I have finally set aside some time to write a few words on here. My intentions were to get on here sooner, but suddenly we’re one month in, and here we are.
The first week of class was exciting. It was mostly an intro from our profs, and the readings began immediately. All of my profs are excellent. They are all approachable and truly care about the study of law. At Queen’s we are put into small sections of 25 students or so, and we travel with that section in all of our classes for the entire first year. Most of our classes are joined with one other small section, to make a group of 50. Class participation is encouraged and welcomed by all of our profs. The Socratic method is not strictly enforced, although sometimes it happens, but the profs are all friendly and they know we are just starting out. I think the first week or two, we were all a bit on the shy side, not knowing if we had read the materials correctly, etc. As time has progressed, there is more and more participation, which is great, since we all learn from each others’ comments and questions.
Into the second week, our profs gave us direction on how to read the materials. Most of our readings are actual cases, and they are groundbreaking ones that have determined major points of law going forward, so it’s exciting stuff. Reading cases is a skill that none of us had coming in, so feeling like you don’t know what you are supposed to get from the cases is completely normal. At Queen’s they offer you a chance to connect with upper year mentors, who reinforce this point. We’ve been told by our professors and other students that at some point, it will start to click, and we will be able to read the cases with a “legal mind”. I can feel that already starting to happen and it’s great! The only way to learn this is through practice.
On to my next point. It is absolutely critical that you keep up with the readings. If you read the cases before class, you get so much more out of it. I do my own case briefs beforehand (which I learned from our profs and my upper year mentor) and then just edit them as needed during class. Once we do a case in class, we move on to the next one(s), so if the reading is not done on time, you are in perpetual catch-up mode, which can be pretty stressful. I would say I do about 3-4 hours of reading each night. It varies–sometimes I do more, sometimes less, but I am always on track with the prescribed readings. If I am able to read ahead, then I have some breathing room for other things, like Grey’s Anatomy! It’s important that you have other things on the go besides school, to stay balanced. One of our profs asks after most weekends if we did anything “non-law related” on the weekend. Most students just chuckle, but I think there’s wisdom in that. If you keep up with the reading, you will be able to carve out some time for yourself.
They really encourage school involvement as well. I am part of the Pro Bono Society and am participating in a weekly radio show about legal issues. I have also joined some clubs here at the law school, but am careful not to overextend myself. These things are important and do look great on a resume, but school is my priority, so I am careful not to pack up my schedule so there is added pressure on my time, which is already pretty limited.
One last thing: I never bothered with sleep in past. I would get the minimum to function at work. Now, I really try to get 8 hours a night. If it’s late and I am not done reading, I will get some sleep and wake up early to finish up before class. This seems to be working well for me. Each class is mentally challenging and demanding–we are stretching our minds and looking critically at materials, etc. so if I am tired during class, it’s a painful experience.
Well, that’s it for now. I have class in another hour and a half, and have to finish a case before then.
This is turning out to be a fantastic experience. It’s new, exciting and challenging. If you love to learn, this is the place to be. Everyday I learn something new about some new point of law. It’s pretty cool.