This project is meant to be part of a time-lapse series of what law school is like, assuming I remain in school at each point. Each new part will be posted during or after the mid-semester breaks. 

Picture credits: Dikaios Pang

11/5/2018

Originally written 9 weeks in (~October 2017), this was later updated towards the end of Semester 2 of the writer’s first year (~May 2018). 

Quite frankly, no amount of frantic googling and stalking Justified prepared me for law school. I didn’t know many seniors who had entered law school — but the responses from those I asked ranged from “rewarding but hard work” to “don’t”. For this reason, I’m attempting to chronicle what Year One was like for me while it remains fresh and hopefully relatable for future freshmen stalking Justified.

I’ll start with the latin thing. I must admit to this vague and vaguely terrifying mental picture of law school as a place where flawless latin was a prerequisite. Teachers would stalk the halls, Severus-Snape style, and snap out comments like “Volenti non fit injuria, Mistah Pottah, you dunderhead!”. I even prepared a spreadsheet of legal jargon before entering NUS Law in August. By September, I’d given up. I am happy to report that (1) we do not need to conjugate Latin tenses; and (2) the vocabulary is manageable, as of now.

Come to think of it, my imagined law school was quite like Hogwarts: a parallel world considerably removed from ordinary life, complete with constant fear of painful death. The first part isn’t accurate, but the second is. Our workload, which largely consists of readings, is not little. This is not a stereotype; it is the sad truth. To quote Coldplay out of context: nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.

The first three weeks were frankly terrifying; I went from my daily eight hours of sleep to eight hours of sleep…over three days (don’t tell my mom). I can’t speak for my cohort, but personally I find school eventually does get more manageable.The workload does not decrease; we all just adjust to it slowly, and learn how to prioritise. While I’m still wishing for a time-turner to help with my workload, I can get six hours of sleep on a good day. Do note, though, that this depends on whether you procrastinate and what your priorities are. Full disclosure: I procrastinate, but I prioritise sleep over my readings.

The grade-free semester, I am sorry to report, is a lie. We have Midterms at the start of Semester 2. While this does give us the whole December break to study, unlike other faculties, it also means (1) you have less time to rest in the holidays; and (2) you are not prepared to cram for Finals in two weeks. This makes consistent studying and revision important; if not, like me, you will be playing catch-up. At the tertiary level, time management is key.

The Hogwarts analogy ends here, almost. But what about the giant snakes? I have yet to come across any, although there are many chickens. People here are generally nice and friendly. This article is also a matter of public record on Justified; everyone, including my batchmates, can read this. All jokes aside, I have formed close friendships in school. However, this only comes from my experiences so far, and I have heard horror stories from others.

In terms of friendships, my main gripe instead has to do with class schedules. Beyond the horror of 9AM classes, there’s no constant class group to move around with. This means that sustaining friendships is harder when you meet people for approximately only two to three hours a week. Even so, making friends is definitely not impossible, which I was initially very worried about.

My other big gripe has to do with the Botanic Gardens to law school trek. Granted, we walk through an UNESCO World Heritage Site to get to school, and it is quite pretty. It is also hot and humid. I am a sedentary indoor person, so it just isn’t something I enjoy. Also, the same walk at night has a considerably different atmosphere. We have shuttle buses to Botanics MRT, but if you miss the last bus, this is a minor inconvenience.

[Editor’s note: Recent renovations to the Botanic Gardens has made the path to NUS Law considerably shorter, but no less terrifying in the dark.]

As to food, I have nothing to say. This is because I have only eaten Summit (our canteen) food approximately 10 times in the 38 weeks of school. I will note that Summit is quite small, especially compared with the options on the Kent Ridge campus. We can walk down to Canopy, Adam Road Hawker Centre or the cafes and various food places along Bukit Timah Road, though. There is also Reeds (glorious) and vending machines (not so glorious). Learning how to cook or grabbing takeaway on your way to school is always a good idea.

I cannot profess to know everything about law school, especially as a Year One. Law school is admittedly also a personal experience, which does make this article quite subjective. However, if you’re anything like me, this probably hasn’t stopped you from searching up everything there is to know about law school (and stalking Justified), so I hope this is helpful. If you haven’t found it yet, I recommend looking at https://www.lettersofthelaw.org/. Also, as a parting thought: I do appreciate my law school experience up to this point, but  I’ll still be waiting for my Hogwarts letter.