Vol 11, Issue 5
With week five fast approaching and the year barely begun, it’s pretty natural to be chasing that aim of self improvement. As someone who is very much on the grade improvement bandwagon, here are some of the key things that have helped me improve so far.
1. Make mistakes.
One of the best lessons I learned in first year was that when you make a mistake, you should own that mistake, understand why you made it, and then use that mistake to propel you in the right direction to being correct.
From a personal perspective, one of my biggest learning curves in this area was during first year, semester two contracts when I answered a question incorrectly, tried to backtrack and was immediately shut down by my lecturer. What I learnt that day could be boiled down to “if you mean something, say it. If you say something and it’s wrong, own up to that. There’s more pride to be lost in floundering for the right answer than admitting a mistake and learning from it”.
As much as that might seem harsh, it was pretty necessary. After that encounter I never forgot the full PER, and ended up being able to hone in on any areas I wasn’t certain on in that class for the rest of semester. It’s easy to hide behind thoughts like “oh I just said it wrong this time, I’m sure I know it correctly” or even “Yeah, if I had’ve answered that question I would have said the same thing”, but if you never actually take the leap and try honestly, you’re never going to face your shortcomings enough to improve them.
2. Don’t be afraid to lose face.
This carries on from the first point, but I feel this needs to be consolidated. Presumably, you came to law school to be a lawyer, or to work within the field of law. As much as lawyers are lovely people, and ADR is very much a thing that exists and works, the fact of the matter is that in this area of practise, you expect to be torn apart every now and then.
So with that in mind, when your lecturer absolutely wrecks you, or you’re going over a hypo with friends and you realise you went down a path not dissimilar to the one Gollum led Frodo down, admit it. Then note down where you went wrong and if you need to, ask your lecturer or someone smart that you trust to give you tips on how to prevent making the same mistake again.
3. Be disciplined
Motivation is great, and at the start of the year it’s super easy to keep up. However, at around the week 4 mark that motivation is long gone (thanks MLS for absolutely bombarding everyone with assignments, yo) and the only thing that will save your sad, overtired, stressed self is espresso and the discipline you built up in the three weeks prior.
For me, this has looked like setting a strict study timetable and foregoing socialising where it would interfere with that timetable. For you, it might look different, but the fundamental concept of this is that you need to be so conditioned into daily study that you feel compelled to do it.
Readings are like a musician’s scales, and hypos are the pieces – it’s when you get to put that knowledge into practice and have fun with the law. You can always catch up on readings, but you can’t really come up with your own arguments for a hypo you’ve already gone through in class.
With that in mind… do your hypos.
(Also go to class. Srsly.)
5. Take breaks when you need to.
Burn out is a very real thing – don’t forget that you need to sleep and eat. There’s no point in dying before you graduate.
On the flip side, recognise when you’re stressed because you haven’t done enough work. If you’re 4 weeks behind in week 5, it might be time to engage in a self rescue mission and go HAM for a couple of days to catch up.
Basically, the moral of this is – work smarter rather than harder and be honest with yourself. You can’t improve by doing the exact same thing over and over – it’s by tweaking methods and fixing your mistakes that you can get better.
Sophie Mether is a second-year JD student
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