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To live in a country where anyone who has enough drive and determination, regardless of their socioeconomic background, can advance their career and education. To be surrounded by a community of support where I am not the only one who cares about my success. For all of the gifts I have received throughout my life and for the present and future opportunities to give the same to others.

Sometimes I find myself falling into the same trap that many law students do…trying to press the “fast-forward” button. Night after night, semester after semester……the grind is real! How lucky I am, however, that the fast-forward button doesn’t exist. How much of life would I simply skip through because of its difficulty? To find ground again, I often remind myself of just how thankful I am to be where I am. Sitting in a law school lecture, studying and reading from home with a supportive family, or fighting the hourly urge to see if grades have been released after finals. All of it… I am thankful for. All of it… a gift.

So I’ll continue to fight the urge to fast-forward, lean into the grind, and try to be thankful for every moment. Like all chapters in life, this too will be over in a blink of an eye.

Decompress the Stress

It’s no secret that law school is STRESSFUL. Even more stressful is final exams. They are the bane of every law students’ existence, but they are extremely important throughout your law school career. On top of that, life … is just stressful. We all know it’s important try to manage your stress, but let’s face it … it’s inevitable either way. Life happens even when school happens. However, there are ways to help decompress the stress. Throughout my 2.5 years of being a law student, I had to try to find methods that worked for me, especially during final exam season. It was definitely trial and error, but even though I still get stressed – it’s certainly easier to manage. Below are some different ways you too can try to decompress the stress, particularly during final exam season.

  1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. We all know the benefits of living a healthy life. Eating good meals and staying hydrated are just key. If you’re into exercising, staying fit is a plus! You should definitely try to do these things often, but there are other ways to take care of yourself. For example, you could go to a spa or hair salon/barber shop. You can take yourself out for a fancy meal (to wherever you would classify as “fancy”). You could even just sit back and have a “mental health day.” Whatever you chose to do during the stressful times, just make sure you take the time to care for yourself because YOU matter too!
  2. SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS. Sometimes as law students this seems almost too much of an added responsibility. Being social during the semester is tough because you’re consumed with readings, going to class, internships, work, taking care of a family, etc. BUT it is no excuse to be anti-social. Spending time with family and/friends is so important. Not only can it help you de-stress, but it can also help you refrain from going stir crazy reading and writing a majority of the days. If your friends and/or family are not local, try to make new law school friends! You’re going to want to have people in your corner to go to when things become stressful and tough.
  3. TALK TO YOUR PROFESSORS/ACADEMIC SUCCESS FELLOWS (ASF). This may seem like a no brainer, especially around final exam season, but you should be talking to your professors and ASFs all semester long. There is a misconception that law school professors are scary. At Widener, they are not! Each and every professor here just wants to see you succeed and it shows throughout their teaching methods and during one-on-one conversations. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about a particular class or assignment, it may be extremely helpful to just speak to that professor about it. Another vital asset here at Widener are the ASFs. They are like teaching assistants in a particular course and can also help you if you’re not understanding material from class. Here at Widener, there are several resources to help with stress, but starting with your professors and/or ASFs should be the start!
  4. CHAT WITH YOUR FACULTY ADVISOR. Law school can be scary when you first get here. You’re like a little fish inside of a big pond. But, there are advisors you’re assigned to when you start out as a 1L. USE THEM. Whether you have questions about a particular class, want to chat about a personal issue, stressed about taking final exams or just have questions about what your schedule should look like the upcoming semesters, the faculty advisors are here to help! Mine has been a huge help for me, especially during my first year!
  5. MEET WITH YOUR PEER ADVISOR/MENTOR. This is particularly aimed at 1Ls. At the beginning of your first semester, you’ll likely be asked if you want to partake in the SBA mentor/mentee program. You should absolutely consider doing this! Your mentor will likely be an upperclassman with similar interests/background as you that you can go to for law school advice. They can be particularly helpful when it comes to the stress of taking final exams because they have already been through it. USE THEM. Equally as important are your peer advisors. These are more utilized for career and professional services such as seeking jobs, internships, or externships. Most internships and externships will be posted right around the time when you start to think about final exams. This can be a stressor for some students. A peer advisor, like a mentor, is an upperclassman who you can go to for advice and help as well! So, if the thought of finding an internship or externship stresses you out, speak with your peer advisor! They have been through it.
  6. CONTACT LAWYERS CONCERNED FOR LAWYERS (LCL). LCL is a resource through the school who you can reach out to anonymously about stress you are facing. 

