Law is one of the hard courses to study anywhere in the world inclusive of Malaysia. It is a professional study that requires students not only to study hard but also smart. I would like to briefly explain the definition of legal study. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word ‘legal’ can be define as something related to law. It is also described as conforming to the rules or law. Law is implied as an imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority. It plays an important role in a nation as it is a system of rules created with the intention to shape the nation’s politics and economics, provide proper guideline to its citizen in order to maintain social order, uphold justice and prevent harm to individuals and also properties in a society. On the other hand, ‘study’ is an application in a particular field or to a specific subject, which in this case, is Law. ‘Method’ in this case can be known as a particular procedure, technique, or mode of inquiry employed to accomplish or approach something, especially a systematic or established one. In my opinion, legal study is a course that provides legal knowledge and basic skills needed for an individual to engage oneself in the legal profession.
First and foremost, you should read the textbooks, before and after the lecture. If you read a new topic beforehand, you might not understand the topic but you can get an overview of it before the lecture. Thus, it can be much easier for you to catch up with what the lecturer is presenting during the lecture. Textbooks should also be read with a view to clarify ambiguities and difficulties in lecture notes and for the purpose of amplification on points referred to in lectures. As a law student, your aim is to make yourself as a lawyer and also pass your examinations with flying colors. Therefore, in order to achieve the aim, you are required to do massive amounts of reading, so you will find yourself reading not just about the law itself, but also academic opinions, case studies and judgments. By doing so, you will understand how legal problems present themselves and how legal arguments should be conducted. You may have to make substantial notes for easier future reference when doing your revision but it is not normally necessary for you to follow up references in footnotes or elsewhere inside the textbook which are less important unless suggested by lecturer, or when you are researching for your coursework or tutorials. Heavy footnotes in books can sometimes cause distraction so it is advisable to read through the book a first time without looking at the footnotes. Bear in mind that too much notes can be a problem before examination time so make it a habit to revise regularly.
The more often a book is read, the easier and quicker it is to read, and the more it repays the reading. For instance, when a book which is unfamiliar is read for the first time, it is rather heavy going and you tend not to remember very much of it. The second reading is of course much easier and more interesting, and you can recall more content than the first time reading it. Sadly, most people would have taken their examination at this point. If they were persistent to do the third, fourth and fifth reading, the outcome would have been different. They would have found that each consecutive reading was more easy and the knowledge gained after every reading was increasing in a geometrical progression. As you would have known, Law is a subject which require large amount of memory work. The best way to master memory work would have to be learnt it by heart. It is best performed in short periods distributed over as long as possible. This is because it is more efficient to revise daily than revise it all in a day’s time. Example given is that it is better to devote an hour per day than six hours at a stretch to do the revision because the amount of knowledge you gained is the same, so why not divide your learning time evenly over the weekdays and weekends instead of cramming it all in one day? Draw up a timetable and be discipline so that you can catch up with the lecture. Learning efficiency can also be maximized by having a rest period in between. It seems more learning can be accomplished by having a break in the middle than working continuously.
Besides, you need to read casebooks and case law as it is an important method in legal study. Beginning law students must learn a new skill, how to read cases. The purpose of reading case reports is to extract points. Normally, good casebooks will do that for you but if you want to master the skill, you will need to put in effort by reading the case reports and extracting the points yourself. Below are a few useful tips when reading casebooks and case law that are proven to be time-saving and practical. Firstly, read the head notes which will normally be an accurate reproduction of the facts and the decision of the case. Sometimes, the legal reporter would refer you to the important parts of any judge’s speech which allows you to go immediately to the relevant parts. This is occasionally adequate as it is not necessary to read the whole judgment. However, it is advisable to read the judgment and understand how the judge approaches the legal issue in landmark cases. Next, what you need is a brief statement of facts of case, decision and important statements by a judge. In leading cases you may need to have a note of the differing approaches of the judges in the case. For example, in the case of Hedley Byrne & Co. Ltd v Heller & Partner Ltd, you may wish to make notes on various ways in which the judges described the special close relationship required before a duty of care may arise in respect of a negligent misstatement. Lastly, it is a good practice to read the counsel’s argument if you are interested in mooting as it gives hints on how to prepare and submit legal argument. Dissenting judgment should also be considered as it may useful ammunition in future cases for arguing that a decision was wrong or is capable of being distinguished or that the position is not really settled beyond doubt.
Apart from that, it is important for you to attend the lecture classes as it is regarded as the backbone of a course. It also gives lecturers the chance to deliver the latest developments in an area and to explain parts of the course. The main objective of lecture is to convey to students the basic knowledge and understanding of the Law. Secondly, lectures provide important guidance to students, so that they may be more readily gain and have deeper understanding through informed approach to legal materials. Such guidance may be explicit, so be sure to pay full attention during lectures to avoid missing out. Lectures also play a part to stimulate the interest of students in a particular subject and cultivate the spirit and practice of critical analysis. Many students adopt a passive role during lectures as they are expected not to interrupt the lecture by asking questions or making comments. In order to make the experience less passive, you will need to listen attentively and draw down notes. Listening to lecture is not just merely hearing what the lecturer is presenting but listening actively and reflectively by relating the new information with your existing knowledge. You can be concentrated in lectures by taking down notes if you want to be an effective listener.
Last but not least, attending tutorials is essential in legal study. Tutorials consist of small group of students who meet regularly with their academic tutor to discuss questions which have been set by the tutor beforehand. Students are expected to prepare answer for the particular topic in advance so that they can participate in the discussion and tutors would usually expect the students to join in the discussion. Here are some useful tips that students need to be aware of. First, be prepared when attending a tutorial. There is no point for you to attend the tutorial because you cannot participate in the discussion if you did not prepare. Next, do not be afraid to participate. A little bravery is needed for you to voice out your ideas if not you would not develop your thinking. You can expect to be challenged during group discussion because tutor wants to help you think critically, precisely and rigorously. Do not expect to take notes all the time during tutorials as you may miss out your opportunity to take part in discussion. It may also divert your attention from the main points raised by others during the discussion. Not to mention, take full advantage of tutorials by raising questions about aspects of the subject which you are doubtful about.
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