Eight things to expect as a first-year law student | Top Universities

Eight things to expect as a first-year law student

By Dasvini S

Updated January 9, 2023 Updated January 9, 2023

Before I applied to study law, I had no experience of the subject. I knew I wanted a career as a lawyer, but as I received my A-Level results and confirmed my place at University College London, I felt the jitters coming in.  

Before I knew it, the starting pistol had gone off. The reading lists and course materials were filling my inbox and the pressure was on to get my head into this new subject and to succeed.  

I had attended open days and, spoke to academics and students, but I didn’t really know what to expect in the first weeks of my LLB. Once I settled in though, the nerves gave way to excitement and I was keen to jump in and make the most of my experience.  

I’m now in my final year and I’ve found my flow. Here’s everything I wish I’d known as a first-year law student: 

Imposter syndrome is normal 

You’ll be surrounded by highly intelligent and fiercely opinionated people. Look in the mirror, this includes you! You’ve earned your place here like everybody else.  

Still, some days can feel tough and that’s ok. Imposter syndrome is very real and experienced by the best students. Some days, you might lag behind on your reading and other days, you’ll feel more productive and will be able to tackle everything thrown at you.   

We all have different strengths and weaknesses and we can only learn through trial and error. Failure is a normal part of the process. Take the good days with the bad, because that’s how you’ll see what you’re truly capable of.  

You can prioritise the reading lists 

Law professors do not skimp on reading lists. There’s one for every class, tutorial and then some. Some lists include optional material and extra reading. Be prepared to do lots of reading, but bear in mind that you don’t have to do it all. I only know a handful of law students who do.  

Instead, pick and choose your extra reading based on the topics you’re interested in. Your lecturers and tutors will indicate which reading is compulsory and where you should prioritise your time.   

You can always come back to the additional material during reading week, when classes are paused to give students time to catch up ahead of assessments and exams.   

Dasvini studies with classmates

You’ll be expected to share your opinions in class 

In lectures, you can sit back and listen to professors talking about a topic, take notes and delve into further reading material in your independent study time. However, in seminars you’ll be expected to contribute your thoughts and opinions on the topics covered in lectures. You’ll also be asked to work in groups to debate your ideas and challenge each other.  

It took me a while to adjust to the expectation of developing my own strong opinions and defending them in class, as I didn’t have experience of this in school. It can feel intimidating, but once you realise it helps you to learn, it becomes so much more fun.  

A law lecture during Covid-19

Peer pressure is strong, stay in your lane 

Law school can feel like a pressure cooker at times because of academic stress and a sense of urgency to secure a graduate job early. Pressure can come from all directions – from yourself, the intense academic environment and from your course mates.  

It sometimes made me feel like I was lagging behind, but in time I reminded myself that it’s OK to operate at my own pace and prioritise what feels important to me. There are many ways to accomplish your goals and just because my friend has a lucrative internship doesn’t mean that I never will. Success is not always linear. 

Use your studies to build your CV 

Law students are extremely career-minded and use their degrees to develop a strong CV. I found it helpful to think about my CV as I was studying, so I could build extracurriculars into my experience and graduate with attractive skills.  

There’s growing demand for law graduates who are capable of independent thought, bring energy and spark to a business, and have a range of interests beyond law. From student clubs to volunteering, internships, competitions and additional course projects, there’s lots to get involved with as a law student.  

Join the law society 

Make sure you sign up to your university’s law society as soon as you start your studies. Law societies bring myriad opportunities, help you get to know your peers better, build relationships, strengthen confidence, and equip you with transferable skills.  

I wish I’d had more confidence to run for a leadership role in the law society, so if that’s something you want to do, go for it. Running for president of the society can teach you valuable lessons in leadership and working as the activities officer can give you the opportunity to connect with law firms to organise events and networking.  

You don’t have to become a committee member to reap its rewards, though. Joining competitions hosted by the law society, like client negotiations or mooting, can add valuable experience to your CV.   

Dasvini and friends

Networking is a fancy word for meeting new people 

Networking is a big part of studying at law school. As a law student, my university provides opportunities to meet new people and strengthen my communication skills. 

Basically, it’s about going to a big open room and striking up conversation with representatives from different law firms. It can feel scary at first, but having the ability to connect with new people quickly is a skill that you can only build by practising. So, take every opportunity to attend networking events. You don’t have to go in with law speak either, just chat casually.  

You can do it! 

At times, having a life outside of law school may seem impossible. Juggling a rigorous academic schedule alongside other interests and extracurriculars can be tough. The reading, assignments, exams and job preparation are heavy. But don’t worry, it’s all possible. Effective time management and prioritisation will be the best weapons in your arsenal.  

Accept that you are going to have to work hard, but work smart. Being chained to the library 24/7 isn’t going to be sustainable and in my experience, has led to burnout. Dedicate time to doing things you enjoy too and the pressure won’t feel so bad.  

As tough as law school is, it’s also one of the best things to ever happen to me. Maintain a healthy balance, use the support available to you at your university and you’ll not just survive law school, you’ll thrive!  

Dasvini and friends


This article was originally published in January 2023 .

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