All of these tips are just suggestions on how to decompress when feeling stressed, particularly around final exam season. This list is not exhaustive, I’m sure there are many more! These are just ones that I have found to be helpful for me or have heard to be helpful for others. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed about law school, give one of these (or a combination) a try!

Professors Don’t Bite.

During first year, I can count the number of times I went to see a professor for help or to ask a question. I’m a shy person so seeking out conversation was not high on my list of fun things to do. I was nervous they would think my question was a “stupid” question or that they had better things to do other than to re-explain something we had already been over in class.

I was wrong to be nervous. It took me until my second year to figure out that that was not their perspective. First of all, it is part of their job to answer questions outside of class and recite information more than one time. But aside from that, I have found every professor to be kind, personable, patient, and very happy to answer all questions. Often, I leave with more than just the answer; I leave with a thorough understanding of the topic and ways to formulate an answer for a potential exam question or bar question. More than not, I end up staying longer than needed just to chat about life or their experiences. The conversation often will steer in directions to highlight other topics I would have questions about like how to answer multiple choice questions more quickly, where to find extra practice questions, and how to cram an insane amount of information into my brain for finals. I have found that the professors find genuine interest in their students and do want to help them succeed. One professor described helping students as an “academic delight.” I also imagine when students talk or ask questions, it helps professors understand what the students are and are not understanding and allows then to connect with the students.

So, when in doubt, just ask! It turns out, professors don’t bite.

Mom, Wife, and Law Student

During my law school career, one of the questions I get asked the most is “how do you do it?”. I am a 3L enrolled in the regular division program, married for 10 years with two babies ages 5 and 4. (They are technically not babies, but they are in my eyes.)

My response: I have a village behind me- literally! My parents, siblings, and soon-to-be sister-in-law take turns picking up my babies from school. They take them to the park and spend time with them. My parents will often bring dinner over, especially when they know I have late classes. My husband works to support our household and helps with household chores. (Yes, he is a saint!) They all work together to support me and my law school adventure.

My greatest fear when I started law school was that my babies would get upset at me for not spending as much time with them. So, I would explain to them that mommy had to go to school just like them. I even brought them out to see the campus- so they knew where mommy was when she wasn’t home. Like always, my children surprised me. They understood! When they wanted to do something, they would first ask if I had to go to school.

Their support means the world to me. I knew they were all going out of their way to help me and for this reason, I had to give it my all. I set myself a schedule and stuck to it. It was hard, especially because I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted with my babies. But being a mom gave me the motivation and determination I needed to succeed. I didn’t have the luxury of slacking off because I had to be home by a certain time to take care of my babies.

Being a mom, wife, and law student is hard! But not impossible. With the right support, motivation, determination, and time management everything is possible.

Involvement: How Much Is Too Much?

As a Law School student, no matter which division you’re in, it is difficult to decide which organizations/activities to get involved in and how many you can handle. The rule of thumb is quality over quantity. I don’t mean to quote Admissions staff from various schools that provide this answer when asked what qualifications they look for on an applicant’s resume, but the sentiment of that answer rings true. You will feel more fulfilled if you find something you’re passionate about and get involved at a deeper level than just being a “general member” as opposed to being a general member of a variety of organizations.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t sign up for more than one organization when you start your Law School journey. Sign up for as many as you please! But do so with the idea that you are testing the waters to discover what peaks your interest, where you can see yourself thriving, and what best fits your schedule. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a step back from an organization if it is too much to handle on top of your classes and non-school responsibilities, or if it simply does not fuel your fire.

With this in mind, when you come to Law School, don’t get caught up in the array of organizations waiting for your membership. Find your passion and do some soul searching to figure out what will be a mutually beneficial relationship for yourself and the organization. Know your limits. Take it from someone who LOVES to pack their schedule, biting off more than you can chew is painful.

Self Care Sundays

You may have read in our previous posts advice and tips on being successful in law school, but it seems like we tend to overlook the most important tip: self-care. Without taking time for yourself and your wellbeing, may that be physical or mental, there is a higher risk of burning out.

Law school burnout is real and affects many of us. As we are now halfway through the semester, the workload, stress, and pressure may feel even more intense than it did a couple of weeks ago (if that is even possible). The effects of burning out can be catastrophic on our goals, our mental well-being, and our academic performance. When we don’t feel the best that is reflected in our work. Every student should take time for themselves and the things they enjoy. Whether it’s going to the gym, watching TV, doing spa days, or making time for family and friends we all deserve a break every now and then. By taking the time for yourself, your academic performance betters, your social interactions better, and your mental health thanks you.

