Usman Hamid Malik graduated from LSE with a first in law and is a future trainee solicitor at White & Case. You can view his Linkedin here.
What do you think is the biggest misconception students have about what it takes to get a first in law?
‘That you have to be particularly academic to get it! You don’t. I think getting a first in law is more about being focused on your topic choice and just having a consistent study regime. Let me elaborate on this. Do not do all the further readings. Focus on getting a good grasp of the core readings first and then select further readings based on what was highlighted as a point of contention in the lectures. Also, design your study timetable such that it spaces out your revision, getting a first is definitely not a sprint – it’s a marathon.’
‘group study is really crucial.’
What did you do differently to get a first?
‘In addition to isolating further readings based on points of contention and pacing my revision…I guess I enjoyed myself. This is a bit of a cliché but if you try to develop an interest in the topic you tend to do better. Moreover, by scheduling in time for things that aren’t law that you enjoy, you stay fresh and alert over exam season.
I also think group study is really crucial. As someone who was reluctant to study in a group because I presumed it would be distracting, I was pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was. Studying with other people clarifies concepts, gives you a different perspective and helps test your understanding of the subject.’
‘work on getting the substance of your answers right first before moving onto practising under timed conditions.’
How did you answer problem questions and did you have a formula?
‘I didn’t have a formula per se, more like a general structure which I would adopt. I would break down the problem question into distinct issues, highlight why they were problematic and then apply the law. If I had time – and I usually didn’t – I would also try to synthesise my proposed solutions in the conclusion.
I think a point I would really stress about problem questions is that you get better with practice. My advice would be that you should try to work on getting the substance of your answers right first before moving onto practising under timed conditions. Past papers and mark schemes really are your best friends here.’
‘actually write out the essays…’
What one piece of advice would you give students about what to do on a consistent basis if they want a first in law?
‘Access past papers early on in the year. This way you should have an idea of the topics which are examined consistently. Once you’ve got a feel for the examined topics, work on essay plans or, if you have time, actually write out the essays and have them checked by your tutors for valuable feedback.
However, BEWARE no matter how frequently a topic is examined, or how much emphasis is placed on it during lectures there is no guarantee it will come up… trust me I speak from experience as it happened to me in Property II, and it was not my finest hour.’