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Away from your textbooks

As a law student, you'll be spending a lot of time with your textbooks. If you need a break, we've collected together some other resources you might find helpful and interesting. But don't worry, they're all law related, so it won't count as procrastination!

Online resources

You don't need us to tell you you can find almost anything online. What you might need though are some helpful hints for reliable online resources to get you through your law degree.

  • First off - most of your recommended textbooks will come with online resources that can include everything from self-test questions to games to video mini-lectures. Make as much use of these as you can: its a different way of learning so will help shake up your normal routine. Take a look at our online resources > 
  • Keeping on top of current affairs is really important as a law student - lecturers like to make their seminars topical! Try to keep an eye on a couple of reliable news sites, and if they have a 'law' section so much the better. Or you might want to bookmark sites like The Lawyer and All About Law, which will give you a more tailored look at the legal aspects of big news stories.
  • Worried about the money side of university? Authors of Personal Finance, Jane King and Mary Carey, give their top tips for budgeting, student loans, and choosing a student bank account.
  • If you're more concerned about the university experience than your course, you might want to take a look at our advice for freshers.

Social media

Many legal academics and practitioners blog about their work and the law in general. Over the course of your degree you'll probably come across a lot of them, but here are a couple to get you started:

And of course you'll find a lot of them on Twitter too...

  • @mjhomewood - EU law specialist and author of EU Law Concentrate and Complete EU Law
  • @horseyrackley - authors of Tort Law tweeting about tort-related current affairs
  • @StevePeers - University of Essex Professor of Law and author of European Union Law
  • @OUPIntLaw - all the latest in international law from around the web and OUP authors
  • @GdnLaw - latest legal news from The Guardian

It's always worth checking if your lecturers are on Twitter - lots of teachers use their feeds to point their students in the direction of interesting articles, videos, and news stories that will give you vital context for your studies. It should also help highlight what the key current issues in the subject area are, which could help in your exams!

On the big screen

We asked Martin Partington, author of Introduction to the English Legal System, for his top ten film recommendations for law students. What would you add to his list?

1. Twelve Angry Men (1957)

This US film is set in the jury room, where 12 jurors have to decide the outcome of a seemingly open and shut case. In the UK, no one knows precisely what goes on in the jury room. Direct participant research is prohibited by law. So dramas like this offer a version of what might happen. One question to ponder: how do you think the verdict might have differed if the jury had been told it could reach a majority verdict (possible in England and Wales) rather than a unanimous one?

2. The Paper Chase (1973)

Another US film features a first year law student’s experience of taking a class in contract under the supervision of the fearsome Professor Kingsfield. It shows how the much vaunted socratic method of legal education – where students are fiercely quizzed by their professors – works in practice. You may end up relieved that your course is demanding in different ways! The intellectual limitation of the film is the suggestion that all legal education is about textual analysis of cases and statutes. It takes no account of the social importance of law. For a different take on the law school experience, you could try Legally Blonde (2001).

3. In the Name of the Father (1993)

This is an Irish-British-American film based on the story of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the 1974 IRA‘s Guildford pub bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian. The story is important as it formed part of the background to major changes in the criminal justice system of England and Wales, including the creation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service. Warning: its portrayal of the trial process is a travesty of reality – it should not be taken as any sort of representation of what happens in practice.

See the rest of Martin's suggestions on the OUPblog...

A reading list for aspiring lawyers

We also asked Martin for his book recommendations (beside his own book, obviously!) - a mix of fiction and non-fiction, his picks have something for everyone.

The Rule of Law by Tom Bingham

I start, not with a work of fiction, but this book by a former Lord Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom which is, quite simply, THE must-read book in the list. The ‘rule of law’ is a concept often mentioned in public debate but with little analysis of what the phrase actually means. Here, the late Lord Bingham sets out clearly and accessibly what the rule of law is, and why all lawyers need to be aware of its importance. It is about the proper limits of power and who should have responsibility for setting boundaries to the use of power. As an introduction to this fundamental constitutional principle on which the UK legal system is founded, it is without equal.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial tells the story of Josef K, who is arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor indeed to the reader. All law students should read this work as it forces the reader to consider what can happen if accepted norms of behaviour by public authorities are not adhered to – indeed what can happen if the rule of law is ignored. Its themes are relevant not just in the context of criminal justice but also administrative justice.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

This is the tale of, among other things, the long-running case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. Charles Dickens was critical of many aspects of the legal system as it operated in 19th century England. In Bleak House there are two particular targets in his sights. First the extent to which proceedings could be drawn out by endless procedural steps that failed to move the case forward – an issue that has only relatively recently been improved following Lord Woolf’s reforms of the civil justice system. Second, and related to the first, is that a claimant in an action may ultimately succeed in his action, but because of the delay and expense of the lawyers involved, there is ultimately no money left to satisfy an award of the court. This is an essential point that to this day needs to be borne in mind whenever civil litigation is contemplated.

See the rest of Martin's reading list on the OUPblog...

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