I started my law studies in 2020 as the first “corona-year”. The opportunities were scarce during the pandemic, and in order to not end up with a gap year without meaning, I chose to become a student. I was never in doubt about studying law; I always wanted to. However, I strongly doubted whether the timing was right. Nevertheless, I was excited and already busy buying books for the first semester. And then, just like that, after the first week… I was completely lost! I couldn’t keep up with all the reading. I had no idea how I was going to find time for group work, seminars, lectures, studying, and of course, my life outside of my studies. There were so many thoughts and worries running around in my head; how do I study law properly? Should I take notes along the way? And what should the notes include? I ended up writing almost everything down several times. That did not make any sense either, because then I might as well open the textbook. Furthermore, it could easily take me an hour just to thoroughly read ten pages, and with all the law curriculum, I would never live up to my expectations of “reading properly.” But there is a reason why you can’t figure out how to read law at first. And as a newcomer to the field, you have to remind yourself that your fellow students don’t get it all yet either; law is a new language that you have to learn. It’s a learning process, and after some time, you will realise what works best for you. And that’s what’s important. Study techniques are individual, and you must figure out how you learn best.
Five tips that have helped me:
- Use a to-do list before starting work. It provides an overview of the points you need
to cover, and visualise the work you’ve already completed.
- Put your phone away completely while reading – try not to be distracted!
- Create a comfortable atmosphere. I remember myself often feeling a sense of dread
when I had to read. Not all aspects of law are equally interesting for everyone, and
no one expects you to be excited about learning everything in your studies. Still, try
to create a cosy atmosphere; light some candles, get comfortable, and reduce
pressure on yourself.
- The Pomodoro method. Read undisturbed for 25 minutes and then take a five-
minute break, where you think about something else (avoid using your phone).
Repeat it five times and then take a longer appropriate break. There’s a YouTube
version of it that I’ve been using for a long time, because it allows me to see that the
other person also starts working once the timer starts. Besides, it’s not too much
reading at once and not too little, and the same goes for the breaks.
- Write notes when you have processed all the information about a specific topic
(from seminars, group work, lectures, and whatever else you use). Make a mind map
where you link important paragraphs, important legal principles, etc., on the mind
map. There is no expectation that you should know it by heart, so look it up briefly to
remind yourself of the exact details. That way, you give yourself permission to think
and remember back, and you also gain a lot of knowledge. You can re-use these
same notes for exam prep too!