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Top 10 tips for surviving law school

Surviving law schoolLaw is a notoriously demanding subject intellectually, mentally and emotionally, but the rewards make it all worth it. By rewards we mean not just financial or professional advancement, but also the boost to your confidence that comes with completing a challenge. If you want a few tips on how to survive and thrive read on!

1. Change your mind: Grad school requires an entirely different mindset from undergrad school. Not only is the workload greater, there are higher expectations. Taught LLM programs may have more interaction with faculty staff than research masters programs but even with an LLM you will be left totally in charge of your learning. Be prepared, and adopt a grad school mindset from day one so that you don’t waste the first month getting over your shock!

2. Procrastinate later: It’s tempting to put the mile-long reading list aside until later, but later never comes and the reading never goes away. Discipline yourself to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. If you have a seminar but can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed, think about that awful moment when you’re staring at an exam paper without knowing what to write. Once you get into the habit of avoiding things it will lead to more stress later down the line, during exams. The only thing you should put off is procrastination.

3. Pace yourself: In doing what needs to be done, it’s still important to pace yourself. Don’t study feverishly; study productively and give yourself time to rest. Be aware of your cycles – when do you study best? If for instance you’re more productive in the afternoons then there’s no point trying to study first thing in the morning or at night. Instead, use your mornings to organise yourself, preparing study plans or drafting outlines for instance, and use your evenings to rest and recharge. However, this only works if you use your afternoons optimally: to study!   

4. Seek help: If you’re stuck, find help fast. With an LLM you don’t have as much time to find your feet, as you did with your undergrad degree. Some students never bother to see their professors outside lectures but that’s what they’re there for! Make appointments to see them and ask them to clarify those hazy points. 

5. Compete: There’s a difference between being competitive and being cut-throat and we aren’t suggesting you walk around with a ruthless glint in your eye. Instead try developing a competitive spirit that pushes you to achieve, whether you’re involved in mooting (mock trials) or just aiming to be among the top 1% in your class. A competitive spirit isn’t reserved only for commercial lawyers. Even if you work in public service or intend to become a legal academic, it pays to develop a healthy competitive mindset from grad school if you want to be the best in your field.

6. Collaborate: Join a study group or, if there isn’t one you’re interested in, form one yourself and handpick the members. When picking a group, find those who are strong in areas where you are weak and vice versa, so that you don’t end up with a group where everyone’s struggling with the same module. Collaborating also provides an opportunity for you to suss out how well you’re doing compared to your peers (hello, competitive spirit!). 

7. Develop relationships: Your LLM year is not just about earning a qualification; it’s about networking. Again you don’t have three or four years to slowly develop friendships, so make it a priority from day one. Bond with faculty, other grad students and within your professional network. These relationships will prove to be your support system.

8. Expand your learning materials: Studying an LLM will undoubtedly be a busy year but try to find the time to attend one or two conferences or events featuring speakers in your field. The practical, real-world learnings will complement and enhance your academic ability and there will also be a chance to network with some relevant academics and professionals.

9. Be strategic: Be strategic about how much time you will put into each module. Unless you’re a super duper genius, it will be difficult to be the best in every single one. Be strategic about which ones are crucial to your career plans; in which modules do you have to be top of the class, and in which ones can you afford to slack off a little bit? This way you focus your studying and efforts.

10. Stay self-motivated: Motivation is about having an incentive to do something. By being self-motivated you provide yourself with that incentive, without relying on external forces. Read our tips on staying motivated here.


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