After the toil and tedium of 1L year, most students look forward to gaining some practical experience at a legal job as 2Ls and 3Ls. Working at a law firm, government agency, court, or other legal office will expose you to different practice areas and give you a chance to learn real world skills (hopefully while getting paid). But balancing a job and a full-time law school course load will come with challenges. Work experience and academics are both important to future job prospects and you don’t want either to suffer at the expense of the other. It’s a given that you will need excellent time management skills to balance work and school, but here are a few additional tips to help you keep your employer happy while maintaining your GPA.
Schedule your classes strategically.
Most law schools give their 2Ls and 3Ls (at least some) control over which classes they take and when. Take advantage of your new found scheduling freedom by registering for courses that will give your schedule balance. Balance out any difficult required courses with some electives that have a less rigorous workload. It can also be beneficial to group your courses together, either all in the morning or all in the afternoon, so that you have a few large blocks of open time throughout the week. These blocks will give you the opportunity to be present at your job for a sufficient amount of hours to get tasks accomplished on a daily basis rather than just stopping in for an hour or two between classes.
Take classes related to your practice area.
Taking a course that compliments the area of law you’re working in will enhance both experiences: it will give you important background knowledge and insight into the relevant law and give you a greater stake in what you’re learning in class each day.
Limit your extracurricular activities.
There is definitely a place for being involved in law school clubs or legal societies, so long as they don’t interfere with your grades or your work performance. A future employer is going to be way more interested in your GPA and your work references than whether you were the treasurer of the Sports Law Club. That’s not to say that being involved in student associations isn’t important, but consider limiting your involvement to one cause that you feel really passionate about and be sure it doesn’t take away from your other commitments.
Schedule any absences for school projects and finals in advance.
Don’t put your coworkers in a bind or catch them off guard by suddenly informing them that you’ll need the next week off to prepare for moot court or study for finals. Plan for any time off you need well in advance to show your employer that you are a conscientious and responsible employee. Make sure you’ve finished all your projects or left detailed notes for anything that is still outstanding before leaving for a long break.
Don’t offer excuses.
Working during law school guarantees that you’ll have some busy, stressful periods, but you have to find a way to meet both your school and your work deadlines. The lawyers at your job have their own obligations and will not be sympathetic if the work you didn’t have time to finish falls on their desk. Likewise, your professor is not going to care that you didn’t have time to complete the reading because a senior associate had you researching an obscure issue late into the night. Don’t make excuses as to why something didn’t get done and instead, carefully manage your time and workload on the front end.
Being a productive legal intern and a full-time law student isn’t easy, but with some good planning, a little strategizing, and the right mindset, achieving the balance you need to be successful at both pursuits is well within reach.
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