Five Law School Time Management Tips
In this post, we cover five great tips to help your law school time management. Read further to see what was most effective for us!
Five Law School Time Management Tips
1. Create a schedule.
It’s no secret that you will have a lot on your plate while you are in law school. From classes, extracurricular activities such as moot court and law review, part-time employment, clinics, to your personal obligations, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed when thinking about everything that you have to do. A weekly schedule can not only help you keep track of all of your responsibilities. It can also help you see that it is actually possible to get everything done if you manage your time well!
To make a weekly schedule, start with your classes. Block off the time that you have to be in class. Law school is not the time to skip class to get your other work done. You are paying a lot of money for those classes, so it is imperative that you attend! If you commute to school, be sure to account for the time that it will take you to get to and from class.
After you have filled in the classes on your schedule, add in other scheduled extracurriculars. For instance, if you are working part-time during law school, block off the time that you will be working. If you are in a clinic that requires you to work a certain number of hours in the clinic office, add that to the schedule. Add essential meetings or other scheduled events.
Next, add in personal obligations. Be sure to consider your mental and physical health while you are in law school and set aside time for exercise. Block off time for meals and other social obligations (for instance, if you need to drop children off at school).
Finally, you should dedicate any time e left on your schedule to studying and preparing for class. One common mistake that law students make is waiting until the very end of the semester to begin studying for exams. If you find that you have a surplus of time and you don’t need to set aside all the extra time on your schedule to prepare for class, consider blocking off that extra time for post-class review. It is never too early to begin working on your outlines!
Learn more details on How to Make a Law School Study Schedule.
2. Use your time efficiently while preparing for class.
Another common mistake that law students make is spending too much time preparing for class. It is not uncommon for a professor to assign 50-100 pages of reading for a 2-hour lecture. It can take 4-5 hours (or more!) to complete all of that reading! After the first few weeks of classes, you should begin to notice that your professor will likely provide you with most of what you need to know from the assigned reading.
So, it is essentially a waste of your time to spend hours trying to figure out the “take-away” from the reading, just to have your professor tell you what the take-away is the next day in class! Therefore, rather than doing an excessive amount of preparation for class, get your hands on supplemental materials such as outlines from students who took the same class a different year, or commercial case briefs, that can reduce the workload required to prepare for class.
You may be wondering, “But what if a professor cold calls me? How can I prepare?” Keep in mind that the vast majority of your grade comes from your performance on the final exam. So, if you are cold-called and it doesn’t go well, it usually doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, utilizing commercial case briefs and old outlines should give you enough information to respond if you get called on.
Finally, many professors don’t adhere to a strict cold-call policy and give you some sort of warning that you might be called on (some go around the room, some use alphabetical lists, some allow you to sign up to be called on). If you know that you are about to be called on in class, it won’t hurt to spend a little extra time preparing for that class.
3. Prioritize non-law school activities.
You don’t have to turn down every single social invitation presented while you are in law school. However, be realistic about what you actually have time to do and still have enough time to complete all academic tasks. Should you miss your grandma’s 100th birthday party? Probably not. Should you skip this week’s book club if you are already behind on your reading and haven’t started outlining yet? It might be a good idea. Remind yourself that law school is only three years and, as soon as it is over, you will certainly have more time for social events. If your goal is to perform well in law school, this may be the time to sacrifice some other activities.
4. Avoid distractions.
After you make a weekly schedule, it can be equally difficult to stick to it. If you have set aside two hours to complete all the reading for the first half of the week, it is important that you actually complete the tasks during that time so as not to put yourself behind for the rest of the week. Identify what stands in the way of getting all of your work done. Some common distractions (and ways to avoid them) include:
- Social media. Consider deleting (or suspending) social media accounts while you are in law school.
- Your cell phone. If you are tempted to pick up your cell phone every five minutes (or every time someone texts you) consider shutting your cell phone off while you are trying to accomplish some other task (or not bringing it with you to wherever you are studying).
- Television, hobbies, cleaning other activities. If you are trying to study at home and find that you get distracted by other tasks, consider packing up and studying away from home. Go to the library or a coffee shop and force yourself to remain there until you accomplish everything that needs to be completed.
- Other people. Sometimes going to the library or a coffee shop has the opposite effect: you end up seeing someone you know and chatting instead of working. Wear headphones while you are out (even if you don’t have music on) to make yourself seem less approachable to other people. You can also consider private study rooms at the library if your library offers this option.
5. Find a way to hold yourself accountable.
No one is going to hold your hand in law school and make sure that you are doing the reading or starting your outlines at the beginning of the semester. Unfortunately, because your only grade usually comes from one test at the end of the semester, it is very easy to put things off and procrastinate because it doesn’t seem like there are any real consequences if the work doesn’t get done. You will quickly learn that final exams will become much more manageable if you spread the work out over the course of the semester rather than putting it off until the very end.
Think about what might work best for you to hold yourself accountable. Some people like to set up small rewards for accomplishing daily or weekly goals. For instance, if you finish all of your work for the day, give yourself an hour to do something not related to law school. Treat yourself to a fancy coffee drink at the end of the week if you were able to stay on task. Plan a night out with friends if you are on top of your schedule.
Some people motivate themselves with prospective punishments. Perhaps you can cancel weekend social events and stay in and finish working if you are unable to complete all of your work. Take away something you like (fancy coffee, leisure television programs, etc.) if you are not staying focused.
Let other people know about the importance of law school. Your friends are less likely to tempt you with invitations to social events if they know you have a lot of work to do. Tell other people your goals and have them check in on you to help you stay accountable. Try different ways to stay on track and stick to your schedule so as to maximize your performance in law school!
We hope these law school time management tips are useful!
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