Simon, a graduate of CILEx Law School, PQE Lawyer, and is one of the top university law tutors with Spires Online Tutoring, gives us the benefit of his experience with ten simple tips on how to get the most from a Law Degree.
“You’re about to find out that being a lawyer is unlike anything you’ve ever done before. It’s very challenging and starting an LLB can feel pretty scary at first. Unlike your friends on other courses (who are probably starting in the college bar!) you will be warned about the stringent restrictions on day one. You’ll be told that you do not get to choose modules for the first 2 years, and given numerous essays to hand-in in your first term. But don’t worry – you’re highly intelligent and ambitious, so I know you won’t let anything get in your way of success. You are one of the chosen few accepted on to such a demanding degree and you have the chance of a wonderful career ahead of you – and a far more interesting bar!
In this piece, I’m going to give you ten tips for your law degree that I always give to my law tutoring clients. I really believe they will help you to make the most out of your university legal experience:
1. You are given a hefty volume to read during the whole degree. I recommend teaching yourself how to speed read. This is a talent that can take time to perfect therefore I suggest you start from the first year of your degree, you’re going to need it throughout your career. Not everything in the textbook or journal is important; choose keywords and read through the material looking for those terms. There are numerous seminars offered on speed reading at most Universities, local libraries, and with an online tutor. See whether your university offers these classes. If not, look for some tutoring!
2. Aiming for a mark of 70% or greater throughout your coursework and exams demands a comprehension of current issues relevant to the legislation you are studying. Follow the news and keep up with current affairs. Of course, using digital tools to track specific legal news, follow blogs, or legal “thought leaders” is a sensible idea as well. There are a plethora of paid and free tools out there, your mentor or tutor will be able to advise.
3. Don’t make your entire point at the outset of your essays. The examiner wants you to exhibit your knowledge. Work on developing your ability to show alternative points of view to your own in a coherent fashion. Many students take some essay tutoring online to help them in their second year when they are struggling – it would have been better in the first year and they would not have gone through the stress they often do.
4. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write an essay and not having a clue where to start. If you spend some time writing a clear and concise outline, you’ll be able to structure your argument and approach writing the paper itself with a lot more confidence. Simply write down all the points you want to include in your essay. Be as detailed and specific as possible. Note down which points support other points, and what evidence you’ll need to support those points. Once you have your outline, you can start writing.
5. Follow the PEE rule in essay writing. This structure is most commonly used for academic essays. The point of the essay is to persuade the reader that your choice of actions or ideas is the correct one, because, as the author, you have the most knowledge on the subject and have thought deeply about it.
The PPE framework states the earlier sections of your essay should establish your Point. Then you can Expand on this in a few paragraphs, and in the following section Evaluate it – bringing in opposing points of view.
6. It is always a valuable experience to consider the perspectives of your peers – and by that, I mean they can be beneficial to you. Get together in a small group, discuss different ways of expressing your opinion and understand each other’s ideas and insights. You will learn that sometimes people can be too close to a problem and can benefit from talking about it with someone else In a small group, everyone has the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the situation and to formulate the most effective plan of action given the information that they have. You also might want to go over your strengths and challenges and learn from the other members of your group about how they think you can improve. Discuss your area of expertise and give advice to others.
7. If you find it challenging to take in information while note-taking, or generally have trouble remembering what the teacher says in lectures, it could be an idea for you to record the class. It also allows you to absorb the information more deeply, and take the opportunity to ask questions.
Frequently, my students find that they make shorter notes in the lecture, and expand upon them later with the recording. Many take full advantage of the recording function of their online tutoring classes as well, may say they often find that there were observations their tutor made that they had not fully picked up on and it was valuable to them to not miss anything.
If you are taking notes, try to use different colours for different topics or main ideas. This will help you to go through the notes quickly and easily. If you make your notes in class, be sure to leave a couple of free lines below your notes as you write. This way you can add information as it is given, and not miss important details that might be added to the lecture.
8. When choosing electives, you have to be smart about what you choose. If you are interested in Corporate Law and wish to specialise in this sector, choose topics that will complement this. You may have to later explain your decisions in an interview. It’s important to know what you want to study and why as this will show your motivation and thought process.
Choosing the right electives can be difficult, especially when making choices that will determine how you complete your degree. Choose topics that are interesting, and that you’re passionate about, but be careful not to make decisions that will limit your career options. Typically, students take electives in their second and third years, with third-year electives being more critical to their final year grades. Talk to your professors to get an idea of elective requirements and to make sure you’re choosing subjects that will complement your main degree.
Many find the support of a private law tutor invaluable at this stage of their degree. They are able to get a seasoned professional’s opinion on how to keep their options open, but also have some specialist subjects, as it were, to bring up at job interviews early in their careers.
9. It is vital that mock exams and essays are taken seriously, properly prepared, completed on time and contain all the necessary elements. The advice you receive from your professors, teachers and tutors is priceless when it comes to exam preparation and the completion of coursework. If a lecturer advises you to make sure your law essay is coherent and clearly demonstrates your understanding of the law and legal principles, it is wise to do exactly as they suggest – they are the ones who mark it!
However, if the lecturer advises you to complete a certain section in a certain way, and you are confident you can do it in another way, you must choose the method that you feel is most appropriate. Be prepared to have to back up your decision-making process though – if you can do it well, it may work out very well for you.
Finally, when writing essays, completing coursework and similar – it is important to remember that everything has to be original, as well as well-thought-out.
10. There is a great deal of hard work ahead of you but approach each task with a positive mindset, engage with your lecturers, tutors and course mates, and you will really enjoy your law degree.”
We hope you found Simon’s insights useful and that they’ll help you get the most out of your Law degree! Whether you continue on to LLM (Master of Laws) or enter the legal field straight away after university, we wish you the best of luck in your future legal career. If you are interested in consulting with Simon, you can find him on the Spires Online Law Tutors platform.