Month: May 2021

Fun in Law School and the Power of Checklists

Law school is nothing like I expected it to be; it is so much more. I came to Widener straight from undergrad, without taking any pre-law or law related courses. I thought law school would give me lists of statutes and codes to memorize. Instead, I’ve received an experience that has re-shaped my critical thinking and writing skills. By far the biggest surprise is how much fun I’m having in law school so far. I was told about the stress, the opportunities, and the heavy reading that I could expect as a law student. But no one ever told me that I was going to have so much fun. This could be because I’ve always been an academic at heart, or it could be because Widener Commonwealth is a truly unique and lovely place to study law.  

I was lucky enough to receive a real, physical tour of Widener before COVID shut everything down. From the moment I stepped on campus, I knew that Widener was special. It is small enough that professors and administrators know your name, but large enough to provide countless opportunities for experiential learning. Widener and I “clicked”, and I wake up every morning grateful to be a student here. If you are a prospective Widener student, I highly encourage you to reach out, schedule a tour, and get in touch with a student ambassador.  

I’d also like to pass on something I learned this year: the power of checklists. At the beginning of each semester, I find myself frustrated that I cannot see the whole “picture” at once. In law school, you work through each element of a crime, tort, or contract before coming to the big picture. This was such a dramatic shift for me from undergrad, where I felt like I had everything presented to me at once. Instead of trying to see the finish line, I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy the scenery along the way. As each element or concept comes along, put it into a list. This will help keep information organized and make outlining easier. When you finally do have the big picture towards the end of each semester, your list will become an invaluable study tool for final exams. Instead of having to piece together a semester’s worth of scattered information, you will have a beautiful checklist to aid you while writing. While you study and do practice exams, you can simply move down the checklist and let it guide your writing.  

No matter what class you’re writing a checklist for, don’t forget to keep in mind your own personal big picture.  Everyone has a reason for coming to law school. It’s important to keep your end goal in mind, but don’t forget to enjoy the scenery along the way.  

New Habits for a New Semester

Finals are officially over and that means another semester of law school is officially finished! Many people plan on focusing on getting jobs, internships, summer classes, etc. However, I believe it is VERY important to find a way to de-stress during this time in between semesters as well. Law school will test your mentality every single day, whether it is the one class you find yourself struggling in, an internship or clerkship that takes away time from studying for classes, or any other time consuming activity that takes away the little time in the day you have to focus on reading cases and writing briefs. But when do you have time to focus on yourself? I love to find time right before a new semester to give myself a physical, emotional, and mental cleansing, and this is personally how I do it, by making lists and following through with them!

My first new habit is to update my planner and check my email every single day, if not multiple times a day. Staying on top of emails was a problem for me this semester because I took a gap year after graduating from my undergraduate, so checking emails was not very important. Even during undergraduate, it was not the end of the world if you missed an email. Law school on the other hand, if you miss an email, you may have missed an assignment, a deadline, an interview, etc. Missing an email and not updating your planner could have you miss out on many important opportunities and in law school taking every opportunity you can get to gain experience and make connections is very important. Keeping up with all of the clubs you join during 1L is tough between fundraisers, general meetings, community service, it may be just as time consuming as class itself.

My next new habit is sticking to a study schedule. Each semester, after the first two weeks, I sat down and made a study schedule based on how much time I spent on preparing for class, starting an outline, and writing case briefs. After I get a sense of how much time I spend, I make a study schedule so I’m not stuck procrastinating on homework and having to skim through a reading causing me to be be unprepared for class. I found a study schedule on Pinterest and have stuck to it ever since (the following schedule below). Other than sticking to the schedule, I plan on keeping a running list of questions for office hours with professors or teaching assistants.

Monday: Complete Tuesday class reading.

Tuesday: Complete Wednesday class reading.

Wednesday: Complete Thursday class reading.

Thursday: Complete Friday class reading.

Friday: Fill in outlines.

Saturday: Relax! (ME DAY!)

Sunday: Complete Monday class reading.

My worst habit I have learned to work with was procrastination. I have learned to make mini deadlines for big projects, so that I no longer procrastinate. As long as I meet every mini-deadline, my project/paper will be done days before the deadline. I not only work on procrastinating on school work, but also on life itself. The thing I procrastinate on the most is laundry. Instead of letting it pile up, I do laundry every Saturday. The way I fixed this bad habit, was by making one big to do list and breaking it down into little tasks. Every Sunday I update my planner and work on the mini tasks throughout the week. Therefore, if I have any downtime, I am able to work on future tasks for the week!

