Traditionally, law school lasts three years. Your first year is referred to as “1L,” the second year is referred to as “2L,” and the third year is referred to as “3L.”
I started law school in Fall 2020, so my entire 1L was virtual (shout-out Zoom).
Now, as a second-semester 2L, I have been lucky enough to be on campus for all but the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester.
While there is always more to learn, both in- and outside of class, I have made some changes this past year or so that have helped me adjust to the workload and stress that inevitability accompanies law school.
Here are some of my top tips for adjusting to law school:
(1) Establish a Solid Sleep Schedule
This one was the hardest for me, and I still struggle at times! During 1L I had mostly afternoon classes, so I got into the habit of staying up later and waking up later. Everyone has different sleep needs and schedules, but I have noticed a difference with how I feel when I get to bed earlier and wake up earlier. When I’d wake up later, it felt like the day was controlling me rather than the other day around. When I wake up earlier, I feel like I have a chance to “breathe” and collect myself before attending to my to-do list. It changes, but my goal has been to get into bed by 9:30 P.M., be asleep by 11:00 P.M., and wake up around 7:00 A.M.
(2) Organize via Google Drive
Ever since high school, I have been a die-hard fan of Google Drive. I love how it’s user-friendly and automatically saves your work (because nothings worse than losing a set of notes or a draft of a paper by forgetting to save it). My routine for each semester is to (1) create a folder named after the semester, like “Spring 2022,” (2) create folders within the semester folder for each class, like “Ethical Lawyering,” (3) create a folder within each class folder for reading notes, like “Ethical Lawyering Reading Notes,” and (4) create a document within each class folder for class notes, like “Ethical Lawyering Class Notes.” Once you’re done, you should have 1 semester folder with 1 folder for each of your classes inside it, and within each class folder you should have 1 folder for reading notes and 1 document for class notes. When I take my reading notes, I label it with the abbreviated name of the class and the date, like “EL 2/1.” This makes it easy to reference in the future! As for class notes, I keep them on one Google Doc per class and label my notes with the date of the class before I begin typing.
(3) Reading Routine
I don’t always use it, but I have found Pomodoro Timers, like this one, to be particularly helpful when I need help focusing on reading. Pomodoro Timers allow you to work in 25 minute increments followed by a 5 minute break. After (4) 25 minute sessions, you have the option of taking a 15 minute break. It’s a great way to organize your time since breaks are important to be effective when reading and/or studying.
(4) Study Binders
This method I tried out during the Fall 2021 semester had a notable impact on my exam scores. I thought of the idea on my own, and it worked! I purchased some standard 1 inch binders and dividers from Target. I proceeded to print my “big outline” which had everything we covered in the course, “condensed outline” which had the rules and case law we covered in the course, and any other relevant materials (i.e., practice exams). Once the binder was assembled, I went through it with a pen and made notes in the margins and underlined important things. Next, I highlighted rules and case law among other things. I found this hands-on approach to be incredibly helpful. During 1L, I reviewed my outlines and study materials 100% on my computer. While it was more enviornmentally friendly, it made the studying more passive. The active studying from making notes, highlighting, etc. made the material “stick” more.
(5) Five Bullet Points
Something I have implemented this Spring 2022 semester is writing five bullet points after each class. It is tempting to shut your computer (if your class is on Zoom) or walk out of the classroom (if your class is in-person) as soon as class is over. However, I have been forcing myself to write five bullet points after class summarizing the big ideas we covered. This encourages me to review what we covered during lecture and pull out the important topics.
(6) Miscellaneous Reminders & Affirmations
(A) One of the toughest things about law school is the tendency to compare yourself to your classmates. Being in an environment with a bunch of go-getters can be anxiety-provoking at times…making you wonder “am I doing enough?” or “am I smart enough?” These feelings are normal, but can mess with your head. An affirmation I have been using is “I deserve to be here. I deserve to take up space. I deserve to have my voice heard.” When it comes down to it, you have made it into the law school just like everyone else there. Another important thing to remember is the success and ambition of other people does not denote an absense of yours.
(B) Unfortunately, three years is not enough time to do EVERYTHING you want to in law school. Thus, be mindful with what you say “yes” to and what you choose to be involved in. For example, I love writing and law review sounded like a great way to gain experience in legal writing (which it is). However, I did not want to have too much on my plate, and I wanted to focus more on gaining hands-on legal experience with real clients, so I made the decision to forego participating in write-on (the competition to get into law review) and I enrolled in a clinical course instead.
(C) Grades are important, but they are not indicative of your future success as a legal advocate. In the American education system, there is a hyper-fixation on results. This hyper-fixation makes students (including myself at times) be more concerned with test scores and grades rather than actually learning the material. During 1L I felt so anxious and stressed, desperately hoping to get a decent G.P.A. Operating in this place of anxiety and fear had negative impacts on my learning process. Going into 2L, I chose to focus more on actually learning and doing everything I can to become a well-rounded legal advocate in the future. Needless to say, my grades improved after making this change.
(D) I recently saw a quote that said, “Don’t be afraid to be seen trying.” This is such a powerful quote. It’s easy to feel self-conscious when surrounded by a ton of smart, successful people. Further, speaking in front of all those smart, successful people can be nerve-racking. Instead of shrinking yourself and trying to go unnoticed (aka me during 1L) remind yourself that IT’S OKAY TO BE SEEN TRYING. No one ever starts out as an expert. Therefore, allow yourself to enjoy the ups and downs of learning new things and gaining new skills
What are some things that have helped you adjust to law school?