A Day in the Life of an Oxford Law Student
There are countless myths about the ‘typical day’ of an Oxford Law student, and very few of them are true.
That said, the general awareness that the degree is incredibly demanding is well-founded. While it’s important to be aware of the realities of the degree before submitting your UCAS, there isn’t one single way to succeed in an Oxford Law degree, and completing a Law degree at any institution is incredibly rewarding.
I’m Jamie, a recent Oxford Law graduate currently working in IP Law. I’ve put together the following blog to give you an honest insight into the realities of an Oxford Law degree. I’ve broken it down into the key elements of my life at uni, but do be aware that everyone finds different hobbies and interests. You might get into the music or drama scenes, for example, or prefer to explore the galleries and museums your university town has to offer.
It’s also important to note that the Oxford experience is very different from that of many other universities in a couple of key ways.
Firstly, it’s a collegiate university, which means I mention college facilities and activities. The University of Oxford is made up of 36 colleges, and most of undergraduate student life happens within their college, while teaching is generally University-wide.
Oxford’s terms are also shorter than many other UK universities, at just eight weeks long. This means that days during term time can be a little more intense, as you’re required to complete large volumes of work with shorter deadlines.
Finally, I think it’s useful to keep in mind that although the days will always be varied, there are certain aspects of the Oxford day that you’ll need to get used to, especially if you like to keep to a routine.
Okay let’s start off with an indisputable fact: No matter how you approach an Oxford Law degree, you’ll be spending many hours in Oxford’s beautiful libraries – there’s no getting away from that fact.
I personally split my time between my college Library and a few cafés across Oxford, with a typical day involving five to six hours of reading, four to five days a week. This left me with a sixth day to write and edit a weekly (or bi-weekly) essay, as well as giving me at least one full day off most weeks.
I know many people who treated their degree as a 9am-5pm job, whilst others worked late into the night virtually every day of the week. As I said, there is no one way to complete a Law degree; it’s simply a matter of working out how you work best! If you’re able to figure out when and where you like to work best before you finish school, you’ll be really well placed to hit the ground running when you begin your first term at Oxford.
My five to six hours of reading were supplemented with a weekly (or bi-weekly) tutorial, in which we’d discuss the week’s essay and cover any points of disagreement with my various tutorial partners.
There were daily lectures too, although my attendance for these dropped off after my first year. Not all lectures were useful or relevant, despite what you might be told by your tutors, and I felt my time was often better spent reading some of the more relevant material on my reading lists. Having said that, lectures can be very useful for revision in your final year. I’d always recommend keeping up to date with the latest lecture timetables and attending the ones that appeal to you.
As you can see above, essay preparation is going to take up a great deal of your time when reading for an Oxford Law degree. This is especially true at first, as you adapt to writing legal essays and navigating the numerous legal databases in search of hundreds of cases, case notes, and academic articles. However, if I were to go back to first year and restart my degree, I’d remind myself that essay preparation is only one part of the experience, and it will always be important to spend time enjoying yourself too! If you can plan each day as it comes, you will be absolutely fine.
Life around Trinity College:
A typical day in my first year would always start and end in my college, Trinity. I had a spacious room in Front Quad, looking out onto the neighbouring spires of Balliol. First year rooms tend to be on-site at all colleges, which means that the Dining Hall, Library, and College Bar are on your doorstep.
Being fortunate enough to live on-site in College made my Law degree much easier to handle. Having access to such great facilities allowed me to split my time between work and socialising incredibly effectively. For example, I could end a quiet morning of reading in my room by meeting some friends for lunch in the Dining Hall, before heading to our very own Law Library for the afternoon. On another day, I could have been to the college gym and finished my work by 12:30pm, just in time to catch the early kick-off at The Chequers Pub.
A specific aspect of College life which I really benefitted from in my first year was playing for the Trinity College football team. I would be sure to organise my tutorials around a Wednesday afternoon kick-off to ensure I could play as many games as possible. 11-a-side football took place in Michaelmas (first term) and Hilary terms (second term), with a league game most Wednesdays, and Cuppers fixtures (the inter-college cup) slotted in wherever possible.
For example, I remember having a 9am ‘Criminal Law’ tutorial most Wednesday mornings, fitting in some post-tutorial reading, and then heading to our sportsground on Marston Road for 1pm. This was often followed by a team drink at the nearest pub, before heading back to the library before dinner in the Dining Hall. College sports are always a great way to get involved in College life and will always be matched with great social events and a chance to meet plenty of people.
Having the option to play a number of sports in a refreshingly laid-back environment was one aspect of my degree that I will always appreciate, and I wish I had played even more sport.
During exam season, it’s likely that a lot more of your time will be taken up with work and revision, leaving less opportunity to enjoy the more recreational aspects of university life outlined above.
That said, every other student will be in the same boat, leaving great opportunities to socialise alongside your work. Whether you go to the library with friends every day, or plan evening or lunchtime walks, or take it in turns to cook dinner with your friends each day, do make sure you don’t just lock yourself away for the whole exam period!
First year Law ‘Moderations’ or ‘Mods’ (an Oxford term for first year exams in several subjects) consist of papers in ‘Constitutional Law’, ‘Criminal Law’, and ‘A Private Introduction to Roman Law’. These subjects are taught across Michaelmas and Hilary terms, with exams traditionally being held in the ninth week of Hilary term.
A typical day during exam season for me would go something like this: I’d revise with flash cards and past papers for most of the day in my College library, making sure to factor in enough breaks to keep me both productive and happy. I’d also make sure to plan evenings off each week.
I was especially glad to live in the centre of Oxford and in-college during first year exam revision, as it made maintaining a balance between work and life that bit easier.
I hope this article has helped to give you a feel for the day-to-day realities of an Oxford Law degree – it’s a lot of fun, but at the end of the day we are also all there to get a degree, and the work is intense.
If you’d like to learn more about the academic realities of a Law degree, you might like to check out our Online Law Research Internships – these offer high school students the opportunity to co-author an undergraduate-level research paper on a cutting edge topic alongside an academic in their field.
By Jamie Emerick
Jamie is a recent Law graduate of Trinity College, University of Oxford. Alongside his writing work with OxBright, offering first-hand advice for those looking to study Law at university, Jamie works at a MedTech firm as an IP Law Assistant, helping to manage their IP portfolio.
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