January term was three weeks and went by really fast! Now I’m enjoying the only “reading week” we get this year. Our three week exploration of Alternative Dispute Resolution was interesting. We are the only school in Canada that offers it at the moment. I enjoyed the hands on nature of the activities. We got to partake in a client interview, learned negotiation skills, worked on an arbitration and mediation. It was great how everyone got into it and how even in hypothetical situations you learn a lot about yourself.
I’m waiting for our Winter term thematic course selection to come out to find out which one I got. They all look really great so I’m not worried about not getting my first choice.
We’re back! We’re already a week into January Term, which is when us first years do an Alternative Dispute Resolution course only. It’s a nice break from having a full course load. We had 10 days off for the holidays after exams. Exams were really great to put the whole semester into perspective. Experiencing those two or three hour marathons helps one to understand what you are really supposed to take from readings and lectures. I am looking forward to going back to regular classes in February with that understanding. For now we’re doing a lot of experiential learning through group activities in class as well as some assignments.
Here we are in November and the last few months can be characterized with the following words, as some of my colleagues put it, “it’s like being in exam time… all the time.” As ominous as that sounds… you start to thrive on it. You develop a rhythm and start to be able to see the connections.
The assignments and practice midterms were nice last month in motivating me to get my notes organized and start to process them, condensing them. I’m starting to get into writing my first legal memo for actual marks. It’s nice to start delving into the legal research websites and start to sort through the different cases and legislation. The subject is also internet related which I was excited about since it’s such a new area of law.
Let’s start my recap of my first month at law school with some words about Orientation 2011. It was a packed first day, we started early with a nice spread of coffee and snacks and some speakers, good work uOttawa. I met people on the way, in the auditorium, at breaks and really it’s still happening. We’re some 300-ish strong here and they were all friendly, it was great to see that. We had various professors, administration, and student groups give us our first ideas of the school and advise about the transition. That evening we had an event at Chateau Laurier here in Ottawa and got to meet even more of our fellow students as well as some professors. We had two more days around the long weekend of more lunches, seminars, and mingling.
It was great to see familiar faces in our first class and meet even more people. Right off the bat we met our peer-advisors and TA’s. There are a lot of people around who are happy to answer questions and share their stories. We have a choice of a small group torts or criminal law class which consists of a smaller group than regular classes. They seem to be designed to provide a different type of learning environment and the discussions are an enjoyable change to larger lectures, which have their benefits too. I personally enjoy the variety.
So I have to mention adjusting to the readings. It’s been a very interesting process. The volume is large but I’m finding something will get me pulled into it, some interesting fact, argument, or concept… and that will be the thing that propels me through the next 20, 30, 40 pages… We’ve had the fortune of having a pass-fail practice law school exam in one of my classes as a learning experience. It was really beneficial because it gave me an idea of how my mind works under pressure, how I use my “summary,” and what I got as well as what I need to work on. I’m happy to say it has given me a new perspective on my approach. I think you need to embrace the learning process and not get hung up on the little things. It’s like, during my LSAT, I clued into the fact that the “practice” section was the first one in the exam, because it had 2 games sections in it and the first one was virtually unworkable. Well that realization gave me the burst of adrenaline and desire to hit the other sections as hard as I could. I didn’t let it get me down and that kind of outlook is what seems to be what gets you through.
So that’s the school part. But there’s also a lot of great social events that I’ve had the benefit of attending and speaking to great people in the program.
So it’s already August! September is just around the corner and so is 1L. I’m really excited about fall coming but starting law school is definitely up there. I’m ahead of the game because I booked the U-haul today and am thinking about what I am going to bring to Ottawa. Packing is a nice way to keep oneself grounded amidst all this excitement.
I picked my courses recently. It was interesting, in first year you get all the same basic courses – contracts, criminal, torts – but you get to pick the sections and hence the professor who is teaching them. I enjoyed reading the biographies of the profs and the type of angle they are going to take on the courses. The whole process gets you really revved up since it gives you a better idea of what the classes are going to be like. I ended up getting all the sections I wanted.
Now I am trying to enjoy the rest of my summer before I blink and I find myself in a 1L class. I will be blogging about orientation and the first week, so I will be giving you all a taste of that very soon. For now, I am looking forward to my own going-away get together with my Toronto friends. Toronto is a great city, we’ve had some great experiences, fantastic memories. I am thankful of the past but am looking toward what is going to greet me this next year. Actually, the thing I am most interested about is… what readings are like. Writing is near to my heart and I kind of miss reading things analytically.
This blog has changed, instead of having multiple contributors, you have me. I am a first year law student, well starting in September 2011, at the University of Ottawa. I will be blogging about my experiences in first year and hopefully giving you some insight into the life of the law student. I left the old posts from various law school students who used to contribute to this blog when it was in its old format and they’re designated as “Guest Contributors.”
This will be more than just me talking about how you should study hard, I will hopefully succeed in giving you some tips about how to adapt to life in general such as perhaps moving your whole life to a new city, as I will be in a few months. It’s my goal to be able to give you tips about apartment hunting and answer questions about applications as well since I had applied to the 15 law schools in order to land myself in Ottawa… to name a few things. Later on I’ll be able to tell you about readings, what lectures and tutorial are really like, and what the social activities entail.
