Tips for your first semester at law school

First off – congratulations! Getting into UQ law is a huge achievement. You should be so proud of yourself. Despite this, it’s still easy to be terrified of what’s coming next. The first few weeks are exciting, scary, stressful, and amazing all at once. In this post, I’ll give you a few tips on how to navigate this new and exciting chapter.

Forgan Smith building
Welcome to UQ Law.

I’ve just finished my second year of a Law/Arts degree, with an extended major in writing. I love being able to use both the analytical and creative sides of my brain in this dual. Enough about me, let’s talk about your first semester in law.

Securing your timetable

First, figure out a ‘dream’ timetable, and a few options for if you don’t get the class times you were hoping for. You can use UQPlanner for this, as well as the public timetable available via myUQ. If you don’t get the timetable you were hoping for, don’t stress! Allocate+ makes it easy to get onto the waiting list for your preferred class time. Last semester, I waitlisted my way into my dream timetable within one day.  

If you’re studying on-campus, go to campus before classes start! This gives you a chance to figure out your transport, and check out your classrooms, lecture halls, and any other places that might be relevant (like the Ezymart that stocked the Travis Scott Reece’s Puffs that one time). UQNav is a must-have for these initial trips to campus. Bonus points if you bring a friend and get lost together!

Planning your workload

Okay, you’ve sorted out your timetable and found all your classes, now what? It can feel like diving in the deep end when trying to prepare for your first semester in terms of coursework and readings. I start by collating an assessment calendar. To do this, I look at all my ECPs (electronic course profiles, where all the course information is) for the semester and put every reading, assignment quiz and due date into one big table in OneNote. It can be a little intimidating to see an entire semester of due dates in one place, but try to take it one week at a time.

law students studying together

Study methods

I’ve found a few study methods that really work for me:

  1. Keep case highlighting minimal – I recommend using one colour for important facts, and one colour for sections of the judgement that elaborate on key principles and rules. 
  2. Do your best to keep up to date with lectures and readings! This is arguably the most important tip for law. Sometimes life gets hectic and staying on top of it all can be difficult. If you aim to start each week with all the previous week’s compulsory readings completed, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
  3. Use flashcards with the main facts and principles to memorises cases. Go over them with a friend before class and you’ll be surprised at how much you remember.
  4. When memorising cases, if there’s a weird fact that sticks out to you, note it down. Some of the more interesting cases *cough* Ashton v Pratt *cough* will stick in your head when there’s an anecdote attached to them (helps jog your memory in exams!)
  5. After you have completed each week of content, make a brief summary of the core principles and cases that demonstrate these. Summaries and other revision methods like concept maps and active recall questions consolidate your knowledge and force you to identify gaps which you may need to ask questions about during your next seminar.

Schedule some down time

Finally, remember you’re not a robot programmed to study all day and night! Down time from study is essential, not optional. You can’t do your best if you don’t feel like it, so do not feel guilty if you need some time to binge The Vampire Diaries. Also take some time to get social – join some clubs that interest you (Market Day is a must, even if only for the freebies), get coffee after class with friends, get Law Revue tickets and attend the Law Ball if you can! Uni is not all about studying. It’s about growing as a person and making new memories. Law school makes it easy to find likeminded people and you’ll be surprised with how much you’ll have in common with others. Take a deep breath and be open to getting to know people.

Anna Merlo and friends enjoying a Law Ball.
Anna Merlo and friends enjoying a Law Ball.

Look after yourself

Overall, first semester is a huge adjustment on all fronts. Be kind and patient with yourself. With time, you’ll settle into a rhythm of study methods and revision, making time to put the assignments away and spend time with friends, and taking care of yourself. Find a system that works for you and try not to compare yourself to others. There will always be stressful times and periods where you doubt yourself, but with a network of people and strategies to help you, law school is such a rewarding experience. Best of luck! I hope you love UQ Law as much as I do.


Read more: The Law School Law life & wellbeing co-curricular program is committed to supporting our student community and equipping you with the tools you need to thrive. Check out our tips and guides to study, social life, mental health and physical wellbeing here at UQ. 


About the author

Anna Merlo is a second-year student, studying Law and Arts with an extended major in writing at The University of Queensland.

Last updated:
18 February 2021