Watching students huddle in the library to study reminds me of the time when I was one of them. I joined the school when I was 18, under the Diploma in Law programme (now called the CertHE Common Law), with absolutely no clue as to what I wanted to do, what to expect out of the programme, and no idea where my life was headed.
I remember freaking out on my first day. It was the 30th of January 2012. The thought of entering a new environment, making new friends and learning something completely new wasn’t something I had mentally prepared myself for.
The first few days were filled with awkward introductions and the usual team building activities. Lecturers would ask us to introduce ourselves and explain why we chose law. It was the first time I was asked that question.
Why did I choose law?
I suppose part of it was peer pressure. I had a bunch of friends doing their polytechnic diplomas. I’d sometimes sneak into their lectures and listen in, finding myself more interested than they were in the lessons. I thought law was also the “fast route” to success. Everyone dreams about having their big house, expensive car, a bank account with more numbers than a handphone number and a wardrobe to match. I was no different.
The first few classes made me question if I was really ready for law. I thought lawyers went to court, handled exciting cases, and woke up every morning feeling like a champion. After reading my first case and judgment, I felt far from that. There were SO many words.
It took a while for me to get used to what the law programme was like. Reading, writing, discussing…more reading…more writing…and even more discussing. But once I got the hang of it, I started to feel motivated. I learnt how to read smart and write smarter. I was lucky to have very patient and dedicated lecturers and tutors who never seemed to be too busy for us, even if it was 10 minutes before the end of the day. They were always ready to answer our questions, and advise us on matters both academic and non-academic in nature. Slowly, I began to love law. I loved what I was reading, writing didn’t feel like a pain, and discussions felt so second nature to me.
Moot court would probably have been the highlight of my first year. The endless days (and sometimes nights) of research, the thrill of typing out our bundle of authority, and the surge of adrenaline that filled us as we rushed about trying to get our bundles printed and bound in time for submission. Fun aside, the preparations we had to do for moot court were very real. It was only when I was doing my internship in a law firm that I realised how useful the whole experience was. I was mentally prepared for the long hours I spent after work helping the lawyers and trainees prepare for court the next day. Preparing my own bundles also made me more of an asset to them as they worked till the early hours of the morning on their own.
After completing my first year in the programme, I felt that continuing onto the Bachelors of Law (LLB) programme was a pretty natural choice. I signed up for my second year with a sense of accomplishment that I was actually doing a law degree. The modules offered in my second year took a different approach. Not only did it require far more effort (obviously), but it also required to think out of the box, to develop my own opinions, and more importantly, to express my opinions with conviction and to stand by them, even when they weren’t the same as my peers. I was no longer afraid to stand up for myself, ask a question, even answer the questions my lecturers posed – even if my answers were sometimes wrong. However, despite the enjoyable experienced I had pursing my LLB, I decided to take a break from it for a while, just to experience the real working world.
Looking back, I would say that my time doing my Bachelors of Law was a journey, a learning journey, and I was taught well. Through the programme, I learnt problem solving and critical thinking skills. I was taught to analyse and be quick thinking and to find loopholes in clear cut situations and more. The experiences I had, and the skills I developed helped me to grow as a person, not only mentally, but emotionally as well. These skills have not only helped me during the year I did my Certificate of Higher Education in Common Law and LLB, but also in the years after, as I faced everyday problems as I try to function as an adult.