Reading logs – the key to remembering what you read

How do I remember important things from what I read about law, politics and commercial awareness?

1.Keep a reading log. Write down what you are reading about and what the source is (eg Book name and author name, or news theme, source and date) and then use TWO colours to divide the information. Pick one colour to write down important key points of information/ideas/themes that you think are interesting or vital to understanding what is going on. Don’t copy and write huge chunks of text – instead try to reword what you’ve read and keep it to a minimum as this will make it easier to remember. With your second colour, write your thoughts on what you have read, whether you agree or disagree, how this relates to other things you have read.

A reading log is a good idea because you can write notes about the bits that have stood out for you in what you are reading. The best way to remember it is to then add your own personal thoughts on it. For example, how does what you have read relate to another piece of law, or another book you’ve read? What are your opinions on the subject from a wider perspective and how has what you have read influenced that? This not only helps you to remember important information but it also teaches you the vital skill of critical thinking. I’m currently using a gorgeous Ratio notebook from Rama Publishing which I love, in which I write the date I started and finished the book, key themes and ideas I’ve taken from the book in one colour, and then my own thoughts in another colour.

It’s also handy to note down references – just simple ones, for your own use – in case you should ever want to refer back to that piece again. Normally I write the literature title and author at the top of the page and then just put the page numbers next to any key ideas.

Writing your own thoughts and critical opinions in a different colour also helps you to refer back if you want to link some old thoughts you had with new ones. I find this a really useful way to write a visually appealing and practical reading log that aids me in the long term. I also think relating what you have read to new issues or debates is the best way to remember things because you’re more likely to be able talk about things that you can bring into something relevant.

For example, in one of my classes this year I kept a reading log for a class where we had been discussing legal issues surrounding terrorism which overlapped with another class I was studying on how religion and race is portrayed in the media and what the regulations surrounding this are. Because I’d kept a thorough and organised log I was able to quickly find the information I needed and draw links between both classes. This also helped knock an essay I did up to a first – you get more marks for showing you have used critical thinking and extensive wider reading and contrasting and comparing this information. My reading log helped me do that and made it a lot easier to do.

I remember at first year of uni I just write random notes with no references on separate pieces of paper and I always lost them and struggled to find the reference to evidence my point when I brought it up in class – so regardless of whether you are a first year, final year, or graduate, a log is definitely the way forward.

2.Read summaries and book reviews if you’re struggling to find the time to read large pieces of information. If you are able to summarise and skim read things yourself, that is also a very useful skill that you will need to practice as a lawyer, but for now there are plenty of summaries and reviews on the internet for you to make getting extra reading done a little easier.

My top sources for news summaries is the LinkedIn Daily Rundown and you can find plenty of book reviews on academic sites such as JStor.

3.Find things to read about that you are interested in! During our uni days and careers we do have to read some less than interesting pieces, but if you can find topics you are genuinely interested in you are more likely to remember it! Try starting a book club or debating group to discuss different ideas and issues as for many people hearing other people’s views helps them to remember and make sense of what they have read.

The SQE Uncovered

What is the SQE?

The SQE is the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam that will replace the LPC and GDL.

The exam will be in two stages: SQE1, which tests general legal knowledge, and SQE2 which will test more practical based skills.

What’s all the fuss about?

The SQE will be a big change from the GDL and LPC. The exam style will be very different from standard school and university exams, focusing on Multiple Choice Questions rather than essay style/application based questions. At the moment its official launch date will be in Autumn 2021, which is when the GDL will end. The LPC will be available for everyone until 2023, although people on certain routes will be able to complete the LPC up until 2031. However, this isn’t a given: law firms may start to ask for the SQE instead of the LPC during this transition period to make sure all intakes have an equal footing.

Only have a minute? Here are the top five things you need to know:

  1. The SQE will launch in Autumn 2021.

2. The SQE will assess six fundamental legal knowledge areas:

  • public admin
  • contract
  • tort
  • criminal
  • business
  • estates, land, trust

3. The first live assessments will have been piloted so students won’t be guinea pigs

4. LLBs at universities will largely stay the same, although newer and non-Russell group universities may look to introduce ‘SQE-compliant’ law degrees.

5. The GDL will end in 2021 – after this you will sit the SQE1 in place of a GDL.

What does this mean for non-law graduates?

