What really is ‘essential reading’ and is it worth investing your (pizza) money? Well that’s precisely the question I’m going to be answering for you.
The essential reading lists are extensive, it is important both for your time and your bank that you know what is essential and what can be put aside. Like many law students, when I saw the essential reading list I went out and bought majority of the materials on the list, concerned that my grades would suffer without them. Today, most remain new and unused and my grades are completely unaffected. Everyone learns differently, so the materials that work for me might not for you but you certainly don’t need to purchase every book and guide on each topic.
Textbooks University Provide
We are very lucky that our University provides the essential textbooks for our first and second years because these are not cheap or easily available. For most modules, the content you will be examined on is heavily featured in the chosen textbook and often places an emphasis on the cases that are considered crucial by your lecturer. If you are confident on the content covered in the lecture then briefly read the chapters in the assigned reading just to reaffirm what you had learnt and they sometimes provide additional information that gives you those high marks. If you aren’t understanding something in class then read the textbook more thoroughly.
In all honestly, the only time I have picked up an additional textbook is when I haven’t understood the assigned textbook or I have loathed it with a passion. It is highly likely that at one point during your LLB you will have an assigned textbook that you dislike to such an extent that you question your entire legal career. At this point, I would consider another textbook. The additional textbooks on the reading lists are often there to cater for this exact scenario and are usually useful alternatives. However, if you are still unsure then contact your lecturer, they are always happy to help. Would I buy them? Usually, there is no need. City’s Law Library usually stocks copies of the recommended textbooks and if there aren’t any physical copies, City’s Online Library often has a digital version that you can download or view online at any time.
For some modules, it is recommended that you acquire a case book which simply gives you a summary of landmark and supporting cases. These are the books that I have never ever opened. If I have ever wished to read a judgement or case then I have either used WestLaw or LexisNexis to read it in full. This gives you access to a greater number of cases and doesn’t weigh a ton. Although it is important that you understand most of the cases, you do not to read every single one in depth. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend reading the casebooks and would save your time and money for more efficient ways of working.
If you are allowed a statute in your exam, use it but never rely on it. However, it is useful if you have a complete mind blank in the exam or wish to use the exact wording. When you are studying, take some time to read the relevant statute or treaty. It will help you know where the relevant Act is for the exam and isn’t time consuming.
This one is solely down to preference and I wouldn’t recommend purchasing one until the second term when you vaguely know if you will need it. Throughout the course so far, I have only used one revision book and even then, I didn’t find it particularly useful as it didn’t provide the depth of knowledge I was after. I would be very wary about relying on revision books they rarely have enough information to be worth your time and your information can be found through resources on the internet. Although you do need to be careful that the websites that you are relying on are credible.
We always hear how we must read countless numbers of journals for each topic to understand the opinions of various academics. In all truth, I have barely read journals and it has not prevented me from achieving high grades. There are two occasions that I read journals. The first, when a lecturer or seminar teacher specifically says read this journal- chances are this will hugely benefit your answers in an exam (hint *EU Law* hint). The second, if once I have done my revision for the exam and I am confident on majority of the cases, all major points and supporting legislation. Only then will I consider giving myself extra information to learn. After all, quoting academics isn’t going to help you if you don’t know the law it relates to.
I would highly recommend reading a newspaper, watching the news or downloading news apps. Staying in touch with the news is exceptionally important and taking 15minutes out of your day can provide additional information that will get you good grades. Furthermore, staying in touch with the news is essential for applications, you can’t be commercially aware if you have no idea what is happening around you.
My final thoughts, it is easy to look at the extensive reading list and feel terrified. Don’t overload yourself with information and if you don’t learn by using a method, don’t do it. Wider reading will help you gain a fuller view of the topic but realistically, you won’t have the time or the inclination to do this for every topic in each module. Whatever you do, do not buy every book on the off chance you may read it.
Enjoy your time at City and I hope this proves to be useful.