Hey, team! I was going to write a post on all four of my papers this semester, but then the “paragraph” I wrote on Law 121 turned into a behemoth, so I thought – hey – let’s give it its own time to shine. I’ll likely cover my Arts papers in a blog post in the coming weeks (once I’ve got some exams under my belt), but in the meantime, strap yourselves in – we’ll be traversing some bumpy, contentious, off-road, foreshore and seabed-type terrain. Let’s get into it!
Deemed “more of an Arts paper than a Law paper”, this course is heavily content-based, with lots of cases, theories, and concepts to take in. Every year, the way it’s taught seems to differ slightly, but for 2017, the learning was split into five parts, with four different lecturers. You’ll certainly find out who you like after a semester of 121. Each lecturer has a unique style, with some using PowerPoints for a list of references to keep the hour on track, and some being cheeky and taking their presentation content directly from readings – and then, at times, proceeding to read straight from the screen. I can genuinely say I enjoyed all the lecturers, and found them all at least quietly funny, if not immediately somebody to look forward to. (I’m keeping quiet on their names so not to express favouritism, but highlights were one lecturer who had been previously thrown in jail in his full judge’s regalia while protesting the use of nuclear missiles, and another who used his own photography in his PowerPoints for class and captioned each picture, “Source: me”.)
For 121, do your readings before you go to class. I cannot stress this enough. You’ll inadvertently feel not quite strapped into a rollercoaster or you’ll end up writing out a massive page of notes that could’ve just as easily been a massive page of highlighted content in your casebook. Plus, it’s better to sit in a lecture and have your brain connecting concepts that might’ve otherwise escaped you from the skim-read you did at 11.30pm the previous evening than to sit in a lecture and have to play catch-up. That being said, sometimes going over readings again after class can also be very helpful.
You only get four tutorials – every two weeks, kind of – for 121. Go to them! The content is completely different from what’s discussed in lectures, but touches on the same concepts. The tutors have been picked for a reason, and will challenge you on your ideas as well as helping you craft new ones – so take advantage of the chance to pick the brains of some current Law students or recent grads, no matter how inferior you may initially feel.
Take organised notes and start studying early – both for your test and your exam. I only put in about a day and a half of study for the test and I did very well, but I’d never want to put myself through that again. Plus, the disparity in knowledge required for the test – which only counts towards your final grade if you get a lower mark on the exam (and in that instance only counts for 20% – yay, plussage!) – and the knowledge required for the exam is real. Knuckle down for your exam revision seriously in advance.
Personally, I’ve really enjoyed 121. I’ve loved learning the theories behind law and legal practice, and how that is implemented in different cases both in New Zealand and worldwide. I have much more of a bearing on our societal framework as well, which I think is valuable for everyone – even if you’re not pursuing a career in law. Plus, I’ve had the chance to learn a bunch of history that has either been to an extent hushed up or which I missed while I was living overseas.
On the whole, I’d say, if you’re smart about it and have a natural aptitude for critical thinking (or a stellar work ethic), go for it. Don’t shy away from 121. However – a word to the wise – if one more person approaches me being like, “oh, Law! I love Suits! It’d be so much fun to be Harvey!” – I’ll probably deck them. Don’t go into Law looking for prestige. You’ve gotta put in the hard yards yet, buddy. There’s an article that my Mum sent me a few weeks back that perfectly summarises how I feel about studying Law/who should take it on, so have a read of that if you’ve got time.
Hopefully this has given you a glimpse of what you’ll be in for should you choose to take on Law 121 (which is also available as a Gen Ed, so non-law students can also feel free to get in there!) – if you’ve got any further questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in a comment and I’ll answer them as best I can. (I’m great at novel-length responses, as some of you may be aware.)