It is rare when writing an article of this nature (and quite honestly I have lost count over the four/five years I have been writing for the University of London Official Student Blog of just how many articles I have written) that one is able to give such simple, unadulterated advice.
Usually I am nudging, cajoling, and suggesting in the hope that I can shift students into a more active role as regards their studies. A mixture of “you might think to…” with some “have you thought to…” and a side platter of “you might find it useful to…” Here my advice is crystal clear; if you want to transform your legal studies in the blink of an eye, read this link.
As you can see, the link takes you to the Online Library newsletter. The content of the newsletter you can read for yourself, it is only my job to share a few reasons why you should avail yourself of what is an unmissable academic opportunity, and really, the only way to shift your marks from those 40s and 50s that haunt us all, to the 60s and 70 s of your daily dreams.
Let me do so in bullet point format:
i. It is only a matter of moments before you (as I am already) will be at the end of your undergraduate studies, and if you have not learned how to navigate an academic library you are unlikely to be given another chance. By the time you are seeking employment and/or are embarking on a Master’s programme it is already assumed that you have assimilated those skills. The ability to locate a case from a mere citation, or to find an academic article from its cited reference, is crucial. Even more importantly, it will be simply assumed that you have read a considerable amount of the undergraduate material in its original form.
ii. Let me reiterate the latter point. Wikipedia, e-law resources, lawteacher.net etc. are not acceptable substitutes for reading cases and/or academic articles in their original form. They are often over-simplified at best, and wildly inaccurate at worst; avoid them like the plague. Become comfortable with using the principal legal databases: Hein/Lexis/Westlaw to name but a few, and it will serve you in good stead for the rest of your legal life.
iii. Just do the maths. And this is something you won’t realise until the day you enter your UoL username and password only to discover that your subscription has run its course. There is a considerable economic advantage in downloading as many cases and articles as you humanly can, because at the point you need to pay for access, you will quickly find out that it is incredibly expensive. I am talking hundreds of pounds to access the major legal databases (Lexis/Westlaw) and very often around 20 - 30 USD per academic article. To give you an idea, during my four years as an UoL undergraduate I downloaded around 10,000 cases and some 5,000 academic articles. As I said before, just do the maths – the Online Library gives you free access to a wealth of useful information.
iv. Do also be aware that there are real time librarians too. Assuming you have truly exhausted all the online resources, the librarians are more than willing to help you track down a particularly elusive case or article. But please don’t unnecessarily over burden them. There are plenty of tutorials within the Online Library itself to help you resolve nearly all your own questions. Only once in a blue moon will you truly be unable to find something; then you can reach out.
v. It was Margaret Thatcher, who, when referring to public speaking suggested the timeless advice that you should:
• Say what you are going to say.
• Say it; then:
• Say it again!
So, in the spirit of the Iron Lady I shall simply say once more, what I have already said twice before:
Use the following links:
Tour of the Online Library
Online Library newsletter
Mark is studying the LLB in the UK.