GUEST POST: Reflections on my First Year

Law Reports

Caitlin, a final year Law student, shares some advice for getting through the first year at Newcastle Law School.

About Me:

My name is Caitlin Stiles, I am a fourth (and Final Year) Law Student, and have recently come back from doing a Year Abroad in Groningen, The Netherlands. Alongside my degree studies, I am a Law Library Aide and the Law School’s Employment and Enterprise Representative.

As a Law Student myself, I know how first year feels and the first few weeks can be really overwhelming – don’t worry! Get used to the city, the degree, the accommodation and it all gets easier (and more enjoyable) over time.

I am writing this blog post to reflect on my First Year, as a Fourth Year Student (hindsight is a beautiful thing)! I’ll give you my top tips and what to do (and not to do), to hopefully make your law life a little easier.

My First Year:

Looking back, I entered First Year somewhat naively and thought that I would easily get the same grades as I got at A level. I soon learnt that there was a jump to make and spent the first few weeks worrying that my formative results were no longer in the eighties – trust me an eighty at A Level is very different in the degree! Your marks will improve over time as you get used to legal research.

I learnt quite quickly that headings in essays are your best friend, and can make a difference big difference in the clarity of your work.

It is also really important to balance your time. I know that First Year (and especially the first year deadlines) can be what seems like the most stressful semester of your life. Don’t take the “First year doesn’t count attitude”, because employers in final year will ask for an explanation – but having said that DO manage your time and get involved as much as possible!

Balance your degree with what you’re interested in, whether that’s a night on the Bigg Market, Sports Wednesdays or relaxing at your accommodation. First year is as much about getting to know Newcastle and student life, as it is about learning the skills that you’re taught – just make sure to strike a fair balance!

The Eldon Society offers so many opportunities (legal and non – legal) so do get involved, and there is no better time than first year to get involved so you can really grow and become part of the society and what it has to offer!

In regards to the degree and time management – figure out what works best for you! I personally found a 9-5 day was best for me (but didn’t learn this until second year!) I did all my seminar work, reading etc in the day by going to the library 9 to 5, and taking rest breaks and then having the evenings and weekends free to ‘de-stress’ and socialise. Secondly, your degree is not a competition, share notes, thoughts and revision tips with each other – this isn’t ‘Suits’, helping each other really does help you learn and succeed!

Seminars are the most valuable part of university teaching, a lot of the time they are really focused on helping prepare for the exam – so spend that extra half hour really preparing for the seminar and asking anything you’re unsure about – even if it only seems small!

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask – again this took me time to learn and to overcome fears of speaking in seminars and lectures! However, it really will surprise you how helpful lecturers, classmates and even those in the legal profession can be if you take the time to ask!

Guest post: My first week at NCL Law School

Law Reports

Darby, a third year Law undergraduate, talks about his first week at Newcastle Law School and offers some useful advice for those about to start their Law degree.

About Me

Hello, Darby Okafor here, I am a third year Law Student at Newcastle University and Westlaw Student Representative. Originally from Canada, I came here to study Law because of the prestige associated with a degree from the UK (amongst other things). As an avid reader, I am constantly reading; currently, I am reading Origin by Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code), it is an exciting and engaging page-turner that attempts to answer challenging metaphysical questions. I also enjoy exercising, physically and mentally; I think the latter is as (if not more so) important as the former, for that is what makes us humans—our minds. Meditation is the primary tool I use for doing this, acquired during my pursuit of a career in acting, it has proved to be invaluable. Although that pursuit has come to an end, the lessons and skills I learnt from it continue to benefit me daily and—I think—will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

What were your first impressions Newcastle the city, the University and the Law School?

The City: The city has life to it, there is always something to do, be it during the day when Northumberland street is buzzing with its street performers; its endless shopping options; and, the multitude that seems to always be there. Or at night when the Gateshead Millennium Bridge lights-up and drowns the skies with beautiful colours; or, when the street is packed with party-goers ready for yet another memorable night out on the toon. Whatever your preference, there is much to do.

The University: My first impression of the University was that it had magnificent architecture. Having only visited the main campus on a few occasions, since everything needed for the study of Law is within the Law Building, I must say that it truly is amazing. The famous arch at the very centre of the University campus is known to make for the best backdrop to a picture and this is very true—you should try it.

The Law School: Newcastle Law School is bigger than it appears on the outside. There are multiple levels to traverse, with endless corridors which—surprisingly, to this day—leads me to parts of the School I never knew existed. But although it appears difficult at first, it truly isn’t. Thanks to the sign-posting located throughout the School, finding the offices of staff members is made easier. Knowing the offices of your lecturers, personal tutor, seminarists, etc, is very crucial to your studies as you will soon come to find out.

