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The Life of a Second Year Law Student

In this week’s post Rianna A.L answers some questions and talks about what it was like going through second year. Rianna is currently a law student at Nottingham University about to embark on her third year and hopes to become a solicitor.

So, how was surviving second year?

As a law student recovering from the aftermath of the exam season, I can truly say studying law is challenging but very rewarding. Through engaging with the subject, I’ve enjoyed discovering that law affects all aspects of every day life which makes it fun to learn and a very useful subject to have a grasp of in practice and in theory. In every aspect of it, there is something for everyone.

So if I could impart some wisdom in the wake of exams it’s this: I found that sticking to a routine throughout the year really helped. I would start my studies at 9 am if I had a lecture at that time, or 10 am. I would then carry on until 5 or 6pm with an hour lunch break. In-between lectures I would go to the library and catch up on the readings.

I found that it was worth going to the library to find text books that broke down the concepts in a way that I could understand, even if they were books that were not on the recommended list. We all learn differently and understand at different rates therefore it is important to find a method that works for you.

It goes without saying but it is important to stay on top of your work from the start and not just during exam season. Personally, I spent anything between 5 and 8 hours on tutorials and seminar readings. The golden piece of advice that I can give is: do not read everything cover to cover, but try and pick out what is essential. This, like most things, comes with practice. Understanding the law, being able to apply it and drawing out it’s nuances in arguments is what matters, not just the reading the text.

Was there a magic formula?

I am sure you all want to know; how can I pass whilst getting the best results possible? Look no further, here is my advice from experience.

Firstly, leave yourself enough time.

The biggest error you can make is not giving yourself enough time to revise. Law is a very content heavy degree, so it is essential that you put aside longer than a week per subject to do your revision. Cramming is never a good idea and will leave you panicking and less likely to absorb the information. Trust me.

Secondly, avoid the all nighter.

No matter how much of a superhero you look to your course mates, the all nighter is never a safe bet. You will feel like a zombie in the morning and most likely won’t have absorbed anything useful in the long term. So don’t forget to look after yourself during this crucial time and give yourself a break.

Thirdly, condense condense condense! 

Condense your notes on cue cards narrowing them down to all the key cases and statutes you need. Look at your lecture notes and the text book notes as a guide. When it comes to converting to memory, whatever you can do to remember a case name, do it! Use word association, no matter how silly. Memorise the case name, key facts and the legal principle, it’s that simple but it just takes hard work.

The key facts are usually what is important in distinguishing cases and help you to elaborate your argument. Think of it as advanced English literature, but rather than poems as quotes, you have cases you analyse to make your argument. In Donoghue v Stevenson for example it’s not essential to state what creature was in the ginger beer bottle, however entertaining it may be!

Do not memorise the text book. This may be tempting but past experience has taught me it’s the understanding not the memorising that will get you marks. In line with this, do past papers – as many as possible, read the suggested answers for past papers if they are available and try and pick up the writing skills and styles which distinguish a 2:1 essay from a 1st essay for example.

Sometimes making a plan for an essay or problem question is faster and easier than writing out a full answer as it allows you more time to practice different questions. However, don’t forget to leave aside a few papers to do under timed conditions, this will help you to estimate how you need to perform and divide your time during an exam. Plus, it’s always good to familiarize yourself with the format and how you perform before the exam.

How did you approach exam days?

In my experience, revising on the day of the exam is never wise. If you do not know the content by the day of the exam you are never going to know it well enough. The best thing to do is to take your mind of it and stay positive. Reflect on how much preparation you have done and be proud of what you have achieved in terms of revision.

Any practical tips for the day?

Make sure you take in highlighters and any stationery in a clear pencil case, remember your statute book if you need one and ensure you carry a water bottle. It is extremely important to stay hydrated.

One thing you wish you had known?

If I could give one piece of advice for someone starting first or second year or one thing I wish I had known it’s this:  Be brave enough to approach lecturers and ask for a reading list for each type of law. Basically, don’t be afraid to ask for help.




Book Review: We Know All About You

Check out my latest review of  We Know All About You ” by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones for The Society of Computers and Law.

