First days of a pioneer JD student
I think the first semester for most of us passed in a haze of confusion and fear, I would say. Simply because I think being in any new courses is already difficult, but when you are put in a program which is accelerated, because the law degree we complete within two years or three years, and unlike the LLB program which extends over four years and the students only take a few law modules, we take only law modules. And they had arranged the timetable such that we had 5.5 credit units in the first semester, which was very heavy for a bunch of us who A: had not been in school for a while and B: didn’t know how to read, you know, even find the case let alone read it. So, we really didn’t know what we were doing. I think if there was any point at which people might have considered “okay maybe I should just leave now and save myself the trouble”, that would have been it. But I think the fact that everyone else was in the same boat and we were all suffering together, if you like, that helped. What we did is we gathered together as a group and we actually went to see our professors to let them know that we just thought this was too much and we couldn’t deal with it. They couldn’t, of course, do anything at that point but what they did was in subsequent years, it is now down to 4 credit units in the first term. So I think even though we probably didn’t help ourselves very much, we managed to help our juniors, which is really good. I think we learnt after that how to read cases. You know, it’s a lot, you really need to know what you’re looking for when you read it. If you read and you don’t know what you are looking for, you spend a lot of time reading and not really getting the point and then going to class feeling quite lost only to discover the point was something else completely different from what you thought the point was. But all this is not uncommon to any law students, I think, in the first term. It’s just that the load was so heavy that it made it doubly hard. We learnt of a time how to get quicker and faster. We also learnt to organize ourselves. This was advice that we were able to give to our junior so we hoped that they were able to do this much quicker than we were, which were to set up groups for things like, you know, gathering the cases, and making copies and sending them out and all those sorts of things. And all that helped, eventually. And I think the teachers were quite understanding. The other additional burden you have when you are a post-graduate student is you’re trained to think in a certain way in your field. And every field has a particular “language” or way of viewing the world. And this is what you’ve been doing for, you know, X number of years, you ask questions almost instinctively from a certain angle or direction. And now you pretty much have got to learn a new language, a new way of looking at things. That is not easy. It’s almost harder to do that when you’ve already got a preset way rather than when you don’t have any ways in the first place. But these are all things that we learnt along the way. And the positive side of having people with diverse experiences, we had engineers, people who worked in the finance sector, journalists, teachers, we even had a surgeon, the positive side of this is that cases and the law operate in society and, you know, they cuts across all these industries. And so what our classmates brought to the table was, you know, all their experiences in this line and this field. They helped us to understand cases in a way that I think if we were all were law students and nothing else, we wouldn’t have had those insights. And I think that’s also now what my class contributes to the legal industry, is that there’s a whole bunch of people out there now who actually have expertise in both. So while the learning was difficult, I think at the end of the day that learning was also doubly rewarding for these reasons.