This week marks the beginning of the University year for many Law Students nationwide. Given the recent comments from our Prime Minister himself encouraging students NOT to embark upon the study of law unless they want to be ‘real lawyers’, I would expect there is an extra level of trepidation for those of you lining up for your first ever law lecture this week. The news is full of stories of the limited roles for law graduates, the overflow of students now studying the degree and of course the high levels of stress and pressure during your studies (let alone in the profession itself!) And in amongst all that ‘good news’ for many students the move from High School to University brings with it a significant life change- from moving home, moving states or just moving into that next stage of life.
But despite the doom and gloom that seems to fill legal publications and nationwide newspapers there are many happy law students and many happy lawyers. If you want to study a law degree, then I say go for it because who on earth could really know at 17 years of age what the future has in store for them. Law is a wonderful profession and whether you choose to join it in the traditional sense or not, your learnings at Law School will never be wasted.
So this week, one of my favourite law students (come fellow Gorman addict) Kiarah Grace Kelly is back as a guest blogger, sharing her tips for surviving law school after a few years navigating the fun, adventures and exams herself!
So it’s O-Week. Look at you go, you’ve gained entry to a great new Uni and you’re studying law, no less! Buckle yourself in because you’ve got a big few years ahead of you. I’m Kiarah, a final year Law student here to tell you all the things I wish I knew (but certainly didn’t) before I started law school.
1. Make friends.
I still remember so clearly me telling myself on my first day of law classes that I had to make friends. I was coaching myself through my nerves walking into my first ever Contracts 1 lecture and I was sure I was in the wrong place (literally and figuratively, more on that later). My friend Jodie can attest to the strangeness of the moment I’m about to describe; I was standing by the door way looking lost when I saw a girl with blonde hair laughing away with a few others, I decided we’d be friends. So, as you do, I waltzed on over to my new friend (who wasn’t aware of any of this at the time). I sat down and with the friendliest voice I could muster through my nerves I said; “Hi, I’m Kiarah!” Well aren’t I glad I did, Jodie (the friendly blonde) is one of my closest friends today and as we’ve progressed through law school we’ve picked up some other pretty amazing people to be in our gang too. Our group has spent countless nights late in the library, endured exam after exam and have weathered some personal storms together too. My point being, don’t underestimate the power of a shoulder to cry on or a friend to panic with. Trust me.
2. Get involved.
There’s plenty going on at uni. Whether it be the Law Student’s Association, the Student Guild or the Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Society (this is a real thing) you’re never short on options for a ‘pack to run with’. In your first year of law school you may feel intimidated by the professional development events or ‘networking nights’ on offer and that’s ok. Don’t feel time spent in a sports club or student group is time wasted. An organisation like this may be the first time you experience conflict resolution, or have to run a meeting and it will definitely be the first time you need to prepare affiliation documents for your university (*shudder*). Become exposed to this stuff now, ‘cause there’s plenty more coming your way.
3. Don’t buy food on campus every day.
Is this a personal attack on 1st Year Kiarah? Yes. Do I ever want to know the sum total I’ve spent on take-away and coffee? No. This is a pretty self-explanatory one. This is the only time in your life it’s acceptable to eat ramen and baked beans every day, save your money for fun stuff.
4. It doesn’t matter how you got here.
So here’s a bombshell… I didn’t get straight into law school. I had to complete some politics and psychology subjects (*shudders again*) to get my grades up to jump across to law. I know that this led to some serious feelings of imposter syndrome for the next couple of years. I’m here to tell you to spare yourself from worrying about whatever led you here. Maybe your high school grades weren’t what they could have been or maybe you deferred uni 10 years ago and are just coming back now. It’s okay. You’re here now. Welcome. We’re stoked to have you.
5. Plan your week.
In your first week of classes I want you to listen really carefully when your lecturer runs through what’s required weekly for each subject. Maybe you’ve got to do some readings, attend a lecture and prepare some homework to take to tutorials. Next, pull up a table in a Word document (don’t tell me to use Excel, I refuse) and create a column for each day of the week. Block out your class times and your part-time work. Now I need you to allocate a time each week to do your Contracts readings, then your other readings, your tute prep and your summaries. Stick your new fancy weekly plan somewhere obvious and try to follow it each day. Be sure to leave Sundays and ‘the Bachelor’ free. (7:30 weeknights, September through to December).
6. Plan your semester.
Buy a diary and put in every piece of assessment you’ve got due for this semester, now. Give yourself a 3 week, 2 week and 1 week reminder for each piece of assessment. Try (read: fail) to get things started early.
7. Apply for every opportunity.
I follow my law school and my university on Facebook, look out for emails too. Law firms and government entities will often contact local universities first when they’re looking for work experience students. Sometimes a volunteering position will come up or a scholarship will be up for grabs. I can’t recommend enough that you apply for everything that interests you. If you gain nothing else, you’ll get really great at self-promotion and develop essential resume and interview skills. You’ll thank yourself after you graduate if you’ve faced all those scary firsts already.
8. You never know the people you’ll meet.
For many of us, this is our first big gig outside of High School. One of the biggest differences you’ll experience is that you’ll find yourself in a big melting pot of all different kinds of people. There will be a wide variety of ages and cultures around you. I can’t stress enough how much you have to gain by making friends with people that aren’t exactly like you. You’ll meet people who have had a whole career or even two before coming to law school, people with families of their own or who have circled the globe, seriously interesting stuff!
A year ago I would’ve rolled my eyes at this advice because you will hear it a lot. I guess it’s just in my nature to look forward for the next big exciting thing without appreciating the moment I’m in. I’ve slowly come around to realise this phase of our lives is seriously cool. It’s a time for travel and getting to pursue the learning of something we really love, full time! Don’t wish away your uni years, you may never be back again.
Hi! I am Kiarah Kelly a conscientious and hard-working soon to be lawyer living on the Gold Coast with an eye on social justice and effecting much needed change in the community, even if that means starting small. I am studying dual Bachelors degrees in Laws & Government and International Relations at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. I have been testing my legal toes in the water at boutique Gold Coast law firms and am currently merrily serving as a Legal Secretary to Merv Morris and Blayne Ledger of Barron & Allen Lawyers – GC in the Property, Commercial and Family Law sectors.
I have also been championing a personal cause of Youth Road Safety Issues over the last 12 months, unrelentingly working alongside the minister for Road Safety Mr Mark Bailey, on numerous projects within his office.
What’s on my horizon? My passion for family violence prevention, family law issues and women’s legal issues will be a guiding light for my future career. I aim to graduate with dual degrees in November of 2018 and until then, I will travel the world, focusing heavily on volunteer pursuits here at home and continue making waves in the discussion of Youth Road Safety issues in this country.