We Know All About You: The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (OUP, 304 pp, £18.99) ISBN: 9780198749660


It would be easy to think that the mass surveillance of individuals is a fairly modern phenomenon, that has only recently caught the public eye with contemporary technological advancements. Even years after the Snowden revelations, we continue to be exposed to fresh revelations detailing the increasing capabilities of the state, private corporations, and intelligence agencies in keeping their brotherly eye on us.  A recent example comes to mind, “Weeping Angel”. Far from being just a nod to a predatory threat to a certain intergalactic Doctor, it was revealed as the codename of malware that was capable of eavesdropping on consumers through their smart TVs. A chilling example of Orwell’s prophecy many fear is coming truer by the day.

In ‘We Know All About You’, historian and intelligence expert Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones turns the narrative of mass surveillance on its head, and brings to life the often-overlooked origins of surveillance in Britain and America. Far from the genesis of this tale being secret bunkers, remote labs and double crossing agents, Jeffreys-Jones manages to make a convincing and surprising case for the role and influence of private actions in the growth of surveillance of the individual and calls for greater scrutiny.

The account of the central characters and events that have shaped our understanding of the practice of mass surveillance is rich in detail, and Jeffreys-Jones’ descriptions are as precise as they are thought-provoking. The growth and popularity of overzealous private eye agencies, such as Pinkerton’s, and the credit rating agencies of the early 19th century demonstrate the devastating effects of organisations and private entities obsessively collecting intel under the guise of keeping an eye on a ‘troublesome’ workforce.

Expanding on this narrative, Jeffreys-Jones demonstrates how such practices were used to infiltrate industrial unions, in order to collect information on persons of interest who were subsequently placed on blacklists. Such blacklists often had life-changing and harrowing consequences – especially where the information on which they were based was usually inaccurate. We later see how the effects of labour espionage on both sides of the Atlantic influenced the practices of public surveillance, some of which are still in use today.

Disturbingly, we see that the practice of private surveillance was often reliant on citizens playing the role of informant on their fellow man and nowhere is this uncomfortable truth clearer than in the height of the Red Scare. Jeffreys-Jones goes to great lengths to drive one prevailing point home: the inappropriateness of private surveillance consequently informing subsequent public policy following the Cold War (and ultimately the actions of several successive presidents).

In particular, Jeffreys-Jones is somewhat successful in making a case for the fact that private surveillance has historically caused greater harm to individuals, and that it is this, rather than the state spying on us, that represents the real danger of the adverse effects on individuals being surveilled in this day and age. He makes a convincing case, illustrating that the growing dangers of private surveillance are real and tend to be overlooked or subordinated to fears of state surveillance. Rather than the state’s Big Brother, really we should be worried about the Little Brothers and Sisters of the corporations; ultimately, the fears of digital governmental surveillance are overblown.

The author’s tale culminates in an evaluation of the post-Snowden era and of particular interest are the last four chapters where he attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of legislation on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the arguments for increased private surveillance have returned with a vengeance as the ‘War on Terror’ continues to shape foreign and domestic policy.

A question comes to mind, how should policymakers effectively balance the interests of the growing issue of surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism, when balanced with the uneasy and indiscriminate practice of mass surveillance of all of our data.  Here, Jeffreys-Jones attempts to review not just surveillance, but the debate about it. Controversially, he advocates a clearer definition of mass surveillance and warns against a focus on the actions of individuals as justification for surveillance. Instead, the focus should be on the policy we implement in preventing terrorism. However, it is here that he falls short and perhaps the tale would have benefitted from an in-depth analysis that offered alternatives, rather than simply condemning the efforts thus far.

We Know’ challenges us to re-assess our notions and attitudes towards mass surveillance. Ultimately, Jeffreys-Jones emphasizes that problems arising from private sector surveillance have been particularly neglected. As demonstrated through the hysteria caused by McCarthyism, when surveillance is undertaken by fellow private citizens we are horrified so why are we then not as horrified when we willingly volunteer our data to the new private eye – we have become our own informants.

Lorraine Chimbga is a UCL Law graduate, and currently works for FundApps analysing financial regulation and translating it into algorithms.

Original Link: SCL: Book Review: We Know All About You

CILEx: an alternative route to a legal career

This week’s post on pursuing an alternative career in Law comes from Barlow Robbins Solicitors who specialise in Residential Property transactions.