Lastly, and I find the most important is keeping a habit of keeping in touch with all of the relationships I have made. When I first started law school, I stopped talking to family and friends as much, and even though my boyfriend and I live together, I feel like I was basically glued to a computer screen (Thanks to the University of Zoom). I was always too tired to grab lunch or go out for a drink after a long week of class, and a few relationships were damaged and one was even damaged beyond the ability of repair. However, this brought me to realize that I am now an adult and this is not just college anymore. This is law school, a professional graduate school, and it was time to grow up, build relationships, and maintain the one’s worth keeping. I actually have set up to have a “going out” night every other week during the school year to go on a date night or to go out with friends. I also like to set up two days a week to reach out to immediate family to update them with school and life. Sometimes it is tough to maintain relationships when you are so focused on school work and being the best student you can. However, your friends and family are your backbone and your support system and will understand when times get tough and you need your space. However, don’t shut them in the closet and leave them in the dark. Update them, even if it is a simple text!

I believe that law school is tough mentally and emotionally. But, if you take the steps to stay organized and create healthy and productive habits, every semester can be exactly how you want it to be!

Happy Summer All! Relax, Take a Deep Breath, and Sleep In!

Handling Final Exams

It’s that time of the semester. The time where many law students shut themselves off in their apartments or the library to study, and because we’re online this year, actually take the final exams. Many students have just finished wrapping up their last exam while others still have another one or two to go. Whether you’re done with finals until next semester or you’re still studying for that last exam at the end of the week, here are some things to keep in mind when preparing for finals.

Firstly, everyone is nervous about the exams; it’s not just you. Take a deep breath and remember that you can handle it. You made it to law school for a reason, but you may need to tweak those old college study habits. Not all students have the same study routine, and that’s expected; here are some tips that I have found helpful.

  1. Make a schedule. I personally function better when I have a plan of what I need to get done. A week before exams started I wrote myself a detailed schedule of when to study for what exam. Once it’s down on paper (or on a screen) you can see that you do have more than enough time to study for your exams and you actually do have time to get out of your house.
  2. Exercise. It may be exam time but resist the urge to close yourself off in your house and not do anything but study. Let’s face it you’re not studying for 12 hours straight; after a certain amount of time your brain stops absorbing the information and you’re just sitting there staring at your computer screen. It’s totally okay to take 30-60 min to get up go for a walk or to the gym, and get some endorphins flowing. Clear your head for a bit and then get back to studying.
  3. Color coordinate your notes/outline. This has been extremely helpful for me, if it’s not something that works for you that’s totally fine! It’s important for everyone to find a way to organize their notes that most conducive to how they study, find what format works for you!

Remember everyone finals are not the end of the world. They’re a necessity to the law school experience and every student goes through them. Just remember to study and try your hardest! And when it’s time for that test I wish you the best of luck!

Separating home life and law school

Law school is very hard and time-consuming. I’m sure that is something you have heard many times before. However, whether you spend 5 hours or 20 hours per week with your head buried in a case book, and taking notes, it is important that you have the ability to take time away from school. One thing I learned very early on is to make free time for yourself. Law school is very taxing and it is important to keep yourself mentally in check. You need to be able to separate the life you have have at school and your home life.

In order to get yourself out of the mindset of law school, schedule something to do that does not involve studying. Whether you enjoy hanging out with friends, watching netflix, going to new restaurants, or exercising, do something that does not involve picking up a casebook and briefing cases. That stuff is important when you are focusing and putting in time to learn, but when you are trying to relax it should be the last thing on your mind. I always take time away to rewatch Sherlock on netflix and exercise to keep myself mentally stable.

This may seem fairly obviously but get enough sleep. Seriously, this is important. It may seem like you need to stay up all night studying Contracts, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep you will be sluggish during class. If all you can think about during class is how sweet that afternoon nap is going to be, you may need to reevaluate how much sleep you are getting. It is important to feel rested so you can focus when you are at school.

I cannot stress enough how helpful it has been to me to separate home life and law school. I enjoy law school and all my classes, but I also enjoy taking time away from it. So make sure you plan some time to keep yourself mentally in check. You’ll thank yourself for it the minute you do.