By Grace Goh, SMU School of Law
Studying law is a little bit like exploring the outer rim of a new galaxy: some regions are uncharted, you meet strange new species and most of all, you embark on the adventure of a lifetime. More and more people want a slice of the law pie, as so many of us scramble to study law both locally and overseas. If you’ve just finished up your 12–14 years of formal education (yes, it has been THAT long since primary school) and are at the crossroads on what to do and where to go for university, I can’t promise that I have a Sorting Hat to guarantee you all the right answers or put you in the right place—but I can tell you three things that having the privilege of studying in SMU Law has taught me thus far on this adventure called higher education.
1. LIKE what you do, because nothing comes easy
Just as any adventurer must do, a law student must love the pursuit of what he does. While it is true that studying the law has many future benefits (e.g.: the chance to help the less fortunate, security of employment and pay), one must actually enjoy the law itself. This doesn’t mean you have to fall in love with every single statute and regulation that you come by in your textbooks or on Google—this just means finding an area of the law that you personally enjoy and feel passionate about. With the many subjects and areas of law that are offered here in SMU, through both the foundational and elective courses, there is more than ample opportunity for you to find your place in the legal universe. Identifying this sweet spot in your legal studies is crucial in getting you through some dry spells where you go through a law students’ version of a mid-life crisis.
Personally, finding my personal interest in disciplines such as comparative legal studies and contract law has helped me through the times in law school when I was disappointed by my performance in exams and was questioning whether I was really cut out for a career in the law. It is much easier to see the big picture and enjoy what you are being taught in school for what it is—a betterment of your overall knowledge of the world around you—than focusing solely on the goal of being the good lawyer that you eventually hope to be.
2. Live long and prosper
Apart from the hard work, the SMU law degree is a lot bigger than the academic pursuit. There is a myriad of opportunities available within law school itself which may not always be linked with your law degree, but will give the same value-add to your life as having a legal education. Going outside of the classroom (and sometimes out of the country) is a big part of the SMU law experience and going out to embrace it makes you a more well-rounded individual and future lawyer.
I had the privilege of serving a year-long term in The Bar, SMU law’s student leadership body, with a team of seven peers. Together, it was an experience as we navigated the finer points of not only being law students, but also being in charge of event planning and representing the students’ needs. Learning the skills of how to plan human resource, collaborate with food caterers, and in general give the students a good time at each event was truly an adventure that I did not get from the seminar rooms.
Another adventure was having the privilege of representing SMU law at mooting competitions, which have taught me the values of true perseverance and teamwork. The joys and pains of the process bring you to the pinnacle of your preparedness in a competition where everyone is watching you generate a level of self-awareness and personal improvement, which eventually spills over into your personal and work life.
3. Dare to go where no man has gone before
University, in general, is a place meant for you to experience a ton of new things: new school, new friends, new everything. While the new law building is really sleek, cool and comfortable, and you never feel like leaving, venturing out to the rest of the University to find out what it has to offer you is one of the big things that I love about SMU. Every person that has gone through the mill of tertiary legal education will say that university is the time for you to chase your dreams and do what you love because you won’t have the time to do so after you start practice. While we all should strive to have a work-life balance even post-graduation, the best time to start the habit is now.
Helping out in the annual university-wide freshmen camps, on top of the law faculty’s own freshman initiation activities, was an experience that I can most simply describe as the some of the best fun I’ve had. We have camps that showcase the very best of SMU’s sports, arts and special interest groups, as well as how vibrant and enthusiastic our senior students are in getting everyone integrated into our school culture.
Going overseas to countries such as Thailand and the Philippines with my friends to do community work while staying with the locals was also something that put the real privilege we have as Singaporeans into perspective. Even in the simple things, like endeavouring to hit the gym at least thrice a week with a workout buddy, helps you widen your horizon beyond the books and notes to see just how expansive your opportunities are at SMU, so long as you choose to take the right ones.
In conclusion, no matter where you go, studying the law will offer the same challenge. I found SMU to be the place for me because I love how it gives me both the intellectual rigour compatible with the training of an aspiring advocate and solicitor, and the chance to grow and explore as a student in tertiary education as well as a person who is finding my place in this world. Don’t be fooled by the black-and-white exterior of the SMU law degree—the knowledge, friends and fun that so many of us have found both expectedly and unexpectedly are what has shaped us into, hopefully, the next generation of legal eagles that you’ll soon see.
SMU’s undergraduate admissions is now open! Find out more about our Bachelor of Laws programme today.