It’s hard for anyone to imagine the first semester of law school, but this year, in particular, it is shrouded in confusion and fear. The coronavirus pandemic has changed how universities will deliver their courses, with a push towards remote online classes. This uncertainty is troubling because the first year as a law undergraduate is as important as it is intimidating. One thing that eases the uncertainty of the first year is the solidarity of a close-knit campus and the study groups.
The first year at university is not a trial run. Grades matter. They play a key role in securing summer internships and ultimately job offers with law firms, vacation schemes, and training contracts. This article aims to provide advice and tips to support students beginning their time as a law undergraduate at university. Online learning is a new challenge for everyone starting university this Autumn. This article looks to provide specific guidance for online learning so that students can hit the ground running when university resumes.
In just a few short months, you will find yourself as a typically overwhelmed law student, whether in a classroom or an online Zoom conference. There can be no rest after completing A-Levels. It is worth using the summer before university to hit the ground running.
Ask current law students or alumni for advice. They may prove more helpful and encouraging if approached with respect, courtesy, and focused questions.
Make a Plan.
The workload may be heavy but can be managed with diligent daily work. The first year of university will involve a mass amount of reading, so it is important to carefully plan your time.
Whether or not you go on to practice law, studying law at university is meant to move you forward on your career path. Set long term career goals that can help you make the most of law school.
Get the Basics.
Why not get a head start? Familiarise yourself with common law concepts such as civil procedure, criminal law, tort, property, contract, and legal writing. There are plenty of books, online guides, and videos available. Use the free time over the summer months to explore these subjects at your own pace.
Many law schools have made an abrupt shift from face-to-face learning to online learning in the past week in response to the coronavirus outbreak. These changes can be stressful for law students, and it is hard to stay focused on your studies in times of uncertainty. Starting university is always daunting, without the additional uncertainty of online learning. Below are strategies for effective online learning.
Know the Facts.
Check your emails regularly – at least twice a day. Your professor may communicate specific instructions to you before class time begins. Read every email coming from your university, your law school, and your professors carefully.
Make sure that your computer is set up properly and that you can access class resources, videos, etc. from home. Also, make sure you are aware of any changes to your courses and seek clarification if you are unsure of your professors’ expectations for online attendance, participation, or other requirements.
Plan Your Days.
Just because you are studying at home rather than at university, it doesn’t mean that you discard your study schedule. To stay on track with what you need to learn and accomplish over the upcoming weeks, you must develop a study plan.
Create a daily schedule, with blocks of time that you are “in class,” times that you are preparing for class or reviewing and creating notes after class, and time that you are working on other class assignments. Don’t forget to include breaks in that schedule though.
If you don’t usually study at home, it will be easier to become distracted when you are trying to get work done. Look for ways to reduce or eliminate distractions, to the extent that it’s possible. Try to create a dedicated study space, ideally not in the main traffic zone if at all possible, and communicate the importance of not being interrupted to anyone with whom you live.
Make sure that you avoid the distractions of texting, social media, and turn off the TV during your study blocks.
Keep Priorities in Focus.
The routine of going to university every day helps to establish discipline and accountability, and you may feel less motivated without that structure in place to support you. But it’s important to keep your larger priorities in focus during this time and make sure that your efforts reflect those priorities.
Your professors are still among your most important resources in law school, and you must stay engaged with them. Come prepared for online classes and participate fully in any class discussion. You can always email any questions, but your professor can also schedule phone calls or Zoom or Skype meetings.
Your classmates can be your greatest resources and support system during law school, and remote learning has the potential to isolate you if you don’t take active steps to stay engaged. There are all kinds of resources out there, from Zoom or Skype to shared folders in OneDrive or Google docs. Reach out periodically to check on your law school friends and classmates. Support each other, encourage each other, and as you find strategies that help you study effectively in the online environment, share those strategies with others.
Challenges Facing Online Learning
Online learning requires a certain level of technological proficiency. To overcome this challenge, pay attention to how your instructors ask that you label and submit files and adhere to those requirements. Online learning is new to everyone, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before you start participating in online classes.
A strong internet connection is required for effective online learning. To avoid the issue of weak internet, opt for high-quality broadband home service, and know where to seek help if you encounter any technical issues.
Online learning can make juggling school, work, and personal responsibilities a challenge. As an online student you must use your time wisely; avoid distraction, break down responsibilities, and obtain help if you are struggling to adapt to online learning.
Be aware that motivation may be an issue. To maintain motivation, show up to class, set a study schedule, and stick to it.
Even if you’re facing challenges, just remember that online learning is a new concept for all students. Managing your time wisely and focusing on your goals are great ways to stay on track during your law degree.