Monday, 23 September 2013

Credit where credits are due . . . .

As I sit writing this I'm on a train heading north, en route to meet my wee aunt Myra for a  couple of days in Fort William, we'll take a stab at ascending Ben Nevis and no doubt have a good laugh while we're at it. The sun's shining outside and I'm feeling quite relaxed. That said, there's something tickling the back of my mind, it's telling me not to get too comfortable, which is probably a good thing. You see this trip is probably the last chance I'll get to relax for the next nine months. 

Next week I'm back to uni and for the following nine months  I'll be Drew Long, honours student, law clinic advisor and part time croupier, in that order. It's going to be a lot of work and will mean that I don't have too much free time. One of the blessings of the way my uni does things is it allows me to make my work at the clinic directly relevant to my studies. As part of my honours syllabus I've chosen to study "Ethics and Justice", a class ran by the law clinic director, Prof. Donald Nicolson, which awards credits for integrating case work done at the clinic with reflective essays on the ethical implications and issues raised by the work. This class represents what I hope will be a perfect blend of the practical, theoretical and academic side of a career in law.

I have been assured by other students that this is by no means an easy class, the reading list is extensive and the degree of weekly preparation required  is not for the faint hearted. . . . challenge accepted! (I'll suit up if any of my cases go to court). Despite this I am looking forward to this class more than any other. I relish the prospect of being encouraged to look at real world, concrete examples of legal work, assessing it in terms of its ethical implications then looking at how this should affect legal practice.

I began my studies prior to the introduction of the clinical LL.B programme, something which I would  have been very keen to be a part of. With this in mind I was delighted to find that this class, an integral part of the clinical LL.B, was open to those of us not on the the clinical programme. The ethos of the clinic is a good one and I'm proud to be involved with its work. By doing practical legal work for those unable to afford representation, then making an effort to view it dispassionately from a considered academic, ethical and moral point of view I hope to start forging a professional identity which I can be truly proud of. It surely can't be a bad thing that in so doing I can earn credits towards my degree.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ding ding, round four

Now is the time, after a year of night school, three years of part time study, one year of full time study, 21 classes, 19 exams and 38000 words of assignments things are about to get serious. Yup, you guessed it, it's the dreaded honours year!

After all the blood, sweat, tears, assignments, moots, voluntary work & study sessions of the last few years I've now got to really pull it out the bag. If I'm going to become a solicitor or dare I say it, an advocate or lecturer one day I must ensure that every piece of work submitted this year is of the highest possible standard. Every mark counts, anything short of a 2:1 and I'll struggle to get a decent training contract and the faculty of advocates will forever be closed to me.

So what's the plan? Michelle Hynes has written a great blog post about the way to go about the dreaded dissertation. Time management seems key. With that in mind I've taken a few steps to free up some time for the coming year: I've stopped volunteering at CAB; I've told the mooting society that I'm taking a "gap year"; and I've made a point of getting all my "life admin" out of the way during the summer.

As far as the dissertation goes, in an effort to be super organised I had a topic in mind early in the year. I was going to focus on a piece of legislation which hadn't been published yet. Then, when the draft bill was published it was worded in such a way that it destroyed my plans. Dammit, back to the drawing board. Well almost. You see by planning early I had secured a supervisor, who has been extremely helpful in re-directing my thoughts and making sure my early work was not entirely in vain.

So here we are, T-minus 3 weeks until the beginning of term, the calendar's set up on the wall, I've tried to remove all unnecessary distractions and drains on my time. I'm feeling a peculiar mix of optimism and terror, which I recon is normal. It's time to get the "Rocky" music playing and dig in for the toughest academic year of my life.

I'd ask you to wish me luck, but I think luck has very little to do with it, this year's all about hard graft. . .

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