Law: Chris Rowlands, First Year


Name: Chris Rowlands

Subject: Law

Year: 1st

A-levels taken: English, History, Physics, General Studies

What does your working week entail?
The working week for first-year lawyers entails a combination of supervisions, lectures and disciplined private study. Four papers are examined at the end of the first year (criminal, civil, tort and constitutional) and for each of these there is a supervision every other week. In short, you’ll have two supervisions a week, usually around an hour in length, requiring one (often two) essay or problem question(s) per week. Each supervision will normally carry a hefty reading list referencing textbooks, cases, statutes and journal articles to be read ready for discussion in the next supervision.

To compliment work done for supervisions, first-year lawyers have a comprehensive lecture schedule of 2 or 3 hours of morning lectures, Monday to Friday. Though not compulsory and not always appealing when you’re carrying a heavy head from the night before, it’s a good idea to attend these, as much of the information required for supervision work will be covered, which is particularly useful when the lecturer also happens to have written the course textbook.

The other aspect of a lawyer’s working week at Christ’s is focussed private study, which means finding somewhere comfortable to sit down and just get on with the work you’ve been set. The average working time daily, outside of lectures, is around 5-6 hours, which sounds a lot but isn’t too bad if broken up into workable chunks.

An average day for a first-year lawyer:
8.00 - Wake up
8.40 - 09.00 - Meet other lawyers at the Plodge and head to Law Faculty at the Sidgwick Site
9.00 - 12.00 - Lectures
12.00 - 13.00 - Lunch
13.00 - 18.00 - Private study in room or library (or anywhere comfortable you can focus)
18.00 - 19.00 - Dinner
19.00 - 21.00 - More studying if necessary (depends on that week’s workload)
21.00... - socialise (meet in the buttery, the JCR, go out, chill in someone’s room)

How easy was the transition from A-levels to the first year of your degree?
It has to be said, the workload for law is intense - there is a lot of reading and independent work, which tends to be very different from the A-level experience. A lot of the law course involves forming your own opinions, challenging what you read and making your own connections, and it’s a lot less prescribed than many A-level courses. There will be no-one sitting there making you do the work - if you turn up to a supervision unprepared, that’s your lookout. That said, if you’re passionate and are ready to engage with law as an academic discipline, you won’t find the transition too difficult; the workload is a jump up, but law is quite a unique subject in the way its studied and the course content, so the best preparation is to have an open mind. If, like me, you’ve done some essay subjects at A-level, you’ll soon realise undergraduate law essays and problem questions are quite different in nature, and you might get a bit of a shock when you get your first marks back, but if you listen to feedback from your supervisor, you’ll soon pick it up.

How easily can you fit social activities into your working week?
Though law carries quite a tough workload, that’s not to say you won’t have time to have fun and do what you want to do - after all, you should be applying here because you want to broaden your horizons, not just to lock yourself away and study! I find time for college rugby training on a Sunday and midweek matches, as well as going out and socialising a few nights a week, and its perfectly possible to fit in other things, too. As quickly becomes apparent, it’s all about efficient time-management.

What sort of things did you talk about in your interview?
My first interview was centred around contentious areas of the law, particularly those currently in the public eye (so keep up to date on current affairs!), and justification for different legal approaches to these. The second interview was more focussed on problem questions and the application of the law to factual situations. The interviews were basically comparable to supervisions with the interviewer trying to teach me something about the law and seeing how I responded; if you’re enthusiastic at interview and engage with what you’re being asked, that’s the best thing you can do!

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