Studying law isn’t something that should be taken on lightly. For most people, in fact, the idea of spending three years studying towards a degree, racking up thousands in debt, and without any guarantee of employment upon completion, is the exact opposite of where they saw themselves after their A-Levels. For many careers though, this process is a frustrating necessity and those wishing to begin a career in law are no exception.

However, there are alternative routes into the legal industry that many may have completely overlooked or were not aware of. There are many great options to consider if you haven’t or don’t wish to study law at the graduate level.

An alternative to pursuing a career as a solicitor is through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), a governing body which you can join. Entry requirements are a minimum of four GCSEs (including English) and you must pass examinations to qualify as a member first, and then as a fellow later. Though the CILEx route is equally as challenging, it gives those with foundation knowledge of law the opportunity to further their career within the industry.

Another great advantage of the CILEx route is the flexibility to study at your own pace and to choose to take the CILEx units when you feel you are ready. So, no cramming for exams around your already busy schedule. Plus, it costs less than studying for a degree! If you already have a law degree or have done the GDL, CILEx also offers a great cost effective alternative to the LPC and the BPTC through their CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma.

The CILEx route is something that should definitely be considered when choosing to pursue a career in the legal industry, especially as the costs of education rise. Below is an infographic from Barlow Robbins on qualifying as a solicitor through this alternative path and more information can be found on the CILEx website.

Studying Law in the UK

This week’s article on choosing a university to study Law in the UK comes from guest author Mirva Lempiainen, who also blogs for SchoolApply.com.

How to study for a Bachelor’s of Law in the UK

There are two main reasons to study for a legal degree: either you know for sure that you would like to work as a lawyer or other legal professional, or you don’t know at all what you want to do with your life. You just know that getting a Bachelor of Laws degree definitely cannot hurt.

A law degree is indeed very versatile and prestigious, particularly when granted by an esteemed university. Employers across the board tend to respect law school graduates – they are seen as critical thinkers and good communicators. A bachelor’s degree of law thus comes in handy in multiple fields, such as business, insurance or politics.

The UK is one of the best countries to study law due to its legal system being well known and respected around the world. English law is also most commonly used to govern international business deals.

But with 150 universities and colleges and several legal degrees to choose from, how does one go about studying law in the United Kingdom? Let’s start with the basics.


What is legal education like in the UK?

Every country has its own legal system and a way of educating students on the principles and theory of law. Many of the law programmes of UK universities emphasise practical skills. The universities have mock courtrooms where students gain experience in presenting issues to a judge, arguing and negotiation. It’s also common in the UK that students do a professional placement at a law firm, or go study abroad for a semester. If you are more interested in theoretical law studies, make sure to find a university that offers such courses as electives.


What is the LLB?

In most Commonwealth countries including the UK, the principal law degree is a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). This undergraduate degree takes three years of full time studies to complete. The abbreviation LLB comes from the Latin words Legum Baccalaureus. The LLB programme of consists of seven core modules, including contract law, criminal law, and constitutional and administrative law. While this bachelor’s degree on its own doesn’t make one eligible to practice law yet, it opens the path to eventually becoming a lawyer – whether as a general solicitor or a fully qualified barrister.

Students in the UK may also opt to do a dual degree: they can combine their LLB studies with classes in business, political science, English, history or the like. This is particularly handy to those that aren’t sure of the direction their career should take. 


What is the difference between J.D. law and LLB law?

Juris Doctor or J.D. is the primary law degree in the USA. It’s generally thought to be the American equivalent to the British LLB, even though J.D. is actually a graduate level degree, unlike the LLB. If your ultimate plan is to practice law in the USA, you can look into pursuing both LLB and J.D. degrees together. This is possible at King’s College London, for example, through the school’s collaboration with Columbia University in New York.

However, an LLB from the UK will already help you greatly in launching an international law career. You can work for big British law firms in their overseas locations, and do legal consultations for British expats around the world. In addition, the LLB gives a good base for eventually practicing law in other Commonwealth Countries.


Which UK law school should you apply to?

Getting into a top university to study law in the UK is a tough feat: only the best of the best get into the LLB programmes of schools like the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford or the London School of Economics. The good news is that if you do get in and make it through these rigorous programmes, you won’t be unemployed – about 90 percent of graduates of these schools go swiftly onto employment or further study.

