The one-million dollar question most 1Ls ask upperclassmen is “Does it get easier?” And I, and many other 2Ls and 3Ls have always responded, “Yes and . . . No.” Here is the thing, it does get easier, but it gets busier which doesn’t feel any “easier.” Why does it get busier? Because now, like many of your law school colleagues as 2Ls and 3Ls, you decided to get experience working in a firm, or interning or doing another time consuming law related activity that does not include going to class and studying. Balancing work and law school is an attractive attribute for employers to see on a resume. It demonstrates that you have excellent time management skills and the ability to balance multiple things – the same attributes needed to succeed in a law firm. So, how do you balance working and law school?
The first step to balance is to have enough time to sustain a working schedule. This means you have to schedule your classes strategically. Because you have more freedom over which classes you take, you can position yourself to have two or maybe three days a week where you can work the majority of the day at a firm, governmental agency or other 9-5 job and still fit in one or two classes in the afternoon. For example, on Tuesdays there are two classes you want to take, then you can work 9-3 and possible have class from 3:30 – 5:00 and if you’re feeling daring squeeze in a night class. This is a daunting thing to see if you’re used to having breaks and time to study throughout the day, but rearranging your mindset to just a “normal working day” will allow you to overcome the fear of this type of schedule and allow you to open yourself up to opportunities other than just listening to professors theorize about the law. This is arguably the most important step because once you take on the responsibility of obligations at a law firm, those law firm employees and supervisors will barely have time for excuses on why their work isn’t being done.
Extra-Curriculars = No Time For A Job, Not Extra Time for a Job
The hard truth is that although moot court and law review are great resume boosters, any other activities don’t necessarily carry the same weight when an employer is hiring. What does that mean if you are deciding to take on a job? Well, an employer will likely be more impressed with a job where you engaged with the practice of law in some way than if you were secretary of the environmental law society. I’m not necessarily saying you can’t go to school activities if time allows, but if there were a hierarchy, I’d put a job bullet point above a law society one. This doesn’t mean that you can’t keep playing soccer on Thursday nights, or join a trivia night at your local bar. When I talk about letting go of extra-curriculars, I’m mainly focusing on those things that require multiple hours a week with little to no reward. You have to keep your sanity if you are venturing into this type of schedule, and we all know a good Harry Potter trivia will bring a smile to ones face (or at least I hope so).
Open Communication with your Job
Communication is key. The most helpful advice I can give from a balancing angle is an open line of communication will help take any lingering stress about little things off your shoulders. Most people want to be reasonable. If you have a midterm approaching, and you need the 2 days you are scheduled to study, then communicate that with your supervisor. Most frequently, anyone hiring a law student is aware of the taxing, time consuming and rigorous tests law schools put on their students. If you give an employer enough advance notice that you will need time to study for a midterm, the chances of their ability to spare your presence increase. Also, you won’t be stressing the week before about having to tell your boss last minute that you won’t be at work the following week. This eliminates stress from you, and from the firm. Plus, they will see you as an individual that understands the inner workings of a firm and that you impact others.
Being a productive student and a productive employee is completely obtainable, and you will thank yourself in the long run. Working and going to law school can be done with the right class schedule, the right attention to filling what little free time you do have, and an open line of communication throughout it all.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.