Congratulations! You got into law school. That is a big step, maybe even a life-long dream, but it is just the first step. It’s possible you have already moved to a new city, found a new apartment, even acquired a new roommate. Maybe you’ve already purchased all your textbooks, outlines, etc., and scoped out the best places to study. However, to ensure success in this new endeavor, there is one more crucial step you must take now – you need to have a serious talk with your family.
Law School is Unique
You will soon learn law school is like no other educational experience you have had before. It is all consuming. A typical day involves attending lectures, reviewing lecture notes, reading the cases for the next day of lectures, and preparing briefs for those cases. Throw in an occasional meeting with a study group, and some outlining. Oh, and don’t forget to sleep and eat, maybe even exercise. This leaves little time to “veg” out in front of the TV or to play some video games. While weekends may provide some additional time to relax and sleep, don’t count on it being a lot. Often the weekend is used to catch up with school work or study groups.
What I am trying to tell you is that there isn’t a lot of time for non-law school related activities. This will be very hard for close members of your family to understand. They want to keep you involved in family activities. They believe they can supply that break from the stress of law school they think you will be looking for. But you need to set them straight. Their intent to help you relieve stress or to provide moral support, may have unintended consequences – by sabotaging your efforts to maximize your success in law school.
But My Family Would Never do That to Me
You think I’m exaggerating don’t you? Well, let me give you an example. I had a student who chose a law school because it was located in his hometown, and he could stay close to his tight-knit family. However, when Mom and Dad could not get away from the family business during the day, guess who they called to take Grandpa to that urgent care appointment. After all, they knew he didn’t have a class that afternoon. He could always take his school work with him to the appointment. Oh, did I mention, he could not simply drive Grandpa to the appointment and sit in the waiting room, or his car, waiting. No, Grandpa needed a translator once he got in to see a doctor. By the way, this happened on the day before his first midterm of the semester.
Or maybe your sister is planning a wedding. She expects you to participate and help with all the details. She’s obsessed with the wedding, while you’re trying to be obsessed with law school. But Mom wants you to humor her because she is making everyone else crazy. “It’ll be a good break from all that stress.” Or will it create more stress, because now you’re getting behind on your outlining?
Problem Solved, I’m Out-of-Town
Better, yes, but you’re not completely safe. How many times during the day do you get a call or text from one or more members of your family. Are these calls or texts “one-offs,” or is there a back and forth expected that could eat up a big block of time? Does your baby sister call you about every high school drama she is experiencing because “Mom and Dad don’t get it?”
How much time do you spend on social media because you miss your family and friends? Well, that one is on you – but if they see you are online, do you start engaging in discussions through instant messaging. How much time does this eat up during your day?
What if you are a three to four-hour drive from home? Are you expected to attend family functions back home beyond Thanksgiving and Spring Break? After all, you don’t have classes on the weekend. You will learn, however, weekends are an important part of your law school study schedule. Maybe this is the only time your study group can meet, or this is when you can work on outlines. Weekends are precious to a law student.
Have That Talk Before it’s Too Late
Whether you like it or not, the first year of law school cannot be “winged.” It requires planning, discipline, and commitment. Your family can still be part of this, and yes, they could actually offer a nice escape from the stress every now and then. But you need to lay down the ground rules. Make them understand what you will be facing on a daily basis. Don’t keep them in the dark. Once they are informed about what you will be facing, they will probably step back, and do what they can to support you in this new endeavor, by getting out of your way.
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[…] for the beleaguered law student. There are few expectations to this rule. People expect you to spend time with family and recharge, and unless you have projects due in the new year, that is exactly what you should […]