A Day in the Life of a Durham Law Student

13 Jan, 2024 | Law, University Preparation

Hi, I’m Andy, a second-year Law student at Durham University. I’ve recently completed my first year at Durham, and I wanted to share a typical day in my life as a first-year Law student!

Law at Durham

Law at Durham University involves six compulsory modules in your first year:

Teaching and learning consist of a mixture of lectures, tutorials and seminars. For each module, students attend 20 lectures throughout the year, as well as five to six tutorials or seminars. Lectures are attended by everyone on the course – 320 in our case! – while tutorials and seminars are conducted in groups of five to ten students.

The academic year is divided into equal terms of ten weeks at Durham university:

  • Ten weeks in Term One (Michaelmas Term)
  • Ten weeks in Term Two (Epiphany Term)
  • Ten weeks in Term Three (Easter Term)

This means the 20 lectures are delivered once per week until the end of Epiphany Term, tutorials and seminars are equally spaced out during the first two terms, and Easter Term usually consists of examinations and revision lectures.

College Life at Durham

Not unlike the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Durham is a collegiate university consisting of 17 colleges in total. While it can depend on your individual personality and lifestyle, the majority of university life typically happens in college. 

My college – John Snow – is located in the “Hill” area of Durham, and like most other colleges, it offers music rooms, a gym, studios, a laundry site, a bar, a common room and accommodation. John Snow is self-catered, meaning that students are provided with a shared kitchen between seven to ten flatmates to cook their meals and spend time together.

A Day in My Life as a Durham Law Student

Durham Cathedral

Morning

Typically, I get ready to start my day by 9am, and call my parents before heading out – in South Korea, they’re eight or nine hours ahead of the UK (depending on British Summer Time)! 

The Bill Bryson Library – which most of us at Durham affectionately call the “Billy B” – and other study areas are just a short 15-minute walk away from John Snow, and that’s usually my first stop of the day. Durham is a very walkable city, and it takes 30-40 minutes at most to walk from any one location on campus or the city centre to another!

After studying for a few hours, I typically go to lunch with a friend. The Billy B Library, the Durham Law School, and the Teaching and Learning Centre are all located in the same area – as well as a variety of cafés – so there’s always time for a nice chat with friends, no matter how busy you are!

Lectures

Most of my first-year lectures were scheduled for the afternoons, with only two one-hour lectures at most per day. This means a significant amount of study time is independent, making time management and organisation particularly important.

Personally, I prefer to go over the lecture handouts – which are uploaded one or two days in advance – before I attend each lecture. I’ve found that this helps deepen my understanding of the more detailed information from the lecture  as I have a solid foundation to build upon.

Afternoons, tutorials and seminars

Tutorials and seminars are a deep dive into the topics presented during lectures, and involve a great deal of student participation and discussion in a more intimate setting. 

Tutorial and seminar handouts are uploaded a week or so before the session, and different professors have different styles of guidance. Some may structure the tutorial as a series of questions that the students openly discuss with the professor as the mediator, while some may prefer a group presentation exercise.

With a few exceptions, most of my first-year tutorials and seminars were held in the afternoons, giving me time to remind myself of the notes and research I’d gathered in preparation. 

Despite their differences, all tutorials and seminars involve some form of discussion of a past exam question on the day’s topic. This is extremely valuable for revision – come Easter Break, I could flesh out my revision plans from the roots of my tutorial and seminar notes to understand the content at a deeper level!

Evenings and nights

During most evenings, my friends and I find a music room in one of our colleges and record a jam session together. Having played the piano, violin and drums since primary school, creating music has become a way for me to de-stress and bond with others. 

We then usually go to dinner, exercise and – depending on the day – return to the Billy B or go out to a college bar!

Streets of Durham on a rainy day

Assessments

Of course, on top of preparing for lectures and tutorials, we have assessments to complete. Depending on the module, there are a variety of formative and summative assessments due throughout the year. While formatives do not contribute towards your final grade, and are therefore predominantly for practice and feedback, summatives do contribute towards the final grade. 

Questions for both types of assessments are set weeks (or months) before the deadline, and looking into some further reading from the lecture and tutorial handouts can be very helpful in planning and writing better essays.

Societies

Societies are also a great part of the university experience. This year, I spent afternoons and evenings participating in various societies and meeting so many interesting people along the way. Next year, as I get more involved in running some societies, I’m looking forward to spending bigger parts of my day doing society work, attending meetings, planning events and more!

Although every day is different, this has been a typical day in the life of a Law student at Durham University! I can’t deny that the work is intense, but enjoying the work makes it all the more fulfilling. Independence grows throughout our university years, and it’s up to you to shape your journey!

Andy

By Andy Song

Andy (Yoochan) Song is currently studying Law at Durham University, and is particularly interested in the relationship between the law and the arts. He has experience in research, particularly in jurisprudence and commercial law, and has a passion for making music and taking photos.

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