There is concern as to whether the SQE1 will give a non-law student enough knowledge to compete against law students in the legal arena. As a result, law firms are discussing introducing a new kind of GDL to make sure non-law students are up to scratch. There will be extended SQE-1 preparation for non-law graduates, but many firms are still concerned this will not be enough to prepare non-law students for their training. Leading magic circle firm Linklaters stated that they still want to recruit a 50:50 ratio from law students and non-law students, and that making sure that non-law students aren’t at a disadvantage will be a priority in the roll out of new programmes.

Are training contracts really a thing of the past?

Not at all. You will still have to do 24 months of practical experience, but the difference here with the SQE is that it doesn’t have to be a training contract. It is expected that most large firms will still offer the traditional training contract route, whilst other eligible areas of work experience such as working as an apprentice or paralegal or at a student law clinic will be counted.

What do we know about the SQE2?

The SQE2 will assess practical skills much like that of the LPC. At the moment, there is concern over the loss of LPC electives choice and how this will fare for incoming trainees at firms who haven’t had a chance to specialise in the firm’s top areas. However, the syllabus for the SQE2 has not yet been set in stone, and as law firms and schools have voiced this issue there may be a chance to choose practice areas rather than everyone being assessed in all the same skills regardless of what kind of law they will be going into.

 

Top concerns right now:

The personal skills course will be disappearing so firms are conscious that there may need to be an extended trainee induction and development programme tailored by the law firms themselves to fill in the gaps that the SQE has missed.

There is a preference among law firms is for law schools to design preparation programmes, as although you can complete the SQE1 and SQE2 inline with work experience, there is doubt over how well current lawyers could teach incoming lawyers. Patrick McCann, Head of global learning at Linklaters, stated that there were huge differences between lawyers and educators, and that relying on law firms to get trainees through the SQE1 and SQE2 suggests they have people who have the will, capability and time to turn down client work in order to teach trainees instead.

 

Overall, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the SQE. The final specifications are due to come out in 2020, and we will know a lot more then, but with law firms and schools making sure they are heavily involved in the process it is likely that the final version will look a lot better and have covered a lot of issues that have been raised over the past year.

Review: The Ratio Notebook – A Revision Notebook Tailor Made for Law Students!

 

I don’t know about you guys, but I have heavy memories of last year’s exam period where I had meticulously ordered my revision cards with all my case notes, placed them in a box in my rucksack, only to get to uni to find the box hadn’t locked properly and my revision cards were now crumpled and jumbled at the bottom of my bag. Since then, I resorted to making notes in notebooks first with my own headings which was fine, but time consuming, so when I found out about Rama Publishing’s Ratio Notebook – purpose made to help you learn legal case studies. I have reviewed it and shared my photos of it below so you can have first hand insight into whether it would be something that would help you with your exams and lawyer-ly dreams!

The Ratio Notebook – Rama Publishing: Review by Legally Liana

Rating: 5 Stars

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1. The Purpose

The purpose of the book is so clear – it follows the ratio method which it explains clearly at the front of the book, which I’ll explain to you quickly. The ratio method focuses on understanding why the decision for each case was made, as you need to show critical thinking and understanding, as well as the important facts. I love this idea because it means your revision is focused from day one – no learning useless extra bits of information, but instead focusing on the important facts you need in the exam.

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2. The Design

The design is stunning. You can buy the notebook in three different colours (stone, blue or black). The paper in side is really good quality and thick enough but not so thick that the book is really clunky or heavy. It’s the perfect size for throwing in your handbag as it’s about the same size as an A5 notebook, and inside it has plenty of pages for recording your case notes. On the website, you can buy it in packs of three for a discount (as opposed to buying three separately) which is great, because I know I prefer to have a separate notebook for each law module so I don’t get my revision muddled up.

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3. The Layout

The layout inside is really well structured to help guide your revision and to help visual memory recall. Each double-page spread has six headings to structure what it is you need to learn and help you to focus on learning the important bits of information, not the extra bits you don’t need. The six headings are:

Name (of the case)

Material Facts

Ratio

Conclusion

Definitions

Mneumonic

The book also explains in detail what you should be looking to put under each heading for the legal cases you need to learn. This is really helpful because I often find some cases are very dense and detail heavy, with far more detail than you need in the exam, but I worry that I will cut out the wrong bits of information. The Ratio Notebook helps develop your critical thinking by making you think about which parts of the legal case are vital to understanding how it was applied and how the decision was made. The layout is probably my favourite thing about the book because it’s so unique, and Rama Publishing have clearly really thought about what law students need.

