Dear Otago Law Students,
Welcome back to those returning and welcome to all of you arriving in the Faculty of Law for the first time. Congratulations to Jasper Fawcett for producing this Welcome to Law School magazine.
The Otago Faculty of Law is a place of learning about law and how to use law to solve problems. Law plays a major role in our society, affecting all aspects of life from the personal, to property, business, the environment, the family, the community, government finance, life and death, taxes, human rights and international relations. Well trained lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring that our own society is governed by law rather than by personal power. In our tradition, the law is primarily created by the democratic process in which our citizens can participate. Parliament has the final say in what the law is and we all participate in electing Parliament through the voting process.
Your ability to serve the law will start here in the Faculty of Law. Develop good habits that will last you a lifetime. There are no shortcuts to learning your legal skills. You must read legal material carefully and thoughtfully. You must take the time to think through how the legal material can be justifiably interpreted and applied to legal problems. Legal research skills can only be acquired by doing a lot of it. Just as writing skills improve by writing a lot and then analysing critically whether what you are saying makes sense, we only learn by doing things and reflecting on our mistakes so we do them better next time.
The collegial atmosphere of the Otago Faculty of Law means that you will have the full support of the Faculty of Law and fellow law students as you work hard on your legal skills. Do not fall into the trap that the notes or work of others will get you ahead. They won’t. Just as you can’t get fit by watching others at the gym or borrowing their training diary and pretending you have done it yourself, you can’t develop the muscles in your legal brain by relying on the work of others. It is far better to learn from your mistakes than fool yourself by relying on the work of others.
We strongly encourage you to debate and argue with your colleagues but when it comes to writing up legal opinions and assignments, and completing take-home tests, it must all be your own work. Integrity is essential to the worth of a lawyer’s work. People will rely on you and put total trust in you. Honesty is crucial.
I encourage you all to take a full and active part in all the Faculty of Law activities – academic, cultural, social and spiritual. Enter law student competitions, attend public lectures on law, volunteer for the Community Law Centre, be part of the law revue, volunteer at the Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre, sign up for SOULS, Te Roopu Whai Putake and PILSA, join Law for Change, volunteer for community organisations, play sport, and take part in political debate.
I wish you all a productive year full of challenges, hard work, friendship, generosity and learning.
Written by Mark Henaghan.