It’s certainly no easy feat getting onto the Dean’s List here in NUS Law School – everyone knows that. Every academic year, the top 10% of each cohort form the illustrious 20 or so individuals who manage to reach that pinnacle of excellence. Have you always wondered what truly goes on in the minds of these highly – intelligent super human beings? Have you always dreamt of joining their league? Fret no longer, Law Annual brings you the exclusive Dean’s Listers’ Interview that is guaranteed to provide the answers to the questions you have always harboured in the depths of your heart but have never dared to ask.

Our journey towards enlightenment and self-realisation brings us into the lives of Dean’s Listers Timothy Liau, Wong Su Ann and Eugene Ong. To lighten up the mood and make everyone feel normal again, Law Annual has also taken the opportunity to interview our very own Chief Editor and self-proclaimed Dean’s Lister wannabe, Kok Yee Keong.

These 4 individuals have kindly taken the time and effort to craft these answers and provide advice to fellow batch-mates and freshmen. Law Annual thanks them for taking time off for this interview. It is hoped that all readers will benefit greatly and take home some study-tips from this inspiring read, especially at such time when exams are imminent. All the best for exams, all!

So you want to be a Dean’s Lister? Here we go.

 

Dean’s Lister #1: TIMOTHY LIAU


Profile:
Age: 23
Junior College: HCI
Relationship Status: Attached for 6 years and going strong
Mugging hours/week: 90% of the time I spend awake, apart from eating, bathing or travelling
GPA for Year One: 4.95 (editor’s note: out of a possible 5 i.e. TOP STUDENT OF COHORT)
Tell us about your rituals or habits before the exams. Don’t really have one. I try to sleep early the night before and that’s about it. If I’m well prepared I will stop work for about 2-3 hours before I sleep, and zone off by watching TV or taking a stroll.

Choices:

Library, Study Room or Benches?

Library – it’s the most quiet. Except that now it’s been invaded by year 1s who aren’t exactly very discreet when caught up in LAWR – I can empathize – but it’s not really a nice place to be in if you’re trying to study. I carry ear plugs with me wherever I go but sometimes even that isn’t enough. I mainly study at home and will only go to the library when there’s free time between lectures, etc.

Contract, Tort or Company?

Company. It’s the most fun (except for meetings which is just -_-). The complicated transactions are super sexy and you can understand the whole of the company law landscape through just several key principles or ideas. It’s fun and challenging to see how you can put together different legal tools to achieve a particular economic or political goal. Very much like playing pipe dream.

Torts is horrible. It’s the messiest area of law I’ve encountered so far. There are so many implicit moral/political ideas running through the background, all of which conflict, and which are never addressed but just swept under the carpet of “policy”. This was the subject I had the most trouble with. I never really developed the requisite ability to be “awkward in my heart” – indispensable when dealing with  torts

Contract was better than torts but I think I still prefer company.

Mindy Chen, Teo Keang Sood or Hans Tjio?

Hans. I’ve learnt very much from him. He sees the world in a very strange way – but it’s a very interesting worldview once you just hop on the rollercoaster. Very educational. Very exciting too. Mindy Chen is fun to listen to but I learnt more from Hans. She’s very entertaining and funny though. TKS is great! He’s really funny but I prefer company to land law so I would still have to go with Hans over him.

The Serious Questions:

Take us through a typical day of school for you.
I travel to sch by bus, which takes about 30-45mins, get off at the stop down the hill, walk up. If I reach sch at least 15 mins before lecture starts I’ll go grab a drink from the summit. If I’m sleepy, I’ll grab a teh. If I’m really sleep-deprived and fatigued, I’ll grab a coffee. If I’m good to go and just want something refreshing I’ll grab either 100plus or coke – coke if I think I need a sugar boost, 100plus if not. If I want a sugar boost but don’t want to touch caffeine I’ll get a root beer. I’m quite careful with my caffeine intake because I don’t like building dependency.

