ad astra per alia porci

semester one is over, holidays are here (for a while)
December 7, 2007, 2:40 pm
Filed under: diary


The last of my papers for this semester was concluded a day ago and this brought to a close my first semester as a law student. After a long hiatus from maintaining and updating this blog due to the exigencies of studies, it would be apt to restart my rusty blogging engines by opening with a recollection and reflection on the last semester and examine what was not done well and what I should do to improve in the next semester.

The past semester

1) Competition

I have said it before in a previous post and I reiterate here that the competition is pretty strong. It is amazing how people are interested in knowing each other’s grades and are willing to (and did) invest time and effort into finding out how well their peers are doing. I was pretty shocked when in this one instance students from another class pointed me out and recognised me for my grades.

How does knowing your peers’ grades help in one’s personal performance? I personally do not know the reasons why people maintain such an interest, unless it could be explained as a result of a healthy interest in the affairs of friends. I have no doubt that there are people who are like that but I doubt this applies to everyone.

Personally the race for me is solely an individualistic one, akin to that of a solitary climber and a non-competitive marathoner: the person one is trying to better is always oneself at previous instances. Checking out the competition will only serve to breed discontent or engender unnecessary hubris and false confidence.

Competition should truly only be based on keenness of intellect and effort.

2) Work work work

Simply put, I have not been working hard enough. It is not very nice to go for tutorials and end up flabbergasted and guilty about the piles of unread cases that one has not went through when tutors mention and talk about the particular holdings and arguments in the cases. To prove this point further, my tutor advised my class to study 18 hours a day. That is deemed by her to be sufficient to be up to par (note: above average, not proficient).

3) Futility?

That said, I have to be fair to myself also. In the event where I do read cases and work real hard for a particular topic of law, I find myself unable to distill the meaning and fully appreciate the importance of cases in the reading lists. It is either 1) my reading techniques are wrong and I have not been reading closely enough or 2) reading cases really do not help.

I am inclined at times to believe in the latter, especially when I find myself putting in an inordinate amount of time into one particular case (Alfred McAlpine v Panatown is one very good example) only to end up with pretty much what I already knew from reading the textbooks or lecture notes.

4) Balance, not required

Law really takes up one’s life. It is a subject that one should (preferably) live, breath and eat with. After tutorials, readings and lectures, there is precious little time left to devote to other pursuits and hobbies. This is unless one sacrifices quality in school work and thoroughness (even though it is highly doubtful and debatable that one can ever be truly thorough in one’s understanding in the position of a student).

That said, this is what I signed up for. Honestly speaking, I have to say that there are times when the going gets really boring and meaningless due to the dryness of the subject matter; this makes me question why I even started this endeavour of studying for a law degree at all.

But there are also times where the subject did piqued my interest intellectually. However the existing judgments and rules of law leave much to be desired so much so as to make me really cynical as to whether the law can achieve justice in the first place. But this is an issue deserving of an entire separate blog post.

The new semester

Here’s to the new semester. Life in Law is still pleasant enough and I remain optimistic about the next semester, primarily because I will be studying criminal law and an introduction to legal philosophy. Criminal law has this emotive and glamorous allure to it. Just imagine John Grisham novels and the countless movies with legal battles in them: most involves the criminal law. As for legal philosophy, I have always held an interest in philosophy in general and now that I have studied substantive legal topics, it would be interesting to understand the underlying basic philosophical foundations of law itself.

Some points to note and resolutions for next semester:

  1. I will work harder to compensate for my lack of natural ability. This involves reading and summarising all cases on time for tutorials and actively creating notes for each subtopic I cover way before the exams.
  2. I must reduce the amount of distractions in my life. I was too distracted this past semester. These distraction includes computer games, influences from the opposite sex and Youtube videos (which are horribly addictive).
  3. I need to sustain my reading diet, specifically on finance, economics and fiction. I need to learn more about finance and applying my knowledge to my trading and investments. I have neglected this aspect of my interests due to bad time management and various distractions

A proper term for this would be to be a “machine” for the next semester, which is exactly what I told my friends I would do at a dinner gathering a few weeks ago. It might be inhuman, but I am not in university to waste my life away. Some things are important and others are not, and if push comes to shove I know what must go.

Moving on to a more light-hearted topic, I need to sort out the specifics and chores for the the holidays.

  • Books to read:
    • Fiction: The Brothers Karamazov, Brighton Rock, Lord Jim. At least.
    •  Loan books on the following topics:
      • Card games, especially poker. Fascinating.
      • Body language
      • Argument, especially in a legal context. I suck at making legal arguments.
      • Spanish!
      • Public speaking
  • Study finance and investments: I need to know at least the mechanics of warrant trading by the end of the holidays.
  • Read up on criminal law and legal theory, print notes and do whatever preparatory work that is possible before term starts so as to save time during the actual term.
  • Catch up with my backlog of the Economist
  • Clean my computer and computer table: dusty. very dusty.
  • Clear my cupboards to make space for my law files and textbooks.
  • SHOP. ‘Tis the holiday season, after all.

Suddenly, the 1 month break seems very very short.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

18 hrs of work per day? That’s GOT to be a joke…

Comment by lam

As a Law IV student, all I can say is: 18 hours is studying hard, not studying smart. It’s possible to get good grades even if you don’t study 18 hours a day. 18 hours may be okay for the first two years, but once you hit Year 3, 18 hours won’t mean a thing if you don’t study smart.

Remember, I was a freshie once, and I didn’t think law school was going to end – but it is going to, so don’t study too hard till you go bonkers, and remember to have fun. You don’t want to look back on your law school years as staying in CJ Koh all the time. 🙂

Comment by law 4 student

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