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You’re a Law Student…and You Have kids???

Law is infamous for being considered a ‘hard’ degree, heavy on the reading, academically rigorous and competitive.   Not having studied anything else at university, I have no idea how accurate this is (although non-law students do often look a lot more relaxed!)  But, as a parent it just added to the general anxiety concerning work-load, and how on earth it would be possible to fit everything in.  I wished I’d been able to ask some questions of someone who knew what it would be like…

So I thought I’d write a blog on my experience so far; aspects which have been particularly challenging and things which have helped.  Also, what it actually feels like to be a mature student with a family, studying alongside the majority of students who have just left school.

So, here are the major issues I’ve faced as a law student and a parent, beginning with those I’ve found most straightforward to deal with…

  • Workload!  So far, this has been the easiest thing to manage. Whilst other students are moaning about the amount of reading, parents tend to be fairly experienced at time management.  Also, there is no choice but to have a routine.  I don’t have a complicated social life or random nocturnal habits to fit my studies around.  My study routine is pretty simple…put kids to bed, study until I need to go to bed.  And sometimes I allow myself to watch some rubbish on TV, waste time on facebook etc.  But mostly, that’s it. And of course, random bits of work can be squeezed in between seminars on campus.
  • Timetabling…there is no getting round the fact I have to be home by 3, in time for my eldest to get home from school.  After-school club (on top of nursery fees for the youngest) would totally stretch my budget into the realms of unmanageable.  I was quite worried about this, but the law school have been excellent at accommodating the needs of students with dependants.  All lectures are online (and frankly much more enjoyable from my bed anyway), and the timetabling office were able to slot all seminars into times I could be on campus.
  • Life outside uni still goes on.  Shopping needs doing, kids get ill, parents evening, pick up repaired glasses, pay a bill etc etc.  My partner doesn’t live with me but has been an amazing support.  Frankly, it would be virtually impossible to manage without emergency support to call on if a child gets sick on the day of an as assessment.  Become one of those anal people who have a handbag diary, a calendar on the wall, and a whiteboard by the front door with all of the kids tasks laid out for that week.  Make the kids help with housework and encourage independence. Forget organic wholefood meals, compromise with jacket potatoes, homemade pizza, pasta sauces and take aways!  Use school dinners.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help with childcare and housework from anyone willing…its not like you’re after a night out clubbing.  This is to get you to a position where you can get a career to provide for the children, and be a more rounded and happier person yourself.  I got pregnant at 17 and am ready for some education now I’m 29!
  • Feeling like a law student can be hard when everyone else seems to be making friends, joining law society events you can’t justify a babysitter for, and discussing essays which a mature student not in halls is left puzzling over alone.  Remember your reasons for being there…its sad not joining in the social stuff, but chucking tequila down my neck whilst slagging off the seminar leaders isn’t really my idea of fun these days anyway.
  • Finance has been a nightmare.  I cannot overstate what a pain in the backside this is.  Whether you’ve been on income support or working, single or in a relationship, knowing where to turn for advice is very difficult.  Student finance is generally aimed at the school leaver, with info for mature students and parents often hidden in far flung corners of websites.  Call centres give contradictory or uninformed advice.  Best bet…apply for everything as soon as possible, and make friends with the staff at the uni advice centre.  Chances are you’ll soon be on first name terms as they sort out the nightmare which is student finance for parents.  Not only are there student fees and living costs, but childcare fees, possible bursaries to apply for, access to learning funds regulated by the uni, scholarships, and don’t forget to check with state benefits you may still be eligible for.  I am yet to find any source of advice which can give reliable info on all of this, but the uni advice centre have the time and skills to make the right phone calls to the right people and make my life a bit easier.  Make use of services like this! Which brings me on to the biggest stress of all…
  • Stress.  Finally, I am studying law, something I have always wanted to do.  But suddenly there are just so many things going on in my life!  Studying, kids wanting to play, meals to plan and shop for, friends not wanting to get forgotten, partner wondering what’s happened to me, bills and finance applications piling up, Christmas around the corner…argh!!!  No matter how much STUFF there is in your life, there has to be space to be you sometimes.  Not mum/student/bum wiper/homework helper/socialist/domestic accountant/events organiser…just me.  Who quite likes watching Eastenders.  And collecting post-it notes. And reading Marxist theory, and being involved in socialist student politics as much as I am able.  And doing the guardian quick crossword.  And scribbling with a biro all over the pages of a blank notebook which I bought just for this very purpose.  Stress can be manageable, its a natural part of life… but it also has a habit of suddenly overwhelming a person and making them want to chuck everything in.  So look after yourself and take time out where you can to reflect and wind down.

So far, most people have responded to discovering I have two children with expressions of horror, pity or wonder.  Apparently, I must either be a masochist exceeding even the bounds of R v Brown, or have some kind of superhuman power to fit stuff in, get the reading done and still turn up on time (mostly! and in fact I put my trousers on back to front the other day.) But one student who I sit next to responded with ‘wow, you are so lucky.  I really miss my home country and family, it must be so nice to have a home, family and children to go back to after a day of all this.’

And she is totally right.

What got me here was determination, and a measure of masochism.  What keeps me going is family, the support they give me and the fact they make it all worthwhile.

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

Undergraduate Advocacy – Bored of Mooting??

About time for another entry….

Hello everyone, firstly I would like to apologise (you have no idea how many times I do that in my blogs) for the lateness of another blog entry. Second year LL.B certainly takes the wind out of you compared to first year. I have certainly found that this year is far more intensive and plus I’m doing some serious bitchy modules – Land, Equity, Criminal and Commercial….I’m not gonna love this year!

