating on the current legal point in hand. Not the question as a whole. If you miss an important detail during the planning stage then you could be setting yourself up for a poor answer. Only once you’re sure you’ve got all the key facts down, should you start writing.

When you’re actually writing you need to keep in mind that you’re arguing a certain point. So when you’re writing about a certain point of law (that you outlined in your plan) you need to set it out in a logical and persuasive way:

  1. Briefly introduce the point of law and say why it’s relevant to the question.
  2. State your argument.
  3. Provide evidence for your argument. Legislation and case law are good examples of this.
  4. Conclude and strongly link back to the problem question.

You will need to repeat this structure for every single legal element that you believe is relevant to the question. In your final conclusion (based on what you write on your number 4 conclusion) make it clear where you believe the liabilities / obligations (depending on question) lie. If you don’t have enough information, or the case isn’t clear cut then say so!

Look out for chances to show your analysis and attention to detail skills. While showing this isn’t a key priority it’s something that can can either make a very good answer nearly perfect, or at least get you one or two extra marks. Sometimes this is hard to do when you’re just looking at the key facts and concentrating about getting the main principles correct. However if you pick up on something that most people don’t then it really demonstrates your sharp legal mind to the examiner!

Here’s a very simple example of the sort of analysis I’m talking about: During a contract exam there’s a question about the validity of a contract through an advert in a newspaper. The newspaper advert said that the first acceptance of the offer received in writing would get the goods. The question mentions one of the individuals accepting the offer did so by email. Would this acceptance constitute writing? Is an email really writing? The great thing about bringing this point up is that it can be explained in one or two sentences, and doesn’t even need to reach a definitive conclusion. Just bringing it up as a point of interest, or an extra consideration, will be beneficial.

Essay questions

It’s a little harder to give advice for essay questions. With problem questions you just start applying the law, but with essay questions you really need to think philosophically about a question. Spending too much time preparing for problem questions before the exam, and not spending any time on essay questions can be a big problem. You’re going to be severely limited if you think “I’m only going to answer problem questions”. Depending on institution you may be required to answer essay questions.

Personally I think that writing a good essay is more dependant on thinking about a certain area before an exam, rather than your actual technique. It’s so beneficial to think about and form your own opinions on a certain topic before the exam. But you still need to make a detailed plan. For me the amount of thinking time was much longer than for the problem questions. Even though essay questions are usually much shorter, you should re read them several times. It’s easy to go off on your own personal rant and not actually answer the question. Not answering the question, or only partially doing so, will massively decrease you chances of getting a great mark in the exam.

When planning an essay I usually followed this structure:

  • A very clear introduction. State what you are going to argue, and if appropriate give the core details of your argument. E.g “… I believe this to be the case because of the following key reasons [reason1], [reason2], [reason3], [reason 4].
  • The body of the essay. This will be broken down into smaller sections and will make up the bulk of your argument. Each paragraph should be a premise in your argument. You should use a similar structure to the problem question above:
    1. Introduce the law / premise of argument and say how it relates to the question in hand.
    2. Go into detail about your argument and provide evidence as you go along, this evidence could be legislation, case law, or a judge / academic. Remember to create a balanced argument and look at problems with what you’re saying. E.g “It could be argued that [point 1] has the following fault with it, however I believe the following counter argument can be applied...”
    3. Conclude this part of your argument.
  • You may need to provide a mini paragraph which glue two of your previous conclusions together. It may not be immediately obvious that two of your points are very closely connected. One or two sentences can avoid confusion and make your essay much easier to read.
  • My conclusions were usually longer than they were in problem questions. I really analysed all of my conclusions for each premise to provide a strong basis for my conclusion. I found that planning the conclusion was beneficial. I (briefly) wrote down my premises with the conclusion below so I could review my argument and make sure it was as logical as possible. Here’s a simple example of what I’m talking about:
  • P1– Law A creates inconsistent judgements
  • P2 – Law A doesn’t promote fairness.
  • Conclusion – Lack of fairness and inconsistent judgements mean that law A needs substantial improvements.So as you can see, you really need to tie everything together in your conclusion. So mention all of the points you brought up in the body of your article, and for clarity state how they support your conclusion.

Hope this helps the way you approach exams. This is just the way I do things, and it worked out well. Numerous methods are valid though. The best advice I can give is just to do as many practice questions as you can. Look at lots of past exam papers, make sure you look at your university marking schemes and criteria too. Give the examiners exactly what they’re looking for.

Mark Jackson

Preparing for your Law Tutorials [Study Tips 2/3]

This is part 2 of 3 in our study tips series. If you’ve not had chance, go and read part 1 about making good notes – it links in strongly with this post!

Some of this is probably common sense, but it’s surprising how many people go into seminars with zero / very little preparation. For me it was all about consistency. As you read in part 1, I liked to type up my notes from lectures. This actually is a great way to prepare for your seminar. You’re reminding yourself about the basics of the legal area, and you’re preparing yourself for the required seminar reading. This means that hopefully the required reading will be absorbed much faster and easier.

Let’s be honest. 90% of you aren’t going to do all of the required reading. But I don’t actually think it’s necessary to do all of it. It gets to the stage where it’s an information overload. You can’t possibly remember everything; further detail could add to confusion. For me the understanding of the subject was key at this stage, memorising exact details won’t help too much. When it gets to revision time you will probably have forgotten these specifics anyway. But if you understand the fundamentals of a legal area you can easily add on the complex details later. And these fundamentals should stay with you. If they don’t then a quick look at your notes should refresh you.

