After moving swiftly from the cold dark embrace of an autumn night to the gushing waves of the particulars of claim and witness handling, came a soaked insight.
I am now going to share with you some tips that you could incorporate to increase your productivity. Or maybe, possibly, just to increase the ideas you already have about how to best study and achieve when you are studying law. This is for all law students at any level, and people, yes, from earth… unless you know of any other kind?
How am I finding the bar course? Honestly, it is extremely tolerable at the moment. The biggest time consumer is engaging with the required reading for the campus sessions. Other students have echoed this. I also find it hard to recall what I have read, I remember the gist and the topic and maybe the sections, but not specifics or exact words or phrases. Not yet at least.
But the sessions build into one another, so you go from pre action conduct all the way to civil litigation trial throughout the course (civil litigation course)… From my understanding. The same applies to criminal litigation. I am enjoying the course though, which is a bonus, and getting up 7am for campus days is a real draining thrill. Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation, trying all so hard not to miss anything in the reading for this expensive course. Not to mention class preparation and the need to behave cohesively with the cohort.
Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation
I reckon I could round up the 3 most important things I have learned so far on the course, and the 3 things which are helping me to stay on top of the work and finish drafting those documents for the deadlines… did I mention witness handling? Conferencing? One session of each and next week, more conferencing, but that is a ‘practical skill’ and practice we will.
- Training the brain to engage with the new routine
When I finished my degree I was both relieved and tired. Mentally exhausted at some points. But, satisfied that I had an expensive piece of paper which I could now flash to prospective employers should they so wish to see it. I also had mine laminated, come on the paper was thin!
The routine I had developed was considerably different to that on the bar course. Why? The bar course had a structure which involved few actual campus classes, 2 days a week to be precise and the rest of the time was prepping and consolidation of what we had learned in our skills workshops. This meant that I had to adapt, and quickly, because I have to leave the apartment at 7:45am on campus days to reach campus for roughly 8:30am, depending on if the trains are delayed…
Get up early. There is no way around this. You either get up early for campus days and arrive for 9am or you simply get marked absent, and if you don’t attend 80% or more classes then you fail the course. It would be a shame to fail because you were late, rather than not passing the assessments. Mentioning assessments, this is at masters level and unlike undergraduate, there is a HIGHER PASS MARK. 60% pass mark for all of the assessments. 11 total assessments, combining practical skills and MCQ (multiple choice question) exams. I won’t bore you with that though, at least until I have an idea of if I will fail or not (:P).
Not only is getting up early vital, but you need to train your brain to do it everyday, maybe skip on Sundays like I do. Sunday for me is essentially a rest day, although I work on Sundays the majority of the time. If you get up early, you build a routine, your brain adapts, and it gets easier. You will have more time to do the reading, and more opportunities to finish early and enjoy the evening. That is not me saying 7am everyday, you could wake up at 8am on your none campus days. It is down to you to build a morning routine which engages your senses and gets you pumped and ready for the slaughter… excuse me, the day! Be sure to eat breakfast, be sure to hydrate. Collect what you will use the night before and have it ready to get into when you begin to work.
Don’t train your brain to overwork either. If you spend all day, from 8am to 10pm working on something, including the reading and any practical activities or written submissions, then stop and re-evaluate that schedule. You are setting yourself up for a very boring study life, one where fatigue and lack of exercise could kill you. Not to mention, working 14 hour days doesn’t seem productive or efficient. Why does it take so long to read and get it done? Come on, I could read a 400 page book in a day, so you can do the reading in less than that! Make sure you aren’t glued to the desk and get up and walk or stretch, exercise and healthy, frequent eating is great to keep to fueled for all that awesome work you are going to produce.
Healthy habits, will lead to an adapted mindset. Unhealthy and unambitious yet ridiculous schedules can train you into poor study habits. Make it work!
2. Don’t be afraid of the dark
You’ve never studied law before, or you have just started the bar course, or the legal practice course, or you are doing something in a law firm and you have no clue what to do, despite the preparatory reading and revision and countless hours spent completing a draft or trying to perfect a piece of work.
You get some cruel, hurtful comments… “your work was not good enough” or “this is not quite right, try this.” These are comments of a highly helpful nature. Utilise those comments, integrate them into the work, go back and do it again with the revisions. Try harder, be better, no excuses. It’s easy to think you are not good enough because you made a minor mistake, or perhaps you were completely off on this occasion, however, you are good enough. You got this far, this is a big chance to LEARN! Learning is at the core of what you are doing, you didn’t know how to do it before and now, after some time reading and being taught, you have had a bash at it. Well done, you are not a failure based on some constructive criticism. Learn to take that on-board and learn to understand where you need to improve.
Every bit of advice and feedback given to me thus far, I have taken with me, and used to my advantage. I also accept that mistakes will be made, since the course has not long started. That doesn’t deter me, we all make mistakes, and it’s those mistakes that we all learn from. If you are afraid of feedback, you need to start getting used to it.
3. Have a life for goodness sake
Many students, especially full time students, feel as if they have nothing else they can do because all their time is “taken up by studying.” FALSE. There is 24 hours in each day. Last night, I didn’t fall asleep until gone 2am and I had to be up for 7am. I didn’t have a longer sleep because I knew that if I didn’t get up, I’d be late and be marked absent. I had enough time to sleep is my point. I made the most of the little sleep I had.
Because I had prepped and done the reading over the weekend I was not particularly concerned about being behind. In fact, preparing for class is my strength currently, but that may change as the course intensifies. From an intellectual standpoint, and I genuinely mean this, it is not the hardest thing you will ever do, trust me. Again my perception could change, we will see. How does this combine with having a life? Let me tell you…
Studying full time, regardless of the ‘level’ of the academic work, whether that school grades, college or university, or postgrad, is going to require a set amount of time for the work. I guarantee that most full time courses do not require 12 hours study 7 days a week. University courses including the bar course require around 35 hours a week realistically, possibly going up to 40.. Let’s work this out, so I can show you why you HAVE TIME for a social life and time to do things you want to do.
35 hours a week / 7 = 5 hours a day
That will be the recommended time or the time that the institution says is required on the course.
There is 24 hours x 7 days a week = 168 hours in a week
Assuming that you are awake for a portion and asleep for another portion.
Time management is what I am excellent at. Keep a diary if you need to. Keep a study schedule and adapt as required. Make sure you plan in advance and don’t have conflicting arrangements. If you feel that 168 hours a week excludes you from a social life when a full time course would require (estimating) 35 hours a week, then something is seriously wrong… so go get a coffee and biscuit and let’s sit down for a long chat… lasting approximately 35 minutes during which you have a panic attack and rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday.
rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday
It is all about welfare. Be healthy. Be happy. Be free. Have fun and don’t give up on things you enjoy, otherwise your mental health could decline and depression could set in, and that’s is not good for productivity at all. If you have hobbies, keep up with them. I enjoy playing Xbox games, being on the bar course doesn’t exclude me from playing at 8pm at night when I have finished my work for the day. Nor does the thought of being too busy in any way stop me from taking on new opportunities, provided that they don’t clash with my schedule.
So, there you have it. 3 sections, each of which will provide you with a different perspective of being a law student. Bar course students do have a harder time, but when I hear students complaining they have no time or joke that the course is killing them 4 weeks in, then I am sorry but the problem is coming from the inside, not the outside. Unless a meteor happened to have crashed into your goat barn the evening before that opinion was due in. Haha?
Stay safe, happy lawyering!