Top three tips for balancing work, life and studying law

A career turn-around saw Tyson Brown, 37, swap a job in management for one in the legal industry. The Juris Doctor graduate shares his student journey.

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A mother with her child in the kitchen

The law proved to be his passion and after completing the RMIT Juris Doctor program he is now interning as a judge’s associate in the New South Wales District Court, with the goal of becoming a barrister.

“My passion is advocacy. I have lawyers in the family and I was always fascinated by the law and the justice system."

“Honestly, I was unsure initially if I had what it took to complete a law degree... so life moved on and I put it out of my mind until an opportunity arose. I applied to undertake the JD at RMIT which was offering the course online through Open Universities, which was perfect for me."

Brown, who had previously completed a business degree, studied the Juris Doctor online from his home in Sydney. He says getting back into the swing of things was initially very challenging, particularly the discipline and organisation required in distance learning.

“At the postgraduate level, there is a higher expectation on you to have all of the basic skills mastered, and as such you hit the ground running,” he says.

“The first subject was particularly challenging, however, in my opinion it is essential as it prepares you for what you are about to embark upon. I noticed that the class size was essentially halved by the end of the introductory subject."

“I found the majority of the lecturers to be incredibly supportive, punctual in providing feedback and very approachable. On average I studied four or five subjects per semester, so for me, that level of communication was essential. As a result, I got through the JD in just over two years.”

"The practical components of the JD, such as the client interviews, alternative dispute resolution sessions and Moot Court assessments were an amazing experience, definitely the highlight of the course."

Brown shares his top three study tips here:

1. Organisation

It should come as no surprise no matter what you study that organisation is crucial, particularly for those studying remotely. Studying by online or by correspondence can be difficult, but if you are disorganised you are setting yourself up for a particularly challenging time.

Planning for when things are due is the first step and knowing how long it takes you to complete certain tasks is what makes the difference. If you know it takes two days to complete 4000 words, then make yourself available for three days to give yourself a buffer period. A fine-tuned routine made it possible for me to study by day, work at night and still make time for my family.

I found putting due dates into Google calendar right from the outset of a semester helpful, and anticipating when you are going to be under the pump prepares you for the busy times. Using reminders and alarms that can be shared over multiple devices is useful for those (like me) who are trying to multi-task several components of their lives.

2. Dedication

Patience, determination and dedication are all key. Committing yourself to study means sacrificing some of the extra-curricular activities. Essentially one less episode of Suits and one less beer at the pub. They taste better when you have done your work anyway.

It's worthwhile keeping in mind that your peers are intelligent and competitive so you need to put in the hard work to keep up. If you commit to staying up to date with the readings and making exam notes throughout the semester then you are half way there.

3. Reward yourself

After the hard work is done, make sure you schedule in some well-earned relaxation time. Recharging the batteries can be as critical to your success as an all-night study session. 

For me, relaxation is time with the kids or a TV series binge session to ease the insomnia. Celebrate the small victories along the way because a law degree can sometimes feel like a never-ending marathon.

Story: Kate Jones

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