Reflections on first term

It has been a busy semester so far. We’re in the middle of exams at the moment – two down, three to go.

About two weeks ago, I felt like I was in the eye of a hurricane. Many of my colleagues were having meltdowns, some due to the demands of school, and others due to collisions between school priorities and events in their personal lives. One of my friends had to miss two weeks of school because her aunt passed away in California and she is the executor of the will. Another friend, still living at home, was feeling overwhelmed by family problems while also struggling with her studies. I was hearing anecdotes every other day about people spontaneously bursting into tears at the library, although I never saw it myself. However, the few times I went to the library to do some readings between classes, it was difficult to find an unoccupied seat, and the tension in the air was palpable. As a result, I have done most of my studying outside of school.

As everyone around me seemed to be falling apart, I found myself strangely calm. Keeping up with readings and not worrying too much about grades have helped me to avoid feelings of panic. I have also been very lucky to develop a network of supportive friends, who share notes and study together. We help each other understand tricky concepts, push each other to keep going, and share a sense of humour that makes the work enjoyable. I can’t imagine slogging through some of this material alone. Honestly, some of this stuff is extremely dry. I have found group study with people I enjoy to be invaluable. The friends I have made are truly wonderful – I would not have been able to predict how rewarding that aspect of law school would be for me.

At the moment, I am taking a break from studying for my Civil Law Property exam. The last exam I wrote was a 48-hour take-home exam for Foundations of Canadian Law, a social-science-based course that takes a critial and very theoretical look at our legal system(s) under various different angles, in terms of its social functions, and in the context of other legal traditions of the world. This exam was a 2500-word paper. Most of my colleagues at school dislike this class because it is so theoretical, but it is exactly what McGill is all about. It is the most “trans-systemic” course in the curriculum.

Last Friday, we had our first exam – Constitutional Law. I was not too happy about how it went for me – I felt disorganized, and I think I missed the point of the first question. We’ve been learning how to pick apart legal reasoning and apply different legal tests to constitutional problems. However, when it came time to do that in the exam, I feel like I started analyzing the given problem from the wrong angle, which resulted in my wasting time and having to rush at the end. I am grateful that this exam is “to assist only,” and that I will be able to redeem myself next semester by doing an optional assignment. We learn from our mistakes – now I know how to avoid doing the same thing in my next exam.

So, it’s time to get back to studying Property. I will try to post again before going home for the holidays.


Ottawa common law – Exams

The first term of school has flown by and I’m almost done exams (2 left). Looking back, I’d say the term was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, although certainly not without its challenges. I’m looking forward to having a couple weeks off for the holiday so I can reflect over it all from a distanced perspective.

As for exams, our class is fairly non-competitive, which helps with setting up study groups. That said, study groups are just one method (of many) for studying. They just happen to work extremely well for me personally. I’d say whatever method worked best for you in undergrad is the one you should use in law school. The class character did shift coming into exams, but we have a ritual of going out for a drink after each one and it definitely helps maintain the group mentality. All exams are open book, which I at first assumed would make them easier, but after some experience I realized that the professors expect very comprehensive responses and a much higher level of structure or organization. If there is any advice I could have given myself before they started, it would be that “law exams are not terrible”. Just make sure you put in the appropriate study time, and don’t worry about grades too much.

Anyway, I should get back to studying. This will be my last post until next term so have a happy holiday everyone!