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What to expect on your 1st day of "Law School"

Monday, September 4, 2017

Expect to be a nervous wreck. It’s a new environment, new faces, new challenges, a whole new bawl game (pun intended). Expect to be overwhelmed by the immense size of the faculty building, overwhelmed by the calibre of your lecturers and by the work load and intensely underwhelmed by your ability to survive. On the first day, in your first lecture/tutorial you’ll more than likely experience the Drowning Man Syndrome (syndrome discovered by yours truly). Don’t fall into despair just yet, I'll throw you a life boat, you're not the only one. No matter how confident and sure your batch mates look, if they are  fresh  out of high school, they are shaking on the inside just like you. What I’d suggest is this…take it all in-- The enormity of the decision you've made to enter the Faculty of Law, reflect on the seven year romantic relationship you had to sever because of your decision, think about the fact that you have to start “adulting” now which means making huge life changing decisions, open those big heavy law text books that you spent a fortune on and have yourself a good, nice, long cry. Welcome to the faculty of law!


FIRST DAY LECTURES + TUTORS + WORKLOAD


On your first day prepare for the sea of unusual faces... If you are an introvert like I was, go into the bathroom click your heels five times all the while chanting "I can do this, I can do this". It doesn’t work but it will give you a moment to calm down. Don’t worry about the new faces, pretty soon they are going to be the only faces familiar to you.

Now, many of your tutors will be law students from Norman Manley (just across the road) they are students just not like us. They're more advanced and many of them will command your respect while some will fail to earn it. Some will impress your with their knowledge, command of the law and ability to transmit information. Some will not! Find a tutor that works for you, after-all you are paying over a million dollars and you deserve the best. Never settle for a tutor that you can’t work with and be prepared for the ever occurring set down. Firstly, you are not in Law School you are at the Faculty of Law.Why the dichotomy even exists I really don’t know but that’s how it is. It’s law school (Norman Manley) and Faculty (Faculty of Law).

Prepare for the work load as the faculty of law is not a breeze. You will hear names floating around the faculty in tones of hushed reverence; of students who have passed through the faculty with legendary GPA's. Don’t be fooled, It was through sweat and toil that they got it. They had to master the art of remembering four cases per principle, 20 cases per topic and one hundred cases per course. I kid you not, learn the art of hard work, persistence and determination. Learn it and learn it fast if you want that upper class GPA.

Prepare for lectures  to begin on the first day. Do not go to class without notebooks. Comes September 4th you hit the ground running. If you do not woe be it onto you! Some lecturers are kind, they will hit you with an introductory note instead of blindsiding you with the full orchestra (plunging into the course). Be prepared for either one.

Prepare for a new way of learning as they teach us through lectures. They know (and you will know after attending a couple of them)  that students do not learn in lectures. In fact, one of my lecturers matter of factually pointed out to me that you only learn and retain 20% of what you hear in a lecture. So really you teach yourself while the lecturer and their notes are only there for guidance. You have to go make sense of the law, breaking it down into bite size pieces. It will involve a whole lot of mental gymnastics but it has been done before so you can do it.


STEREOTYPES


Prepare for the stigma and stereotype -- So you're a law student huh? You must be really rich and really snobby. Evidently, all law students are very exclusive, entitled and snobby. Don’t get offended when you hear the remarks. It’s usually from someone who is not a law student. So they don't know what really goes down at the faculty or what the students are really like. The fact that we're not all rolling in riches or think of ourselves as better than anyone never occurs to some persons. Also, prepare for the stereotype. So you’re a law student…you must be really bright. Now, I'm not sure what “bright” is but I’m assuming it’s meant to be a compliment, something good being attributed to your mental/intellectual capacity. I'm not sure I like that “compliment” hence I labelled it a stereotype. The assumption underlying that statement is that only “bright” people do law. Don’t get high off that stereotype. “Bright” people also do medicine, you have extremely “bright” people who are in the faculty of Science and Technology. You have “bright” people in Social sciences, being “bright ” in that context is not a compliment. It is actually an affront, a gross undermine of the caliber of geniuses dispersed across the different faculties on campus. Don’t fall in love with the label they attach to you.

THE LOUNGE


Prepare for The Lounge, again this is for the introvert. There is room on the 4th floor of the Faculty of Law building that we call The Lounge. It’s an exclusive area, only for students of the Faculty of Law (as if we weren’t exclusive enough). If you ever venture into this room be prepared for the bar like/strip club feel it has (I may be exaggerating because I’ve never been to a strip club but you get the idea). It is an intimidating place…for an introverted first year. But if you're an adventurous introvert, willing to push the boundaries of your personality, this is a great place to be increasingly uncomfortable. I recommend visiting the area a few times a week for the anxiety to subside. Not only will it decrease, in fact,  you'll be eating your cornflakes in a cracked bowl, feet up just like the regulars!

Prepare to be inconvenienced ...thinking of taking 10 minutes to run over to Student Administration Services (SAS) to pay a quick bill? Forget it! You'll have to skip that two hour lecture. The line in SAS  is always never ending. So if you go, be prepared to stand until your legs get numb.
Prepare to have a few grays pop up, thankfully I'm immune to that trait, of premature, stress induced gray hair. The Faculty of Law ages you tremendously, internally at least. You will feel it after you've completed semester one. 

You will feel like a year has gone by when it was actually just 13/14 weeks. The constant trying and failing to balance academics, extra curricular and social life will show you how absolutely inept and ill prepared you are for life. By the 4th week you'll start falling behind, being stressed and feeling overworked. This is all natural. It’s part of the process. You'll be fine.
So if you are a first year think of this as your faculty of law starter kit. You'll survive your first day, heck you might even enjoy your first day. Whatever your expectations were I hope this article helped you some what, to adjust your expectations. Again welcome to the faculty of law, where the real work begins.

Written by Simone Townsend
All Rights Reserved

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