I am often asked how I manage to keep on top of things on the BPTC. I think that with any busy schedule you need to have an element of discipline and a clear picture of what’s going on at all times. Here I share my tips on how to stay organised on the BPTC and stay on top of things.
The first and most crucial step is to take plenty of time to sit down and plan ahead. Well before the start of every BPTC term I have sat down with a copy of my timetable and all of the materials for the term, ticking off each class as I add it to my calendar. I also have a quick scan of the instructions for each small group (seminar) and large group (lecture). This way I know what to brace myself for. In particular, I want to know about formal feedback assessments or mock tests. This allows me to prepare ahead of time and get the most out of the formal feedback, particularly if I am feeling like my knowledge or skill in a particular area is weak.
Some people take the BPTC week by week, however I do not like to be caught off guard so the more I know ahead of the fact the better. The downside to my strategy is that I am not a fan of any sudden or unexpected changes to my schedule. If something doesn’t go to plan, it is probably going to have a serious knock-on effect on the rest of my week. However, the upside is that I can almost go on auto-pilot, knowing that I have scheduled my classes and prep time and all I need to do is show up to the library and get it done.
I would suggest sitting down to plan through the term well in advance of your first classes starting. You want to be ready and prepared, so don’t leave it until the night before term starts to find out you have 5 hours of prep to finish for a morning class.
Stick to your study schedule
On a course like the BPTC, finding a way to motivate yourself through pages and pages of Blackstone’s or the White Book can be difficult. However, it is crucial that you stick to your study schedule. I always want to try and wriggle out of my work but it is best to get it done in the first instance. Either way, the work needs to be done and it is better that you get it done when you planned rather than put it off and stay up until the small hours catching up on work.
Once you have devised a study schedule, stick to it. That requires discipline and may need to be learned. At first getting up at 6am or 7am to study was murder. Now, I wake up at 6:40am without an alarm ready to start my work at 7am. The only thing missing is a fresh cup of coffee to magically appear on my desk…
Taking breaks may seem counterintuitive on a course where it can seem as if the 24 hours we have each day aren’t enough to scratch the surface. However, I thoroughly recommend that you do. Every day I take a break for 1-2 hours, switch off my phone and chill out. It doesn’t matter whether you watch Netflix or stare at clouds going by; it is important for you to have dedicated time to yourself so that you can breathe and mentally prepare.
It is also no secret that the BPTC is time consuming as well as mind-numbingly boring at times. I am yet to complete an entire study session without my eyes attempting to flutter shut at one point. Taking these breaks to do something you actually enjoy or to engage with one of your hobbies and interests is what will stop you from falling into a CPR-induced stupor.
Further, it will ensure that you are actually able to carry on a proper conversation (with someone outside of the BPTC). It is really important as pupillage application and interview season takes place that you have not lost sense of your identity and what makes you special and unique. If you spend every second of your time poring over BPTC books you could potentially lose that sense of identity. Go outside!
Finally, taking breaks is important for critical reflection. This period of your life will require a significant amount of introspection. You need to really mull a lot of things over in your mind such as how you want to present yourself in applications, why you think a certain area of law is for you and so on. You need quiet time to do this. I like to go on long bike rides when I want to work something out and I know that some people like to go on long runs to ponder things. Whatever works for you, do it.
Grit your teeth and get through it
Finally, this one is a bit obvious but just keep going. This course can feel like slow blood-letting at times. It is a constant stream of work and is extraordinarily draining. This course may be shorter than the GDL but it feels twice as long. However, no matter what you do, don’t drown. Find healthy practices that enable you to stay on top of the work. It can be done, it is possible and there are many different ways to go about it.
Ultimately, trust yourself. This course is intimidating because we aren’t barristers (yet) and maybe don’t feel that we are qualified enough to be doing some of the things we are assessed on (yet). Put those concerns to the back of your mind and just focus on getting it done. Perfection is unattainable and on a course like the BPTC, trying to be perfect won’t do you much good. I’ll share the same advice I was given by one of my professors: it is not about getting everything right, focus on doing most of it well.
Good luck and keep going
Good luck on the BPTC! Don’t give up and continue to visualise the finish line. I hope this post was useful and if you agree, why not share it with a friend?
Until next time,