Potential improvements?

I love the A5 size as it is so handy to fit in your handbag, but I would love there to be a second A4 size version too because sometimes I like a bigger workspace to make my notes into more a mind map and so I would love a bigger notebook for that with the same headings. But that’s not really an improvement, more an extra I would love to see the brand design! Otherwise the Ratio Notebook honestly exceeded my expectations and I will be recommending it to all fellow law students and future lawyers!

Conclusion

Overall, I would recommend this book to any law student because it is both practical and stylish, and I haven’t found anything as thought through or well-designed as this elsewhere on the market! Thank you Rama Publishing!

You can buy it here

Why Going to a ‘Non-Traditional’ Uni Was My Secret Weapon

I remember the day I first got in to SOAS. I had decided very last minute to go to uni – having dropped out of school and attempted to do my A Levels on my own alongside working full time as a nanny in Spain, I had never expected to achieve grades that might see me get into university. So, on the day that my results came through, I suddenly realised that the door to university had been opened for me. I had no ides where to look, but I’d recently read something about SOAS and its regional specialisms and having been interested in learning about different languages and history I thought I would call up and see if they had a place left.

I was really excited when I heard I got a place at SOAS. I had never dreamed I would go to university and suddenly – here I was!

However, once people started asking me where I was going to uni, I felt a little nervous.

‘SOAS? What’s that?’

‘Oh, you’re going to the hipster uni.’

I was so disappointed by people’s responses to me going to SOAS before I had even got there. I didn’t understand at all. People were negative because, to be honest, they didn’t really know it well. Even during my three years at uni I felt that people had only just started to look beyond Russell Group unis and Oxbridge at the possibility of other universities producing graduates of equal calibre.

But, once I arrived at SOAS, I loved it. I forgot all the preconceptions that other people had about my university and realised exactly why I had chosen it and why it was right for me.

SOAS was truly going to become my secret weapon. Over the next three years, I discovered that the people who really knew what SOAS is about, knew it for the right reasons. I have had so many chats with lawyers, diplomats, professors from outside SOAS who are hugely impressed with SOAS’s eclectic range of courses, expansive view and regional focus.

I was always told that SOAS was a ‘non-traditional’ uni. Someone made a big point to me once that because I wasn’t at an Oxbridge or Russell Group uni I should feel under pressure to get a first, otherwise big firms and businesses wouldn’t want to hire me. I felt a huge amount of pressure in first and second year as a result.

The truth is – there is still a long way to go in evening out social mobility and encouraging employers to see the quality of graduates that non-Russell Group unís are producing. But, there are increasing numbers of businesses and firms realising that they need to further embrace diversity in who they are – diversity in the background of their trainees, diversity in what uni the candidates went to, to truly find candidates with the most potential.

I get really disheartened when I hear people talk about how they think they don’t have a chance applying for training contracts because they didn’t go to a traditional uni, or specifically to Oxford or Cambridge. It is true that a large proportion of trainees are often taken from Oxford and Cambridge, but there are increasing opportunities taken up by people from other universities.

There is still a long way to go in levelling the playing field for Law, but despite coming from a non-conventional background and university, I learned that there are three important things to use to make the most of your degree, whichever uni you go to:

The first is how you apply yourself when you are at uni

How hard you work at university is important, regardless of where you go. Law firms want to see a good track record, and evidence that you’re not afraid of working hard and that you have the potential to achieve good things. That being said, don’t panic too much if you found one or two modules really hard and didn’t get the best grade you had hoped to – often places are looking at overall potential and are happy to overlook a ‘dodgy module’ if you can explain and reflect on where you went wrong.

The second thing is how you focus on your own personal development

I focused on my own personal development by using my free time to enter essay competitions and find volunteering opportunities that I would enjoy and would also give me transferable skills that would be useful for my future. I signed up to the SOAS Law Society who send out so many useful emails about commercial awareness events, essay competitions and potential placements or opportunities members might want to know about.

This is pretty common at all universities so if you are not already signed up to you uni’s law society (even as a non-law student!) then I would completely recommend doing it now.

And finally, how you use your university to demonstrate and achieve your potential.

