I am officially ended my law school after completing my final examination this morning. All praises to Allah. Before stepping out from this varsity, I would like to share my insights on ‘skills’ that I might call it as “Note for the (next) Law Students”. I am writing this note is because I have regretted that I should’ve put more efforts during my years of study. I hope I can improve these skills in chambering months and practice years. Basically, I would like to address the skills that law students should master to become successful.
1. Critical Thinking
The dictionary defines ‘critical’ that is important to law students and lawyers as “exercising careful judgment and judicious evaluation.” The work done is skilled and specialised. A substantial part of the work is mental rather than manual. A period of theoretical thinking is usually required before the practical work can be adequately performed. Law students has a duty to practice critical thinking which often include deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, distinctions and reasoning by analogy.
2. Critical Reading
Critical reading is the logical extension of critical thinking. That’s where law school comes in. Lawyers are expected to be wordsmiths. Lawyers are expected to know and explain the meaning of words in law such as statutes, contracts and wills. No choice, but to wade through the opaque prose.
3. Critical Listening
Just as critical reading is important to the written word, critical listening is important to the spoken word. Critical listening requires serious attention and concentration. Steps to train listening critically are by listen to the words of the lecturer and by making notes each time the mind starts to wander. I did this in my Law of Evidence II class at night. Usually, we easily lose focus during night class, but by training critical listening and looking back at my notes, I was surprised how often I was not listening.
4. Case Briefing
Law schools have been using cases as the primary vehicle to teach law for decades. It does make sense. Personally, when I have difficulties in understanding some laws, I read and summarised the related case law. It is the written summarization process where the learning occurs [Emphasis is mine]. Law students should have a written brief for each case to be discussed in class.
5. Note Taking
Lecturers and law teachers work unbelievably long hours to prepare each day’s class discussion. Class discussions are window into their thinking. It is trite fact that, good note taking will make life easier. Taking notes does not stop when graduating from law school.
6. Research Skills
Students often type the name and click search at MLJ or CLJ. A small number of students know how to acquire Practice Notes and Directions, State Enactments, Forms and Treaties in the CLJ. I wish I could have known on how to use the legal search engine 4 years ago. It would’ve helped me in every assignment. Not only MLJ and CLJ, some other sources are also useful.
7. Writing Skills
Most law schools teach the students to use ILAC method to organise their thoughts and answers. It is useful, indeed. Apart from writing on the answer script. Law students should also be able to write a good essay. I wish to write more on this in the future on the method of ‘Madman, Architect, Carpenter and Judge’ writing.
8. Know Your Lecturers
Well, most of the legal practitioners who came to UUM giving talks and seminars, always reminded us about the subject that the law faculty never taught: Know Your Judges. Do what they direct to us. The Judges are the decider of our cases. Despite UUM emphasises on student-centred learning, different methods of teaching and learning that are used by the lecturers. Rule no #1 as stepping into the law school is do what the law teachers want. They are the graders of our exam papers. It is not about pleasing or lobbying the lecturer, but it is about manners (ADAB) and attitudes (AKHLAK) to those who teach us.
9. Organise To Strive For Infinite Excellence
We are expected by the society, to start a firm someday. If we failed to organise ourselves individually, then how do we expect to manage a firm which consists of different kinds of partners, clerks and staffs. Law students are expected to be highly organised people. Time management is of paramount importance. Everything starts from planning. Our life will be less stress if we focus on spiritual needs; personal growth; relationships of family & friends; duty towards society; and doing the best in current circumstances.