By Katie Tootill.
Connie began her studies at Christ Church in October 2020, amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic. Her insight into life as a law student will help prospective applicants see how, even in the strangest of times, law at Oxford proves to be very rewarding!
What is the typical day in the life of a first-year law student like for you?
The contact hours are quite low, so usually I wake up and do some reading, then sometimes have a tutorial* later on in the morning. Mostly, it’s a mixture of reading cases, textbooks and articles for a couple of days and then writing essays or answering problem questions for one or two days after that. We have tutorials a couple of times a week as well as lectures and classes but it's mostly our own independent work.
So obviously COVID has affected university for everyone this year, but how has studying law at Oxford been and has it been what you expected?
I would say that out of everything, COVID has probably affected teaching the least, given that a lot of work is independent. Tutorials are a little bit different when they’re on teams but not drastically. I think the thing that's made a big difference is being back in college and seeing the other law students, to talk about work and do group projects. I feel like we know each other a lot better now we're back in college. It was more difficult last term, when you felt more alone because you weren’t seeing other law students as much. But, on the whole, I don't think it's made a massive difference in terms of content and academic study.
Was there anything you wish you had known before starting the course?
Probably that a lot of what you do isn't really about the content, but rather the skills that you're learning. You shouldn't get bogged down with all of the work by trying to remember everything and learning it all in lots of detail. You should think more about why the tutors want you to do something and which skills are important, focusing more on those skills, instead of obsessing over learning everything in minute detail.
What's the most interesting module or topic you have studied so far?
I think I would actually say Roman law, which is very surprising because in the beginning I had pretty low expectations for it. But it's so interesting because it's something nobody has any previous experience in, so it has nothing to do with prior knowledge you have or how much you've read. It's interesting to see how similar law is today and also how you can teach really relevant and important skills using texts that were written so long ago.
How do you find balancing work with a social life and extra-curricular activities?
I don't think it's too hard because we don't have too many timetabled classes, so you can make your own schedule. For example, if you’re a morning person, you can accommodate that and if you're an evening person you can work around that. The thing that I would say is that once you've been here a couple of weeks, try and work out what work was actually really beneficial, improved your skills or helped you when doing an essay or a problem question. Even though writing endless notes can be really satisfying, it's not always the most productive use of your time and you're better off prioritising the difficult stuff, giving you more time to go out or participate in extra curriculars.
What's your favourite part of studying law?
I think it’s the fact that it's such a mixture of skills, subjects and content; so, if you enjoy essay writing, but you also enjoy problem solving from subjects like maths and science, it's a really good amalgamation of all of those things. A lot of it is current, which is fascinating, but then a lot of it's also historical, so through studying law you develop your knowledge across a wide range of areas.
What advice would you give to prospective law students thinking of applying to Oxford?
Think about what the interviewers are looking for: they don’t expect you to know everything about the law, to have read loads of information or to be really up to date on current affairs. All of that is great, but I think they not only want students who are skilled, but also those who are ready and eager to learn and who are prepared to change. Try not to see the application process as a test but more as an experience that you work your way through. If you become too defensive, it seems like you aren’t willing to listen to new perspectives or ideas. Demonstrate your skills, but also be open to learning from the process.
*a tutorial is a class of usually 2-3 students with an academic. This system is unique to Oxbridge in that you get individualised teaching from a world-renowned expert.