Do you have any tips for surviving the first week?

The first week can seem like a hassle, the key is to retain as much of the information as possible; the best way to do this is by ensuring you always have a notepad and pen with you. There will be a series of induction lectures in which you learn what to expect from the Law School and what is expected of you—academically and conduct-wise—it is important you listen and take notes during these talks as they are a crucial part of you being a student here at Newcastle Law School. Overall, be attentive and try to absorb as much as you can.

We get you to do a library task in your first week. How did you find doing that?

It was very helpful, it familiarised me with the workings of the library and gave me a flavour of what the study of law would be like. The task was very straightforward and easy to understand but it did require a bit of digging/research which, I think, was a brilliant introduction to the study of Law. Upon completion of the task, I felt better acquainted with the library and its staff, and I have benefited greatly from this. My advice for you when doing this task is to take it as an opportunity to do the same, and also as a chance to make some friends – you might be struggling with a part of the task that someone else isn’t and vice-versa.

What were your overall impressions of the Law Library when you first started – have they changed?

There are a lot of books! Must I read them all? The answer is No. But, I must say, the feeling of being surrounded by books that were printed long before I came into existence gave me a sense of pride. However, the thought that I might have trouble locating them (seeing as there are so many) lingered in my mind, but thanks to the task assigned to us in the first week, that was not the case. At the odd times when I was unable to locate a certain book, journal, report etc., I turned to the library staff for help and they always pointed me in the right direction. Another aspect of the library worth mentioning is its serenity. As Law Students we need our peace and quiet (you will soon come to understand), and the library certainly provides this; in fact, students from other courses occasionally frequent our library for this purpose.

You’ve finished your first year, have you noticed a change in the way you study?

Yes. My study technique has drastically improved – I know what to look for, where to look for it, and how to use it. I struggled with this at the start but as the year went on, and with the assistance and advice of my Professors, Personal Tutor and Peer Mentor, my technique has improved. In addition, the Law School offers a program known as WASP (offered only to first year Law Students), and this was of significant help in improving my study technique. The very aim of the program is to make you more efficient at studying; preparing for seminars; researching and writing for course-work; and, during the exam period, revising, time-management, and much more. It teaches the best way to read articles, cases, etc, the benefits are truly endless. By attending this program, I learnt various things, however, the one which stuck with me the most is – knowing why you are reading what you are reading before you read it. This seems very simple and obvious but the analytically profound way in which it was broken down by the Professors during a particular WASP session, was priceless. Now, I can say very little in this blog post about the benefits of this program, but I strongly recommend WASP to every one of you—thank me later. It greatly—significantly, enormously—improved my study technique.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started?

First, it is not about working hard, it is about working smart. Second, the saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy is true. Working hard is very important – you need to put in the hours because you get out what you put in; but just as important is (if not more so) working smart. This means that you are working on the right task at the right time and dividing your time between that particular task and others appropriately. It will ensure that you are not toiling away to no avail. If you do this correctly, then the thing that comes after hard-work (fun) is justifiable and more satisfying. As you probably know, Newcastle is the city for that—top student city in the UK last time I checked. There are lots to do in this city, you certainly will not be disappointed in that regards, but it feels much better—believe me—when you know you have earned it. So, work-smart and play hard.

What advice would you give to our new Freshers?

Firstly, ensure you become a member of the Eldon Law Society as soon as possible, it is part of the prestige of being a law student and it keeps you up-to-date on vital information tailored to our needs; plus, there are many events hosted by the Society throughout the year i.e. Winter Party, Law Ball, etc., which you do not want to miss out on—believe me. Secondly, you will continually hear (from your peers) that first-year marks do not count, this does not mean take your foot off the pedal. What it means is: this is your chance to figure out how the study of law works. What are the best study techniques, and which one(s) best suits you; what is required of you when writing an essay or a problem question and how this is different in an assessed coursework as compared to an exam; the list goes on. Therefore, attending lectures and seminars, partaking in extra-curricular activities (mooting, client negotiation etc.), utilising office-hours, making use of the library and its staff, visiting your Personal Tutor or meeting with your Peer Mentor; all of these are a part of the process that will help you figure out the best way to go about it. Remember, all these tools have been paid for by you and are there for your benefit—use them. Gathering as much information as you can about the study of Law but more importantly about yourself; becoming a member of the Society so as to stay up-to-date; and, partaking in extra-curricular activities, is what first year is all about. If you do these things, I promise this degree will be smooth sailing for you. Welcome to Newcastle Law School!

GUEST POST: OSCOLA… Are you really getting the help you need?

