Halfway through first semester

 

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.

Wrapping up First Year

Hi there,

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!

This was meant to be posted Feb 26th but I somehow didn’t post it right…

Hi 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.

This is Post from Feb 26th

Hi Everyone,

Somehow this post was not categorized as a Queen’s entry. Not sure what I did wrong…but I am reposting it now in case some have not seen it:

Hi 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.

Second Semester

Hi 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.

Ottawa – January (English common law)

Ottawa has a uniquely specialized January term for first year common law students which focuses on alternative dispute resolution. There’s a lot of practical work and some long analytical assignments, but overall it was extremely interesting. First, the practical component involved a series of mock interviews, negotiations, mediations and an arbitration. For instance, some days an upper year student pose as a client, and we would have to represent her (or him) in a series of forums until a negotiated settlement is attained. Second, we were assigned several legal memos in relation to our specific client’s dispute, which enabled us to analyze the relevant legal issues in an atmosphere conducive to working in a real legal firm. To close it off, we had catered free lunch with an Ontario Supreme Court Justice.

Now that we’re done, we have an entire week off again. I must admit, it feels strange having a break just three weeks after new year’s, but after all the work we did this past month its a welcomed change of pace.

Looking forward to getting back to the books next week as we start our first year electives. All the best.

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.

Cheers!

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!

November 19 – Windsor

Most of the classes that were missed due to the strike have been made up and we are now preparing for midterms.  Some days are grueling as we have been having tutorial sessions – I’m finding myself at school for 12+ hours a couple days a week now.  Tensions are running hight amongst the students.  It seems like everyone is really stressed at this point.  I’ve come to the realization that trying to stay fully caught up with readings is unrealistic, and regardless of what the professors suggest in terms of doing all the readings, going to classes, going to tutorials etc., you have to be selective in the work that you choose to do.

Volunteering for Community Legal Aid has been a great experience.  I plan on attending one of the court cases that I’ve been working on with the second year student who will be litigating.  This should expose me to how things work ‘in the real world.’

November at Queen’s

Well, I made it through my first law school exam in Public Law a few weeks ago. We will get it back either this week or next week. It was a practice exam and the final is in December (this is the only semestered course we are taking this year–all others have finals in April). It was a closed book exam which is new but they are trying it out. I also handed in a paper a few weeks ago in Torts and hope to get it back this week. I actually had fun writing it (I think that’s a good thing, right?)

Exams are just around the corner. I am trying to adjust my study time to include some time for preparing my outlines for the exams. I also have a few assignments due soon as well, so things are certainly busy. The reading is getting heavier for some courses but I know that in just over 2 weeks classes end and I can focus on exams.

That’s it for now. I’m in the library and will get started on some reading.