Top Tips for Studying Law at a Distance
The global pandemic has led to Law Schools shifting their teaching and assessments online. For law students, this means adjusting to studying at a distance.
Here are some top tips to help, shared by Emma Jones, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sheffield.
1. Sort Out Your Study Space
Some law students are still in student accommodation, while others have moved back to their family home or gone to stay with friends or family. Wherever you are staying, it is important to organise your study materials and find a space to work.
If you are able to have your own study space, try to make it a pleasant place to work – perhaps putting up a picture or photographs and adding a pot plant. If you are studying on a kitchen table, or similar, it’s important to let others in the house know that it is your designated space, so they leave you in peace as much as possible. If you have a choice of places to work, look for somewhere uncluttered with good natural light and a strong wi-fi connection.
Make sure your study materials are well-organised and kept neatly together, for example, on a bookcase or in a large box, so that you don’t waste precious time searching for mislaid books and notes.
2. Get to Grips With the Technology
With so many module materials and other resources now online, it’s important to ensure you can access and use the right technology. Depending on what software your Law School uses, this may involve downloading relevant apps, locating links to join online sessions, checking you can get your audio to work and finding your way around online library resources.
You can make your life easier by organising your online work carefully. This may include adding internet sites you use regularly to your ‘favourites’ on your browser, ensuring you have a separate folder for each module on your laptop/computer and clearly naming individual files. It may sound basic, but it will save you time in the long run.
You can make your life easier by organising your online work carefully.
It’s also a good idea to write down the contact details of your university’s IT Helpdesk (or similar) and keep them close by in case you need some additional help.
3. Plan a Routine That Works for You
At the moment it can be easy for days to float past blending into each other. That can mean time drifting by and study being ignored. It is important to get into a study routine to make sure you stay on track.
Planning your time may simply mean adapting your usual routine to studying online, or it may mean making a whole new study plan. When organising your time, make sure you schedule in any important commitments (for example, shopping for family or friends), daily exercise and time for relaxation too.
It’s also important to build in regular breaks during study sessions, for example, every 45 minutes. Use the time to stretch your legs and refresh your concentration, you could do some yoga or other exercise, chat with family and friends or have a go at some mindfulness activities – websites and apps such as such as Headspace have a range you can try for free.
Within each study session, also think about varying the type of work you are doing. Staring at a screen for long periods can be tough on both your eyes and your posture. Try to alternate online activities with work away from a screen, such as handwriting notes or reading a textbook.
4. Keep Connected
Remember you aren’t alone in your studies. Your fellow students are all in the same boat too. Your Law School may be running online sessions, or offering discussion boards or forums to help you keep in touch. Do make the effort to join in and don’t be shy about asking questions. The answer will probably help other students too.
There may also be informal groups on social media that you can join, for example, created by students in the same year of study. These can be a good way of getting additional support, but don’t let them become too much of a distraction and be wary of rumours being spread on them. If in doubt, always check with your module convenor or seminar tutor.
You may also want to think about ways you can keep connected with the wider legal community. There are lots of free webinars going on covering all kinds of legal topics, such as the ones run by Legal Cheek, so keep an eye out for anything you may be interested in.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
These are not normal times. Many law students (and legal academics) will find it difficult to focus on their work at present. Don’t be too self-critical if you find your studies harder than usual or you don’t feel you’re working at your usual standard.
If you are finding things overwhelming, remember to reach out to family and friends. Your university will also have resources on wellbeing and mental health and the charity Student Minds have a range of useful resources on their website.