I chose SOAS ultimately because you can study things there that you wouldn’t be able to study anywhere else. Over my three years at SOAS I have studied all kinds of different topics from the perception of death in Ancient Egyptian literature, to the political and theological roots of different militant groups in the Middle East, to the changing economic landscape of Libya under Qadhafi.

In fact, at my interview for my TC I specifically discussed my interest in the Middle East and Africa, and the research I had been doing on Qadhafi’s Libya and the role religion had played in uplifting and later undermining his rule. Going to a non-traditional university gives you a chance to stand out, and that is the most important thing you can do when you are applying to law firms. You want to show a genuine interest in what they do and how that has been reflected in your experiences and studies. For me, the secret weapon that SOAS gave me was my regional speciality which fit my dream law firm perfectly.

Honestly, I credit going to a non-traditional uni for getting me my training contract, and for giving me a university experience that I have truly felt is unique, has prepared me for the real world, and that has taught me so much about contending with a world that is forever expanding and changing.

Demystifying Commercial Awareness

Commercial awareness is the latest thing that you hear about everywhere that everyone expects you to know about. I went to a uni talk on it last October thinking it would be really popular, only I was the only person who turned up so it ended up being a one on one chat between me and a lady who worked in accounting. Having this one to one time with her was actually really useful, but she said to me a lot of people only go to commercial awareness events because they think it is something they can learn there and then, when actually commercial awareness is something that you need to find out for yourself – albeit these events can help put you in the right direction for finding out.

Her top tip to me was to just take a genuine interest in the world and what is going on around you. It’s true that a large part of commercial awareness is being aware of the world around you. It’s being aware of how business works, what affects businesses and where law firms fit into this. If you are naturally inquisitive, and naturally interested in the world, politics and economics in some way, then commercial awareness really isn’t a tricky concept.

The best way to get an understanding of commercial awareness is to keep reading up on what is going on in the news, in the business world, and in particular focusing on issues that interest you. You don’t have to know everything! Pick a commercial topic you are really interested in, along with making sure you know about the big current issues (like the impact of Brexit and AI/technology). Apart from that, it is up to you what you think are commercial issues that are worth talking about. Maybe you’re really interested in the impact that Iranian sanctions will have on oil prices, or maybe you’re passionate about banking or sport issues. All of these count as having commercial awareness in one or another, and the more connected you are to the topic you are reading about the more likely you are to have good things to remember and discuss about it.

The next thing to do once you have got some understanding of commercial awareness is – form your own opinions on it. Don’t just regurgitate what you have read, but think about how you  think this will affect the future for businesses, or what you would do if you were a law firm in this particular situation. Firms want to see that you can think critically and give thought through advice – as this will become a large part of your job. This isn’t really something you can learn to do as such, but will come naturally the more you know about what is going on within business, economics and politics.

I’m sharing four sources that I found really useful for keeping up to date with commercial awareness and business news. Find different formats that work for you – everyone is different and some people just don’t jam with certain styles of writing or formats, I have only picked a few of my favourites but it is really easy to find more sources online.

  • LinkedIn Daily Rundown

Follow this on LinkedIn – it provides summaries of the most important news and insights of the day. You can select different streams which cover different regions for example the UK, the US or Europe.

  • The Financial Times

I read the FT most weekends when I can to get an idea of what is going on in the business and finance world. This gives the latest news in more detail which is super useful for when you get asked about issues at interview.

  • Law Firm Blogs!

Generally, law firms have their own blogs in which they put updates about commercial issues going on and the repercussions of these. Check if the law firm you are applying to has one and make sure to have a read through it.

Some examples of these are:

https://hsfnotes.com/

http://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/knowledge/blogs/

http://www.elexica.com/en/blog

  •  Visual Capitalist

I follow the visual capitalist on LinkedIn because I love their infographics on economics and politics. They are so easy to understand and so aesthetically pleasing that you actually enjoy learning and absorbing the information they are giving you.

Note: To anyone who is reading this and doesn’t have LinkedIn – you can get updates from ALL FOUR of these sources on your LinkedIn feed so easily by following them so you never miss an update. I 100% recommend having a LinkedIn account.

Also if you have a tad of cash to splash – I really recommend reading The Economist. It is my fave mag but super pricey and not all unis have free copies, unlike newspapers which you can usually find somewhere for free.