As a law graduate myself, I know a thing or two about studying law in university. My time as a law student was great – I really can’t complain! You learn a lot about yourself, what interests you, and studying law kind of changes your perspective on life in general.
However, there were some surprises. Some things I did not prepare for and even if I did, I underestimated them.
In this blog post, I am going to share 7 things that you should know about before studying law at university. Some may come as a shock and others won’t. But the most important thing is that now you are armed with this information before your peers are. Without further ado, let’s get into the 7 things to prepare you for law school!
Table of Contents:
1. Stationery becomes your best friend
As you begin your legal studies, you’ll quickly realise how important having your own stationery set is. Everyone has their own method of revising but it has to be said that stationary is a law student’s best friend (highlighters and flashcards in particular)
There are a ton of blogs out there that will tell you what you need – but the truth is, only you know what you need. Some people like pens and highlighters only. Some like pens, highlighters, pencils, rulers, flashcards, sticky notes (my fave!), and more. Regardless – having your own stationery set is a staple item in law school!
I wrote a blog post on the 5 stationery essentials that every law student should have and you should check it out if you’re starting law school soon.
2. You do read a lot but you’ll never read an entire textbook
This is the biggest misconception out there about studying law.
People assume that you will have to read ALL 1,408 pages of your Company Law textbook when the reality is quite (literally) the opposite. The reality is that you will read 1 chapter in a textbook to further your understanding of a topic or because it is relevant to an assignment that you are writing about. But other than that, you may never see that book again…unless you decide to practise in that area!
Don’t get me wrong – you do read a lot. Some lecturers assign TONS of readings for one topic and it’s a bit like ‘Woah, I need to breathe for 1 second’. It appears scary at first and it may worry you, but remember – you and your peers are in the same boat. You’re all there to support one another. Don’t worry if sometimes you can’t do all of the reading – you’re not alone. Simply do as much as you can!
3. Legal textbooks are expensive, like really expensive
If you check out the prices of some of the leading textbooks in Tort or Company law or Constitutional law, you will be shocked at how pricey the books are.
Let me tell you a story – there was a book sale in the foyer at my campus and I wanted to buy 3 textbooks including one dictionary for legal terms. My budget was between €70-100. I thought to myself ‘Hmm, maybe this is too much money to spend on books, after all, they’re only books that I need for now“. I figured they will cost approx €20-25 euros each.
Little did I know that the dictionary alone cost €125 euros. Yep, that’s right.
The textbooks were almost double this amount – some were in the €200 region! If you are not traumatised by the amount of reading you have to do each week, the cost of one book alone may just! Luckily the library will have copies of these leading textbooks so it’s not like you’ll never see these books. However, I will say this: Be quick to grab those books because once assignment season dawns, you may not see that book for a while!
4. The key to law school success is staying organised
This is an important one! Try to stay as organised as you can at the beginning of your law studies. Trust me, it will save you a lot of time when it comes to revising for your law school exams. Have a folder for each subject, organise your tutorial notes, your class notes, your ‘future reading’, and any materials needed for assignments and/or exams. It will help when exam season arrives.
You can thank me later.
5. Studying law in university means people will ask for your advice – NEVER give anyone advice.
You will get this a lot – many of your non-law friends or people you come into contact with will do one of two things. When you tell someone that you are studying law at university, you’ll either be met by a *gasp* followed by a ‘oh you must be very smart!‘ (which you obviously are, pfft).
Or you’ll be met by the classic ‘I will come to you for legal advice‘ or ‘I need some advice on this issue I am having‘.
Whatever you do, stop them right there and then – politely inform this person that you are not licensed to give legal advice. Because… you are not. They need to consult a legal professional for legal advice. When you study Privilege in the Law of Evidence, you will understand why. If someone relies on your advice and then the outcome is bad for them, they could decide to sue you for relying on your advice! So – don’t do it.
6. You’ll be doing a ton of exams, even after graduating
Oh gosh, this one.. yeah. This took me by surprise. I (like many before me) assumed that as soon as you finished your undergraduate law degree, you were automatically a qualified lawyer – you just need to find a firm and start working there.
Little did I know that when pursuing a profession like law, or accountancy, or even medicine, it is exam upon exam upon exam. When graduating law school, depending on whether you’d like to qualify in your country or become a dual-qualified lawyer, you’ll be doing a lot of exams.
This is just the reality of qualifying as a lawyer in most countries. University prepares you to sit these exams and to help you pass. If you need more assistance or a refresher course, there are a variety of prep courses available to help you study and pass these exams!
7. Studying law in university is NOTHING like Suits (the tv show)
Comment below if you wanted to pursue a legal career after watching Suits? Because I 101% did.
Do not think for a second that what you see on Suits is like studying law in university because I am sorry to inform you but it is not. Speak to any practicing lawyer. You’ll be told that what happens in Suits represents 0.1% of what it’s really like to have a legal career.
I know, I was pretty sad to find this out too. Imagine yelling ‘objection!’ to a judge! But this simply doesn’t happen the way Suits portrays it. Also, court procedure + drama in Ireland and the US are very different. I realised that it depends on your jurisdiction. In Ireland, we are allowed to object, but in a different fashion.
And that is the end of our 7 things you should know before studying law! I am sure that there are plenty more. If so, leave a comment below so that I can check them out!
Have you studied law before? What were some things you realised when you began your study of law? Drop by my Instagram and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
Until the next blog post,
Featured image designed on Canva.