Law school is hard, but definitely manageable with great time management and working ahead. While everyone approaches law school and schoolwork differently, I will briefly mention some of the more popular options and what I recommend to provide yourself with a buffer and time for yourself. I want to preface by saying that these approaches may not work for you, and that is okay. Every law school student has a unique background and external obligations such as work or family that makes it difficult to stick to one particular method to get work done on time. Perhaps the most popular option is to stay one day ahead of the class material. This allows you to have the material relatively fresh in your mind in case of the dreaded cold-call and breaks the week down into manageable chunks. However, something to keep in mind is that accidents and emergencies happen. While they may take some of your time away from school, you want to try to avoid falling behind and being underprepared for class because it is difficult to catch up and get yourself back on track.
Another method, especially popular among students who work or are in the evening division, is to complete the majority of your work on weekends since you have other obligations taking your time during the week. However, this poses the risk of burnout. Learning law school related material daily without a break is most certainly going to lead to burnout over time. The semester is a sixteen week marathon, not a one hundred meter dash to the finish. The last method that I am going to mention is the one that I personally utilize and has contributed to my success in law school: staying two days ahead. Staying two days ahead allows you to spend the latter part of any given week preparing for the beginning of the following week, thus freeing up your weekends to spend time on yourself. Most weekends I am either traveling to see my family or my significant other or going to some sort of event. I try my best not to do anything law school related from the close of the business day on Friday until Monday morning. This allows me to avoid burnout and stay motivated. Also, staying two days ahead is being proactive in case of an emergency. If something were to happen during the week, you have created a buffer for yourself to take the day off if needed. While these options are similar, they each provide unique benefits depending on your life situation and specific needs. Choose which works best for you or custom fit a method to ensure you can reach your greatest potential!
It’s no secret that finals are hard in general anywhere you go, but there are many thoughts about finals that may not always be true.
- Finals are impossible. MYTH! Finals are hard – but they are doable! At Widener, your professors give you everything you need in order to succeed on a final. My advise is to take diligent notes each class and listen to your professor. Many professors I have had give you a wink or say something more than once to indicate that it will likely be on a final. A common saying at Widener is that your professors are not trying to “hide the ball.” This means that as long as you come to class, read the assignments, and pay attention, you will be just fine!
- You have to stay up all night to get a good grade. MYTH! Overall, you know your study schedule the best, but I do not believe it is necessary to stay up all night before an exam. Instead, it’s in your best interest to get a full nights rest in order to perform to your best ability. Personally, I stop studying for my exams at 8 p.m. the night before. After 8, I take a shower and give myself an hour or two to relax and do something I like, such as watching an episode of Netflix or FaceTiming a friend. I believe that if I stay up all night that I will just get exhausted and then all the information I already know will get mixed up.
- You are going to have to work very hard. FACT! Law school is tough and challenging – there is no denying that! As long as you keep up with your work throughout the semester and study hard it is DOABLE!
- “Regardless I will be okay because the professor likes me.” MYTH! Professors at Widener adhere to anonymous grading. This means that when you start your final you put a five digit anonymous number at the top instead of your name. While grading, professors see this number instead of your name, so no matter how much they like you, they do not know whose paper they are looking at! This is the same for any paper due throughout the semester or multiple choice exams.
- “If I participate a lot I’ll get an A.” MYTH! Most of your 1L grades will be based solely on your final exam. Many professors say they have the discretion to award plusses and minuses for grades, but that is the extent that participation can do for you.
- You have to start studying for finals in August. MYTH! Focus on doing your work for each week and try to review before and/or after class. That is enough for the first few weeks. After about a month of classes, I suggest starting your outlines. Outlining is just a fancier term for taking your notes from class and condensing them into a word document to study for finals. After that, I update my outlines two to three times a month to stay on top of things. Most people start studying for finals in November!
- “I don’t have to remember the names of every case I ever read.” FACT! You do NOT need to remember every case you have read for a final. Most professors at Widener do not even care for you to put case names in finals. This is because you have 2-4 hours (which seems like a long time but isn’t) to write your exam. Your professors want to see that you can identify issues in a fact pattern and apply the relevant law to solve the issue.
- It is possible to not finish an exam and still receive a good grade. FACT! As stated above, you have 2-4 hours to complete your exam. Most professors give you a long fact pattern (around 4-7 pages) with a large amount of issues to be found. They do this because they want to see how many issues you can find in a short amount of time. This being said, many people are not able to finish. Law school exams are not based out of 100 points. Instead, you get points for what you do put on paper. Therefore, if you miss some things, it is not the worst case scenario. All you have to do is write as much as you can and wrack up the points where you can.
That being said, law school is hard and challenging – I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. BUT it is doable and one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of. If you decide on Widener, know that you are here because the school believes in you and that as long as you put your best foot forward you have done your best.