Remember: Law school is not easy. It’s okay to take a break and check up on yourself. It’s the little things in life that keep us going, so prioritize yourself, so you can better every other aspect of your life.

Preparing for Interviews

It doesn’t matter in what year you are in law school, if you’re regular division or evening division, everyone has to go through the interview process at multiple points during their law school career. 1Ls and 2Ls alike will be interviewing for summer intern/extern positions come winter into spring; 3Ls will be interviewing for full-time/part-time positions for after they graduate, and many students will interview for fall/spring positions that run through Widener’s normal academic year.

There are several important points to keep in mind when preparing for an interview. Firstly, make sure you know exactly who you are interviewing with, research the firm/office that you have an interview with and be sure to have some relevant points/questions to bring up during your interview. You never want to finish an interview without asking any questions. Secondly, dress professionally, pull out your blazer, tie, dress, slacks, or skirt and make sure that your clothes are appropriate for a business setting. Thirdly, it’s always good to take a few extra copies of your resume with you; there might be an extra interviewer present that does not have a copy with them. Lastly, be confident in yourself and honest about your abilities. Take a few deep breathes before walking in; everyone gets nervous before an interview, there’s no need to stress too much! Share what you want to get out of the experience, talk about your strengths, and don’t feel the need to lie about any weaknesses. The question of, “What are your weaknesses?” is a dreaded question that is asked in almost every interview. After doing a mock interview during my junior year of college I was told by a faculty member to not answer this question with a strength in disguise, “I guess my greatest weakness is caring too much” or “I’m a little too organized” is not what the interviewer needs to hear. Be honest and admit to needing a little more practice with Microsoft Excel or say that you sometimes need a bit of extra time when it comes to handling contracts cases. Tell them something that you need a bit more practice with, and assure them that you are working on improving. And remember to thank the interviewers for their time!

Good luck with any future interview that you may have!

Law School: Post Zoom

Finally, after a whole year of Zoom law school, Widener Commonwealth Law is back in-person! Seeing the campus for the first time as a 2L felt bizzare. Being able to meet my professors and peers after a year of only getting to know them through a screen was well worth it. Instead of logging onto Zoom with a minute to spare and logging off as the professor says, “that is all for today,” my peers and I finally get the chance to small talk, make plans for the weekend, stress about upcoming assignments, and create memories together that we never had the opportunity to do last year. 

But with all this fun and excitement of meeting new people and making plans, it is easy to forget our workloads. After your first 1-2 weeks of law school, it is important that you create your own schedule and stick to it! What has worked for me is that I do all of my assigned readings and case briefings the day/night before my classes. By doing it that way, I give myself plenty of time to read and brief the cases, so I can find exactly what concept or rule is being applied and examined. After my classes, I add to my outlines right away. Sometimes if I have some free time before bed, I watch Themis and Barbri videos, which are third-party bar prep providers that provide free videos and outlines for law school students, to visualize how these concepts and rules are used. During the weekends, I use my time to apply to internships, write cover letters, study for midterms, and, most importantly, relax and make memories with my friends. Three years of law school may seem like a lot, especially after completing undergrad; however, the time goes by super fast. It is important to study hard in law school, but also, to enjoy the experience.

Law school is hard work and a lot of pressure. But it is doable. Don’t let anyone tell you, even if it is someone you admire or trust, that it is too hard for you. Everyone at law school is different. Different passions. Different work ethics. Different study habits. And different outlooks on life. So that means you don’t have to be like anyone else. Be yourself. Develop and adopt your own way of learning and succeeding. Most importantly, do not compare yourself to others. 

Law school is a marathon. Widener Commonwealth Law will hand out waters and towels for you throughout your race. But it is up to you to get yourself to cross that finish line and finish strong!

Three Tips for Success in Law School

  1. Don’t overcommit yourself

I could have benefited from following this advice, and this is the most important thing to remember in law school: you don’t have to be involved in everything. I was excited to be a law student and wanted to be involved in every organization I cared about or thought would be good to be involved in. I took on an ASF role, a research assistant job, and an internship for the fall semester of my second year, all in addition to the several student organizations and outside of school responsibilities I had. Well, guess what? That semester was my worst academically, and I was exhausted by the time finals rolled around. The way to fix it? Scale back and focus on a few areas that will really help you become a better person and attorney.

