Given the unprecedented times we live in, many of you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands. You should ABSOLUTELY use it to celebrate finishing high school and embarking on a new and exciting time of your lives! That being said, if you would like to spend some of that time preparing for your start of Law School, here are a few things I would recommend doing/reading/exploring.
First things first!
Know that Warwick Law School does not expect you to do any specific prior reading before starting the start of term in October. On the contrary, they are very well aware that the subject will be completely new to most students and they truly do an amazing job of easing you into it. You will NOT be thrown into the deep end and left to your own devices. They do however expect you to take initiative and to take control of your own studies. As I always say, university is very much what YOU make of it. So, here is what I would recommend having a look at before starting Law School!
Background reading – Who doesn’t love a good book?
Letters to a Law Student – Nicholas J. McBride
This is a great read to start with. It is written by an Oxford professor who explains the various aspects of studying law at university to an incoming undergraduate, through a series of letters. Each letter covers a different topic which makes it easy to pick the ones which are relevant to you. The first chapters address questions most of us have: "what is law"? "is it for me?" "to be or not to be a lawyer?". The next part gives advice on how to apply to law schools and the final section talks about how to do well once you’re there.
The Rule of Law – Tom Bingham
This engaging and accessible book is written by a famous former Senior Law Lord. He explains in simple terms what the "Rule of Law" is and what role it plays in the UK’s unwritten constitution. If you don’t read it the summer prior to university, you certainly should before you start Constitutional & Administrative Law in second year.
In Your Defence – Sarah Langford
Barrister Sarah Langford passionately describes 11 of her criminal cases, ranging from burglaries to sexual indiscretions. A very interesting perspective of what it is like to defend clients in court and the impact one person can have on the life of others.
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee A classic! Although a fictional novel, the lawyer Atticus Finch reminds us of why studying law is so important and why rights must be protected.
Browse and sign up to some blogs
There are many blogs out there written by academics and lawyers that will become very useful for your legal studies. Often they are a good way to get a basic understanding of cases or of particular concepts before diving into more "wordy" journal articles or textbook readings. Here are a few that I follow:
UKSC blog – for comprehensive summaries of Supreme Court judgements
Public law for everyone – great intro to Public law and would definitely recommend to those who (like me) aren’t very familiar with the British political system. Also check out this advice for first-year students and the HUGE list of other blogs to check out.
The Secret Barrister – from the same anonymous author as the famous (and well-worth the read) book. Provides intriguing insight into how the UK justice system works, and all too often, doesn’t.
Have a look at your CV & Linkedin profile
Use this time to have a look at what your CV says and to create a Linkedin profile if you don’t already have one. If you’re not sure how to go about it, don’t panic. Once you start at Warwick, there will be soooo many people available to help you! But now is a good time to start looking into what kind of experience you already have and to think about what kind you could gain more of. University will be the perfect place for it!
Develop law school skills
The following skills are ones you will develop naturally when you start law school. But, if you’re looking to get a bit of a head start, you could focus on the following:
- Master your note-taking technique. Law is a case heavy subject and covers a lot of material. Being able to keep track of your readings, your cases and their respective principles, as well as your actual understanding of the topics, requires strong note-taking and organisational skills. Personally, my laptop is my best friend and I do almost everything on it. I make overview tables with Airtable, flashcards with Quizlet and mindmaps with MindNode. If you are more of a paper person, go splurge on some stationary!
- Reading skills – You will be reading and digesting a lot of academic literature, whether it is assigned as seminar reading or as part of your essay research. The most important thing will be your ability to identify the main arguments the author is making and assessing the strength of it. I don’t think it is necessary to spend your summer browsing Google Scholar for academic articles on criminal or tort law. Instead, start practising on newspaper articles, non-fiction books that were already on your to-read list and even podcasts. We all know how to read, the key is making sense of what is being said.
- Be curious. Law can have a reputation for being dull. Oh let me tell you – it’s not! If you are curious and eager to learn, you will do great. So, practice learning. This might sound strange but will make a big difference. When you’re reading a news article and you come across something you don’t quite understand, look it up. If you hear someone talk about something you’re not familiar with, remember it (bonus opportunity to practice your memorization skills) and find out more about it later.
- Commercial awareness. This is a buzzphrase you will hear a lot at career events and at employer presentations. Not really sure what it means, if you do or don’t have it and how to develop it? Yeah me neither! It basically comes down to being aware of current developments in the business world and relating these to the legal field. Again, you will develop this skill over time and it is arguably less important if you’re not looking to become a commercial lawyer. In any case, having a look at websites LegalCheek, The Lawyer Portal and TheStudentLawyer won’t hurt.
Set some objectives
This is one you can do out in the sun somewhere. Grad a refreshing summer drink, find a quiet spot and have a think about what you want to get out of your law school experience. Write it down. What are you looking forward to? What skills do you want to develop – academically, socially and personally? Remember that nothing has to be set in stone and your objectives are likely to change throughout your university experience. Also, be careful to distinguish between objectives and expectations. The former are great to keep you grounded and motivated. The second, especially during these uncertain times might create unnecessary disappointment or anxiety when things turn out differently. Keep an open mind and say yes to opportunities!
I hope this gives you guys some inspiration! If you could use some more or if you have any questions, please reach out to me. Stay safe and healthy everyone and enjoy your summer!