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