One thing, that I didn’t talk about in my last column about the academic rigour in law schools, is exams. Unfortunately (I think), these regular exams that you will be giving, will largely determine whether college ends within five years or not.
Like your exams in school, most questions remain generic, requiring long answers straight out of your notes, and the results remain grossly misrepresentative of your acumen. But unlike school where it’s a matter of how many revisions, you will barely finish your syllabus for your law school exams. Sleepless nights will become routine and papers for 40 and 60 marks will seem longer than 100-mark board exams. Exams also breed madness. Some people frantically run around minutes before the exam clearing doubts while others are still trying to cram as much as possible. Nights are crazier still. Not everyone can manage power-naps and often people consume Thums Up!, Tzinga, Red Bull, coffee powder, and what not to avoid sleeping off without finishing the syllabus.
Now, the law school’s library. A law student and the library can either be like peas and carrots or like chalk and cheese. By the end of the first term, I hope you begin to start leaning towards the former for the library is one place you will not be able to live without for the next five years. While there will always be certain types of people there, you can even catch those seniors who ridicule academics making trips to the library in their times of need. It is, after all, the best academic resource on your campus: stocked with books and journals for your legal and non-legal courses and the printed copies of reported decisions. The computer section of the library also has electronic databases. Some of these resources cost a fortune. Each book in the Commonwealth Law Reports costs nearly 500 pounds, but at your library, you can probably access them every day. How about that?
College is a very funny place and I remember how at first, people used to visit the library just to be seen as being hard-working and studious. Peep into their laptops and there would be an episode of Friends playing. The library then becomes a vibrant spot for the new batch to socialise at the time of their first project submission. Your seniors will mutter “Damn those first-years” several times during this phase, so don’t be alarmed if they appear a bit hostile during this period.
After that first submission, honestly consider how much you need to be in the library. Don’t ape others into thinking that it is a prerequisite for grades or anything of that sort. Remember, some of the people who are always in the library either (a) don’t like their hostel room or their roommate, or (b) need better Internet than what is available in the hostel.
My final year in college was mostly spent in the library which made me pretty attached to the place. I realised how many of us forgot that this was a resource over which each of us had an equal claim. People were stealing books or hiding them, moot teams abused their privileges by not returning books for ages, people underlined or even tore out pages for their convenience. Sometimes, the library is treated more as a place to hang out than as a place of study. I’m not asking you to be perfect. You can’t be. Just try and remember that if you keep abusing the library, a book that you want may end up missing from the shelves.
I also saw how the library was the best place to learn things. To quote Albus Dumbledore, “[h]elp will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it”. Most seniors in the library believe in this philosophy as well. Over the next five years, I’m sure the library will find a place in your memories as it has in mine.
(Abhinav Sekhri is a fifth year student at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The previous articles in this series are here.)