September 14, 2009
It's Week 1. What you thought would be an ease-in introduction to studying law has turned into a whirlwind of lectures, imminent deadlines, and frenzied textbook-buying, culminating in an impossibly high pile of readings, all due yesterday. Everyone in your class claims to have a brain bulging with IQ points. A UAI of 98 or higher is base entry, economy class learning for most of your peers. They're big fish rearing for their chance to rush into the deep blue ocean and overachieve on a yet grander scale...and yes, they’ve already done the readings.
...So what can you do?
Well, law school, long known for its steep and lonely learning curve, now comes with a Survivor's Guide. Packed with practical tips on how to navigate legal assessments, effective time management, dealing with depression and ultimately, finding out what career fits in law school’s great beyond, it’s an online tome of wisdom informed by interviews with legal high flyers – including retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby, SMH Columnist and author of The Pinstriped Prison, Lisa Pryor, and Clary Castrission, President of the 40K Home Foundation, a Sydney-based NGO currently building an eco-school in impoverished Bangalore.
Launched in late July 2009, Law School: A Survivor's Guide has enjoyed 54,609 hits in its first two months.
"My aim was always to go beyond the dry, technical, often highly individual advice available in existing guides and offer a big-picture view," says Wenee Yap, writer and managing editor of the project. "While it features tips on speed-reading, exam crams and essay writing, there’s also chapters on depression, thinking like a lawyer, ethics and in-depth interviews with graduates in a range of careers, from corporate law and the judiciary to media and political lobbying in Washington."
"In the US guides to surviving law school, to prospering and squeezing as much as possible from the experience, have an honourable place. The Paper Chase and Scott Turow’s One L both focus on Harvard Law School but the challenges are not peculiar to it. Wenee Yap extends this tradition for Australian law students and does so with flair and insight."
- Paul Redmond, Sir Gerard Brennan Professor, UTS: Law.
High rates of law student depression – over 40% according to research done by the Brain and Mind Research Institute, with similar figures seen in the legal profession – fuelled the need for this project.
"We have partnered with researchers from the Brain and Mind Research Institute, UTS Counselling and UTS: Law to develop a mental health self-assessment quiz for law students," says Wenee. "We hope this will help raise red flags, steering people to help and information when they need it most." Plans are also underway to form ties with the Black Dog Institute, a UNSW-based non-profit focusing on depression and bipolar, to develop an extensive resources section and contribute to future stories on the site.
"Students take much more from their peers," says Dean of the UTS Faculty of Law, Jill McKeough. "We think Law School: A Survivor's Guide is a wonderful, supportive resource for law students because of this quality - we knew Wenee had been a very good student - and the guide was in this most ideal form of peer advice."
Email feedback from a third year law student echoes this praise, saying, "...the fact alone that you are giving us a normal, non-institutional voice makes things seem a little less daunting, and a little more worth it."
Managing Editor & Writer
Law School: A Survivor’s Guide
Currently sponsored by the UTS Faculty of Law, we hope to continue and expand our work with the help of further sponsors and contributors. To contact us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org