Most law students, especially 1Ls, worry so much because they feel overwhelmed and have no clue how they are doing. In other words, they feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to complete their “To-Do List.” Plus, they feel like even if they complete it, they might not feel any more confident about the material. If this sounds like you, you are in the right place! Here’s what to do when you’re stressed out in law school!
What To Do When You’re Stressed Out in Law School
Step 1: Think about why you are stressed out!
We’ve heard a million things that stress out law students. Some worry they will lose their scholarship if they don’t perform on finals. Others fear getting called on in class. Others think they don’t have enough time to outline. Regardless of what you are feeling, take a few minutes to figure out why it is you are feeling this way. For most of the issues, the “why” boils down to not knowing how you are doing in school (i.e. you only get one final grade). Or, the “why” boils down to not having enough time.
Step 2: Take some time to think of a solution to the problem (or your “why” from Step 1).
If your workload stresses you out, then your solution is you need more time. However, since we doubt you have the ability to stop time or create it, you have to work smarter—not harder. This means you need to read your assigned readings quicker. That’s right, you read the previous sentence correctly. So, you might be thinking—how? See Step 3.
If you are scared that you may not perform stellar on your final exams, the solution is simple: practice. See Step 3. Or if you think that you do not have enough time to complete outlines or practice exams—you too need more time. See Step 3.
However, it might not mean more time or more practice. It might mean improving public speaking skills. Or legal writing skills. Or something else.
The important take away here—think about how you can reduce your stress. Again, the solution for most law students is more time or practice.
Step 3: Implement your solution.
If the solution to your problem is more time, you will benefit from working smarter not harder. This does not mean cutting corners. This simply means working with the end goal in sight. Most students struggle to complete their assigned reading. This one issue creates many: feeling unprepared for class, not having time to outline, and not having time to practice exams. If this sounds familiar, spend some time trying to find a Case Briefs book tied to your text book. Once you find one, or find one that is similar enough, do the following:
- Take your casebook and open up to the assigned reading. Look at your assigned cases.
- Open the Case Briefs book and find the relevant cases. Read the Case Brief version of your case before turning to your text book.
- Once you have read the Case Brief of the case, you now know all of the important things. The issues, rules of law, holdings, etc.
- Next, turn to your case book and quickly skim the longer version. You can skim because you already know the important stuff. We do not recommend that you spend time briefing the case. Instead, jot down a sentence or two to jog your memory so you can answer if your professor calls on you. Or, highlight your case book and write notes in the margin.
(Read this post on how and why to spend less time reading cases in law school if you need a more detailed guide or rationale!!)
If you implement this routine into your schedule for your assigned readings, you will find that you finish in a third of the time it would take you to read your text book and brief. Now you have created more time.
With this extra time you should block off time each week to outline. If you are wondering how to learn and regularly actively review your law school outline, please see this post! If done weekly, you will be ahead of the game. This “extra time” is also key to finding time to practice exams, as many students claim they don’t have time to practice exams because they are scrambling to outline. Plus, you will feel more prepared to practice exams because you are taking time each week to study your class notes and put them in outline form.
Additionally, if your stress is that you have no clue how you are doing in school, practice exams can help you gauge your progress. One simple step—reading quicker, can solve many problems: create more time to outline, feel prepared for class and for final exams. Here are some helpful tips on how to take law school exams and also how to answer law school exam questions correctly.
The take away here is to actually try out the solution to your problem. You may find that you can reduce your stress with a simple change or two. Or, you may find that simply articulating your stress and attempting different avenues to reduce it, will reduce stress in itself. This is because many students feel so overwhelmed, they don’t even know where to start. So, if that’s the case—simply starting somewhere will reduce some stress.
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