However, when applying to study law in the UK, it’s good to keep lesser-known universities on your radar as well, and to include options outside of London. There are some schools that are particularly popular among international students, such as the Oxford Brookes University and Leeds Metropolitan University. Bangor University can be another great choice, as the Bar Council of India directly recognizes the school’s LLB degree.


How can you get accepted into an LLB programme?

Entry requirements vary somewhat depending on the school, so you should check the individual universities’ websites for details. In the case of international students, many schools require at least a 6.5 overall score in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Besides having stellar grades and test scores, the best way to guarantee your spot in any law programme is to write an impressive personal essay. It could focus on a moment or a period of your life that made it clear your future was in law studies. Also, make sure that your CV emphasizes any leadership positions you have held in campus clubs or at part-time jobs, and do remember to explain their significance to your character development.

If you feel like the application process is overwhelming, you can always enlist the help of Schoolapply.com, a site that connects students from all over the world with their ideal educational programmes.

How to revise Law

One can tell that the exam season is in full swing as the cries of help through the volume of memes about procrastinating increase. I have also been getting more questions on how I managed my time and I thought it would be great to share a post with some of my experiences.

Managing exam stress

This post is not meant to provide you with an exact science of how to get that first but to provide you with ideas and a starting point that I didn’t have on how to manage stress really, during the exam period. Over the three years of my law degree, I eventually learnt how I could best use my time as the exam season came up and which methods worked best for me.

Again, let me start by saying there is no exact science but I do believe there are basic principles of being productive (not busy) that will significantly improve your performance and help you to manage this stressful time a bit better. As mentioned in my earlier post Dealing with disappointment, as I approached third year I was frustrated by my performance in my 1st and 2nd year.

I had to be brutally honest with myself and analyse the areas in which I could improve and not rely on old methods of studying as clearly my approach hadn’t been working.

Failure is hard but how you come back from it is everything as I learnt. Even though I was convinced I had studied hard, I don’t think I had always studied smart in retrospect. I had to learn the hard way that being busy isn’t the same as being productive.

Thankfully I managed to pull a Britney level come-back and went from a couple of Desmond Ds and disappointments to Firsts.


The most important, and although easier said than done, top tip above all else is look after yourself. As the deadlines come closer and pressure mounts it can be easy to let a few important things slide such as getting enough sleep and eating properly.

I had to learn how to be stricter with myself and not give in to the guilt of feeling like I had to be studying at every waking moment.

I created a realistic plan and stuck to it even when I was tempted to do an all-nighter or work beyond my self-designated hours. I honestly believe that a balanced life during exams (and during the academic year) largely contributed to my final grades. I had been more consistent.

I also made use of the support services provided by the university and was in constant communication with a counsellor who helped me to set realistic goals. She was someone neutral that I could talk through any anxieties and worries that I had as I progressed through the academic year. This is something I would definitely recommend doing if such a service is available to you. Through it, I feel like I was able to maintain a more level headed approach and realise that sometimes I was being too hard on myself.

Setting time out to avoid burnout 

Taking some time out throughout the academic year and especially during the revision period where I wasn’t working and instead I did things I enjoyed also helped. Admittedly, this becomes much more difficult as the deadlines come closer, but again, it was important in terms of maintaining balance and avoiding burn out.  The success of this during my exams largely came down to setting realistic expectations and knowing myself.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

One of the best pieces of advice that I have come across was not to underestimate the value of planning what you are going to do and when.  For some interesting ideas on being productive, I would recommend reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.

1) Planning

In Dealing with disappointment, I talked about failing even when you have planned and it’s true, sometimes you might do your best but it doesn’t all fall together. However, I still think it is valuable to plan, be strategic and realistic with how your best looks like. Although we all say we plan our revision, we don’t always fully plan something realistic that we can feasibly stick to given the stressful time that we have.

For me, planning my strategy was largely facilitated by my use of the bullet journaling system. To read more about this check out my earlier post Getting Things Done with the Bullet Journal.

Once the exam timetables came out, I made a schedule of what I would revise and when having taken into account the due dates of each exam. I worked backwards and evaluated realistically the time I had available to me and what I knew of myself, for example I was highly unlikely to do all-nighters or work extensively on a Sunday. I also made allowances for off days, my pace of reading, writing, memorising, and procrastination.

