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Ultimately, it’s up to the jury to decide

August 12, 2009

Studying law seems to mean permanently sitting next to some old, irritating, know-it-all graduate student who actually knows less than you. Which, trust me, is diffcult.

Okay, to be fair, I don’t know for a fact that it is only law classes where this happens. I’m sure plenty of other young, normal students face this problem in other courses such as arts and economics. I wouldn’t know about that though because I don’t study arts or economics. Of course that isn’t really the point. There are a lot of graduate students in law, possibly more than other courses. Very few people study law straight out of high school. I don’t know the reason for this. There are several possible explanations, starting with the results required to get into law. Nevertheless, many people studying law have tranfrerred, are (young, recent) graduate students or are mature-age students. It is this last category that gives me the most problems.

I’m careful to point out that it isn’t every mature-age student who is cause for alarm. Many of them are very nice and act just like the rest of us. They contribute equally to discussions, don’t annoy others and are basically the kind of people you want to share classes with. But there are a few that ruin it for everyone.

Let me explain. These are the kind of people who think they know everything. They are always the first to jump in with their (usually wrong) answer, and appear oblivious to the fact that someone else might actually have something (more important and more intelligent) to say. They are always the ones sitting in the front row of the lecture (blocking seats easily accessible for those people running late to class because they’ve had to run all the way across campus from another class, even though the graduate student was clearly there 10 minutes early) and asking pointless questions with obvious answers, usually interrupting the most important or interesting part of the lecture. They are always the first person to complete assignments and do all the homework, and then spend weeks asking when they’ll get their results even though the assignment isn’t actually due yet. They are always the people in lectures talking loudly to themselves (such as ‘hmmmm’, ‘yeah’, ‘that’s right’ or ‘that’s a good point’ as if they are having a personal conversation with the lecturer. And yes, that is right because they are TEACHING us something. They are not asking you if what they’re telling you is correct) as if no one else notices, or speaking aloud as they write (or more often than not, type on their overpriced laptop that is actually less fancy than that of the 20-year-old sitting next to them) down notes. They are always the ones giving you pointless and stupid advice about how they study or what they’re good at as if because it’s their way it is the only right way. They are always the first to try and connect a topic with one of their own life experiences, and prattle on about things they’ve done that may or may not be relevant. For example, ‘When I was involved in this court case…’ stories that always seem to result in them getting the law completely wrong and confusing the hell out of everyone, including the lecturer. They are also the ones who make generalisations or comments that are just plain wrong, such as ‘There is no Victorian Constitution.’ Actually, I lie. It was my seminar leader that told me that one.

I know I’m not the only one annoyed by these bossy, overbearing, know-it-all grad students. I can’t be. So I have some advice for them, which should be common sense.

  • You are not the smartest person in the room. For one thing, often the reason you are studying law as a graduate is because you didn’t have the results to get in in the first place. All those young kids might be straight from high school but they’ve acheived what you couldn’t so don’t underestimate them. And most of the lecturers do actually know the subject better than you so don’t speak to them as if they are dumb and incapable of coming to the conclusions you have. It will make you look like even more of a fool when you’re wrong.
  • Don’t act as if you are smarter than the lecturer.
  • You are not the only person in the room with legal experience. Just because you volunteer in a firm or for legal aid or whatever that does not make you better than anyone else. And while people might be interested the first time you bring it up, they won’t be interested the hundred-and-first time.
  • Don’t act as if you are more experienced than the lecturer.
  • Don’t dominate the discussion. Even if you are the smartest and most experienced person in the room, everyone deserves a chance to say their piece. No one likes a know it all or someone who disrespects others, even if that person is a High Court Justice. Also, most people don’t actually care about your opinions if they are long and drawn out and not actually relevant to the discussion.
  • Don’t ask questions if the answer is right in front of you. At least, don’t do it more than three times in a one hour lecture.
  • Don’t stand up and tell everyone to be quiet if it isn’t that noisy, especially if you’re prone to talking to youself.
  • Don’t mutter your agreement or interest during lectures. This is way more irritating than a group having a conversation in front of you.
  • Don’t ask others about work you know they haven’t done.
  • Don’t give out your opinions and advice to peole who don’t ask for it. At least, don’t do it constantly.

Once again, apologies to those nice, kind-hearted, smart mature-age/graduate students. I’m sure these people annoy you as much as they annoy me.

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