For me, I had a law job that I loved outside of school, so I kept it and I made sure that my effort there paid off. I learned so much more once I refocused than when I was stressed and overworked. Another reason to focus on an outside of school job? It could lead to something down the road. Your ASF work and on-campus jobs really limit you to success during law school, a line on a resume, and a professor recommendation. These are definitely important, but if you have to choose between a job that could turn permanent down the road and that student organization, focus on the job that helps you develop marketable skills you will need after school. I did, and I’m grateful for it.

2. Building Relationships is Important

Building relationships is the key to being happy in law school, staying the course, and earning your first job after passing the bar. First, getting to know your classmates is an important part of making it through law school. They understand what it’s like as a law student because they’re going through it with you. They form your study groups, help fill in gaps in your outline, and might even whisper the answer to a cold call. Either way, it’s better to go through law school with your classmates than to go it alone. It’s also important to build relationships with professors who can help counsel and mentor you as you navigate these three years. Professors were law students once too, and they often have great insight into how to navigate your particular law school. Building relationships is also what will help you earn your first job after school. It’s nice to have career services offered through school, but blindly sending your resume to hundreds of places doesn’t necessarily help you any better than finding a few really good places that you’d like to work. Every internship and job you have in the legal field is an opportunity to learn from attorneys and staff who are all looking to help people just starting in the legal field. Attorneys like to hire people they know and trust. The way you interact with professionals in the legal community will speak volumes to potential employers as to whether you are a good fit for them. Work on building relationships professionally throughout law school, and it will only help you when it comes time to find work.

3. Don’t Forget to have a Personal Life

It’s easy to get caught up in all the chaos of being a law student, but don’t just look at law school as three years of your life you will never get back. It most likely won’t be the best three years of your life–your classes may not interest you, you might have a few embarrassing cold call moments, and you won’t have any multiple choice exams–but they don’t have to be the worst three years of your life either. Look for opportunities to find personal growth and enjoy yourself outside of the classroom. It’s important not to let law school define who you are and to remember what you like to do other than study. If you enjoy reading for pleasure, make time to do it between chapters of Property Law. If you enjoy playing a round of golf, go out and don’t worry about three-putting. There is always more you can do to be a better law student–you can always read more, outline more, or start memorizing things for your finals earlier–but don’t forget to have a school-life balance that grounds you because that will help you keep your footing for the entire journey of law school.

A Final Thought

They say that law school is a marathon and not a sprint. I look at law school the same way I look at trips across the Pennsylvania Turnpike–exit by exit. Some exits inexplicably are 36 miles apart with a tunnel in the middle and no way out but through (looking at you, Somerset and Bedford), but you have to keep pressing on until the next rest stop. It’s important never to lose sight of the final destination, but it’s also important to take it one piece at a time.

When I started my first year, it made me crazy to think about being a 3L or studying for the bar. The best thing I did was set little mile markers and be glad when I got to each one. Trust me, you’ll get through it if you pace yourself and know that you don’t have to take the bar until you get through all the other pieces of school.

Enjoy the ride. It’ll be over before you know it.

Make the Most of Your Internships

This summer, I was able to work two internships, one for school at Widener’s clinic and the other with a professor of mine working on research. Towards the end of the spring semester I was scrambling trying to find an internship, and I was able to connect with a professor after just talking after class and the clinic presented as a good opportunity for me to satisfy my experiential requirements for school.

I was trying to work with connections I had back home for a summer internship hopefully as a job and definitely as a source for experience, since being only in the classroom so far hasn’t provided the most amount of real-world law practice. While I was in the middle of searching with the help of a family friend at home, I stayed back after my Copyright & Trademark class with my professor to ask questions, which turned into her asking about my summer. I explained my situation and she offered me a spot to help out with a project for her this summer working with her firm. I was able to learn a lot more about Trademark law which I became very interested in from her class, and make a connection with a professor willing to help me with the job search after school. I learned that it is incredibly important and can be extremely helpful to speak with your professors, since you never know what can come from it.

For the clinic, I knew that it was an option that existed for me to obtain my experiential credits out of the classroom and I was unsure what to expect. During the seven weeks there in the summer semester, I got more out of the experience than I thought I would. I learned a lot about different areas of law and how they work, but more importantly about working with other interns and bouncing ideas off of each other proved very helpful. Additionally, we were all able to help each other out figuring out what next steps to take in our case, drafting documents, and breaking down cases with each other, and we simply worked very well together. The experience there taught me a lot about what I want to look for in a firm when I’m job searching, and I’m glad I had other students with me to go through that experience with.

The summer was definitely difficult managing both of these internships as well as a class, but like every semester it always works out and the work gets done. I’m glad I took advantage of both of these opportunities and got a lot out of them both.