Join Lisa, a second-year law student at Queen Mary, as she reflects on her first year of university and shares insights into studying law and university life.
As this academic year comes to a close, it is a good time to reflect on my own experiences of studying law and university life in general. This article will tell you a bit about my journey in the first year of my LLB and will hopefully give you an insight into the opportunities available here to you at Queen Mary.
What I have noticed about Queen Mary from the very beginning is that people actually want to be here and want to do well in their studies. Many students I have come across have a clear vision about what they want to do in the future – the most common being a corporate lawyer. Don’t let this deter you, instead see this as an opportunity to feel inspired. I personally am more fascinated by family law but don’t yet have a structured plan in mind. However, seeing people who are aiming high is motivating and helps you set your own goals. The important thing to remember is that everyone’s journey is unique and what interests you may not interest somebody else – you may not even know what you want to do yet and that is fine too because Queen Mary has a plethora of events and connections with different firms, industries and careers support you can take advantage of and find what is right for you.
University is a big step up from your last year of school but it is manageable. The content you cover will include Contract Law, Land Law, Public Law and an introduction to EU Law. For each module the course is very well structured and if you keep on top of the reading and tutorial tasks, you can learn the new concepts. Being a straight A student, it can feel disheartening when you write your first essay and receive the grades back as these will tend to be lower than what you are used to. University marking is strict but it is constructive. This is where I have found the formative exams useful because these will not count towards your final grade but are instead a way to see what you have learnt and what you may need to work on. The feedback from the lecturers is extremely useful, helping you to grasp the topics with confidence and do your own research.
Another thing which I have learnt whilst in my first year is that there is no “one-size fits all” study approach and you need to do what is right for you. This may mean studying in the mornings rather than late at night or you may prefer hand-written notes to typed ones – it is entirely your choice at university how and when you study in your own time. It may be a new challenge to hold yourself accountable for your
studies and therefore it is important to establish a routine and consistency early on. I personally enjoy this freedom because I can make it work for me and knowing that I can choose when and what to study makes it easier for me to concentrate.
Above all establishing a secure network of friends however big or small the circle may be is the most crucial element of university life. When you have good friends, you can go out together, have fun and support each other as for many of you it will be the first time away from home and will take some getting used to. Friends are also a great source of support when studying as you can bounce ideas off each other and engage with the content giving you a more in-depth understanding of the material covered!
In terms of extra-curricular activities and building your CV, my personal suggestion is to find one work or volunteering placement you can do alongside your studies in addition to joining at least two societies (one being law-based and the other something fun and unrelated to law). Less is sometimes more. It can sometimes feel overwhelming and as though you need to take up every opportunity you hear about but it is better to focus your effort on fewer tasks and therefore perform them to a much higher standard. The more things you have on your plate, the more your time has to be divided. Now that I have focussed on what I want to do and which skills I would like to develop, I have been able to choose two things I am passionate about (being on a family law advisory board and a volunteer at a women’s aid). In return I know that I am giving back to the community whilst building invaluable skills. Having something separate and fun is also just as important to strike that balance of study, work experience and social life – for me that fun thing is exploring new places with friends.
Finally remember that everyone is feeling similar to you – university is a new environment which is exciting (but equally daunting at first!) and therefore it is important to be open-minded whilst talking to people about how you feel and to have a good time. Try not to be too harsh on yourself but if you do struggle for whatever reason there is support available to you from the School of Law and other university services such as Advice and Counselling if needed. Good luck on results day and we hope to welcome you here very soon in September!