April 25, 2013
With less than a month to go before graduation, I’ve been asked, “would you do it all over again?” In true Socratic fashion, the answer’s a “yes…if.” Yes, I would do it again…if I could change some things and keep others the same.
Things to repeat:
1- Stay connected with your roots: Law school can have its low moments. You need all the help you can get. I went to pre-school, undergrad, and grad school at Iowa State University. Staying part of that community helped me pull through.
2- Use tech-savvy to become time-savvy: Commuting takes time, so I needed ways to save time. I found ways to do that by using technology and making clever changes in the schedule. I made it a goal to save an extra half-hour from each day. Spend it with a relaxing walk, a hot shower, or a few more minutes of sleep.
3- Network: We have something to learn from everyone. Meet with people. Ask how they got there. Get some free advice and note one or two things you can apply to your own work.
4- Be enterprising: While the job market is improving, nothing’s guaranteed. So, be enterprising. In every job, see where you can distinguish yourself and add value to what your employer’s doing. Then do it.
5- Get a pet: Several law schools bring in animals for “puppy therapy” around finals time. The way pets affect mood, stress, and mental health seems very positive. Turns out my cat, Dewey, is a big fan of Westlaw research.
Things to do differently:
6- Go to court as often as possible: Many legal concepts are less complicated in practice than they are in class. Ever wondered what negligence looks like? Watch a good courtroom advocate prove it. Having trouble identifying hearsay? Look for a case, but keep your eyes open at the Courthouse.
7- Sleep: To paraphrase a popular snack food commercial, “you’re not yourself when you’re sleepy.” Too many days, I came to class or work already worn-out. Sleepiness affects the lawyer’s mind, voice, and appearance. If I could do it again, I would make sleep non-negotiable.
8- Participate on more skills teams: Our law school does very well at competitions. While their subject matters weren’t central to my program, each develops different facets of the complete advocate. Those teams give you the opportunity to learn from great attorney coaches, cross swords with other schools, and travel.
9- Keep your degree program up-to-date: During the first week of the semester, I was always adjusting my schedule. I should have spent more time tracking how every schedule change affects prerequisites, progress towards the degree, and everything else you forget while chasing that other internship or clinic.
10- Find better ways to relax: I unwound this afternoon with a hot cup of tea and some computer-generated rain. Whether it’s that, a long walk, or a playlist of favorite tunes, give yourself an outlet.