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I remember starting law school and being both really excited and completely overwhelmed by the sheer force of so much new information. At times I felt like there was so much to do I couldn’t keep my head above water. Other times, I had so much extra time on my hands, I figured I must be doing something wrong.
It became apparent pretty quickly that the type of flimsy paper day planner I had used in undergrad just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. As a 1L, not only do you need to go to class, and of course, prepare for class, but there are so many other items on your to-do list that it can be difficult to make time for everything and prioritize what matters most. In particular, my recommendation for incoming 1Ls would be to incorporate time for the following kinds of activities every week:
- Reading for class (each day during the week, or stock up in bulk over the weekend)
- Briefing cases (keep these very short to save time, a few bullet points max.)
- Debriefing your notes after class (this is huge!)
- Deep thinking activities like writing hypos, outlining and making attack plans (this will need to start happening as soon as you finish up the first substantive topic on your syllabus in any class, and it can take some struggling, so plan accordingly)
- Going to office hours if you have questions
- Relaxation time and breaks (see below)
- Meal time (scheduling lunchtime while on campus can help you make sure you don’t get carried away chatting with friends or stalling)
- Getting enough sleep (cutting off from studying at least one hour before bedtime can help)
Back in law school, there were a few tools and strategies I liked to use, and over the years as an attorney and then tutor, I’ve found other tips and tricks that have also helped. Here are some of the things I tried back as a 1L and some tools I still use today.
1. Google Calendars
Believe it or not, I’ve managed to resurrect my old calendar from my first week of law school. Here it is:
As you can see, I made sure to include not only class time, but also the slots dedicated to reading for each class and debriefing my notes after class. I also built in “flex study” which was for catching up (or later in the semester, doing activities like outlining and practicing hypos). I also put in the weekly yoga class schedule from the school gym so I could go if I had time.
My google calendar worked great for me my first semester. Although, in my second semester, I tried a different strategy. I found that having to go online to check my calendar wasn’t feasible (the internet is a distracting place), and I didn’t want to spend time reformatting my calendar each week. So, I opted for a different tactic.
Instead of inputting all the information into google, I just wrote in my classes and printed a blank calendar each Sunday afternoon. Then, before the week started, I hand wrote in all of the activities I planned to accomplish and fit them into the blank spaces between lectures. Essentially, the two calendars ended up looking pretty much the same. What I liked about this second option is that it was faster and required less formatting.
I never actually used trello in law school, but I use it a lot now as a tutor. Trello is also an online tool, but there is a phone app which can make things easier. I actually prefer the online version because it’s easier to see everything at once on a laptop screen. Basically, trello is like a big bulletin board where you can make and place cards for each item on a list. Here’s an example of how you could use trello as a 1L:
- Make a “to do” list and a “done” list and transfer cards over once you finish them
- Make lists for each day of the week and rearrange your to-do items within each day
- Make one card for a particular day and use checklists you can cross off as you go.
- Make one card for the whole week and add a new checklist for each day.
3. Follow-Up Then
In law school, most of what I needed to do happened offline. However, if you check your emails frequently enough, there are some resources that can help you remember things. I use follow-up much more frequently now than I ever would have in law school, but I do think it could be useful for events that many law students might lose track of if they get too busy, e.g. paying bills or rent on time, renewing subscriptions (or any other kind of repetitive online activity, e.g.: buying vitamins, ordering groceries, or renewing Amazon Prime or library books), etc.
You can have email reminders sent to yourself and pre-program the dates and content as well as make the reminder recurring every week, or on a particular day every month, e.g.
I’ve extolled automated reminders on our blog before, and you can read about how to use them to manage your law school schedule here and manage professional relationships while in school here. Check out this post for more apps I think law students could benefit from.
It can be tough to manage your time in law school. Many of the students I work with say making themselves accountable and setting up goals and priorities is a big challenge. If you need help or want more advice, let us know! We want to make sure you start law school right.
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