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5 things I wish I had heard when I was a student


1.) About the speed of study

It’s not just about finishing your studies as quickly as possible. There are, of course, certain benefits you get from studying fast. As in Austria, for example, the continued receipt of child benefit. Or that later in your (working) life, people may believe that you can deduce from a high study speed that you can perform with pinpoint accuracy even under pressure. Our assessment systems at the universities still do not reflect individual talents enough. Therefore, the length of time it takes you to complete your studies is still seen as an objective measure to compare you with very different people. However, the “speed of study” is certainly not the only factor that is used to decide for you or another person, for example in a job application process. Sometimes it is your hobbies, for example, that suddenly create an unexpected connection to your future employers and allow you to take the first step in your career. For example, I heard from a person who mentioned watching animal documentaries as a hobby in a job interview. This also happened to be a great passion of the interviewer. This immediately created a completely different basis for discussion, with which the candidate stood out from the mass of applicants. The speed of study became secondary.

So don’t let yourself be unsettled and please don’t even get the idea that you have to drop out of your studies because you (temporarily) don’t travel that fast. Because – first of all – you may soon have an aha moment and perhaps complete another part of your studies so super quickly that you even surprise yourself (I experienced this with acquaintances). And secondly, the duration of your studies is not equally relevant for all your potential employers in the future.

2.) About the importance of learning systems and methods

It’s good if you can transport the learning material for the next exam very quickly into your brain in your own way. But please keep in mind when cramming that it’s about learning a system. Law is a way of thinking, a method of approaching and solving problems. Things like comparing seemingly unrelated facts, applying abstract theories to a concrete problem – all these are ways of thinking that can help you a lot later in many jobs. You may have also already recognized that it is not so necessary to know every little aspect of a legal area by heart. It’s more about having an overview and knowing where to look for details in order to have a complete picture in front of you. And about being able to use this overall view to better solve the legal problems of your future employers, clients or (usually involuntarily) your friends at the next dinner party.

3.) About the importance of your health

Number three: take a little look at yourself. Maybe it’s not the right thing for you to accept the dogma of constant overuse in the legal profession without thinking? When I was a student, I still had the impression that you can’t achieve anything if you don’t “burn yourself out” to the point of self-abandonment. And then you study and work repeatedly late into the night and through the night if it is necessary to meet the next deadline. Firstly, it is questionable whether this is really necessary and whether one could improve something with one’s own learning plan. Or with the work organization in the jobs (but only by the way). What I’m getting at here: There are a lot of people who simply have a little more energy than others. So they can deal better with “all nighters”. In my own perception, fortunately, I have a lot of energy. But I often overestimated myself because I measured myself against the wrong people who could just sit longer. And I would end up lying flat on holiday with symptoms of illness for whole weekends because I had ignored the first signs of fatigue in my body during the normal working week. I also narrowly missed burnout at least once. Others, on the other hand, believe that they can only keep up with a high pace by using certain substances and are even more dangerous to their health. Even at university, I noticed that some people use “little helpers” because they think that’s the only way to deal with the pressure better. In an optimal scenario, however, you should practice early on to recognize and respect your own limits and to use your working hours so productively and effectively that you can spend as much of your life as possible outside of learning and work. Hopefully this will allow you to have the long, fulfilling career and healthy (family) life that you dreamed of as a student.

4.) About the importance of being yourself

There is no such thing as a lawyer. There are certain images that have been handed down and that are also given again and again by the media because they correspond to existing clichés. (On average, how often per month am I asked if my job is like “Suits” or “How to get away with murder”? Very often!) Humans are creatures of habit and it makes them happy to recognize certain patterns. But these patterns are not equally appropriate for all people because they do not capture many people and opinions. If you don’t feel represented in these patterns and stereotypes, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be suitable for a legal profession. Law is a very nice discipline and increasingly allows many different characters to develop in it. This is not always made easy for you and sometimes you have to fight for this freedom first. But please don’t let that put you off. With a lot of perseverance, talent and of course luck you can achieve great things at best. And it’s also absolutely ok if you regret your choice of study on some days. That’s completely normal, even if some tell you that there’s nothing better for you than studying all day. And if you’re not sure if all the hacking is even worth it; whether what comes after graduation is worth striving for: I’ll tell you that I would prefer to work in no profession than in my own. Even if there are days when I can motivate myself a little less well than on others. That too is normal.

5.) About the importance of dealing with things outside of law

In the midst of preparing for the next exams, don’t forget to get inspiration from things outside of law. Literature, art, architecture, photography, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, finance, a wide variety of sports, etc. – you name it. Aside from law, there are incredibly exciting areas that can also have a very positive influence on your legal work. For example, my love of music and digital art led me to do an LL.M. after studying at the University of Vienna. in IP and Technology Law in Singapore. And today also give legal advice to artists. This would not have happened if I had not also pursued my interests in this area and later combined them with my legal knowledge. You should also keep in mind that there will be many people out there who have similar knowledge as you in your field. But if you want to stand out from the crowd, it helps if doing things outside of your core studies makes you an even more interesting person who’s easy to talk to.

bottom line:

Of course, this is all totally subjective and you will find a great many people out there who will disagree with me. I am also aware that I am endowed with incredible privileges that have made my way easier (as an able bodied cis man who has an Austrian passport, speaks the national language perfectly, and does not earn the money for his studies in Austria had to). It is also clear that I can never offer a solution or advice that fits all of your life circumstances exactly. But as I said, there are not just two or three prototype lawyers; but such different and diverse ways as life itself is multifaceted. And I wish you that you can find and follow your own path that suits you and that will enable you to live a happy life.

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