Today we finish up our series on how to be a productive law student and happy human being at the same time. If you missed our first two posts, you can read all about finding balance here, and tips for taking care of yourself here. We conclude the series by bringing you four suggestions for, quite simply, doing what makes the most sense for you.
If you hate the law library, consider nixing it.
I did not set foot in the law library more than once or twice during my first semester. Why, you may ask, everyone goes to the law library? Exactly. I decided early on that my classmates didn’t know any more than I did about the law or the process required to do well, and I figured I was better off doing what had always worked for me, and that was studying at home. Sometimes it seems like law students go to the library just for the sake of having everyone else see them go to the library—which doesn’t make any sense at all.
If the library works for you, great! But if not, don’t feel bad about studying on your own terms in a place that you actually enjoy being. That said, you do need to study somewhere—as was demonstrated by the guy in my class who claimed to have a “photographic memory” and said didn’t need to look at materials more than once, or the guy who studied at a bar because he said it made him feel “more relaxed.” Needless to say, neither of these situations worked out too well for the individuals involved.
Ask yourself whether a study group is right for you.
I admit, I did not have a study group. People in law school swear by their study groups. And, if you’ve ever seen any movies about law school, you may think your study group can make or break your grades. I’m not saying I didn’t try a couple of group study sessions, but I found them to be a waste of time. Not because I thought I was so much smarter or anything, but because (inevitably) the conversation would digress into gossip (Did you hear John pays full tuition in cash every semester because he is heir to some huge non-dairy creamer dynasty? She told me Professor X actually used to be married to a former student! The gunner in the second row was a disaster at bar night last week!).
I learned that if I studied on my own, I bypassed all of this nonsense and spent my time more productively. Unfortunately, getting a bunch of stressed out and confused 20- (or 30- or 40-) somethings together and forcing them to hang out every day is a recipe for drama. Many people revert back to their worst high school selves and things can get cliquey, judgmental and inefficient. As with the law library, if studying together works for you, fantastic, do it! If not, though, it’s fine to decline.
Spend time with non-law students.
It’s astonishing how law school can skew our definitions of acceptable social norms. My lawyer friends are the only people I know who text to say they will be seven minutes late for our coffee date—not five or ten minutes, or just “running late,” they say seven minutes because accuracy and precision are what we do! The rest of the world doesn’t operate like this, and it’s easy to lose sight of that. Maybe I’m projecting here, but some of my classmates were the most arrogant, entitled, insufferable people I had ever met, and a few of them were just plain mean. I will never forget the woman who sat next to me in Torts. She made fun of me (as in actually teased me, the way kids do on the playground!) on an almost daily basis for the way I tabbed my Torts book. She called me type-A and much worse. It was moderately annoying, but ultimately, who really cares?
The funny (I mean terrible) thing is that she ended up failing the class and re-taking it the following year. And guess who was assigned as her tutor? I’ll give you a clue, someone really type-A and into tabbing. That’s right, me. I never said a thing to her about the irony of the situation, and she ended up passing Torts and going on to become a full-fledged Esq., but I regretted having to spend time with people like this. Luckily, many others in my class were wonderful, humble, inspiring human beings. Either way, grabbing dinner with your best friend form college or talking to your little nephew about his current skate boarding obsession can go a long way toward putting things in perspective and reserving your space in the ranks of normalcy.
Draw on what has worked for you in your past academic career.
During the last bar exam season, a student asked me if I thought he should use flash cards. Flash cards had always worked for him back in college and during law school, but for some reason, he felt they were too elementary for the bar. My advice? If flash cards (or flow charts, or clever mnemonics, or whatever) have served you well in the past, don’t feel like you can’t continue to employ these tactics! Be cognizant of how much time you are spending, and recognize that—as with outlines—no one else will ever see or care about these materials, so make sure you’re doing what actually works for you (not just what you think you’re “supposed” to be doing—or worse, what everyone else is doing).
Put things in perspective.
I like to remind my students that law school is an absolute privilege. Think about it: You are warm, clothed and fed with a roof over your head in a safe part of the world. You have the opportunity to go to school every day, which sure, may be mentally taxing, but ultimately leaves you physically and emotionally unscathed. Most of you don’t have a job, and even if you do, having a job is technically a privilege as well. Even if you’ve had an extremely rough life up until this point, you probably have at least some student loans or other financial aid now, and at the end of the day, your basic needs are being met—and then some. You are in the running to join one of the most elite, prestigious and highly-compensated professions on the list. For all the complaining we do, it can help to remember that as far as the big picture is concerned, law school is really not that bad.
— – —
Want more law school tips? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
And check out these helpful posts:
- How Being a Law Student and Functional Human Don’t Have to be Mutually Exclusive – Finding Balance
- How Being a Law Student and Functional Human Don’t Have to be Mutually Exclusive – Take Care of Yourself
- Keep Your Spirits Up! Don’t Let Negativity Get You Down
- Are You in Law School Crisis Mode? Here’s How to Get Out
Image Credit: iQoncept/Shutterstock
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.