Volume 10, Issue 1
The start of semester is an exciting time. We come back refreshed and ready to tackle new subjects and new law. All of us go through similar rituals: filling binders, buying textbooks and getting fired up about the seriously thrilling prospect of new stationery. To be fair, the last one is a personal quirk. Not everyone feels the way I do about Post-It Notes and temptingly blank exercise books.
Any law student also knows that this is the beginning of a challenging time. Law is a course that demands intense engagement and frequently tests our reserves of personal motivation. It is stressful. It is difficult.
Everyone has their own method for maintaining their reserves and staying excited about the law. I would like to offer a few tried and true pointers of my own. Put simply: be ready to encounter and tackle stress, find inspiration where and when you need it, and never forget what you love about the law and why.
Step one in staying motivated? Knowing when your motivation is likely to be challenged. Key dates that are likely to see drops in student motivation and increases in existential dread include:
If this sounds like you should be experiencing minor crises every other week, well, welcome to law. Fortunately, knowing when you are likely to experience periods of stress can help you to deal with it. Admittedly, everyone deals with their own brand of worry, so take the time to get insight into what stresses you out, and offset it where you can. Most importantly, maintain an enjoyable non-law life: keep your hobbies going, have fun and for heaven’s sake, treat yo self.
Finding Your Legal Spirit Guide
A key means of staying motivated is to find your legal spirit guide (or guides) to help you on your way. Legal spirit guides are most useful when approaching difficult tasks – by invoking them in your times of need, you too can draw on the wisdom of prominent legal figures to get the job done.
Are you being faced with a daunting word count? Have no fear – tap into Justice Heydon and you will find that, like his judgments, you are able to go on and on.*
Or, would you like to incorporate human rights or international law into your essay, but are unsure how to do so and whether or not it is strictly necessary? Embrace your inner Justice Kirby and you will find a way.
More broadly, it really helps to find motivation through our personal legal heroes. All of us are likely to ask what on earth we are doing at law school at some point – and a hero helps us recall why we are here. They remind us of our goals and of the value of the law. They are incarnations of the kind of legal professional we hope to be.**
Remembering to Love the Law
For most of us, there are times when we have looked ahead to the next week’s reading and silently screamed as we calculate that there are hundreds of pages to read. Or moments when, in the midst of another challenging lecture, our brain parachutes out of the back of our head and says: “that’s it – I’m calling it quits.”
At moments of peak difficulty, I try to recall what I love about the law. I remind myself it’s a tectonic force like no other. From tiny rumblings to major seismic events in the High Court (think Mabo), the law is a force for change that underpins our lives. Studying the law lays the foundations for a person to become a part of this movement - that’s why I keep chipping away.
Leaving my own self-indulgent moment of law geekery aside, you should embrace whatever it is that keeps you passionate, hungry and makes your studies meaningful. That way, you have something to fall back on in Week 10 when you realise you were supposed to include page and paragraph references in your Constitutional Law case notes.
So. Get ready to make the most of this semester. Scrupulously organise your One Note folders, purchase your third packet of highlighters for the year and brace yourself for the tough stuff ahead. But also remember to have fun, keep your chin up and stay excited. I wish you all the best.
*Note: it is unwise to engage Justice Heydon as your legal spirit guide when checking and responding to your student email – this has historically been shown to have adverse effects.
**My hero, if you’re curious, is the glorious Martha Costello QC from the BBC series Silk.
Alice Kennedy is a second year JD student
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