A Fresher’s Guide to Getting Ahead in First Year

A Fresher’s Guide to Getting Ahead in First Year

Saturday 20 September 2014 - Lauren Turner

Here is a little all-in-one guide to the most important bits of your first year of your law degree.

Your lectures

You will shortly, if not already, have had some introductory lectures; as a real treat law students’ lectures normally begin during Fresher’s week. The introductory lectures tend to be useful so do make sure you get yourself to them. Lectures are the skeleton of your studying here and the method by which lecturers impart knowledge.

  • Attendance is important. If you didn’t hear a lecturer discuss a topic and make notes at the time, learning it later on your own will be a lot harder.
  • Read the recommended pre-lecture material. This is always massively hard to keep on top of, but if you can read the recommended chapter in a textbook or article before the lecture, you may understand what the lecturer is saying. 

Your tutorials

Most modules are taught by lectures and complimented by tutorials. Tutorials are a bit like school lessons but on a smaller scale, with about 6 students and a tutor. You will have set reading to complete and then questions to answer in preparation for your tutorial. Tutorials are directly based on the topics covered in lectures and are designed to test your knowledge of a topic.

  • It cannot be stressed enough how important tutorial preparation is. Read all of the cases, articles and chapters set and write answers to all of the questions. This is what is expected of all students but rarely what most students do. Re-read lecture notes as preparation too.
  • If lectures are the skeleton, then tutorials are the muscles and flesh. The work you do in, and for, tutorials is absolutely crucial. You probably will not have time to revisit a tutorial topic again until you are revising.
  • No tutorials are unimportant. Each tutorial topic will come up in the final exam and you could have to write an answer about it.
  • Prepare for them. The recommended preparation time for each tutorial (which is one hour in duration) is eight hours. One can spend eight hours on tutorial preparation and be half way through the questions as the set tasks are usually lengthy.

Your notes

Your notes are an accumulation of what you type (or write) in lectures, your tutorial preparation, what you record during tutorials and any additional work or revision you undertake.

  • Notes become really quite precious as the year goes on. Come exam time, they are thoroughly sacred and many students would take losing a limb over their notes. Treat them as such throughout the year.
  • Try to regularly update your notes, re-read them and add bits in from textbooks and judgments. This is good as on-going revision and will ensure you have thorough notes for revision purposes.
  • Revision notes are a condensed version of all of your notes, which in an ideal world would be created throughout the year, regularly updated and easy to pick up.

Your revision and exams

Although lectures have barely begun, exams will be rearing their ugly heads all too soon.

  • Break up your revision time into blocks and set yourself achievable tasks.
  • Utilise your tutorial questions, past papers, model answers and feedback on past exams. Use these as a core to revision.
  • Practice essays are wise, especially if you spend the whole year typing instead of writing.
  • In law essays, use subheadings and titles. Law essays are unlike English style ones. Give the reader directions and make sure they know what point you are going to make.
  • Look at past questions and identify what they are asking. Every single part of the question is relevant.
  • Create essay plans. Examiners want to see that you have done a plan and doing plans as revision is recommended.

Your societies

For information about all of the law based societies, please see the specific societies article.

You will soon discover that the societies linked to law are some of the best on campus. Getting involved in them can be immense fun and often massively beneficial to your future.

  • Be realistic. It is not sensible to imagine that you can be highly involved in all of the law societies and maintain a superb academic record. Many people are involved in a couple and attend events especially interesting to them.
  • Attend lots of introductory sessions. Despite the above warning, it is definitely worth seeing what all of the law societies are about and then getting more involved in your favourite.
  • Most societies have a kind of unofficial progression system. The president, for example, will usually be a final year and have been involved in the society since their first year.
  • There are some opportunities for first years to hold posts, within societies and the law school itself. These opportunities will give you experience and are attractive on your CV. However, time management is crucial and being a societies’ social secretary will not make up for a third class degree. Your degree should take precedence.

Your time management

If you aren’t already well organised, time management is a skill you should be looking to learn as soon as possible. From getting up in time to attend lectures to balancing your workload with a social life, organising your time well is fundamental in doing well. Some people learn this half way through their degree: if you can master it in first year you will really be helping yourself.

  • Have a diary with you all the time. In lectures, there might be an announcement about an event or your tutor might re-arrange a session.
  • And a watch. Being late to lectures is usually simply frowned upon and irritating, but will sometimes result in non-admittance or a somewhat public grilling about where you have been.
  • Most weeks there will be multiple society events. Make sure you know when and where they are so you can plan your work around them.
  • Allow yourself time off! A work-life balance is fundamental to remaining sane throughout a law degree.

About the author

Author: Lauren Turner