For now I’m going to tell you about my week long trip to the city of Ottawa that will be my new home. I’m from Toronto but I am looking forward to the change. Below are some pictures from my sight seeing expeditions. Blogs are better with pictures so there will be many on future posts. I found a place to live that is close to the school right before this trip and hear that’s what a lot of law students do. Location is key. So I started there and found that the market is very close and that I’ll be able to get to what I need within a reasonable walking distance. When I was first looking for a place I went to the off-campus housing department at the school, they were really nice and full of useful information. I also looked to other students’ experiences in an online law school forum. Once I got all the apartment details dealt with I checked out the city and started to seek out places that will be my future haunts.
Well that’s my introduction for now, stay tuned for the story of how I got into law school, as you pre-law students may be interested in – particularly the do’s and don’ts.
Halfway through my first term of 1L I feel like I am just starting to get a hang of things. All of the fears and concerns I had coming into school have mostly evaporated, and the ones that remain seem much more manageable. Coming into 1L I had heard all of the rumours that everyone wears suits to class, has an incredibly type-A personality, tears pages out of library books, and that nobody shares notes. None of it’s true. (Mostly.) Really, it seems to be much more like undergrad than I expected; minus the immaturity and binge drinking. Almost everybody wears jeans to class, nobody seems hyper competitive (yet), the library is lovely, and everybody shares notes. Sharing notes actually seems to be a huge part of the culture here. People even share their notes with total strangers. Upper years I’ve never met before have offered to send me the best summaries from their years, and people from my class I barely know have asked me for my class notes.
Another misconception is that everybody works incredibly diligently once they get to law school because it’s so hard. It is true that the workload is as crushing as everyone says it is, but as a general rule it seems like most people have kept the same study habits they had in undergrad. Lots of my friends have gotten caught out because they vowed to start better study habits once they hit law school and then just fell back into their old ways and are now hopelessly behind in readings. I don’t know that I can offer any advice except not to let yourself get bogged down by the sheer volume of reading. People say that it’s impossible to keep up, so there’s no point in trying, but that seems like a cop out to me. It is possible. It’s just really really hard. Still, it seems much easier to do all the readings as you go and be able to keep up with the lectures then trying to cram in weeks of backlogged reading at exam time. At least that’s my impression so far.
My metaphor for law school is the frog in the pot. They keep the heat just as high as you can handle and just when you think you’re got things under control they crank up the heat just a little bit more. I don’t mean that to be pessimistic. Things are incredibly busy and hectic, but they’re much more interesting and creative and fun than I had imagined them to be.
Well, I cannot believe the year is coming to a close and I am almost done my first year at Queen’s Law! I have written 3 exams so far, with 2 left. To prepare, I drafted detailed outlines for each course which gave me a chance to review the content again. Outlines are summaries of the cases and notes about the cases. Most exams are open-book so we can bring those in with us. It sounds like heaven, but the exams are challenging and outlines will not help if you don’t know your stuff. The goal is to know the material well enough to not use your outline much in the exam. The exams are 3 hours of non-stop writing, so the less time spent on figuring things out the better. I also joined forces with 2 other students and we have created a study group for the exams. So far it has really paid off, and it gave us a sense of what we know well, what we need to review, etc.
Exams are not nearly as bad as I thought they would be. If you are prepared it pays off. I have not had any meltdowns. I am making sure to get my sleep, create a study schedule (and stick to it!) and I am consciously going in with a positive attitude. I think the best advice I can give is to worry about your own exam. If you start to wonder how you will do next to someone else, your mind can start to question what you know, you doubt yourself, etc. and then your confidence suffers and so does your ability to remain calm and focused.
The year has been a LOT of work but when I think about it, I have learned so much. It’s been a wonderful year and I look forward to next year already…especially since we get to pick our own courses so we can gravitate toward ones that really interest us.
Have a great summer everyone!
I have been meaning to get on here but have been so busy. Exams in December were fine. I managed to get a study groove going. Based on the feedback I have received, it’s all about structure and organizing your analysis clearly and comprehensively. My advice is to find out how each prof would like to see the info laid out, and follow that method for the appropriate exam. Some profs will want similar types of responses, others may prefer a different layout. Exams were not as horrible as I thought they would be.
We just finished reading week and it was so great to have a week off after the previous crazy week. Our section had 3 major things due within 5 days. It was nuts, but I am proud of myself for pulling it off. So far the feedback has been positive. I am waiting on one more mark.
I cannot believe we only have about 5 more weeks of class. Wow. This year has really gone by quickly. I have managed to stay on top of all of my class readings. It is doable, but you just have to sacrifice other things like going out during the week. Every weeknight and every weekend, I am reading. I do have a life too, and see friends, family, do social things, but these are limited to weekend nights. My reading has become faster and I have learned to take more concise notes as well, which has helped. Not everyone feels the need to read absolutely all the assigned cases, etc. but for me, reading the material ahead of class helps me to feel connected to the material and more engaged in class. As I said, it comes with a price, but the reward of feeling prepared for each class is worth it. Plus, come the weekend, I still do things and have fun when my work is done plus it’s really difficult to catch up once behind, as the volume of reading is consistently high.
I want to comment on the competitiveness of law school. Because we are on a B bell curve, there is a lot of clamouring for those elusive As. One thing that has really helped me is not to worry about others around me. What works for one person may not work for another. Pushing myself to do well is fine, but comparing myself to others is not. Everyone is different. Some people may write something down that the prof said, others may not. If you let others affect your behaviour and self-confidence, you will drive yourself crazy (unless there are good tips that are helpful to you). You got into law school because you can do this. Believe in yourself, apply yourself, put the work in, and you will be successful.