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How To: Survive Law School

By Christine Wang, International Studies/Law III

As autumn slowly descends upon us, so too does anxiety, fear and apprehension about saying goodbye to our carefree summers and hello to our (very expensive) law degrees. The Internet is a wonderful thing, rendering everything accessible to everyone, from online tutorials for bridal hairstyles all the way to how-to videos for open-heart surgery at home. Symptomatic of life in the 21st century, our learning (and effectively, our grades too) are inextricably tied to the Internet. Therefore, for those of you who are currently struggling to reconcile with the fact that the next set of holidays are over 12 weeks away, I present to you a how-to guide of surviving law school, summarised by 4 essential skills.

Tip #1: Be Prepared

In the first instance, I recommend having some knowledge as to what your course codes actually stand for.

At the very least, write yourself a key in your diary so that you vaguely understand that LAWS1075 is that class which involves contracts, and that LAWS1141 has something to do with the Constitution. This also helps when you sacrifice four weeks’ worth of pay in the bookshop in week two, buying course textbooks at full price, because you’ve been aggressively denying that semester is starting.

I’m realising as I typed that last piece of advice that I myself don’t even have a diary to put a key into.

EDIT: In the first instance, buy a diary. A slight consolation is that stationery stores generally pity the poor souls that have yet to get organised, so your diary may come with a 50% discount.


Tip #2: Keep Hydrated

Coffee, alcohol, and crying.

Every student who has lived through at least a semester of law school has encountered the trifecta for assessment induced dehydration. At any point in the semester, law students can be caught with embracing at least two out of three of the above elements.

As a result, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of hydration.

Researchers state that drinking (ideally water, but let’s be honest, any caffeinated beverage will do) will mitigate symptoms of sleepiness, confusion and headaches, making you more energised, relieving pain and improving your mood. Whilst my mood improvement has been limited, aside from when my barista hands me my soy flat white every morning, I can appreciate any means of free pain relief as impending doom is best tackled with mental and physical alertness.


Tip #3: Strategic Dress

After your first two semesters of law school, you might come to the realisation that aesthetics are null in the face of survival. Who has time to coordinate outfits when you can just retreat into a uniform of monochrome tee’s and sweat-pant/mom-jean combinations.

Whilst the merit of basic clothing includes people overlooking the fact that you have worn the same shirt for three consecutive days, the inconspicuousness of your clothing also has its limitations.

I do note that survivalists often praise the utility of camouflage clothing, however I am a firm believer in the opposite.

For new law students, CP at UNSW is kind of a big deal, and for those who aren’t as confident in reciting facts on cue/reading the textbook in lieu of spontaneous discussion, bright coloured clothing is your saving grace. If you can go the extra mile, wear reflective tape or fairy lights. Not only does this ensure that your lecturer knows exactly who you are and where you are, this will also signal your dominance to the other law students competing for classroom survival, inciting fear and awe.

Tip #4: Learn to Swim

Now, whilst this may sound like an odd tip, athleticism and scholarly superiority actually go hand in hand like The Hon Michael Kirby and dissent. Whilst I never graduated from level Seahorse in swimming school, I encourage you to learn three survival strokes as follows, so that you too can survive swimming in the semester’s endless pit of suffering:

  1. The Breaststroke: For people who are more learned in swimming, this one will enable you to keep your head up at all times. This stroke is most applicable for when you feel like you’re drowning in mid-semester exams but still want to maintain a graceful veneer.
  2. The Sidestroke aka the Apple Picking Stroke: swum on your side, with one arm out, this stroke is utilised in the face of treacherous, long-distance swims. Known as the least tiring stroke out of the three, this is my favourite stroke. This stroke will keep you alive for the duration of at least one semester. Whilst apple-picking was the analogy used to teach me how to use my arms, a similar arm extension can be achieved if one just imagines reaching for that unattainable HD WAM.
  3. The Flail: When all else fails, just remember to keep your head afloat, keep breathing, and signal for help.


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