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A week in the life of a law student at Queen's

23/01/2017

Alishia O'Boyle
Student Blogger, Law LLB

When people ask me what degree I’m doing, and I say ‘law’ I suddenly get the daunted look or the ‘wow’ expression.

At the end of the day, I’m doing a degree like everyone else at university is doing a degree, there is no premium label on my subject nor prestige.

However, I must say, the workload is hefty, the modules are dense and I run off coffee which results in me running out of coffee, a lot.

Top tip #1 for surviving Uni - drink lots of coffee!

This blog covers what a typical week is like from the perspective of a Law student, such as the modules, lectures, tutorials, and other jobs that fill my week.

Lectures

There are approximately 250 students in my course, which makes the sound of lectures quite intimidating, but they are fine. In semester one, I did 3 modules. These were EU Constitutional Law, Constitutional Law in Context, and Legal Methods and Skills. I had 2 lectures per module, each of these were one hour long (except Constitutional Law which was 2 hours long, from 10-12 on a Friday morning).

I had 9am starts every day, except from Friday where the QUB School of Law were nice enough to grant us students an extra hour in bed. If you are a prospective law student, and you are given the same lecture timetable as I was next year, I wish you the greatest of luck in surviving those 9am EU Constitutional Law lectures!

The phrases ‘direct effect of directives’ at that time (or any time for that matter) will make your eyes glaze and force you to get a £1 filter coffee from the Junction cafe. But on a more serious note, in lectures, the focus falls on presentation of information and analysis by a lecturer.

Lectures offer a good way of covering a lot of information and, more importantly, of conveying ideas to many people at once, but their size often means that extensive discussion is not really feasible; except the odd hand up if you’re feeling brave.

You get given a syllabus at the start of the academic year for the semester, where it states the readings needed for that lecture. These are usually in your ‘core’ textbook, which I advise to purchase.

Getting the core textbook is a must in my book (no pun intended)

It may be a hefty fee and there are some in the McClay Library, but these aren’t always available which can be a problem if you have a big assignment coming up or 2,939 readings to do; plus, having your own means you can annotate key points with your own thoughts which will be more than handy coming up to exam season.

Some students like to do the readings before the lecture, in order to get a better understanding of the terminology and/or issues that come up during, others like to do it after so you actually understand what the book is saying. I personally mix and match, depending on how complicated the topic is.

Lecturers

Lecturers at Queens are more than helpful; if you ever come across a sentence which makes no sense to you, or a concept that you’re struggling with just give them an email (which I admittedly have done many times) and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can! Although some say that lectures are impersonal, you can make it personal through making the effort to contact the lecturer – it’s all about drive.

Lecture styles vary, some make slideshows which are handy as they upload them onto QOL (Queens' web portal), and bring them to life by stimulating discussions based on them, broadening knowledge.

Others prefer to walk around the room with no technological help, just a whiteboard pen and their voice. 

Tutorials

In semester one, I had one tutorial per module which were one hour long, except Legal Methods and Skills which was 2 hours long. Seminars and tutorials (yet to find out the difference) provide opportunities for discussion and interaction, often in smaller groups.

They can permit the use of interactive teaching methods (e.g. student presentations, small group work, role-play) ­ to help students to develop their knowledge and skills more actively than in a lecture.

I find these helpful, as they give you the opportunity to ask your tutors any questions or issues that you have come across in your readings or tutorial questions. For each tutorial, we are given a set of questions which consist of small questions, essay questions and problem questions.

For Constitutional Law, a few weeks in, debating was introduced. Here, we were given a statement, for example in week 5 the statement was ‘The Human Rights Act 1998 achieves the best possible balance between the centrality of parliamentary supremacy and the significance of human rights protection.’ – We were required to prepare arguments for and against, which we then performed in a House of Commons scenario during the tutorial.

Don't panic about speaking in front of you class mates; it's fine, honest!

Obviously, if you hate public speaking then this sounds like a nightmare but it isn’t bad. At the end of the day you’re just talking to your peers and tutors, and it really prepares you for future public speaking.

I personally found the EU tutorials most helpful, as it’s a dense, complicated module which needs explanation and the opportunity to ask questions in order to understand it. During tutorials, you also learn how to prepare essay and problem questions which will be in the exam.

Modules

As I said above, the modules that are given in semester one are Legal Methods and Skills, Constitutional Law in Context, and European Constitutional Law.

In semester two I’ll be studying Criminal Law, Rights and Accountability and European Internal Market Law. 2016 law students are the first students who will not be undertaking January examinations – instead we will be examined on all modules (except Legal Methods and Skills which is 90% coursework 10% test based).

This will be similar to a double award system, which will be familiar to those of you who did double award Science at GCSE. Basically, we will be examined on European Constitutional law and European Internal Market Law in one exam, Constitutional Law and Rights and Accountability in one exam, then Criminal law.

Constitutional law deals with the fundamental principles by which the government exercises its authority, such as the Rule of Law and relationship between the legislature, executive and judiciary. EU law is a system of law that is specific to the 28 members of the European Union.

This system overrules the national law of each member country if there is a conflict between the national law and the EU law. Legal methods and skills covers key legal terminology, the structure of UK courts and develops legal writing.

Constitutional law is heavily political based, which makes it easy to follow in the daily news and more personal which makes it my favourite module so far, but I’m sure criminal law will overtake that!

What else I do during the week?

I only had 12 contact hours a week, which compared to the likes of medical students is nothing. This may make you think that law students have LOADS of free time, but realistically we don’t.

We’re recommended to do 9 hours additional reading & work per module a week, so that makes 21 extra hours per week. The daily jobs need to be done, like eating (believe me, it turns into a chore) washing and the daily shop!

Students_Union_S6A9991   mario kart image

As long as you're winning, Mario Kart and Pool are a great way to unwind!

Nevertheless, everyone needs time to relax with friends because a worse thing than doing nothing is doing too much, which will in turn exhaust you, resulting in a burn out before exam season. I find going out once or twice a week lets off steam, whether it’s hitting Limelight club, playing pool at the Speakeasy or having a 5 hour Mario Kart tournament with the flat.

University life isn’t just solely about your degree, yes, it’s most of it but you must remember that the whole thing is a completely new experience that you’ll only have once!

Queen's has hundreds of societies that you can get involved in, whether it complements your subject or not – get involved. I start volunteering at Housing Rights this month which will be a new experience for me, giving me space away from work.

Learn more about the School of Law

Alishia O'Boyle

LLB Law | 1st Year | Isle of Man

I was born in Cardiff, Wales and lived there until I was 4 years old. We then (mum & dad) moved to the Isle of Man! I now have two younger brothers, who are 8 & 12. Hobby wise, I enjoy cycling, tennis and netball - I enjoy walking too but that's usually done with an Instagram photo opportunity in mind!

I decided to do Law from watching a TED talk on human rights in Afghanistan and how women's human rights are exploited. I hope to work for the UN after graduation and hopefully make a difference in the world (as cliche as it sounds).

Alishia O'Boyle profile picture

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