- 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.