Law ReportsLaura-Jayne Beattie, third year Law School student and Law Library Student Aide, has some top tips to help you find help with OSCOLA.


Need help with OSCOLA? Hate hearing this word? Then look no further than here and fear no more, as below I’ve summed up the best places for help with the bane of most Newcastle Law Student’s lives!

Listed below are resources available to help you master the OSCOLA referencing system. Some you may never have heard of, but all are there to ease you through the tricky issues you may face with referencing.

Law Library Staff

With super friendly staff available weekdays, and Stage 3 Student Aides on shift every evening and weekend, what more could you want? Please don’t feel afraid of coming to speak to us, we’re really not that scary (even though we may look it)!

Guides

The guides below are your first point-of-call (click on the links). However, there are sometimes particularly awkward sources. So, if the guides are confusing you or you can’t find the type of source you’re trying to reference within them, we’ll help you use them effectively to find what you need. Just show us what you’re wanting to reference, and we’ll try our very best to help you cite it right!

The Library’s guide on Managing Resources: OSCOLAThis is a good starting point for all things OSCOLA. Here you’ll find tips and links to guides and tutorials.

A-Z guideA hidden gem of library resources, listing many types primary and secondary sources in alphabetical order. Each type is hyperlinked, and when you click on it a general overview of how to cite that source and a few examples appear.

OSCOLA (4th edition) resources full guideA very detailed 55-page document, listing all types of sources (except for most international ones) and giving examples of how to cite sources throughout.

Quick Reference guideAn A4 document of how to cite the most common types of sources. A good document to print out and keep somewhere safe so you can always refer back to it!

OSCOLA 2006: Citing International Law guideThis is a separate guide, specifically for citing international law sources. From international treaties, to UN documents, it has it all!

Hopefully this has all helped in some way. But just remember if you’re struggling to cite something, don’t cite it wrongly or remove it from your essay and pretend it never existed! Get help from the super easy resources above!

Want something different to read this Christmas? Why not take a look at our Medicine in Literature Collection.

Medical Humanities or Narrative Medicine is a popular academic discipline that explores the crossroads between medicine and the arts.

Our Medicine in Literature collection captures the complexities of what it means to be human through a wide range of literary genres.

These resources range from fiction, non-fiction including medical history, ethics and memoir, graphic novels, poetry and prose or medicine as metaphor, to films. Representations of illness, dis-ease, healing and health are interwoven themes that give voice to a diversity of perspectives and personal experiences of the human condition.

If you’re interested in exploring your subject field from a different viewpoint or simply want to broaden your reading this Christmas, dive right in! The physical stock is located in the Quiet Study area of the Walton Library or you can browse the collection from our Library Guide.

Please email any resource recommendations to lib-medlit@ncl.ac.uk.

See the Top 10 Medicine in Literature books borrowed from the collection this year.

 

 

 

 

Guest post: Creative Writing Society ‘Write-ins’

Sitting down to write for twelve hours might seem like an impossible task, but Newcastle University’s Creative Writing society didn’t back down. On November 3rd and 24th, the Philip Robinson Library was host to our two annual ‘Write-ins’.

The Write-ins are organised to coincide with National Novel Writing Month (or ‘NaNoWriMo’) in which participants are challenged to write 50,000 words in a single month. The challenge is just as daunting as it might sound — to achieve that goal, you would have to write 1,667 words a day on average!

On the nights themselves, we were at the library from 7.00 a.m. until 7.00 p.m. Copious amounts of drinks and snacks were needed to support ourselves through the nights and make sure we had the energy to keep going. Library staff had been kind enough to decorate Your Space with posters and banners. We even had our own whiteboard that we used to keep track of everyone’s word counts.

By the end of the second night, one of our writers even managed to break the 50,000 word total! In total, we spent twenty four hours together, not just working on our own projects, but also sharing ideas and having a good time. The great company (and even greater snacks) made our task seem a little bit less difficult.

Throughout the night, we also took over the Library’s arts liaison team’s Twitter account (@ncllibarts) to share our exploits. You can find all the tweets from the night here (https://twitter.com/i/moments/1065265041694486529) with most of them getting progressively stranger as we grew more and more tired.

We’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in making this event happen, from members of committee to the library staff. The society can’t wait for our next annual Write-ins, even if we always need a lot of sleep the next day to catch up on the zzz’s!

Lucy Elliott, Newcastle University Creative Writing Society’s President

Guest Post: A Review of Box of Broadcasts

BoB Screen GrabLaura-Jayne Beattie, a final year Law School student, takes a look at Box of Broadcasts, and reviews a film she watched using it (a Law Library favourite!).


