What it's like to study law: a tale from a first year student

By UQ student Ella North

UQ TC Beirne School of Law building
Law students visit Queensland Elizabeth II Courts of Law

Ella with fellow law students on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane.

Ella with fellow law students on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law in Brisbane.

Studying law is both a challenging yet highly rewarding feat, and preparation is key! In this post, I’ll share what it’s really like to be a law student and provide some useful tips for how to not only survive it but how to also make the most of your first year (and remaining years!) at UQ!

Before law school: pathways to study law

First thing’s first – getting accepted into law school at university can be a challenge in itself! I was not accepted straight into law school at UQ so don’t be deterred if you’re not either; there are a number of alternative pathways that you can take to gain entry. The path that I followed was first being accepted into a Bachelor of Arts after high school, and then once I was in, I reapplied for the Arts/Law dual degree. This way, I was able to take credits from my first year in Arts and simply upgrade into the dual.

How to prepare for class (and not fall behind!)

Many students expect to become the next Elle Woods or Harvey Specter when studying law. While this could happen in the future, it takes a great deal of hard work and commitment to study.

The rumours are true – there is a lot of reading and reading takes a lot of time! I found reading case law and textbooks quite dense and difficult at first, but I soon realised that I was not alone in feeling this way, so don’t fret if you ever feel like you’re struggling with law. Through practise, you will learn ways to manage your reading effectively and remember, everyone learns differently.

Along with the reading comes problem solving and answering the questions required for seminar preparation. You are expected to attend both the lecture where you will learn the content as well as the seminar where you consolidate and apply the content. My greatest piece of advice here is to keep up with the work and the readings in a way that suits you, otherwise you’ll find yourself bogged down when assessment time comes. I also find it very useful to write short summaries of cases or the specific law principle after each week to consolidate my learning. Finally, I find using the opportunity to talk with my friends, peers and tutors to be highly valuable in the process of learning.

What you will study

There are a wide range of courses on offer at UQ which cover most areas of the law – some are a bit tedious yet others are absolutely riveting, it just depends on what interests you personally.

In each of the courses you’ll study real-life cases which are designed to equip students with practical and applicable skills for the workforce.

In later years of the degree, students are able to choose their electives and create their own pathway based on what they want to do with their law degree. There is also the opportunity for overseas study in a variety of places across the world so if this is something you’d be interested in doing, keep an eye out for these opportunities as they are constantly updated.

Beyond the classroom

Believe it or not, studying law at UQ isn’t just about studying. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in activities outside of the classroom and connect with fellow students.

The UQ Law Society offers a diverse range of extra-curricular activities that you can take part in beyond your studies. I am a major nerd for music and the arts and I discovered that there was something for me – UQ Law Revue, a musical comedy produced by the very talented law students of UQ.

Not only are there arts, but there are a variety of sports and external competitions like mooting, negotiations and witness examinations that all law students can get involved in, regardless of your level of experience or ability. In addition to these, there is also a variety of social events such as the annual Law Ball, End of Semester Drinks as well as First Year Dinner just to name a few.

Two male, two female Law students at Law ball

Ella at the Law Ball

Ella at the Law Ball

With the plethora of external activities available, I highly encourage everyone to become actively involved as it is a great break from studying and you make great, life-long connections.

Student reading book in aisle of UQ law library
Law school bandmates sitting on stairs
Two female students and one male student in white tshirts with suspenders

Staying healthy while studying

The workload for law can be very tiring and time-consuming, so it is important to stay healthy and active. I manage to balance study with my social life, sleep, work, hobbies as well as taking the time to care for my body - who knew the gym could actually be something to look forward to?!

I believe that the best way to manage what seems like a very long list of things to do is to plan ahead and schedule your time. This can be as simple as investing in a calendar or a groovy new diary – time for an Officeworks trip! In addition to this, I have made great new friends who are committed to study, but always have time to hang out and forget about assessments for a while. But be warned - there will always be late nights and a rushed exam or seminar preparation, but this is inevitable and all a part of uni life.

My overall experience of studying law is that it is tough, but challenging in a good way. There will always be lots of work to do but, more importantly, lots of exciting new opportunities. I love law school and I think you will too!

tying laces on pink and black running shoes
Pink diary, pens and red coffee cup

About the author

Ella is currently in her first year studying her Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws majoring in Political Science and Criminology. In her spare time, Ella is an enthusiastic volunteer at the university and a passionate band member performing at various UQ Law Society events.

Ella North

Ella North

Ella North