October 2, 2014
So far, we’ve covered tips for success on the substantive activities of law school such as reading cases, taking class notes, and taking exams, and now we’ve come to the installment of our law school survival tips most relevant to surviving law school: finding the right balance between school and the rest of your life.
Make no mistakes: law school is demanding; it’s demanding on your time and on your mental energies, and it’s caused more than its fair share of students to drop out because of these demands.
But with the right planning and attitude, law school doesn’t have to be as bad as it could be. And we hope these tips help you achieve a healthy school/life balance such that law school has as negative an impact on your life as manageable.
Make a schedule
Because of the demands that law school makes on your time with class, studying, writing assignments, and more, it’s very easy for your entire life to be consumed by it and spend every waking hour thinking about law school. And making a schedule can help ensure that doesn’t happen.
Obviously, the first things to go on the schedule are those events that you can’t reschedule: classes and (if you have a job) your work schedule. Next, you need to allocate some time for studying and time to get your assignments done. Finally, allocate some family and/or friend time. And make sure that you have enough time in your schedule for this. It’s very easy to become too busy to put in time with your friends and family to maintain those relationships because of law school, so it’s important to put time into your schedule for the others in your life.
Finally, once you make your schedule, stick to it. It can’t do any good for you if you don’t follow it. If you need to, post it somewhere that you’ll regularly see it. If you use a calendar on your phone or tablet, program it in and create reminders for yourself.
Take regular time for yourself
This probably could have been included as part of the above tip, but you should actually taking time for yourself more regularly than during periodically scheduled intervals. I mean, yes, you should schedule in time for yourself, but you should also take time for yourself whenever you can, even if it’s just for a short time in the middle of another task like studying.
And it doesn’t really matter what you do during this time, whether it’s playing a short game on your phone or tablet, listening to some music alone, having a relaxing talk with a friend, having a workout, or reading some more leisurely articles or books. The point of this time is to help give your mind a breather and regain its composure.
This will help prevent burnout and keep you focused on what you need to get done.
Get enough sleep
It’s very tempting to cut sleep out of a tightly packed schedule that is looking for additional time. But you shouldn’t do it. Not getting enough sleep makes you less efficient during the day, making you take more time to finish your work, which defeats the purpose of cutting out sleep in the first place.
It’s up to you to determine how much sleep is enough for you, but make sure that you’re honest with yourself if you may not be getting enough sleep. Cutting out sleep will eventually lead to a crash – a crash that may come at the most inopportune time.
Build a support network
No one said that you have to do law school on your own. If it works for you, form study groups with classmates with whom you get along. They can be there for you if you have any questions about anything that you’re reading or studying, and vice versa.
But this support network is for more than studying: you should also have a group of friends or family outside of law school that you can connect with to help cleanse your mental pallet after spending too much time immersed in case books and briefs. They can be there to talk to if you’re feeling stressed out and need to decompress.
In short, they are your reminder that there is much more to life and the world than law school – which is very easy to forget, especially near the end of the semester.
I’ve written a couple of posts about how to do this, but more generally, what I mean here is that you should actively find the method of studying that works best for you. Find the method that actually works for you to understand the material. Find the one that takes the least amount of time for you to understand the material, and stick with it.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time studying – “too much” being past the point when it doesn’t have anything more than a negligible impact on your understanding and memorization of the material. You can almost always revisit the material later if you feel as though you need refreshers, and your brain can only handle so much stimulation at a time before it metaphorically shuts down altogether.
You should be essentially approaching studying in the same manner that you should approach law school: don’t get overwhelmed, keep things in perspective, and find a niche that works for you.