BoB (Box of Broadcasts), available to all Newcastle University students regardless of degree discipline, is an excellent resource. Best of all, it’s FREE for students studying at Newcastle (just what a student wants to hear)! You just have to select the university from the list of institutions, sign in with your university login details (username and password), and away you go! You’re free to explore the thousands of television programmes, radio broadcasts and films available on the website. It’s incredibly easy-to-use, and reminds me a lot of Netflix, but is less guilt-free as most of these programs and films are education-related in some way. The broadcasts may relate to your degree or another academic interest of yours (e.g. psychology-related films).

You can watch live TV, or search (by name) for a pre-recorded film, radio show or television programme. The system holds over 2 million broadcasts, which have been shown on television or aired on the radio at some point since the 1990s. If you don’t have a specific film or programme in mind which you would like to watch, why not try out the advanced search feature? Click on the ‘Search’ icon, then on ‘Search options’, change as many or as little options as you like, and then hit ‘search’! A list of broadcasts matching your search criteria will be shown. I’m sure there will be at least one that interests you!

SCreen grab of BoBAfter a few minutes of exploring the website, I decided to choose a film from the ‘Law in Literature Newcastle University’ playlist. To find this, I clicked on the ‘Search’ icon (on the tab across the top) and selected ‘Public Playlists’. I then typed the playlist’s name into the search box. I was surprised at how many titles were available within this collection (all related to Law). I chose to watch ‘Legally Blonde’, a personal favourite of mine but one that I haven’t watched for years.

Here’s what I thought…

Legally Blonde’, a fun-filled film showcasing a story of love and success, shows Law in a new perspective and is a must-watch for any Law students (Yes, even you boys). It’s a feel-good film, and is motivational in terms of showing that anyone really can succeed if they put their mind to it! It’s particularly perfect for any law student who feels ‘out-of-place’ with the supposed societal ‘ideal’ of who should be studying law.

Defying all pre-conceptions derived from her appearance, Elle Woods gains a place at the prestigious Harvard Law school. While this was initially to follow her ex-boyfriend, who broke her heart just before he proceeded to study Law there, she soon develops a passion for Law and becomes top of the class. She helps to win a case while on work experience using her knowledge of fashion, and later delivers an inspirational speech at graduation saying words like “you must always have faith in yourself”. When making this speech, it’s clear from the smiles in the room that she has won the hearts of students and staff alike and made lifelong friends with her heart-warming personality. Graduating with a job in a high-ranking law firm, she puts her career ahead of everything and even rejects her ex-boyfriend who wanted her back towards the end of the film.

Legally Blonde’ relates to Law, as Elle overcomes sexual harassment while on work experience (Employment Law). Initially, Elle doesn’t report the man and decides to drop out of law school- possibly as she thought she wouldn’t be believed or that what happened wasn’t actually a crime (a common occurrence amongst victims in reality). Parts of Law lectures are filmed, and Elle overcomes stereotypes that are derived from her appearance (blonde female who evidently loves the colour pink) (Law, Gender and Sexuality). Despite not being a typical Harvard student, she still succeeds without letting these stereotypes stop her.

The Great North Museum: Hancock Library:

My name is Helen Greenwell. Last year I graduated as a History student from Newcastle University. Welcome to the Great North Museum Hancock: Library where I work as a volunteer!

The library consists of four collections:

As Newcastle University students, you can borrow books from the Cowen collection and you can use any of the books from SANT or NHSN while you are in the library. We can scan or photocopy any of these books if you wish to leave the library.  You can become a member of SANT or NHSN in order to borrow their books, and students can receive a bursary from SANT so don’t worry about the cost, just ask one of the library team!

Our rare books collection is phenomenal and you only have to ask to view any of the volumes that are located in there. All of our stock is included in the University’s Library Search catalogue.  The library team has a great knowledge of the books that the library holds so even if you aren’t sure what you want, help is always at hand. You can explore history in this library and find books that you might not have even thought about.

The books in the library focus on archaeology, local history, and natural history, which include a lot more topics than you might initially think. If you’re stuck on a topic for your dissertation, why not pop into the GNM: Hancock Library  and see if there’s any subjects that you fancy writing about. You’ll be able to have access to primary sources, rare first editions of books, and even books from the 1500’s!

Newcastle Poll Book 1780
Photographed by Helen Greenwell

This library is small, but that means it’s personal. With a dedicated team of volunteers and Ian, the librarian, at your disposal, you will have quick access to a wide range of unique and fascinating texts.

Besides all the amazing books in this library, it’s also a great place to study, generally quiet and not too busy. There is plenty of space and computers linked to the University network to use, as well as power outlets and wi-fi access so you can bring your own laptop.

