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Most people's perceptions on lawyers is one thing - they look so cool! Tie knotted, suits all-black, clicks of leather shoes echoing corridors with every step they take, and the list goes on.
Superficial aspects aside, do you actually know what to expect when you enrol in law school?
You must understand law at an academic level
Who makes the law? How was it made? Who is going to enforce the law? If there’s a dispute about the law, who to bring it to?
Academically, what you will learn in law school is divided based on areas of practice - of course, you’ll learn all of it, with a few electives to choose from.
Before anything, you will be introduced to the legal system of the country you’re learning law in. For example, in Malaysia, you’re most likely to learn about the Malaysian legal system.
Please take note that every country has its own unique legal system, but some share more similarities than others. For example, the Malaysian legal system is almost similar to the legal systems in the United Kingdom and India.
After that, you’ll be introduced to a field of more practical subjects like contracts law, torts law, company law, criminal law, and international law. There are many fields for you to explore that suit your interest and passion.
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Mooting is an extra-curricular activity that every law student knows about
When doing law, there are a few activities that are unique to law students.
Law students’ most reputable extra-curricular activity is called “mooting”. Now, what is that?
Mooting is a simulation of a real court case - much like how debating is, except that it is more law-ish this time, with all the paperwork, evidence, court procedures, and the list goes on.
It might not sound like much, but if you represent your institution and reach the finals or semi-finals, you are most likely to secure a spot in one of the biggest law firms in Malaysia after you graduate. All the big names are watching - better iron the creases off your suit!
Law students are also well-known for their networking events. This is where you will meet real lawyers, judges, and law practitioners. Connecting with these people will give you a head start in your career.
Pros of law school
1. Develop critical thinking.
When taking law, you will definitely have to argue. In most law schools, each subject would have a point where the coursework is a simulation of a legal case - much like mooting.
At this point, regardless of how timid you are, how afraid you are of public speaking, or how you would shed tears when arguing, you are still going to be given a ‘client’ with their problems, and you must solve this problem.
Research, preparing paper works, presenting your case, and rebutting your opponent’s case - all of these require mental agility, especially when you’re fighting an uphill battle.
This will definitely help your critical thinking ability to grow. You will also start to see things from more perspectives.
Of course, there is a grey area between simply being critical about a certain issue or just being argumentative for the sake of looking critical - we would advise you to tread this line carefully.
2. Improve language mastery.
People often don’t say “I study law,” they would say “I read law,” and there’s a good reason behind it - you are going to read A LOT. You’ll have to read cases, statutes, policies, textbooks - you name it.
The crème de la crème however, is the legal case.
You will have to read previous court cases that have been decided, as you’ll have to refer to them at a certain point in your studies or career. We kid you not, some of these cases can be centuries old which will make you wonder “What in the Shakespeare multiverse does this mean?”
Jokes aside, most old law cases actually use a type of English called Shakespearean English, which is the linguistic style in which Shakespeare writes - which is not easy to comprehend.
However, upon being accustomed to this, you will definitely be at a different level of English mastery compared to where you were before.
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3. A clear understanding of law and justice.
The best part about studying law is that you would know what is actually legal on certain matters, and this will be really helpful in your daily life, to you, and the people around you.
Say, one day you're stopped by the police and they ask to see your ID, should you give it? Are you bound to give it? Can they go through your phone if they want to?
You will have answers to the above as well as for the burning questions others may be asking., It's harder for people to scam or misguide you - and you can at least stand up for the people around you.
4. Broad career path.
Another perk of studying law is that once you graduate, you will have a promising career path ahead of you.
The common perception that people have is if you study law you will become a lawyer. Truth is, law graduates are open to join any practices, except those that require technical skills like engineering, mathematics or medicine.
In the legal field, you can either be a lawyer, legal officer, judge, prosecutor, or even an in-house lawyer, whose task is mainly to solve legal issues within a company - saves you a lot of the courtroom headaches!
Outside of the legal field, you can become a government officer, especially a diplomatic officer that requires knowledge in governance structure. You can also work as company secretary, researcher, lecturer or even an executive in banks.
The possibilities are limitless, and so is the pay!
Cons of law school
1. Hectic coursework can tire you out quickly.
"We understand that law subjects are hectic, and you are often burdened with coursework.” This is the phrase that you most often will hear from your lecturer.
However, it is rarely followed by the loving phrase of "Therefore, I am exempting coursework for my subject.” Instead, you would most likely hear "-but this is to train you to be a lawyer someday". *sighs*
Law students' workload is otherworldly (in a not-so-good way). You would most often write a case analysis of 10 to 20 pages per subject and on a weekly or biweekly basis.
On top of that, in order to write just one paragraph out of the 10 pages that you must brave through, you will have to read another 20 pages of previously decided cases - and you must read it all!
However, it is bearable. At some point, you'll get a hang of it and know how to multitask, prioritise and bear through the hectic routine like it is nothing.
2. Memorising cases feels like a chore.
The hardest part about law school is where you have to memorise the cases for examinations.
You will have to remember names, which are usually long and (unfortunately) negligible, facts of the case, and the reason why the case was decided in a certain way.
How many cases are we talking about here? 20? 30? If you are going for good grades, 50 is advisable, but if you are trying to secure a 4-pointer, the numbers would usually be around 60 to 100 cases.
So, all you need to do is memorise 100 cases for the semester, right? No. That is just for one subject. You would most likely have around 4 to 5 subjects in a semester, and sometimes you'll have to sit through 2 examination papers in a day.
All in all, law is a pretty interesting course to go through, as it is almost like trying to solve a puzzle! We sincerely wish you the best of luck in law school!
Written by: Engku M. Fakhruddin