I sit with my friends during lecture. After lectures, if there’s a break before another lesson, I’ll usually grab lunch from the summit. If not I’ll head over to the library until the next class begins. After class I’ll take either a bus or a taxi home – depending on traffic conditions and whether I need to rush work.

At home I’ll study. Then I’ll sleep. That’s about it. I’m not much fun during school time. There’s not much space for that sort of fun.

Note: On my weekends I do relax. I’m actually a ballet dancer and I dance every week.

How do you study for your exams? Any tips for your juniors and peers?

I read through my own notes which I prepare consistently throughout the sem, which are usually quite complete.  As prof leong wai kum told us early on in year 1 sem 1, studying is a very personal thing. I agree with her. I think I learn best when preparing my own notes so I do that consistently throughout the sem.

At the outset I must say I don’t have any “locus standi” to talk about year 2. There are many intelligent people in law school, all of whom work and think differently, so I don’t think any advice would be useful. This is directed more at the juniors.

I think studying is a very personal thing so I would hesitate to give any sort of tips other than to do what works best for you, which is rather empty advice if you don’t know what works for you. For me, I’ve always refrained from using muggers because I think they’re bad for my learning. I learn better when I read full cases by myself and think through them myself – this allows me to come to my own view on what the law IS in a particular area, and then what the law OUGHT to be (although sometimes you can’t really separate the two so easily – like in crim – you’ll have to do both together). It’s a gradual process that takes place throughout the sem. I think of it as building layers of knowledge on one another. There’ll be larger themes in a particular area of law, e.g. in contract law – there will be several themes like

  1. Freedom of contract – parties’ intentions/personal autonomy
  2. Inequality of bargaining power – fairness/restraints on autonomy
  3. Whether true bargaining has been met – vitiating factors
  4. What a breach of contract is and whether it is any different from a tort  and why – remedies – expectation/reliance/restitutionary measure?

So when you read the cases/articles, you’ll fill in the gaps surrounding these themes, and build up a bigger picture of how it all fits. You’ll see the tensions and the way they interact. You’ll see, at the end of it – a political/moral philosophy which drives the whole mechanism of law and how lawyers approach it – of course judges and lawyers approach the law differently.

That’s how I learn generally – from big picture, to detail, then back to big picture. This is why I find it practically impossible to study using other peoples’ muggers. I need to digest the info by myself so that I can fit everything in place together. If you have Dworkinian leanings you’ll understand – being able to come up with an understanding of what the law is in a current area is very much a matter of interpretation and you need to be able to pick the pieces of the jigsaw together, and fit them together yourself. Everyone will fit it differently. And it’ll be hard to piece it together yourself, so rely on textbooks and articles etc to take a sneak peak at the picture on the box – that’ll help you fit it in together.

Anyway, once we graduate from law sch, there’ll be no one manufacturing muggers for us anymore. So better not start building dependency on them now because in practice/whatever you plan to do out there later you’ll have to write the muggers for your associate/partner. So why not start now?

But you’ll have to bear in mind that I spend 90% of my time studying. It’s a necessary sacrifice. I find that law is very much hard work. It’s indispensable. It’s a necessary condition of learning law, and learning to love law, just like how exclusive possession is a sine qua non of a lease (Street v Mountford) – lol nerd moment.

Caveat: I’m definitely not advocating that everyone studies like me. As I said, it’s a very personal thing. I recall someone (I think it was Chen Chi) pointing out to me that the way I studied legal theory was unique to me. So there. It’s up to you to find the way which works best for you, then stick through with it! (Of course you have to iterate and modify your study techniques through experimentation as the sems go by).

Complete the sentence: “If I could live life all over again, I would be…”

I wouldn’t really change things as they are now. I’m quite content with how things are going. I would only change things if I had grave regrets about certain life decisions, and I don’t.