Come and ring the bell!

Guest post: What it’s like to be a final year Law School student

Law Reports

Michael, a final year Law undergraduate, talks about his time in the Law Library and has some sage advice for first and second years.

About Me

My name is Michael Norris and I am a final year Law undergraduate at Newcastle University, as well as Sports Secretary for the Eldon Society and a Law Library Student Aide. Upon graduation I aim to secure a training contract and practice as a commercial solicitor in London.

What legal resources do you prefer to use, and why?

Personally, I prefer to use print resources. Due to the nature of my course, and most of my study being focused around lengthy case law and statutes, I find it far easier to read print outs rather than on a computer.

The resources I most enjoy engaging with are academic articles and case commentaries. Learning the law and its application to real life scenarios is interesting, but getting to grips with the academic debates behind a concept by reading differing arguments and viewpoints is far more thought-provoking. Reading into a topic in such a way allows me to unlock a new level of understanding and look at a legal problem from a different point of view.

Have you noticed a change over the three years in the way you/your classmates study?

Absolutely! I have realised the importance of reading beyond the textbook and lectures more over my three years at law school. I have also realised the importance of the library and understood how valuable using its wealth of resources is in securing a good grade.

In relation to classmates, over the three years as everybody has become better friends I have noticed an increase in the amount of co-operation between fellow students. Using other students’ knowledge and splitting reading is a really effective way to broaden your understanding of a topic.

I have undoubtedly noticed the increase in students’ work ethics over my time at university. Other than the obvious pressures of finals, I would put this largely down to students’ enjoyment of their third-year option choices. Having the opportunity to study what I am interested in has really motivated me to succeed in third year.

Apart from library resources, what other types of resources do you use for your studies?

Whilst the majority of the resources I use are from the library, it is important to learn from a wealth of resources to keep your work interesting and fresh. In terms of building my commercial awareness, I watch the news every day. It is surprising how relatable current affairs are to your legal studies and future legal careers.

I also make use of my lecturers’ encyclopaedic knowledge during their office hours. Contrary to several pre-conceptions I had prior to university about lecturers being unwilling to help, I can confirm this is completely untrue! Meeting with my lecturers and seminarists on a one-to-one basis has enabled me to ask those questions I did not want to in lectures and they are more than willing to explain any concept I may be struggling with.

Having easy access to relevant case law and statutes is vital to success in any form of law coursework or exam revision. Using online legal databases, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, allows me to have all the important information at my fingertips to easily access academic articles which allow you to unlock the higher marks.

Away from legal resources, I use an app called “Forest: Self Focus” which locks your phone for a given time to allow you to concentrate on your study. A similar product I use is a computer programme called “Focal Filter” which blocks any website which distracts me, a must when your attention span is as limited as mine!

Do you have a favourite spot in the law library? If so why do you like studying there?

I have favourite parts of the library for different types of study. For revision and essay writing my favourite spot in the law library is undoubtedly the silent study area. I work best when there is nothing at all to distract me. However, the discussion room can be really good when it comes to sharing ideas and opinions with other students or working through exam questions together.

Do you use your Law Subject Guide, and do you find it helpful?

Absolutely. The online subject guide provides me with a convenient shortcut to a variety of vital legal resources. Being able to view all of the legal databases in one place, in addition to portals to eBooks and writing guides is very helpful.

What study advice do you have for 1st and 2nd years?

My first piece of advice would not to be afraid to ask for help. Contrary to what you may believe when you start university, lecturers are not as scary as you may think and have always been willing to help with any problem I have had.

Another piece of advice is to ensure you do not fall behind on your lectures and seminar work. University is a big change from school where learning was more structured, and in comparison, you are given much more freedom over your studies at university. Whilst this free time is often welcome, and it is important to take time away from your studies, keeping on top of work and not falling behind on reading will really come in handy at the end of the year.

A piece of non-legal advice would to take care of yourself generally. University can involve a lot of late nights (especially in first year) and you have nobody to cook for you! It is often forgotten about how important eating well, getting enough sleep and exercise is to performing well in all aspects of life, especially your studies so your health and wellbeing should always remain a priority.

Finally, if there was one thing you could tell your first-year self what would it be?

Whilst first year it is important, as mentioned you will have a lot of spare time in comparison to second and third year. If I could do first year again I would have joined more societies and broadened the number of extra-curricular activities I participated in. Aside from being fun, partaking in societies is a great way to make new friends. Also, if later in university you decide you want to be part of a societies committee joining in first year is a great idea, as participation in a committee looks excellent on any application.