Why we call it “law school” and not just “uni”

Law students are unbearable. I get it.

Just a bunch of Harvey Specter and Elle Woods wannabes lining up in droves to receive an over priced,  lengthy education only to graduate into an already oversaturated market to fight over remarkably low paying positions with inhuman hours fantasizing that they will be the special one to survive high attrition rates to make partner.

Some may feel a smug sense of superiority over going to law school and won’t let you forget it, either.

Ugh, smug

So why do these unbearable, smug saps call it law school,  and not just uni?

For me, it’s because I’m not just referring to “uni”. I’m being more specific than that. I’m talking about a particular context, a very specific culture. This was the place where we had triumphs and break downs, conflicts and comaraderie. It was seven years of highs and lows, seven years of break throughs, struggles, defeats, frustrations, and despair. Seven years surrounded by peers who were going through the exact same thing. This is what law school means to me:

  • the special seat in the library that you’re unreasonably protective of
  • the dread when you didn’t prepare for a tute
  • the satisfaction of slowly wrapping your mind around a confusing topic
  • that person you’ve seen for the past four years but still don’t know their name
  • the reigning champion of each year whom you and everyone else refers to only by their full name
  • sitting down with a lecturer and being surprised by how helpful they are and their genuine interest in seeing you excel
  • ending events with a rousing rendition of The Horses

There are so, so many more I could give you but I’ll leave it there.

So next time time some smug Harvey Specter/ Elle Woods wannabe drops into a conversation that they went to law school, cut them some slack. Those two words encompass a context and culture that developed them into the person they are, for better or worse. Forgive us, but it was so much more than just a place and to refer to it as “uni” just simply isn’t specific enough.

Why you should be reading cases

When I was at law school I was able to cruise by without reading cases. And in fact, that’s a great way to describe my attitude towards my studies: cruise. I wasn’t particularly interested in what I was studying and found it difficult to see how the concepts I was studying translated to real life. That was until I started gaining work experience and I saw first hand how cases and legislation had real world implications on real people. And this is when I began to learn that being able to read case law is so, so important because when you’re going ahead with a matter one of the first things you’ll be asked to do is to find analogous cases.

Being able to read a case and to pick out the most relevant points to you is a skill learned over time. It can’t really be taught and takes a fair amount of practice. Every time I read a case, I learn something new.

Here are the reasons for why you should set aside some time to read cases:

It helps you learn how to communicate like a lawyer

This was the greatest benefit that I gained from reading cases. Every time I read a case, I pick up words to add to my vocabulary, new ideas on how to convey a particular message, and examples on how I should structure my work so my work can be better understood.

It helps you develop your analytical skills

Reading cases means you gain a first-hand insight into the way a judge would analyse a set of facts and apply the law to them. No cheat sheet can do this for you! An added bonus when reading cases is you will also be able to read the dissenting judgment (something study guides and charts often leave out), which can help you gain a more rounded exposure to the issues of the case and give you an idea of the alternative ways you could think about a particular issue.

It’s fun

I’m sensing some scepticism here. But see for yourself: next time you’re at work or just doing some browsing at home and you come across a law news story that’s interesting to you, plug in the party names into a legal database (Austlii is my go-to) and see what you can dig up.

You will never regret extending yourself and learning something new. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the process of learning how to read cases and then applying the knowledge I’ve gained from that process to my work and personal life. You’ll be surprised how often something you’ve learned from a case will just come up in conversation!
I understand you might not have studied law, or just need a refresher on how to approach the task of reading cases: my next blog post will be called “How to Read Cases” and will give you some pointers on where to get started.

Looking forward to seeing you again here on the Workplace Space.