We heard that you were a transfer student from the Faculty of Science, majoring in physics. Why did you switch to the Law Faculty? What, in your opinion, is the difference between studying in these 2 faculties? Which faculty’s students do you find easier to own?

I switched for very many reasons. A transfer isn’t an easy decision to make. But to put it shortly, one of the main reasons was because I had intended to study physics in the hope of becoming a theoretical physicist, and this decision was made in a state of severe info deprivation. I only realized that to follow it through, given market conditions, I would have to probably give up living and working here post-undergrad  for ~ 6 years with no certainty of ever being able to get a job here after grad studies, and it wasn’t a step I was prepared to take. My initial intents were frustrated, and since the basis of my decision had been destroyed, I had to re-look my path in life – decided to hop over to enjoy summit food everyday.

As to the difference between studying physics and law, I’ll illustrate with an analogy. If we were to assume that physics and law were equally intellectually challenging (just for the sake for illustration), I would analogize the study process as having to carry rocks to a destination:

Getting through a sem in Physics would be like trying to carry a boulder weighing 1 ton from point A to B. Getting through a sem in Law would be like trying to carry 100 rocks weighing 10kg each from point A to point B.

In short, very much more tedium in law, but the conceptual barrier is lower than in physics. In physics, once you understand something, you can sail along and cruise. Oh yes and there’s a lot more memorizing involved in law, which I must say I really really hate. But what to do?

 

Dean’s Lister #2: WONG SU ANN

Profile:
Age: 19
Junior College: VJC
Relationship Status: Attached for 3 years
Brief Background:
Convent school girl, TKGS-I was in a girls’ school for 10 years!
VJC Tennis team
House Committee Vice Chairperson
Mugging hours/week: Can any law student really keep count? I study as hard as I can during the day, and sleep by 11pm.
Average Grade/GPA for Year One:
Ritual/Habit before the exams: “Managing” my mum’s expectations.

Choices:

Library, Study Room or Benches?

Benches definitely. To me, the library is sleep-inducing and the study room has a very strange smell. Benches are warm, roomy and relaxing! (:

Contract, Tort or Company?

Contract!

Mindy Chen, Teo Keang Sood or Hans Tjio?

I like Teo Keang Sood the best. Mindy Chen and Hans Tjio are inspiring lecturers, but Prof Teo is really my come-home-to property guru man. He is patient, kind and humble.

The Serious Questions:

Take us through a typical day of school for you.
I take the circle line MRT to school and stroll through botanic gardens. It is beautiful in the morning. I reach the campus an hour early for class. I leave when they end. After school I sometimes have dates with my friends or economics tutees, but most of the time I go home to study and have dinner with my family.

How do you study for your exams? Any tips for your juniors and peers?

 I like reading things from paper, and usually print out all my cases. Then I go through 3 sets of Muji highlighters and 2 pens. I’m a kinesthetic learner!  To my juniors: Nil Sine Labore!

Complete the sentence: “If I could live life all over again, I would be…”

Bored.

You were one of the winners for the Rodyk Moots 2010, a Dean’s lister as well as NUS LAW QUEEN 2010  – tell us, why are you so perfect?

 Hey…you forgot to mention my Pro Bono volunteering commitment (I’m compassionate) XD. I try to live my life for the glory of God. I’m not perfect, but He is. “Seek thee first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Mathew 6:33

 

Dean’s Lister #3: EUGENE ONG

 Profile:
Age: 22
Junior College: RJC
Relationship Status: Single!
Brief Background:
Well … some champions are made.
But I was born one.

Behold! KEBUN UBI HOUGANG AVENUE 4/8 WEC Baby Show Champion 1990 (Yes I was one at that time). So who’s the real beauty queen eh. (oops I mean king)


I am also a trained ninja of the Chinty-Jutsu School.

Oh, and I’m captaining Law-Med Soccer next sem. Please look for me if you’re interested.

