Closing the chapter on PPC1
A few weeks ago I was invited back in to the Law Society to talk to the new PPC1ers about my experience of the Stetson moot court competition last year. I had loved participating in it and I was thrilled to be invited back, but it felt a little strange being on the other side of it all. How had it been a year already? I think I may have been in denial about leaving my PPC1 days behind until I stepped foot back in Blackhall and stood on the other side of the podium. I felt deeply under qualified to be advising anyone on anything (the imposter syndrome lives on) but I did love seeing the PPC1 buzz return to Blackhall again. Admittedly, it was a bit of an unexpected reality check but with that came many fond memories of my time in PPC1 and prompted this post.
So, brought on by a sense of Blackhall nostalgia, I’ve decided to write another PPC1 post (feel free to catch up on the first one here) this time giving a little overview of the things that I wish I’d been told before starting PPC1.
Maybe some current PPC1ers will stumble across this and it might be of use, however, in the alternative, this post will at least serve as my acknowledgment that my PPC1 days are behind me and I’m (finally)(partially) okay with that.
Without further ado, here’s a list of things that I took from my time in PPC1:
1. It is completely fine to do your own thing.
One of the biggest things that hit me about Blackhall is the expectation that we all have for it. You’ll see from my previous post that I felt under pressure to keep up with the nights out, the lectures and the extra curriculars. I think I went in to PPC1 knowing that the freedom would be short lived, so I tried to fit in as much as I could and I ended up becoming overwhelmed by it all. Don’t be me.
It’s perfectly okay to skip the Glimmerman. If you’d rather do drama classes on a Tuesday evening instead of Xico’s, go right ahead. The same goes for mooting, debating, charity work, hobbies, etc – if it’s your thing, embrace it, if not – that’s okay too. And if all you want to do is head out and enjoy doing absolutely nothing on the side, then more power to you. Blackhall is whatever you want it to be. It took me a little longer than most to realise that and once I accepted that I didn’t have to be all things to all men, I enjoyed my time a lot more.
2. Do the prep work.
By the second or third week in Blackhall, we all had access to Dropbox accounts that had been passed down from generation to generation of PPC1 students. Usually there’s a rota drawn up, everyone gets a tutorial to prepare for and the workload ends up being divided between twenty people. It’s a great resource, especially in the lead up to exams, but I’d just be careful about overly relying on other people’s work. The tutors are well aware that we’re all working off the same tutorials, we haven’t beaten the Blackhall system, so more often than not it just makes for a very mundane tutorial. I know there can be a lot of work in tutorial prep, but if you even revise the questions beforehand and try to form an opinion on what’s being discussed, you’ll find that you pick up significantly more in the tutorials than if you were to just read off a sheet.
I’m not saying that you need to read the manuals cover to cover, but I do think revising the tutorial material will save you all a lot of stress when the exam period hits.
3. Use the counselling service. Consider saving it until after Christmas.
It’s very rare in life that you’re offered a series of free counselling sessions with a short waiting list. Even if you feel like you’re completely on top of things, you’ll probably still find the counselling services in the Law Society beneficial. It’s an excellent service and the majority of PPC1 students use it. Something that I didn’t do and I wish I’d thought of it was to save my counselling sessions until after Christmas. The stress levels increase tenfold once you start back after the break and having someone to talk to about it all is a great help.
4. Don’t underestimate the skills classes. DO NOT PLAGIARISE.
This was such a big one for my year. We all thought that skills would be a walk in the park… it wasn’t. I know the acting classes at the start of the year can seem like a bit of a laugh, but there’s method in the madness of the law society. The skills classes gradually get more and more tailored to the exam at the end of PPC1 and there’s a surprisingly high failure rate. I think (and I’m open to correction on this one) that some people might fail because they take too relaxed an approach to the exam and don’t put the effort in to the final assignment. The second reason I think people fail it is because they become overly reliant on what everyone else is doing. Just don’t do it to yourself. Don’t even risk it. Ignore the WhatsApp group consultations and do your own research. There have been excellent debaters and public speakers fail the module, so please do not feel like you can wing it. You can’t.
5. Be organised for the exams.
I definitely noticed a dramatic mood change in Blackhall when we returned after the Christmas break. I think everyone suddenly realized that the exam countdown was on and we had a load of work to get through. I know most people would say that you’ll be fine if you start studying after the Blackhall Ball and yeah, they’d probably be right, but I found that taking the first few days of the Christmas break (it’s almost three weeks in fairness) to organise my notes and set them aside was invaluable. It meant that when January came around, I had all my tutorials, lecture notes, etc. printed and ready to go. This saves a lot of time (and panicking) and ended up being quite relaxed in the lead up to March. I’ve always been someone who prefers to chip away at study, so I started doing a bit of work from the first week back in January, but each person is different. If anyone wants any more info on how I approached the exams, feel free to drop me a message! One thing I will say is that you should play around with the iPad in advance of the exams themselves. You’d be surprised by how much material you’ve saved that isn’t actually available offline (you’ll have no internet access in the exam centre) or how time consuming it can be trying to locate tutorial notes in a disorganized folder. I can’t emphasize enough how much hassle you’ll save yourself by being organised. It makes a huge difference.
Overall, I think Blackhall is a great experience. I loved it. I made incredible friends from my time there and I’ll be very happy to return to its halls next April for PPC2. That said, in a way I’m glad to be out the other side of PPC1. It’s an intense few months followed by exams that shouldn’t be underestimated. Blackhall can be a brilliant opportunity to unwind, take up new hobbies or challenge yourself to do things that you never had time for in college, so enjoy it… but don’t completely switch off from the tutorials and study. You’ll thank yourself on the other side.