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Name: Esther Maudlyn Johnson-Chu
Campus: Lagos Campus (First Class), Director General’s Prize for First Class Students
University: University of Abuja (Second Class Upper Division)
About: Esther Maudlin Johnson-Chu hails from Eleme in Rivers State. She is an alumna of the University of Abuja where she served as the Secretary-General of the Law Clinic, a pro-bono public enlightenment and aid organisation. She is currently undergoing her mandatory youth service. In her spare time, she loves to read thrillers and detective novels. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What was my study routine like?
Well, I don’t think I had a defined study routine. In law school, there wasn’t a particular time devoted to reading activities were always coming up. We were going from class to group meetings, to trying to get something to eat, to trying to go about other daily activities etc. My main idea was to read every time I could even if it was five minutes before going to bed. If I wake up a little early, I could take my phone and read an online note. Immediately after class just before group meeting, I would go to the venue a little early and get 20 – 35 minutes of reading. Even in a Keke, I could just pull out my phone and read. I have to say having notes on my phone really helped because at every point in time I could read. So it wasn’t a defined study routine – the plan was was to read every single moment that I could.
Should I form Notes or Read from Texts?
I believe there is a time and purpose for each of these options. Personally, I don’t believe in forming copious notes. If you form copious notes, you might as well read from whatever source you are getting the notes.
What I did was try to read the topic from the textbook before the class to have a broad idea of what I needed to know. I had two books. One was a case book which I divided into five sections for each course and wrote very significant cases I came across while reading the texts. Then I had a statute book where I did the same thing for statutes. That was mostly what I did while I reading texts before the class. Also, I noted down some important details. I use mnemonics/acronyms a lot. The notes I formed were like bullet points where I would take note of very significant things to help me when studying later on or during revision. That’s what I did before the class.
During the class, I would try to pay attention. That’s not the time to be on your phone even though it could get very long and boring. I would notice the things we were taught with emphasis. Before the class, I also tried to attend group meetings. Sometimes, they go on forever. Sometimes they confuse you. No matter what, I believe you learn a lot by hearing. Even though there are some people who have read a lot and tend to get it all jumbled, there are also some people who know what they are saying. Even from those who don’t get it right, there is a word of sense, even if what you learn from them is how not to understand it. There is a dot of sense in there and I think that helped a lot.
So, reading from texts, I believe should be before classes to have a general idea. That general idea helps you when you are reading later on and if you get confused, you can refer to the textbook with ease. Forming notes might help if you are the kind of person those kinds of things work for. It was time consuming for me. Besides, there were lots of past notes – Kenneth’s, Ada’s, etc. Those notes helped so far as you paid attention to changes that have happened since those notes were formed, and you tried to understand it using your own concepts.
Read from texts, get your bullet points, cases, statutes, acronyms, understand it as best as you can, pay attention to what the lecturer says in class. Take your notes from the lecture not from anywhere else. For me it was a combination of my casebook, statute book, notes from the lecture and notes from other people.
How did you deal with the stress and pressure?
There was no way around it. I knew before I got into law school that it was going to be mad pressure and mad stress. Especially, because I knew what I wanted to get out of it. So I told myself, ‘This is just for nine months, I might as well just do it now and get it over with’. That was it. I didn’t see it as something extraordinary. It was what I had to deal with at that point to get what i wanted to get so I just faced it.
How did you find time to read or manage your time?
You will never find time to read. There is always one thing or the other to do. Even if it is to faff around or play a little and there is nothing wrong with playing a little. You just need time to breath. But then you make do with every moment you have. You wake up at night, you can’t sleep, grab your book. You have five minutes while waiting for a lecturer, grab your phone, read a note. You finished lunch a little early and the lecturer hasn’t come in yet, grab your note. Every single moment that you have, grab your note. It is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes, you genuinely do not want to read within the five seconds. It is fine, and you don’t have to. But 80 percent of your free time should be devoted to your books for that nine months, like I said its only for nine months. By God’s grace, you won’t have to be at that point again. So push yourself to the max and get what you want to get.
Did you have social activities?
Not so many social activities and that’s not because they were bad or anything. I personally believe in play a little rest a little but I have never particularly been a soically active person. My idea of fun is reading a nice novel, watching a nice movie, very introverted things. No, I didn’t really engage in social activities not because they were bad but because I am not one for social activities personally.
How did you deal with your fear?
I prayed. I prayed like my life depended on it. What worked for me may not work for you. And the funny thing was that the fear didn’t come when I was in law school. Maybe it is because law school is a very busy time. There was no time for fear. But afterwards, when I thought of what I wrote in my exams and what I could have written better, when the results were about to be released, that’s when the fear came in. But I prayed. At some point I just said however it turns out, I will give glory to God. The fear never goes away. Sometimes I think back and I wonder how I made it. You have to deal; there is no way around it.
What was the plan during externship?
For me I would say after God, externship was the key to my success. I interned at a firm where, in as much as they gave you work to do, they also encouraged you to read. They gave us a wide berth to allow us to read, because they understood we needed the time. I thank God for that. If you combine the total amount of time I read during the 3 months of externship, and outside externship which was about five to six months, I would say I did most of my reading during externship. I think it was a big part of my success in the law school.
How did I answer my exam questions?
Before getting into the exam hall, the plan was to follow the Iraq rule, keep my structure perfect etc. I don’t know how it was for other people, but the moment I sat down on my seat, all form of structure and analysis disappeared. At that point, I took a deep breath and told myself that I would do the best I could. Sometimes, my structure wasn’t perfect. What I tried to do was to stay within the context of the question. You don’t even have time to go out of context. Try to stick within the context of the question, try to supply as much information as I can, try to keep it simple as I possibly can, try not to use too many words, and explanations that would end up confusing the examiner, keep it simple keep it short, keep it straight to the point, answer the questions concisely – that’s it!
What would you have done better?
Maybe if this question came immediately after law school, I would have had an answer. At this point, I have made peace with everything I did during the law school period. I would say I did the best I could. Whatever else that needs to change is for the future not for the past.
What regrets do you have?
No regrets. I don’t believe in regrets. No regrets whatsoever. Not because there weren’t sad moments, not because there weren’t things I could have done better but because I believe in hopes, dreams, looking forward. I believe in plans not regrets.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful to God, first of all. Now I look back and I don’t know what it was that made me stand out. There was nothing special about me. There was nothing I did that other people didn’t do even better. There was nothing I did that was extraordinary, or way beyond expectation. I didn’t read hardest, I didn’t cry the most, I didn’t pray the hardest, I didn’t serve God the most, I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, but it was God all the way. I am grateful for His Grace.
I am grateful for my roommates. I had the most awesome set of roommates. It is not that we never had issues but nobody ever heard our voices outside. I knew roommates that they were constantly at each other’s throats. Somehow, we blended. In as much as we were close and friendly with each other we tried to give each other that space, and help each other. I am truly grateful for my Law School roommates.
I am grateful for my lecturers. I think Lagos law school lecturers are the most awesome set of lecturers ever. You could literally see the passion coming off them, desperately wanting to help you and impart knowledge. I am truly grateful for them.
I am grateful for the Nigerian Law School, not because it was perfect but because it helped me be where I am today.
I am grateful for the support of my parents and family. They showered me with so much prayers and care. And even when they did not have it all, they put my needs first.
I have to say I am truly grateful for the support I have had in my life – for the love and favor I have received from God and man. I don’t deserve it but for some reason people consider me worthy. I am eternally grateful.