By Varshini Viswanath (student ambassador)
Every first-year law student wants to know the secret to success in law school.
While there are no short cuts to high distinctions, first-year law students can develop academic skills vital to their academic and professional career through the Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) program at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law.
This was certainly the case for Jasmine Matz when she commenced her studies at the ANU College of Law in 2019.
Now in the penultimate year of her Bachelor of Arts/Law (Hons) double degree, Jasmine is determined to “pay it forward” and has signed up to be a mentor for the program that once helped her learn the ins and outs of law school.
“The foundational skills that PAL works to solidify have helped me right throughout my degree, including when revisiting them to talk through as a later-year mentor,” Jasmine said.
What is PAL?
PAL is a peer-mentoring program that helps first-year law students learn and practice the foundational legal skills they will need for the rest of their law degree.
PAL mentors draw from their experience in law school to organise five weekly sessions addressing different topics throughout the year, ranging from how to take notes effectively to how to prepare for a law exam.
Out of the five sessions a week, two are run online and three in person, offering students a range of platforms and opportunities to participate in the program.
“The program is unique as it is run by students for students and provides a relaxed, non-judgemental and reassuring environment to facilitate students’ learning,” Melanie said.
Benefits for mentees
Law school presents challenges for many students, although success can be achieved with the right habits and academic skills.
When Melanie and Jasmine started their law studies, both felt overwhelmed and lacked confidence. They soon discovered they weren’t alone.
“Coming to law school is a scary experience for most people, if not all, so it is really important to have the opportunity to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same feelings,” Jasmine said.
Jasmine explained that PAL is not only a place to discuss issues students are facing in their studies, but also a place they can develop practical skills, tips and tricks on how to improve.
She said the sessions, while prepared in advance, are flexible and tailored to the needs of students.
“Mentors are always ready to answer questions and adapt the session plan to the needs of the group,” Jasmine said.
Melanie added she has received positive feedback about the sessions from mentees.
“Numerous students have written that they are thankful for the mentors’ support and for the informative sessions,” she said.
Both Jasmine and Melanie have found that they enjoy learning new tips on how to perform at law school from other mentors during PAL sessions.
Their experience demonstrates how the PAL program helps students to continue to learn and improve, not only during the first year of their degree, but throughout their law school journey.