Shivani Nair is a law student of Manipal University Jaipur, India. She has her own blogging page called Shivani Speaks Legally where she writes tips and tricks on law and lifestyle. She is also the founder of International Legal League, a student-run voluntary organisation that helps law student across the globe provide legal awareness globally.
What Advice would I give to my First-Year Law Student Self?
It is important to understand that law school is not what you see on "Legally Blonde", "Suits" or "How to Get Away with Murder?"
In real life law school is definitely a mixture of all these shows, but slightly different. Over the course of a few years at law school, you definitely get the grip of it. You will then understand law school better and will know exactly how to manage your work.
If you did not go through my initial blog post on 6 Things I wish I knew Before Law School, no issues, I will list down a few other things that I really wish I could have told my first-year self.
1. Competition lies everywhere, and you need to set yourself apart from the crowd with more than just high grades.
You may be the best student in class, with the highest grades … but are you really the best out there when compared to thousands of other law students across the country?
The answer lies in what you think is important.
If your priority lies in only securing grades for the purpose of "placement", you probably will not do that well in the field of practical law.
Sure, maybe you are thinking academia may be the field for you, but if you look closely, academia also requires you to be vigilant and focus on what activities you have done outside of class too.
Simply earning high marks without any experience, will not get you to where you want to be.
So, what does the legal world look for other than how well you've scored in your exams? They might look for how well you are able to present yourself before the court or what interests you’ve shown towards the field you want to be a part of. One can never be sure of exactly what legal firms want, but you can keep aiming towards being the best version of yourself.
Furthermore, unless you have managed to prove to them that you are a bright student involved in many extra-curricular activities, your will not make the cut.
Marks may take you to the door, but it will NEVER open the door for you. That door can only be opened by your skills.
This takes us to our next point…
It is very important that you have "people-skills" as a law student. Try developing this in the initial stages of your law school through networking with peers.
If I could go back to my first-year self and change one thing this would be it. You have no idea what proper networking and good connections can help you out with.
So never underestimate this point.
If you want to read more about why networking, please read my other blog … ‘Why Networking is important as a Law Student?’.
3. Self- Discipline.
Self-discipline is an important skill that each and every law student must most definitely inculcate in their lifestyles. When I was in my first year of law school, I had no idea of self-discipline in my life. I had no fixed timetable and no schedule.
It backfired on me.
As a law student, you definitely have a lot to read. Keeping a fixed schedule, a timetable and sticking to it can be difficult at first, but it is definitely rewarding.
4. Not everyone is your friend, but everyone is your connection.
This is something I learned the hard way. You may find that you do not relate to everyone on your course and that not everyone will end up being your friend. But definitely keep everyone you meet part of your network as these are all great connections for later in life.
In law school, you may come across people who "claim" to be your friend but will only be there for you till you satisfy their needs. Watch out for these types of people and most importantly don't be that person.
If you do end up in this situation always be polite and civil. I personally feel like holding grudges only hurts your soul, so keep in mind, whether or not you like them, they will still be your companions till the end of law school.
This brings us to our next point.
5. Keeping the right company
As law students, finding the right company can be hard. You may come across people who will be completely into "books" but will have the worst of character and then you come across people who are not that academically oriented but are much better natured.
My advice would be to not stick with just one group at first but see who you with. Your first and foremost decision should be to make sure that you understand what kind of people you really want to be friends with. Make sure that your group of friends have a mixture of personalities. The best thing is to be friendly and civil to everyone.
, if you are someone who is very academically oriented, be sure to have people in your group who are academically oriented as well as ones who are not so academically oriented. This way, the academically oriented friends can help the not-so-academically-oriented friend with studying. Conversely, you can learn a ton of life-skills from those who are not-so-academically-oriented. Usually, people who are not very academically oriented are the ones who have amazing life-skills to offer and those are the skills that you need to pick up or learn from them.
Law School is all about "people-skills", therefore it’s important to learn the ability to deal with everyone.
6. Get involved in as many activities as you can.
I wish I was more active during my first and second year of law school. I basically knew nothing and probably keeping myself occupied in lots of activities would have helped me understand a lot of things sooner.
Keeping yourself involved in law-related activities – be it of any field of law – will help you out in understanding the main focus of your life. In the earlier stages of law, you can then decide which path to choose.
If you don't know what field to pick, try exploring your different options.
However, one thing that I would suggest every law student to get involved with, is, . I recommend doing pro-bono activities because they can help you realise the importance and implementation of law outside of your bookish knowledge.
Don’t be put off by the idea that everything has already been achieved in law. There are still major changes that are required and still major changes that you yourself can work on in the field of law. What you need to understand is that you are not the next "Elle Woods", "Harvey Spectre" or "Annalise Keating". You are yourself!
Law is a very noble profession. The more you read, understand and dwell on law the more you will love this profession.
I hope this gives you an insight into law and something you can take as a piece of advice.