By now, you’re probably starting to settle into law school and adjust to the workload. You may feel like you’re totally on top of things, or you may feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above water. Regardless of how you’re feeling, there are a few things that you can consider doing to help tackle your workload and keep it under control as the semester moves along.
Make a Schedule and Stick to it
At this point, you’ve probably realized that you have a lot of work to juggle in law school. Learning to manage your work in a way that works for you is key to doing well and avoiding unnecessary stress. When making a schedule, be sure to be honest with yourself about how long it actually takes you to do your work – if you know that you need 3 hours to do a thorough job with your reading, don’t try to squeeze it into a 2 hour time block and rush through it. Another thing you may want to take into consideration is the time of day that you’re the most alert and focused. For example, if you’re a morning person, you may not want to be scheduling the bulk of your work for the evening hours, and vice versa. Of course, your schoolwork probably isn’t the only thing that you need to spend time on, so be sure to schedule time for things like exercising or spending time with family and friends when making your schedule!
Figure out what Kind of Class Prep Works for you
At this point in the semester, the bulk of your work has probably been reading and preparing for class. Since more things (like outlining and legal writing assignments) are going to start coming up, it may be helpful to really consider what is working and not working for you while doing your class preparation so that you can be as efficient as possible. For example, if you feel like writing out case briefs isn’t helping you with class any more than margin notes and book briefing, maybe ditch the written-out briefs. If you no longer feel that you need to read cases more than once to be prepared for class discussion, maybe you let go of that as well. I am certainly not suggesting that you cut any corners, just that you be honest about what you need and what you don’t need so that you can utilize your time effectively.
Start Outlining Early
It might seem early to start outlining, (especially if your school doesn’t have midterms), but if you start working on these early it will save you a lot of time and stress later! A good way to approach this may be to start your outline as soon as you finish an entire topic area in a class (for example, “Intentional Torts” or “Personal Jurisdiction”). Hopefully you can tell when you’ve wrapped up a topic by looking at either your syllabus, or the table of contents in your casebook. If not, this could be a good thing to go see your professor about. If you start as soon as you’ve finished a topic area, you can keep adding to your outline throughout the semester and avoid having to outline the entire course at once when finals are right around the corner. In addition to helping you avoid stress later, outlining throughout the semester can help you to identify areas that you may be struggling with so that you can clear up issues sooner rather than later.
Go to Office Hours
Professors have office hours so that they can help you – take advantage of them! Similar to outlining early, if you get your questions answered earlier in the semester, you can avoid having an overwhelming list of questions when you’re trying to prepare for finals. I know, it can be difficult to take the time to identify exactly what you don’t know and get to office hours when you’re constantly just trying to keep your head above water. However, taking a few minutes after class to review your notes can help you identify areas that you may be struggling with more easily than if you wait until the material is no longer fresh in your mind. As I mentioned previously, outlining topics as you cover them can also help identify areas where you may need help, and some professors might even be willing to answer questions about outline organization during office hours. If you don’t address these questions as they come up, you’re more likely to have to scramble at the end of the semester!
When everything is so new, it can be difficult to effectively stay on top of your work during your first semester. Adding a few additional tasks throughout the semester can (hopefully) help keep you on track for success!
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