“I can see clearly now…”

Johnny Nash - I can see clearly now album cover

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

I can see all obstacles in my way.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

For as long as i can remember; and I guess to a degree that distinguished me (in all its good and bad) from some other students at school or university I have loved to study. Not just as a means to an end but as a process in its own right; but it is perhaps only recently that I have began to examine that opening statement in any great detail and through that hopefully in today’s blog (as I sit at my desk on a rainy Shanghai afternoon) throw some light as to why that might be; and hopefully through that understanding shed some light on the all important aspect of any exam related studies: recall.

Ask any group of students how much importance they attach to actually “remembering” the material they study and I dare say you would find a great deal of variance; and no doubt that variance would vary according to the month of the year and their proximity to those dreaded end of year exams. But I’m going to suggest that if perhaps if we focused a little more of our study time on process and a little less on outcome; firstly we might find ourselves enjoying our studies more and secondly (rather paradoxically it may initially seem) ultimately achieving better outcomes.

Now in matters of the mind all things are not equal; some things pass through our consciousness like water through a gold miner’s sieve whilst others (with very little prompting it might initially seem) lodge in the deeper recesses of our mind where they can be recalled like long lost friends as and when we need them. And in that very statement lies the very secret. If we move away from the idea that “all that glitters is not gold” it may just be that in our legal studies (and I hope this idea may extend into a variety of subject matters) that “all that glitters might just (if we look that little bit deeper) be gold”.

Let’s take a look at an (at least on the surface) very simple subject; “the promise to perform an existing obligation owed under a contract with a third party”. Now under June/July 2015 exam pressure you may find yourself racking your brain for some suitable cases. For now let me help you out: Shadwell v Shadwell [1860]/The Eurymedon [1975]/Pao On v Lau Yiu Long [1980].

How can I possibly remember these strange names I hear you cry; well I think the answer is make them your friends. Read them in the original from the recognised legal databases such as Justis, Lexis or Westlaw (all available through the Online Library), not just wikipedia or any of the other e-law resources, and find the nuggets that are buried within. Make them memorable and by so doing make them yours; not just for the purposes of passing your LLB but for the rest of your legal life. For example, in Shadwell v Shadwell awake to a time when engagement to be married was legally binding and benevolent uncles left annual stipends that were counted in guineas; whilst the Eurymedon takes us into the world of trans-global shipping, stevedores, bills of lading and “Himalaya clauses” not to forget the rather ominous sounding Pao On in which (alongside past consideration) the limits of arms-length business practice and alleged duress were discussed.

New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd. v. A. M. Satterthwaite & Co. Ltd. [1974] UKPC 1 otherwise known as The Eurymedon

New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd. v. A. M. Satterthwaite & Co. Ltd. [1974] UKPC 1 otherwise known as The Eurymedon

And expect this journey to be difficult; have a dictionary by your side; expect to read and re-read the cases; make notes/draw diagrams; do whatever you need to do to tame these beasts; and lo and behold as you journey, so you will forget where you started or even to where you intended going. But ultimately you will have set in motion a process, a way of approaching new knowledge that will never leave you. For as Andre Gide once said: “one does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

So as I wrap up this blog for today I can’t help but notice I hadn’t realised that the rain had stopped lost in thought as I was ; but you know what I think it might just be a bright, bright, sunshine-y day; I hope you enjoy yours as much as I intend to enjoy mine.

Mark is studying the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) by distance learning in Shanghai, China.

4 thoughts on ““I can see clearly now…”

  1. Really impressed by the word in marks blog, as a student combining work pressure as well as studying law with its attendant examination pressures one can loose sight of appreciating the intricacies enumerated by Mark, but it can be appreciated if inspite of the pressures at work and during studies, you are able to read and get to appreciate the intricacies of what every case sought to achieve and which you can live with for the rest of your life

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  2. thanks so much Ato for the feedback; i think also it probably makes more sense to remember a smaller number of cases with accuracy & detail rather than to vaguely remember a huge number of cases perhaps with a host of attendant errors… good luck with your studies as the new academic year unfolds!!!

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  3. Thank you for this, Mark! It’s true – sometimes, we are too focused on reaching our destination that we tend to lose the moments that we experience in order to get there; such is important especially in studying law. I’m going to heed your advice and use your tips! :)

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  4. hey Hafiz; well i hope there’ll be many more where that came from in future blogs… have always had quite a “magpie mind” and a deep fascination with how these processes work and can therefore ultimately be harnessed… enjoy your study journey!!!

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