I’ve just finished 1st year law and I’m about to go into 2nd year. How much of a step up is it? Are the full year papers difficult?
Hey mate - your second year of law, relative to your first, is certainly a step up. Partly because the core papers span two semesters but also because the papers become more technical in terms of their legal analysis. You will probably pick up on the best technique that suits your learning style relatively quickly. On the other hand you will have a better chance to get to know your peers, given that the intake is only around 250-300 people (from what I recall) and you can ask for help without the burden/pressure of competition for places. A few tips would be to take good notes (type as comprehensively and quickly as possible, adapting to each lecturer) and form some sort of format that you can easily read through and understand yourself. If that means going over your notes after class, unfortunately that may be the best idea. Also, try not to stress too much, your wellbeing is the first priority.
Thanks heaps, this is very helpful! Quick follow up question: with the full year papers, are there tests/exams at the end of semester 1? Or is it all at the end of semester 2?
Usually there will be a test at the end of the first semester, so half way through the course. It’s either during the exam period or in the last week or so of semester. It’s usually weighted pretty heavily for your final grade in the paper as well. Check to see if your papers are double chance, meaning if you do better on your exam than what your exam and test/assignment grade for the paper would be combined, just your exam score will be used. It’s quite reassuring (or scary, depending on how you look at it!) knowing that if your test score isn’t what you were looking for, you can rely on solely your exam score to give you a good grade.
Congratulations on getting in Part II! The fact that you have accomplished this signals that you are competent enough to succeed. Personally, I found second year law is a lot more difficult as the course content is more technical and nuanced. Different people interpret the content differently, and while there is no right or wrong, you must prove that you have given sufficient thought to your conclusion with strong justifications based on what you have learned as well as common sense. Second year law is also more difficult in that it is less clear what is required to obtain a good mark in tests, assignments and the final exam. You may have a solid grasp of the content, but without an understanding of exam technique (which will come with experience), your results may not reflect your effort. At the end of day, it’s important to talk to lecturers, seek support from your peers and older students, not just bury your head in the textbooks.
There’s usually a test during Semester 1 worth around 10-20%, then the final exam is in November. There’s also a tutorial essay worth 10-20% thrown somewhere in Sem 2.
2nd year is certainty a step up from 1st year. In fact it’s almost like starting over again, because this time you are doing real law. It’s very content heavy, loads of notes and quick learning. Lectures move of topics quickly and briefly, but they will try and make the transition as easy as possible. As long as you work hard throughout the year you will do great! I would also emphasise the importance of looking after your own mental health, make sure to get a good group around you to go through law with, make good study groups and share experience and notes. Law school is hard, but it can be made easier by having a good group around you. Good luck!
As mentioned by others, 2nd year law is a definite step up from 1 year law - mainly in terms of the sheer amount of content covered. There is the potential for the end of year exam to cover content from the whole year, so its important to try and keep up on a week-to-week basis through having a structure in place in regards to readings and note taking. 3 lectures a week for 24 weeks leads to a ton of notes.
I made the mistake of using the same note taking approach from by BA studies and it just didn’t work due to the amount of content covered each lecture. In my BA - I would notetake by hand and I wouldn’t take down every single thing that the lecturer said verbatim; instead I would try and listen intently and get a broad understanding of the topic and jot down a few key points. With law, and this goes against conventional note taking wisdom, it is in my opinion best to use a laptop and take down as much info as possible during a lecture - even if you don’t understand it all at the time. Every time the lecturer goes through a case, take down all of that information - verbatim - as it makes it a hell of a lot easier to type up case briefs post-class and can guide your re-reading of the cases.
In regards to readings, there is nearly an insurmountable amount of readings to cover. But that is fine as everybody’s in the same boat. It is inevitable that you will fall behind at some point and will have to play catchup at the business end of the year. That is just a reality of the course; unless you are an incredibly diligent student who puts aside 2 hours to prep for each lecture. I have had friends who have done well and have not read a single case during the year and instead rely on previous years’ notes and their own class notes. This is a very risky approach and only works for students who are good at sitting exams and have a knack of distinguishing the immaterial from the material when sifting through 100s of pages of notes 2 weeks before the exam. The best approach, I think, is to try your best to skim through the readings before class - jot down key points - and then re-read the case in full after the lecture and create your case briefs then, utilizing your class notes. At the end of each topic, it is useful to summarize your class notes and case briefs into exam template form notes i.e. an template of how you would structure an answer for that topic.
In terms of selecting part 2 papers - and I realize you’ve probably already chose your papers for the year - but despite the popular approach of taking Public and Crim in year 2 and Torts and Contract in year 3, I would highly recommend taking Torts and Crim together. Torts and Crim are very much technical, pant-by-numbers, check off the constituent elements papers whereas there seems to be much more room for broader essay writing and yarning in Public law and to a lesser extent, in Contract. Torts and Crim are really complementary, and friends of mine who bucked the trend and studied those two papers together really seemed to enjoy it. Tip: follow your lecturer’s advise and actually do take your Crimes Act to every single lecture - the whole point of Crim is to learn the case law to interpret the sections in the Crimes Act - so having it on you throughout the year is very helpful (write on it, annotate it etc).
Lastly, on the social side of law, entering part 2 is where you really enter law school proper and meet hundreds of other smart, pretentious, excessively competitive, insecure perfectionists. Despite this, I’ve found law school to be the most intellectually charged, stimulating and damn exciting place to be - where Ive met some of my best friends. There are so many people with the same political and intellectual interests as yours and it is a very exciting environment to be in. AULSS run a lot of great events and there is ample opportunity to meet other students and make great friends. This is so important, as in my opinion, this is not a degree you can do in isolation - you need friends to share notes with, study with, party with, cry with and complain to. The only problem is that everyone at law school school share similar flaws i.e. excessive competitiveness, perfectionism, and the constant need to measure your life progress and achievement by the all-encompassing yardstick of ‘law school success’ and it’s very difficult to avoid begin swept up in this maelstrom.
The key is to try and remain true to yourself; try not to be swept along in the inexorable push to be the corporate law superstar if that’s not your thing, or to be the human rights warrior if that’s not what drives you either. It’s important to remain grounded and ultimately, happy. As mentioned earlier in this thread, mental well being is so important, and it has to be said that depression at law school is endemic. Avoiding the law school rat race helps with maintaining a healthy sense of self, as well as enjoying and appreciating the simple act of studying law, which can be a fascinating discipline. Knowing that you are studying because you want to and because you are interested in the subject, rather than just because you need certain grades to get a clerkship, is in fact more likely to lead to you actually getting the grades you want whilst simultaneously not hating the whole ride. Always remember that your GPA is not a reflection of your self-worth or value, and it should never be the sole measure of your success. If you keep that in mind then I’m sure you will have a fantastically challenging, fascinating and actually fun time at law school!