When you are a 1L, being a 3L seems unfathomable. One moment you are jumping into a completely new experience, with new people, tackling more work than you had your entire college career. You are navigating note taking, writing projects, and creating outlines for every class. You aren’t thinking about being a 3L let alone the end of your 1L year. You are present in the chaos and soaking up as much information as you can. As a 3L, I can say a lot has changed since my 1L year. I don’t have class as often which has allowed me to work a part time job and extern at not one, but two placements. I have had more time to network, build connections, and start figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I have been preparing for the upcoming summer which will include nothing but bar prep, making arrangements for the 10 weeks of intense studying that will be happening starting June. I have more time to focus on my mental health and physical health because of the flexibility of my schedule and finally feel like I am caught up on work. I say all of this to say, no matter where you are in your law school journey (whether that is applying, being accepted or starting your first year), it does get easier. You do feel like you’ve got the hang of it after two intense years of schooling and start navigating test taking differently. You know your study habits and understand how to prioritize your time to suit your needs. You’ve made the connections during your first and second year that you are now utilizing while starting to job hunt. You feel more confident in yourself and your decision to pursue a law degree. Although law school is not easy, it gets better. You may feel like you are drowning in work, anxiety, and the unknown, but it all will make sense when the pieces start falling together towards the end of your law school journey. Trust and embrace the process, it will treat you well.
We live in a busy world that doesn’t know how to slow down. People are conditioned to keep moving because if we’re not moving we’re not being productive. If we aren’t being productive, we aren’t adding value to our life. If we aren’t adding value to our life, then what are we really here for?
This is a constant cycle that is amplified when you are a student, whether you are in your early 20’s or late 40’s. Law school is a fast paced environment which is known for pushing students harder than any of type of schooling. We read hundreds of pages a week, write extensive papers, study hard for upcoming midterms and exams, get involved on campus, and try to get as many real world experiences to elevate those resumes and figure out what we want to do with our law degree. It can feel overwhelming. It can feel impossible. But I encourage everyone to take a step back and slow down.
We are only going to go through law school once. We have three years to soak up as much knowledge, experience, and create relationships with those around us. Instead of trying to make law school go by faster, take a step back and see it for what it is. Even though law school is tough, it is hugely beneficial for personal and academic growth. Take the time to go and speak with professors, look into opportunities only given to law students and to hangout with your “law school” friends. After graduation and especially after the Bar, you don’t know where everyone is headed. Some people will move out of state, some people will stay put where they are, so why rush the time you have to spend with those people?
I wish that someone would have told me to slow down. I am a 2L in my second semester and don’t know where the time has gone. I wish in my first year I would have taken the time to build stronger relationships with my professors, joined more on campus organizations, and spent more time with my law school friends. I have consistently been focused on the finish line (the bar exam) and now that it is approaching, I wish I would have savored my first full year for what it was. While I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life, there is something I’ll miss about sitting in a classroom watching my professors teach so passionately the material we need to succeed in our future.
Understand that this experience is like no other. You will not get the same opportunity again, so appreciate every moment. Everyone has their days when they are over school. All we want is to enter into the working world like all of our friends and family instead of waking up for a 9:30 A.M. sales class. But remember, you will be working for the rest of you life. You only get to be a student for so long. Savior your experience, learn what you can, and enjoy the ride.
August 3, 2018, I had a huge decision to make. The owner of the dance studio I taught at was retiring and looking to close down shop. Not only would I be left without a job, but kids would lose their second homes, and my dance career would officially come to an end. At that moment, I was left with a choice. Take the studio into my own hands and continue the legacy of YDE or let the studio close and keep only the memories. The reason I say all of this is because I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think I could sustain a dance studio with the future I had planned for myself. That future was law school. The many attorneys I turned to for advice said there would be no time for extracurriculars, “law school was going to be hard enough without distractions, let alone a whole dance studio to take care of.” Well, I am here to say it is possible. It is possible to be in law school full-time with a part-time job. Are there days where I wish I wouldn’t have taken on a dance studio while furthering my education? Of course. But in the end, it is worth it.
The responsibility of working while in law school is no easy task, but having a part-time job has taught me some extremly important lessons. The first is that time management is essential. The readings we are assigned can pile up if you don’t stay on top of it, so keeping a schedule and sticking to it is critical. The second thing is communication. Being open and honest with my professors and the faculty about my other commitments has been a massive part of staying successful during this first year. The last thing I learned is how to prioritize. Sometimes I can’t get everything done. I add too many things to my schedule and am overly ambitious. Once I take a realistic look at the list and start prioritizing what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a few days, I instantly feel better. With dedication, hard work, and perseverance, what once seemed impossible has become my daily routine. I thought that having a part-time job during my first year of law school was going to be the most challenging thing I have ever done. While there are days that feel like years, I can honestly say it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Law School is a whirlwind. One minute you are laughing with one of your classmates about your epic fail during your first cold call of the semester, and the next, you’re studying for finals. To say it goes by fast is not an exaggeration. I blinked, and I was here, studying for finals that will be over in 10 days. This semester has been like no other: zoom classes, remote testing, online study groups, and a whole bunch of facetime calls. But I wouldn’t change it for a thing. Widener Commonwealth has done everything it could to set its students up for success this year, and I have nothing but great things to say about my first year. To anyone who is considering law school but still wants to work, I encourage you to take the leap and do it. While it may seem impossible at first, it is not. With the supportive environment Widener has created for its students, you can be successful inside and outside the classroom. This first year in law school has been immensely more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined, and I have Widener to thank for that.