Mugging hours/week: Hmm don’t really count but should have at least 30? About 4 hours a day lo.
Average Grade/GPA for Year One: 4.1
Ritual/Habit before the exams:
-      Mug like a dawg.

-      Got time play soccer on the Upper Quad for one hour to de-stress

  • Pls feel free to join us, anyway it’s not like you don’t take breaks while mugging.
  • We come to school early, study till 4pm, play soccer for exactly one hour, go eat dinner and head back to mugging till library close.

-      Then go back to mugging like a dawg (as if there’s really anything else we can do in law school before exams)

Choices:

Library, Study Room or Benches?

(1) Library can smell books and spy on my friends studying hard “alone”

  • In a friend’s terms, being “alone” means there was no one within 1cm of him when he was mugging in the library.

(2) Study room can hear (note: it’s not overhear, is hear) all the Year 1 conversations and fill myself in on gossip.

  • Not interested.

(3) Benches got friends

  • Got people to tarpow food and drinks up for me
  • Got clever people to answer my questions
  • Got people to jio me go play ping pong
  • Most importantly, can throw stress balls at your friends when you are sick of studying.
    • But eh, just a tip: don’t play with softballers, I’ve been hit in the face too many times.

(Now now ladies. Please get a hold of yourselves. And please get yourself some tissue, there’s drool coming out from the left corner of your lips.)

I choose benches.

Contract, Tort or Company?

Contract, definitely!

Mindy Chen, Teo Keang Sood or Hans Tjio?

-      Where’s Chinty?

-      Teo Keang Sood for sure!!!

The serious questions:

Take us through a typical day of school for you.

-Wake up at 9am (Lecture is at 11)

- Close curtain so it’s dark again

- Go back to sleep

- Snooze

- Wah jialat late alr.

- Walk to MRT, stand up for old aunty

- Walk up the hill, now can admire the swans and the duck and the occasional dog swimming in the pond.

– Oops I just realized this is where the question really starts

- But I mean, doesn’t everyone do the same things in school?!

- Then go for ice cold Teh Pengs with my friends at guild house then go home lor

- Then sleep lor.

– Next day repeat lor.

- Then weekend lor.

- Then weekend over already repeat again lor.

How do you study for your exams? Any tips for your juniors and peers?

– Mug like a dawg.

- No tips one. And then pray you do well.

- Tips are for other more important things in life, for that ask the next interviewee below. His moves like jagger.

Complete the sentence: “If I could live life all over again, I would be…”

– Hmm. Maybe not studying law.

- I mean seriously.

Personal Question: How do you maintain that perfect rugged look wherever you go? Is that from all the studying? Were you the one who inspired the Law Rag beggar’s look?

It’s quite simple really, it’s not the studying, the secret is that I use Brylcreem. Just a small pea-sized amount a day is enough to give you the same stylish look as that handsome gentleman below.

And no … seriously, the beggar look came from … the strapping gentleman on the left below. (please ignore the one on the right, we don’t really know him)

 

Dean’s Lister WANNABE: KOK YEE KEONG

Profile:
Age: 22
Junior College: AJC
Relationship Status: Happily attached since Law School started
Brief background/commitments:
 In School

  1. NUS Radio Pulze – Vice-Director of Hosting
  2. Law Annual (New Directions) – President
  3. LSIRC member
  4. MDC member
  5. Moots (Red Cross IHL, Rodyk, AG Cup, AusLSA, Mallals, Rodyk Challenge, Harry Elias)
  6. Faculty activities (OGL, Law-Med, IFG, Law Frat)

Outside

  1. Chong Pang Toastmasters Club – Charter Vice-President (of Education)
  2. Chong Pang Youth Executive Committee – General Secretary
  3. Public Speaking Trainings (free money)
  4. Hosting Gigs (free money)

 Mugging hours/week: 4 hours? (1 hr before each tutorial and 1hr each weekend)
Average Grade/GPA for Year One: B-/B (barely managed to get the 50% letter)
Ritual/Habit before the exams: SLEEP

Choices:

Library, Study Room or Benches?

