Congratulations on beginning an exciting endeavor: law school! Your first year will in all likelihood be one of your most difficult challenges in your professional career. But remember, thousands of bright individuals like you have both experienced and thrived in law school. Because life as a first-year law student brings many uncertainties, there are two practical things you can do from day one in order to set up yourself up for success throughout the three-your journey.
1. Time Management
As a first-year law student, you will likely have very spare free time, if any. The sheer amount of readings and work assigned typically take a substantial amount of time; almost seeming never-ending. If there is one key aspect that must be emphasized, it is time management and prioritizing for deadlines. As future lawyers, we must learn to juggle multiple assignments on a daily basis. Thus, be consciously mindful of all key deadlines and make sure to plan early in advance. An example is creating a schedule early which outlines all key dates for submitting legal writing assignments, any midterm(s), and final exams. Set up reminders in your electronic calendar — or if you prefer written — for all such key dates. If you have a pressing issue regarding a deadline, be sure to address it with your professors in advance, rather than waiting last-minute prior to the deadline.
A typical day at law school entails attending classes, plenty of reading including various supplements, and reviewing for the week’s assignments. For some, I know that working on the outline immediately after class was significantly beneficial. Whatever may be your preferred method, it is fruitful to take short breaks between reading and studying. Indeed, the first year is a strenuous test of your mental endurance. A brief recess should provide the added stamina in completing your work.
In addition, be cognizant to review any material, concepts, topics, or issues which you were either confused about, or did not fully comprehend — either with your classmates or respective professors. And as the semester progresses, be sure to begin outlining for your courses early—preferably some time in mid to late September. Other additional measures include doing practice questions which test your ability to apply the law; and collecting past professor exams if any exist for future use.
As a final note regarding time management, make sure to use your weekends accordingly — whether it be to finish your weekly readings, outlining, etc.
2. Taking Personal Care of Yourself
Due to the stresses from life as a first-year law student, it is equally important to take proper care of your physical and mental health. Most will usually feel overwhelmed at some point. Maintaining your health for optimal performance requires the proper amount of sleep, adequate nutrition by eating healthy, and exercising as part of a balanced lifestyle. Also, be sure to continually engage in at least one non-law school related activity that you highly enjoy for destressing, whether it is with family or friends. It can even be something simple as baking, playing basketball, or fantasy football. Because the rigors and pressures of the first year can become overwhelming, it is crucial to give your mind a diversion to reset, and maintain a level of balance.
In addition, there are several resources for coping with potential stress. You can reach out to family, friends, classmates, upper-level students, professors, deans, or other individuals you may know that attended law school. Certainly, the person whom you reach out is dependent on your level of your comfort. Know that you have many people in your circle that are willing to listen or help you in some manner.
Additionally, law school is a collaborative learning environment. In essence, your classmates will be together in the “trenches” alongside with you. Making friends early who study and work hard will push you further. Rather than being isolated, seek out classmates who display the same level of dedication and commitment. Some of your colleagues may even become your closest friends because you similarly go through such a challenging lifestyle and experience as part of the first-year endeavor. Keeping your sanity will go long ways in ensuring that you succeed as a first-year law student. In sum, taking personal care of yourself is absolutely pivotal throughout the course of law school.
Stay focused, remain motivated, and be excited! Good luck!