Some more Law FAQs (part 2)!
The start of the year for new Law students can be quite confusing, so here are a few things that I wish I’d learned earlier!
How should I take notes?
This one is really up to you and what you’re most comfortable with! I’d suggest trying out both methods over the first few weeks, and then seeing what works best for you. Personally, I’d never been much of a typed notes sort of person in high school, but at university I felt it was a lot easier for me to stay on top of things by typing everything. A lot of lecturers will put the lecture slides up online before the lecture, so what I usually do is download those and transfer everything onto a Word document where it’s easier for me to just add in any extra information as I listen along. I’ve found that when it comes to exam time, this makes it really simple for me to visualize the whole course, and it allows me to have unlimited space where I can add in any notes I make when doing some wider reading for essay topics.
Some people also like to print slides out to write on them directly, or just to copy all of the slides during the lectures and make notes at the same time, so there’s really no one way to go about it 🙂
Be prepared to be told that the most efficient way to take notes is with pen and paper during your first few weeks though, but do whatever makes your life simpler in the long run!
I’ve read through my seminars questions and understand none of it- what do I do?
First of all, you’re very much not alone! Even at the end of my second year, there were still
seminar problems that I didn’t understand at all until the seminar tutor went through it. And in first year, when you haven’t ever done Law, the confusion makes perfect sense, so don’t panic!
When I can’t get my head wrapped around the questions, usually what I’ll do is make sure that I take extra-detailed notes on the reading for that seminar. This helps me follow along with the corrections and kind of know what’s going on, and it also means that I have something to refer to if there’s something I didn’t understand in the reading. You can also ask course mates if they’re having any more luck with the problem than you are, and work through it together 🙂
If you’re still confused after a seminar, don’t worry about it too much! You can always email your lecturer or seminar tutor to ask for more help, or even to set up a meeting and discuss what you don’t understand. This is something that I was a bit scared to do in my first year, but once I started doing it it helped me so much! It means that you can clear up any confusions quickly, instead of forgetting what it was that didn’t make sense to you and re-discovering it during exam revisions (which, I’ve found, is not fun).
I’ve learned that a big part of studying Law is getting used to feeling lost, and that’s okay! You can always find someone to help you out 🙂
There’s so much reading! What should I do?
I thought everyone was exaggerating when they said there was A LOT of reading involved in studying Law. And then I started uni and quickly realized that we were often expected to read hundreds of pages in just a week! For example you might have about 50 or 100 pages to read per module from the basic textbook one week, and then you might also have to do some extra seminars readings from articles or cases (which can vary in length quite a lot), so it can feel quite overwhelming when you start. But, the good thing is that we don’t actually have that many contact hours in Law (usually 8 hours of lectures + 4 hours of seminars each week), so there is plenty of time to go through everything (and to still have time left to enjoy the rest of university).
The mistake I made at the start of my first year was thinking that I needed to understand everything as I read it. I found out that actually, I tend to understand concepts a lot better from the lectures rather than the reading. So now I usually go to the lecture then read the corresponding sections in the textbooks. That way I have some basic understanding of the topic and don’t just skim-read it because I don’t understand any of it.
When it comes to cases, be strategic! Yes, some cases you need to have read fully (and for exam prep you might even want to pick out on what a particular judge has said), but for others you really only need to know the basic facts and their outcome, so reading the whole judgement might not be necessary. As with textbooks, you might not understand everything when reading through them, but usually things will clear up during seminars 🙂
Most importantly, you do get used to how much reading there is as you go on! You’ll be able to pick out what’s important and what isn’t more quickly, and as you learn more about Law, the reading also gets more enjoyable since you’ll understand it better 🙂
Please feel free to ask me if you have any more questions!