Bad Habits To Drop Before Starting Law School
Law school will be unlike any educational experience you have had before. You may have been able to get away with a more relaxed approach to school in the past. However, your first year of law school is incredibly important. (Learn more about why your 1L year matters so much here.) This means you need to be in top form when you begin law school. Now is the time to leave behind any unreliable routines you may have had while in undergrad and establish a healthy approach to school. To help you get started, here is our list of bad habits to drop before starting law school!
Bad Habits To Drop Before Starting Law School
Procrastination in law school will be your worst enemy. There is a tremendous amount of work that comes with being a law student and putting it off will only leave you stranded. If you have been guilty of procrastination in the past, be sure to take extra steps to keep yourself accountable throughout your time at law school. Create a study schedule before school begins to stick to throughout the semester. This will ensure you don’t easily stray from the path. If you need further accountability, consider adding on a daily task checklist into your routine. Professors won’t necessarily be checking in with you each week (unless you get called on) to see if you did the assigned reading. A lot of your success will depend on building up strong self-discipline, so use the time you have before starting law school to practice accountability. This will then translate well into your study schedule and control.
Just like with procrastination, you must keep yourself accountable with proper organization. However, this goes far beyond a daily or weekly schedule. Take time before starting law school to schedule out all non-law school events or appointments. This will give you a better idea of when you can study without disruptions.
Additionally, make an effort to organize your notetaking methods. If you are typing notes, find a notetaking app that you like, and organize it by class. Find out if you’d rather write or type your notes based on your learning style. Once your syllabus is released, organize this further by topic/subtopic. If you are writing notes, organize your notebooks or binders by class. Just like with typed notes, once the syllabus is released, create a topic/subtopic breakdown.
Further, have your backpack well organized so you are not regularly losing items and experiencing unnecessary frustration. Consider tabbing your casebooks to keep your reading well divided. Create a space at home that is clean and free of distractions to keep you focused while you study. Lastly, if you require study tools such as noise-canceling headphones, be sure to purchase those items before starting law school. You want to be sure you can hit the ground running with as few setbacks as possible!
Sleeping in until right before class
We were all guilty of setting our alarms with just enough time, down to the minute, to get to our undergraduate class. However, in law school, life is very different. First and foremost, studying law requires a great deal of attention and focus. You will be learning difficult topics and your professors will be challenging your thought process to engage more critical thinking. This nature of education requires time in the morning to wake up, charge up, and avoid stressful rushing.
We recommend giving yourself enough time in the morning to have breakfast, some coffee or tea (if you enjoy it), and enough time to review material before class, either at home or at school. Either way, be sure you aren’t arriving to your class right on the dot. Arriving right before class begins will only make you anxious. Pre-class anxiety will affect your performance in class, both in a cold call, but more importantly, with notetaking. Before starting law school, create a morning schedule for yourself and find ways to make yourself meet those expectations. We know it can be challenging to wake up on some days, but the rewards of an unrushed morning far outweigh the few minutes of extra sleep.
Here are more tips on how to stay healthy in law school.
In undergrad, you may have been able to recover if you skipped readings for any particular week. This might not have even taken a toll on your overall grade if you were able to simply catch up before the exam. However, that all changes once you walk into your first law school class. Your reading requirements will be steep and do not slow down. With three to four classes, you will always be busy. If you fall behind on your readings, you will likely not be able to catch yourself up.
Of course, what your professor says in class is indeed the most vital information come exam day. However, to better understand the material presented to you during class, you must complete your readings. Actively reading to fully understand legal concepts and black letter law will keep you more engaged during class, which will increase information retention. You will soon realize that each piece of what you do in law school feeds into the bigger picture of success. So, even when it may be tempting, don’t fall off of your reading schedule. Before starting law school, reinforce a schedule that will keep you accountable to your readings.
Giving in to distractions
You may have previously developed studying habits that allowed for more distractions, such as study groups that involved a lot of socializing or your phone being next to you as you read for class. In today’s world, there is an abundance of fun distractions that can pull your attention from strenuous work. However, in law school, distractions are disastrous. As we said before, studying the law requires deep focus and critical thinking. Every time you pull your attention away from your studying, you are weakening that focus. In the long run, this will significantly affect your chances of complete learning and overall success.
Therefore, before starting law school, adapt a study plan that gives you complete focus. A study plan may involve designating a hideaway spot for your phone while studying, turning off all TVs, getting noise-canceling headphones, or just preparing yourself to decline distracting group study offers. It is essential to know what distracts you most and eliminate it from your study routine. Eliminating distractions will keep your focus steady and your studying as efficient as possible!
We all come into law school with bad habits. The key is that you take the time to turn these habits around and create the best possible environment for law school success. There is no shame in identifying your weaknesses and remedying them. Just be sure you start this process before starting law school so that you can be ready to go on day one!
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