The law school environment is notorious for inflicting stressful lifestyles on law students. For instance, law school forces law students to juggle many responsibilities simultaneously. This is partially because law school not only provides the necessary education to obtain a Juris Doctor degree and pass the bar, but it also serves as a boot camp to prepare young associates for real world practice.
While the experience is great training for dealing with any spontaneous work or personal emergencies that may arise, it leaves many students feeling as if they are drowning and often causes deficiencies in at least one area of their lives where they need to succeed; even law students who are proficient multi-taskers seem to struggle with extraneous responsibilities when coupled with law school. Thus, before diving into specific types of dual-commitment scenarios, the first thing we need to discuss is how to form a basic attack plan that you can then adjust accordingly to your own particular commitments.
The foundation of any strategy meant to combat demanding schedules should incorporate some, if not all, of the following rules:
1. Create a To-Do List
At the beginning of each week, write down everything you both have to and want to do. By also including the things you want to do, it prompts you to focus on the things you have to do earlier in the week rather than procrastinating them, and it acts as a small, end-of-the-week reward to yourself for accomplishing everything you needed to get done.
2. Prioritize Every Task
Although you may not know which tasks take priority over others yet, once you start to consistently use this practice, it will become easier and more routine. Analyze the priority of each task by determining factors like: due dates, how much time is needed to complete the task, rank of importance relative to where it falls on your personal scale, etc. Remember, there are only so many hours in a day and you need to maximize them to your advantage of whatever free time your schedule allows.
3. Calendar Everything
Once you have compiled your to-do list and evaluated every task, officialize it by scheduling it. Whether you use a wall calendar or an app, place everything, including the times for each task, on your calendar.
4. Experiment With Practical Apps
Despite the notion that technology usually distracts you from your work, this is one instance where spending a few precious hours to discover new lifestyle apps may improve it in ways such as, changing bad, procrastination habits, keeping track of how long an assignment takes you to finish, and training you to study more efficiently. Check out some of the best options for law school apps here and here.
Common Dual-Commitment Scenarios
The following is a rough guideline for handling common scenarios that the majority of law students typically have to juggle along with regular law school assignments.
1. Law School-Internship
The best thing about internships is that you usually base your internship hours on your class schedule. This helps you plan out your semester in advance and shows you where you should either cut back on hours for certain days, or, depending on the internship requirements, not take as many credits for that semester. If the internship offers credit and your school accepts their program (which most do), take advantage of it. According to the American Bar Association, you need at least 83 credits to graduate and sit for the bar. Replacing a class with an internship is a great way to rack up those credits for two reasons: you receive real world experience, and you have one less final to study for that semester.
Be prudent about choosing your internships. Unless it is your 1L summer (and even then I would not recommend it), make sure it is actually helping you to succeed in a field you want a future career in and not just a resume-padder.
2. Law School Job
If you can hold off having a job in law school through the assistance of low interest credit cards or a loan, then aim for that option. Depending on how good you are with your finances, you may rack up some debt, but the alternative is burning out, not performing at your best at either work or law school, and possibly even dropping out.
If you absolutely must work, then register as either a part-time student and take night classes, or, if your job has particularly grueling hours, then schedule a meeting with your boss. If you are a 1L though, keep in mind that the ABA sets a standard that you are only allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during your first year of law school.
3. Law School-Extra-Curriculars and/or Personal Obligations
Treat law school like it’s your paid profession. Just as you would schedule a meeting for work, mimic that habit by scheduling studying, keeping track of upcoming extra-curricular events, and even incorporating break times into your day.
If the activities you are struggling to balance are more personal in nature and unrelated to law school, dissect the situation. Is it a relationship? Communicate with your partner about your commitments and compromise schedules. Is it raising a family or taking care of an elderly parent? Again, talk to your loved ones by explaining the obstacles in your week and figure out what you can to do together to make it better for everyone involved. Is it a random emergency? These events will happen in life and those are going to be rough days. The best thing you can do for yourself is to always be prepared by planning ahead, maintaining a schedule, and doing any work you can in advance.
Remember, you are not alone in handling multiple commitments. While some may have it figured out better than others, law students are constantly pressed for time. Talk to your colleagues about how they manage additional stress. They may be able to impart some wisdom or guide you in a better direction. As a last resort, if you truly feel like you do not have anyone to reach out to, then contact your law school’s student services department – it is one of the primary reasons that these departments exist and you will not be the first student to whom they provided this type of solution.
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