So whilst juggling a degree, part time job, columnist, bar society president and repping for national student pride, trying to upload a blog entry can be difficult, so I thought I would treat myself on a Friday night, and hopefully my readers to another blog entry.

Changing the face of undergraduate advocacy….

This blog post will give me a chance to really document why and what I’m doing with Mock Trials, in the execution of this project I’ve not really had a moment to stop and really think.

So, everyone heard of mooting? Yes? Good. Talking and tweeting last year, it is of the opinion of many students and many professionals that they find mooting completely boring, actually one consenting opinion came from the lecturer who judged my moot first year, which I thought was charming.

Everyone I spoke to thought that mock trials gave a more realistic application of the law, they found it more enjoyable and far more engaging, and they thought it strengthened a student’s advocacy skills far greater than that of mooting…so.

I went looking for a mock trial competition at undergraduate level, I assumed there had to be something as there are hundreds of mooting competitions. Do you know what I found?

NOTHING!!!
There was not one single intra-university mock trial competition in the United Kingdom and this is what I seek to rectify this year and the next.

I plan to execute the first intra-university mock trial competition that this country has seen and potentially change the face of undergraduate advocacy and hopefully improve the prospects of undergraduate students seeking a career at the bar.

How?

Well in my capacity as Bar Society President, I created a training program specifically targeted at mock trials and involve such training sessions as introduction to court language and introduction to examination in chief and cross examination. Both actually running this Monday and Tuesday.

The trial papers, training materials and assessment grids have all been commissioned by me and now ready to use this year. So I thought why can’t I get other universities involved.

So I got tweeting, emailing and eventually this lead to me being appointed as President of the Bar Society, a UK Law Students Association Liaison officer which brought me into direct access with every Law Society President in the country. I confirmed my 10th University this morning.

So effectively, I have planned 10 intra-university mock trials this year, I had to see if the program could run effectively before initiating it as a mock trial competition, which I hope will run in proper competition format next year. I have already begun to plan dates and venues. I’m hoping the Royal Courts of Justice or the Supreme Court can host the finals next year in the second semester.

What Next?

Well, my current plans relate to finding professional accreditation and support from Inns of Court, Chambers and Solicitors Firms, a program such as this is not going to be cheap to execute and I’m hoping that I can get some substantial sponsorship sorted so awards can be granted.

I’m hoping to establish regional heats so not everyone has to travel to Swansea to participate and I doubt my law school or Barrister’s involved in the program could accommodate the workload, so I’m hoping to establish regional liaison universities whereby they can host a mock trial, get a participating Barrister or Judge to judge it and then record the scores of the winning team – each region then will enter 1 team into the semi finals – to be held in London.

The two winning teams will  then progress to the finals and the winning team will then walk away with a cash prize.

Of course, saying it and doing it are two completely different things, this program needs to be advertised and I’m hoping that many legal publications such as the solicitors’ journal and young lawyer magazine could advertise it to build interest.

What I didn’t anticipate…

I didn’t anticipate the amount of involvement from different universities this year and I now have to start seriously considering the plan for next semester. I need to see if it works before approaching firms and although this year has barely begun, I feel like I’m running out of time to organise such an endeavour.

I would like to thank everyone for reading, the above post was a chance for me to really get things of my chest and to formulate a plan in my head. I know its a bit scrambled but I hope it was readable.

If any university would like to enter, please feel free to email me at [email protected] or I believe my twitter is linked to this blog.

Kindest Regards,

Gregory W Smith

 

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!)

[pacman]

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.

Transcript:
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.

Social media, anecdotes and questions…

I don’t know about you but sometimes I really struggle to think of questions to ask at firms that I’m interviewing with. There’s such a vast knowledge base to research before you actually go in for the interview itself, that occasionally I draw a blank because I feel like I already know the firm and associates without having even entered the premises. (Please note: there’s a fine line between researching and stalking!)

So where do you do your research? Google is the obvious choice of search engine. The power of Google is almighty! But you will also need to think outside of the box, research online news sites, follow the partners on LinkedIn, connect on Twitter, read the firm’s blog (if they have one), newspaper articles, do the full works and it will help you be more prepared! It’s also become more and more important to have a social media presence online, so start making accounts but always remember to keep them professional! The law firm I worked at in New York would Google search any candidates that applied, digging for dirt and inappropriate pictures, so I know first-hand that it happens.

Last month I actually had the partner of a law firm I applied to send me a friendship request on Facebook only an hour after I had sent them my application. It’s a difficult situation to determine: on one hand the partner is doing his research on you and you wouldn’t want him to make a pre-determination about you based on Facebook pictures or comments you’ve made in the past. BUT, you also don’t want to hinder yourself from getting an interview! The way I dealt with it was to explain to an associate (who had emailed me to say they were considering my application, and had mentioned the partner’s Facebook request) that I was grateful for the request but that I use Twitter and LinkedIn in a professional capacity, and not Facebook. It was a risk that I took by doing this but I had to stick to my guns, although I am sure that some of you may read this and disagree. But I still don’t regret my decision and I think that’s the important thing.

So I also wanted to extend the offer to all of you who read mine, Greg’s, Liam’s and Mark’s blogs, that should you have any questions at all feel free to ask me. You can comment on any of my posts or tweet me here. I would love to have more interaction with all of you or even if there are any topics you’d like me to discuss then please do get in touch and let me know!

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.