The time has come that school has started or will be staring for you. If you are a 2L or 3L, then you know the ropes and may have a routine. As for the 1L, this is all new to you. It can be intimidating and challenging. However, if you plan well in the beginning of the school year, it will be helpful for you for the entire year. Here are five ways to help you Stress Less this semester:
- Establish healthy habits.
Commit to developing habits for sleep, diet, and exercise. Be smart about it. If you create these habits now, it will be easier to continue with them, especially when assignments, exams, and other distractions pop up. Sleep: Get as much sleep as you can. I know it is law school, that’s why I said as much sleep as you can. I’m not crazy enough to say, “get at least eight hours of sleep a night” because I realize that may be difficult. However, I will say that if you manage your time well, you should be able to keep a regular bedtime even on the weekends. Exercise: Schedule for exercise at least three times a week. This will help you deal with the frustration and angst you have throughout the day. Eat: Eating well means not skipping meals or eating sugary foods. Try to pack a healthy snack to eat between classes. Drink: As much as you want to drink alcohol to unwind, I would advise against it. Many students started drinking alcohol more heavily during law school to handle the pressure. This is unhealthy for many reasons and I will blog more about this later in the year. Please stick to water, moderate amounts of coffee, tea, juice, and smoothies. Remember: the only way for your brain to function at maximum capacity is for you to treat your body well.
- Get organized and start studying as soon as possible.
Avoid procrastinating. Get out of the post-summer haze and develop an organizational system that will work for you. Law school is not undergraduate school. If you slack at the beginning of the semester, there will be unfortunate consequences. Believe me; you want to get in the habit of being organized and studying right early. This is an opportunity to learn to properly READ the cases, learn how to use RESEARCH tools like Westlaw and LexisNexis, REVIEW the legal issues, and WRITE and rewrite notes and outlines. Learning to be organized takes time and practice, so as you are studying, if something does not work, scrape it and start with another organization tactic. For example, you can use an academic planner to keep track of assignments, deadlines, appointments, and study times. Also, keep all of your books, notebooks, binders, and folders for each class together but separate. There is nothing worse than looking at a criminal law folder for a document and finding tort case notes. You may be able to combine a few organizational systems to get the customized system you need to help you study. Remember: Staying organized and keeping up with all your assignments go hand in hand. The better organized you are, the easier it will be to keep your head above water when the work starts pouring in.
- Make connections.
It is important to network. Already, you should have a lawyer-mentor in the field you are interested in practicing. If you don’t have a lawyer to mentor you, get on it! You need someone to introduce you to the area of law that you want to practice. After all, you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and waste an entire semester in school to practice an area of law that you will not enjoy. As it relates to making connections your fellow cohorts, the first day of class can be nerve-wracking, and it is a good idea to make allies. Forge new relationships, you could be building life-long friendships. You do not have to make this complicated, just introduce yourself; be yourself, and focus on why you are there. There is no need for cliques but being support and having support is vital during the next three years. Remember: Having others you can depend on helps when you’re absent from class and need notes, it helps when you need an explanation of legal concepts, when studying for exams, and when you just need a laugh to take your mind off of the chaos of the semester.
- Avoid Distractions and Admit That You May Feel Lost
Listen, law school is already maze. If you add distractions from family, friends, social media, etc. you are going to further cloud your judgement. You need to have a clear head. If you are sitting in class, and you don’t know what the heck the professor is saying, it is ok, this is normal. Do let this confuse or distract you. The other students may look like they know what’s going on, but they don’t have a clue either (smile). What you see are the faces of others pretending to look like they know what they are doing so they do NOT get called upon by the professor. Here is the thing, the study of law is not meant to be easy. No one is expecting you to be a lawyer. There will be times when you feel lost. You are in law school to be trained to think like a lawyer. Remember: Ditch the distractions, clear your head, and understand if you are lost, you have your notes, the text books, and your support system to help you learn the material.
- Enjoy the Law School Ride.
Embrace reading cases, searching for the issues, and re-imagining how you would have handled the case. Embrace the early mornings and long nights of studying. Embrace the entire law school experience by paying attention to your stress levels. It is so much going on around you that you are bound to get overwhelmed and discouraged. As you get comfortable in the school year, you can get familiarize yourself with legislation, pro-bono work, helpful legal organizations, and engage in healthy debates about the service of this great profession. Until then, observe and relax. You are in school for a reason, this is the time to learn what law school is about – the flaws of the legal system and your potential in resolving these flaws in the future. As you embrace your law school journey, remember, a large percentage of law graduates have non-legal jobs. This means rather you are practicing lawyer or not, lawyers will impact and influence society. This could be you if you work hard, have confidence in your abilities now, and embrace the law school ride ahead.