“New Year’s PIL Resolutions?” I hear you cry. Yes, I do have them. And I reckon PIL students should have them too.
It seems to me that no matter how brilliant our study plans, there is always room for improvement. I’ve made three PIL-related resolutions this year, and here they are:
1. Read at least one book a month that’s completely unrelated to my research. This one is going to be the hardest for me because I already feel like I have a million things to read and keep on top of. That being said, I’ve made it a resolution because it’s important. Reading outside your main subject/research area keeps you abreast of developments in others, and I reckon it contributes to you being a more well-rounded lawyer overall. That’s a good enough reason for me. Anyone got recommendations?
2. Be more disciplined when it comes to reading PIL blogs/newsletters. I’ve put this one down because despite my enthusiasm for blogs and newsletters, I – like many others – fall victim to the ‘Oh I’ll read that later’ sentiment when a new blog post or newsletter lands in my inbox. I know plenty of highly successful and brilliant people who do this exact same thing, so I’m not going to feel guilty about it, but I do think it’s something that I can improve upon. Some colleagues of mine set aside time every week to read their regular e-materials, so I think I’ll try this method. If you’re looking for some blogs to subscribe to, check out these I’ve recommended!
3. Watch more conference presentations on YouTube (or similar…). Did you know there are hundreds upon hundreds of PIL-related conference presentations on sites like YouTube and Periscope? YouTube has some great PIL videos (I’ll write a post on those soon) and Periscope lets you watch presentations live no matter where you are, (as long as you have an Internet connection. of course). Great videos can make a nice change from the more traditional sources of information like books and articles, and, on account of being able to be uploaded instantly, videos are often employed by academics to promote their cutting edge research. If there’s one thing better than new research, it’s new research being shared quickly. Get subscribing!
Have you made New Year’s Resolutions related to your study? Let us know about them in the comments section!
If you are new to PIL, then congratulations on choosing one of the best subjects on the undergraduate syllabus (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?) Public international law is fascinating: not only does it guide States – the biggest legal entities on Earth – in their day to day affairs, but it also dictates the interactions and activities of all sorts of ‘new’ international actors – international organisations, non-governmental organisations, armed groups, corporations and even individuals to some extent. Whether it is war or peace, human rights or trade, the environment or space travel, international law increasingly has something to say.
So, where should you start as a new PIL student? Well, first of all you need to make sure you have the right reading material. Your course pack will no doubt have recommended particular books (likely one textbook plus one cases and materials book), but if not or if you fancy shopping around, check out my recommendations on the bookshelf (not all textbooks are suitable for all students, so check out the differences on that page).
Once you’ve got your books, you’ll want to subscribe yourself to updates from the leading journals. Journals give you an insight into new and evolving issues that may well impact upon your course content. PIL is fast-moving, and your teachers and examiners will expect you to be abreast of new issues affecting your core topics. Blogs and news sites are another great resource for that very reason. Some even have audio and video content (I’m working on it!) that you can download for listening and watching at home and on the move. Read this post for information on great journals and blogs and how to subscribe to their updates (*cough* subscribe to this site here… *cough*).
Once you’ve sorted your reading material and extra resources, it’s best to make a study plan so that you know exactly which topics go with each reading list and each lecture and seminar. Go through your course pack and separate your reading assignments up into topics (particularly nice professors will already have done this for you), then you can match up the topics you’re learning about with the other resources that are available. No two PIL courses are the same, so bear that in mind if things are always in the same order when you look at the sequencing of topics in textbooks and on websites such as this. On this site, it’s handy if you make sure to read all the topics tagged ‘basics’ before you read the more advanced stuff, that way you know you’ve got your foundations down. Other than that advice, your learning is your responsibility, so plan well, study well, and great learning should follow.
Are you a seasoned PILer with advice for new PIL students? Let us know your top tips in the comments section below!