New Year’s Resolutions for Law Students
You did it! Another semester finished, and another calendar year behind you. Whether you are a 1L, 2L, 3L, or a night student, you likely just finished final exams and are on your way to the next semester and are feeling the pressure to do well in law school. With the new year right around the corner, we thought it would be helpful to put together a list of new year’s resolutions especially catered to law students.
New Year’s Resolutions for Law Students
1. Let Go of Perfectionism
Lawyers and law students tend to struggle with perfectionism. If you have chosen to go to law school, you have probably struggled with this at one point. If you sometimes feel this way, you are not alone! Striving for the perfect GPA, the highest grade, the most elevated position on law review, and a perfect score on your final exams, however, is not always the best approach to law school. You can still do really well in law school even if you don’t graduate first in your class! As long as you are consistently learning the law, improving your writing, and taking the time to understand the nuances and issues, you are still ahead of the game. You don’t need a perfect score or over 300 on the bar exam – you just need to pass. While it is always a good idea to strive to be your personal best and excel in your scholarship and career, remember that striving for “perfect” might not always lead to success. Sometimes that perfect score comes at the expense of something else! So, it is OK if you don’t get that 4.0 or CALI award this year. Instead, focus on consistently reviewing and memorizing the law, consistently outlining, and in turn, you’ll likely receive consistently good scores (even if they might not be perfect!).
2. Learn to IRAC
So many students use – and misuse the IRAC Method. IRAC stands for “issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion,” and is a method for answering exam questions (and the occassional legal brief!). The idea of IRAC is that students go through an exam fact pattern, spot as many issues as possible, state the rules of law, apply the law to the facts, then arrive at conclusions. IRAC can be an incredibly helpful tool as you write law school final exams, so it’s worth adding to your list of resolutions if you don’t already use it! Not sure where to start? We put together a guide on how you can use IRAC while in law school!
3. Get Involved
Law school is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and participate in on-campus activities. After all, you only go to law school once. This year, why not use your campus resources to start a fundraiser or start your own club about something you are passionate about? Or join one of the existing associations on campus. You will meet lawyers in the community and find mentors all while doing something you enjoy. Getting involved in law school will make your time more memorable and help you meet people and network. You can also connect with your local bar association (many offer student memberships) and meet lawyers and mentors that way!
4. Ditch the Competitive Mindset
So, you want to be a lawyer. You are already in law school. You are surrounded by other go-getters and hard workers who want to be lawyers. There are only so many spots on law review. Law school is graded on a curve – only so many people can get an A in the class. There are only a handful of jobs at that top firm, and you might not get it. You have to compete to get ahead, right? Be careful, the competitive mindset can backfire. First, you might burn a bridge. Some students (and even lawyers) step on others to reach the top, which can make the top a very unhealthy place to be. Additionally, a competitive mindset means you will feel let down if you don’t get an A in the class or if the top job goes to someone else. Replace “competition” with “collaboration” this year. Work together with other students to understand a difficult case. Join a study group with students you trust. The chances are greater that you will also receive the help you need in return, which tends to lead to more success in law school!
5. Outline (Almost) Daily
Writing your law school outlines (and starting early in the semester!) is one of the most important things you can do to maximize your chances of graduating at the top of your class. Unfortunately, many students struggle with outlining because they’re not sure where to begin! An outline is something you should get in the habit of adding to every day after your class. Each class should have its own outline, and your outlines should have the rules of law and case law and in-class examples. Additionally, putting together outlines as you move your way through the semester can make it easier to memorize material. By writing your outlines in small chunks, you can memorize as you go!
Outlining is challenging work and might feel tedious at times, but it is the best way to understand the law you are learning! Outlining can help you identify problem areas early on so you can follow up with a classmate or professor for guidance. By visiting your outlines and incorporating your notes after each class, you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to studying for final exams!
6. Devote Time Every Week to Exercising
Preventing burnout and illness is extremely important for a law student. You are spending loads of time at a desk or in a classroom. You might be snacking more, drinking lots of caffeine, and sleeping less. All of the stress and pressure can take a mental and physical toll. This year, resolve to exercise every week to prevent illness, enhance your focus, and decrease stress. Working out not only helps your body stay healthy but also helps you relax and de-stress. This article discusses four ways to stay fit and motivated to exercise during bar prep or law school. This is a New Year’s Resolution you won’t regret – it can only help your focus and improve your health!
7. Get 7 Hours of Sleep Per Night
Did you know that sleep helps brain function, metabolism, mood, and memory? These are all things that, as a law student, you definitely need. During sleep, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain physical health. Many law students (and lawyers) struggle with getting enough sleep. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night is a critical habit that you can do now in order to prevent burnout and illness in the future. Of course, there will be the occasional long night of studying (or prepping for a hearing or trial in the future). Do you suffer from pre-exam anxiety and loss of sleep? Check out this post for more information on how to get a good night’s rest before an exam! explains how to get a good night’s rest before an exam!
8. Subscribe to a Law Podcast
One of the best ways to learn the law is by hearing it explained in a new or different way. There are many wonderful podcasts you can listen to that will help. Two excellent podcasts are The Law School Toolbox and the Bar Exam Toolbox. You might also enjoy Law 360 Pro Se and Above the Law’s Thinking like a Lawyer. Finally, check out Law to Fact for a refresher on law-school class topics.
Not sure if you want to spend additional time listening to law school-related podcasts? Try subscribing to some podcasts on topics that you enjoy (even if they are not law school related)! Often times, law students get caught up in studying that they forget to make time for themselves, and listening to a podcast on an area that is of particular interest to you might be a great way to recharge before or after your classes.
9. Be Patient
Finally, this year, learn to master being patient. Law school is a marathon, not a sprint. Bar prep is also a long process that requires patience. Remember you are learning, and try to figure out ways to enjoy the journey. You only will get to be in law school once. So enjoy it and take your time.