Although I would’ve loved to go through chapters and chapters of different material for example, I knew that on average I would only cover four topics in two subjects per day at most including taking detailed notes and memorising.

Planning also meant that I was approaching things systematically rather than randomly picking up bits of reading and memorising here and there. It took away the question of what should I focus on today or this week as I had already built a framework. At any given time, I knew what I was supposed to be doing, including which library or cafe I would go to etc.

If asked right now I could probably tell you as I recorded everything in the bullet journal and kept a track of my progress. That leads me to an important point, being able to track your progress is invaluable. It allows you to evaluate and gauge whether you are being effective according to your goals and it’s also a cool way of seeing how far you’ve come!

I was able to keep a track of my progress and gauge how well I was doing and if I was using my time effectively. I was able to visualise my success much more easily than previously where I had no record of how well I was working.

A typical day for me during the exam period:

  • 8:00am – get to the library (the early bird catches the seat)
  • 8:15am – 12:00pm – study using my version of the Pomodoro technique: I would study for about 50 minutes then take a 5-10 minute break away from my desk.
  • 12:00pm – 1pm – I made it a point to take a proper break where I ate properly each day and actually went outside.
  • 1:00pm – 5pm (6pm at the latest) – continue with study.

After 5pm I didn’t do any work, in effect I treated my revision like it was a 9 to 5 job where during those hours I did nothing but work and beyond those hours I didn’t.

2) Employ an effective method

Next I tried to not apply the same approach to each of my subjects because after 1st and 2nd year I learnt that different approaches were needed for certain things for me to learn them best. For example, in my final year I took; Roman Law, Corporate Insolvency, Information Technology and Law and a dissertation subject. IT Law and Roman Law were more case / scenario heavy and involved more problem and essay style questions. Whilst, Corporate Insolvency was more of a philosophical exploration of the principles and all the questions were essays.

For IT Law, I made case lists and slotted them into essay plans in the form of mind maps, whereas for Corporate Insolvency, I went over the material over and over again by taking notes using the Cornell Method, and then reducing them to a single A4 side for each topic and planning the information around essay plans. For me, engaging with the material in this way meant that I was constantly looking at it and doing something with it rather than passively revising. It also meant it was easier for me to recall the information later on. For an interesting book on how our brain processes information I would recommend How We Learn by Benedict Carey.

For my dissertation, after collecting some readings and ideas, I wrote my first draft by hand and typed it up later, only because I knew that I would find it easier to think and come up with good ideas on paper rather than on my laptop.

3) Review, review, review

I cannot emphasise this enough: continually going over the information in different ways, as tedious as it sounds, definitely helped. I wasn’t passively revising but actively revising and reviewing strategically.

To facilitate in this review process, I collected all of the past papers I could get a hold of and where possible I tried to see what were the common topics and themes that came up year after year. This won’t always apply to all subjects but it definitely helps in narrowing down where you should place your focus. Also for certain subjects there are certain things that are guaranteed to come up in some form: for example, in Contract Law, the formation of a contract or cessation of one will come up at some point; in Trusts, how a trust is formed or what makes a valid trust will probably come up.

Using the past papers, I would do mind maps in the structure of an essay plan and try and fit in the new information that I had learnt to various topics in order to see the bigger picture.

Before the exam

When you don’t have time always remember that you do have tactics. Although I had tried my best to keep a balanced revision timetable my final exam was difficult to prepare for as my focus had been elsewhere leading up to it. In the six days that I had left (luckily there was that gap), I employed a more condensed version of my revision methods.  At this point I had already gone through an initial review and condensing process earlier on and continued with practising answering old questions.

In short

    • Look after yourself
    • Make a plan and stick to it
    • Be realistic with what you can and can’t do
    • Be consistent

A final point to make here is that don’t compare yourself to others. In law school especially, it can be hard not to compare and feel inadequate but, trust me, we all feel inadequate at some point and we all struggle and if anyone says otherwise, they are lying (yes even that person who comes to lectures in suits and has read all the material struggles at some point too)! In short, create an approach that works for you and, as cheesy as it sounds, as long as you know that you did your best for you, it will be easier to handle.