Approaches to Studying for Law Exams – Part 3; Networking with Senior Colleagues

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There’s an African proverb that says that “a child who sits on the shoulder of the elders will see farther than them.” This proverb applies to many aspects of life, including exam preparation. This article focuses on the role that networking with senior colleagues could play in exam success. Law students in the 1st -3rd years will find this article very useful.

Experience can either be the cheapest or most expensive teacher, depending on its source. If it is your experience, the consequences could be dire. For example, I decided not to offer a course called Logic in my 2nd year because it looked like Further Mathematics. For someone who had barely escaped unscathed from Mathematics in secondary school, anything close to it was like a walk in a graveyard at the stroke of midnight. I chose to go with an elective in the Social Sciences, but I got a D in that elective. Meanwhile, most of my better-advised colleagues got A’s in Logic. A short chat with a senior colleague before deciding to avoid Logic may have earned me better grades.

Choice of Courses

One area where building relationships with senior colleagues may be beneficial is in the selection of law or non-law electives. For instance, although law electives usually have the same number of units, some are weighty than others. Based on their own experiences with lecturers and their grading style, senior colleagues are more capable of advising you on the courses that are more likely to guarantee an A. This applies if your goal is to get an A at all costs. But if you, like me, you believe in choosing courses based on interest and its affiliation with a future career path, irrespective of the grading in the course, senior colleagues who took the classes in your specialization could guide you to make excellent grades.

Examination Study Strategy 

Apart from just advising you on the courses to take, a senior colleague can also assist you in developing the right study strategy for your courses. A senior colleague could share his/her notes with you and also avail you of the materials related to the course. Some senior colleagues I know have taken juniors with them while studying. A senior colleague who recently graduated used to run a mentorship school spent the lecture-free week before exams organizing mock exams for his mentees. The mock exams helped some of those students to prepare for the real exams.

A senior colleague can also help bring a reality check to your study plan. Law students in the first few years approach law exams with great trepidation resulting in impossible study plans. For instance, an 8 to 12-hour study plan with no break is unrealistic. By the time you have gone just 2 hours, you will want to rest your head and think for a bit; then you wake up 4 hours later feeling guilty and discouraged. Most senior colleagues have passed through this and are wiser for it.

Extracurricular Activities

Many things will catch the eye of a student, but not all will be beneficial. After my first semester in school, I got involved in several activities, mostly outside the faculty and my discipline, that affected my focus. Although I am the better for it, and in a way, those activities (blogging and social media) form the foundation for my current, and future endeavours in law, the benefit of hindsight has helped me see ways I could have better fitted these activities with academics.

In the same vein, many other senior colleagues have war stories that can benefit those coming behind. Law could be a tedious course to study, so extracurricular activities like mooting, public speaking, and active involvement in specialized clubs can aid in bringing the white and black text to life.

In a faculty like mine, where there are a plethora of associations such as the Mooting Society, the Debating Society, the International Law Students Association, and a host of many others, it is easy to get confused about what to do and what not to do. Based on their experience in these groups, senior colleagues can best advise you on the most value-adding associations.

How to choose the right senior colleagues

Now that we have dealt with the “why” what about the “how”?  How do you choose the right senior colleagues?

A few days ago, a junior colleague confided in me her struggle because of the conflicting advice given to her by senior colleagues (me inclusive). While some were advising her to focus on building her GPA in her year 1, some others, like me encouraged her to get involved in extra-curricular activities. While both categories have legitimate reasons for holding different views, it is worthy of note that the advice from senior colleagues usually mirrors their personal experiences.

Flowing from this, when choosing senior colleagues to walk and work with, be sure to probe the why behind the advice they freely give. There are some questions you should ask. (i) What was their trajectory from year 1?  You can find this out from a one-on-one conversation and general discussion with them. (i) What is their reputation with their coursemates? (iii) How much time are they willing to make out to help you? (iv) How willing are they to share experiences and hard lessons with you?

Till we meet next time, remember that your network is your net worth.

 

Akintunde Ifeanyichukwu Agunbiade is a 400-Level student of the Faculty of  Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife. He is a decorated public speaker, having represented his Faculty and the school in national debates, and winning the award for “Debater of the Year”, from the Law Students’ Society, OAU, for the 2015/2016 Session. He is also a member of the Students’ Representative Council (Parliament of the Students’ Union), representing the Faculty of Law. He participated in the formation of the Tax Club, Intellectual Property Law Club, and the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Society. He also led the team that drafted the constitution of the Tax Club within 8 days.

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