Law Annual Room

Contract, Tort or Company?

Tort, cos I got a B+, which I think is the highest I’m ever gonna get!

Mindy Chen, Teo Keang Sood or Hans Tjio?

Not exactly spoilt for choice here eh? Apparently seniors say that Teo Keang Sood is the best prop tutor EVER.
 
The Serious Questions:

Take us through a typical day of school for you.

Every day is all about surviving to make it to another. I’ll rush to school for lessons, after school I’ll head off to my 101 activities, if any for that day. When I get home, I’ll prepare for my other 101 activities the next day, if any. If not, I’d spend 2 hours to decide what subject I should study, and when I finally do… I fall asleep within 20minutes.

But a Tutorial Day is like fighting a war. The night before a tutorial I’ll print out Ivan’s muggers. The next day on the way to school I’ll start reading the muggers – I have 45min to do so. When I’m in the tutorial lesson, I’ll start to read the questions. Normally, either due to the lack of creativity or the underestimation of the intelligence of law students, the tutorial questions are not so coincidentally very similar to the cases. So, if I get called upon, I’ll cite the case, state its broad principle/rule and by then someone would usually have taken over answering the question. If I can’t find an analogous case, I’ll ask the Prof questions instead to evade answering the tutorial questions.

I have been employing this technique since year 1. But apparently A. Loke, my contract tutor, totally knew that I didn’t prepare for my tutorials at all when we were chatting after the exams. So use this at your own risk.

 
How do you study for your exams? Any tips for your juniors and peers?

I use muggers. Why spend hours reading entire textbooks, cases and articles when your senior has already done that for you! More importantly, I couldn’t even complete reading all the muggers by the time exam is due, needless to say about the textbook and full cases. (My textbooks are near-mint condition, anyone wanna buy?) The muggers managed to get me my 50% letter, which I’m pretty satisfied with. But if you wish to be a REAL Dean’s lister (at the risk of having no life) then I guess, yea go on, go read the cases in FULL and mull through all the textbooks. I guess cases and textbooks are like your Ten-Year-Series in A/O Levels – good for getting awesome grades, but not necessary (at all) to get a good grade. HAHA.

Since the exams are mostly open-book, I used to think that it is a race to see who creates the best muggers. So last year I compiled my own muggers by cross-referencing and distilling out from the various muggers, tutorials and lecture scribes. However, I realized that flipping through 50-page muggers per topic in the exams is no joke. So this year I’m trying out mind maps.

More importantly, please study smart! Spending tons of hours cooping yourself in the library does not necessarily equate to good results. Make sure you’re productive!

Also BE THICK SKINNED. Ask for muggers. Ask for your friend’s scribes if you really didn’t manage to copy down. Ask your friends and tutors questions. If it makes you feel good, try confusing your friend (since you only need to pull down 1 person to get the 50% letter).

Complete the sentence: “If I could live life all over again, I would be…”

I would want to be a rich bastard. So I can buy a car and drive to school every day. Donate money to Law Club and Sub-clubs so we can have weekly chill-outs, food and booze. Fund my own moot court called “The Moot Kok” (get it?).

Why do you take part in a million and one activities? What drives you?

 I firmly believe law school is how you make it out to be. For me, I am pretty satisfied with just being in the 50% category, i.e. second-upper. So I will put in just enough time and effort in studying to get me that letter. The rest of my time is ALL FOR PLAY (and money).

I love all the things that I do. I love public speaking, which is why I am in Radio Pulze, Toastmasters, conduct trainings and emcee events. I am in several sub-clubs and take part in many of the school activities because I want my university life to fun, exciting and memorable. And because I truly enjoy all these activities, I will eventually somehow manage to balance them with school work.

In short, know what you want, prioritize, and stop complaining that you have no time!

 ***

Article contributed by: Thiam Jia Min (Law 2)