So I focused on comprehension and general understanding rather than trying to remember flashy details which will impress the seminar teacher.

What you should do is write down some questions to ask in the seminar. It’s not realistic that you’ll understand 100% of an entire subject area. There are always going to areas you’re a little hazy on. Others in your group may have the same question too.

To get the most out of seminars you should use them to perfect your exam technique. You’ll usually be asked to write answers to a set of problem / essay questions. Do this! But don’t put too much time into trying to make it perfect. Do it like you would in an exam and don’t get help from friends. Making mistakes is the best way to learn and improve. So if you try and write a perfect answer, and then compare it to your friends, then go and make more improvements you’re not learning as much. What you had written yourself could have been correct too. Emulation of exam conditions when writing your seminar questions is going to be the most beneficial way to go about things by far.

So when preparing for seminars it can actually be counter productive to do too much. You don’t need to pull out all the stops trying to impress your seminar teacher and classmates. But it’s a good idea to keep keep the end goal in your mind – doing the exams. Getting your time management right at university is hard. So don’t work harder, work smarter.

I should mention that these tips are just what have worked for me – not everyone learns in the same way. I usually hit a wall during revision and preperation where I could learn no more. I also found that with enough time and effort I could write very good problem question answers. It was completely different when time was limited.

There is one more thing that actually made a difference in my attitude towards seminars – you’re paying for it. You’re helping to pay the wages of the seminar teachers. You’re kind of like their boss! It’s their job to make you understand what you need to know in order to get a good grade. It’s an obvious statement but the more I thought about it the more I tried to get out of seminars. Just imagine yourself handing over a £20 as an entry fee whenever your go into a seminar! It will make a world of difference.

Read the final part in the series – answer writing.

Writing Great Law Lecture Notes [Study Tips 1/3]

This will be a mini 3 part blog series on study tips.

Essentially it’s what I wished I’d done sooner at university.

This part will be on writing great lecture notes, the next will be on seminar preperation, and the last will be on answer structure. It’s the stuff that’s worked for me in the past, hopefully it will work for you too.

When I first started at uni I made the worst law notes ever. They started out OK; each subject had its own notebook, I wrote down some important quotes by the lecturers, you could actually read what was written… it all went downhill from there. When my notes started looking like a page of spiders who had been drowned in a coffee flood I knew it was time for a change.

My notes weren’t bad when I first started out – they just lacked structure. I just wrote down anything I thought was important. Unfortunately this leaves you with a page of unconnected phrases. When you come to read them back later they’re useless.

You need to have some sort of plan & structure in mind or your notes will be as beneficial as a breakfast of gin and cough syrup before an exam.


You need everything to be nice and organised. One notebook for each subject – just having a general notebook will make finding a certain lecture incredibly hard.

You should also be nice and clear with labelling. At the start of each lecture write down the date and the topic which will be covered.

If you can write information down quickly, accurately and neatly then great. If not then it may be a good idea to type up your notes later (and even if you are neat it’s still a good idea). Make sure you type them up ASAP while you still understand and remember what was said. You should be going over what’s been said in a seminar anyway – typing up notes can be a great way of doing this. It can help you remember and learn the facts law.

You can even do a little bit of extra reading to flesh out your notes. This will earn you a high five from your future self who is about to start exam revision.

Try and explain the concepts in as much detail as possible, but still keep it simple. This will stop you from having to completely relearn a subject.

What should the structure of the notes be like?

As stated above notes should’t just be a jumble of words. Whatever you write down, you should know where it fits into the legal area by looking at your notes. Having good headings will help you out but in your margin you should write keywords. These keywords will help you when reading the notes back later. Let’s say for example you’re at a contract lecture about consideration. Consideration would be your heading, but when you were talking about past consideration you could put that in the margin. So use the margin to pinpoint the legal area.

A crucial skill is being able to tell the important material apart from the waffle. A lecturer may drop a strong hint about what’s in the exam or they may summarise a legal area really well. It’s essential you write these bits down. But they may also tell you a story from when they were in practice, or mention points which although could be interesting, won’t come up in an exam.

You don’t need to write everything down, nor should you. Get the essence of what is said. The lecture should have at least some structure to it, so just follow the structure and paraphrase. Imagine you’re explaining it to your later self. You can’t just write down several words to explain a topic and think “Oh I’ll know what I mean; it’s simple”. With all the law crammed into your brain it’s not always that easy. Think long term!

Using technology

Using a recording device or your laptop in lectures could also be a great idea. If you’ve got a good recording device it’s a very attractive option. I mean… you don’t need to do any writing! What more do I need to say? However I did find writing stuff down actually helped me learn it and process it as the lecture continued. Not using a recoding devices also forces you to pay attention. It’s easy to get an attitude of “oh well the recorder will get everything so I’ll just look out of the window and think about Batman”.

If your typing speed is decent then writing your notes on a laptop is a really good idea. Typing can potentially be much faster than writing, so you can write a little bit more of what’s said. You can go back and correct typos / add more detail later. This also means you save time when coming to type up your notes – most of the work is done already!

Note taking can be done so in so many way. The above is just one example of a method that could work for you.

What’s your note taking process like? Tell us!

Part 2 on seminar preperation.

Part 3 on answer writing.