Scare you to death, work you to death, bore you to death

One of the very first things I heard as a 1L, from one of my favorite professors, was this old law school adage. Supposedly, it goes like this: “1L – scare you to death; 2L – work you to death; 3L – bore you to death.”  For whatever reason, that saying got stuck in my head early on. I know I’ve blogged about it before. To be completely honest, I got pretty fixated on this phrase, and I’ve spent most of my law school career passively trying to figure out if it’s accurate or not. Well, big news! I’m graduating in 2 weeks, 10 hours, and 24 minutes (I may or may not have a countdown clock installed on my computer), and this may very well be my last ever blog post as a law student, so I’ve decided that the time has come to share my answer!

1L – Scare you to death. Answer: True, with one caveat

Listen, 1L was scary. That might be the word I would most use to describe it, actually, even if I hadn’t heard that scare you work you bore you thing. Every single experience for most of the first year, from cold calls to summer job interviews to moot court to briefing cases, was completely, horrifically, new.  I was at a particular disadvantage (or at least it felt that way) because I knew virtually nothing about the law when I sat down in that first Contracts class. I had to learn basic procedural things (like what summary judgment meant), along with the substantive law that was being pounded into my brain 29 hours a day. The threat of a cold call loomed over me always, made even worse by the fact that I didn’t understand 90% of what I was reading for the first few months. I was terrified of making mistakes and revealing the full depth of my idiocy to the entire class, and that was the scariest part.

Even after settling into a groove sometime around November, 1L was still scary. Law school finals are unlike any other tests most people have taken, so preparing for them for the first time is akin to jumping into a swimming pool that might be filled with water but also might be filled with lava. I had no clue what to expect. Furthermore, I’ve never felt the same amount of pressure and fear of failure as I did as a first semester 1L. Your grades are curved against your peers, and it’s almost impossible not to measure yourself against what others are saying or doing. I was prepping as hard as I could for tests that I didn’t know how to take, and I was convinced that everyone was doing everything better than me.

Finally, other parts of 1L were scary, too. I didn’t know how or when to apply for jobs, let alone which jobs to apply for. I was nervous about making new friends. I was terrified the first time I had to argue a case during moot court, in front of a panel of fake judges. I had to learn how to do legal citations with the BlueBook, which is a bafflingly complex process. I had to go to job interviews with attorneys and try to convince them that my 7 months of law school made me somehow qualified to work for them. It just seemed like, every time I started to feel secure during 1L, there was always a new experience that I had to conquer, and I couldn’t get my bearings to save my life.

The caveat about “scare you to death” year is this: although 1L was absolutely terrifying in so many ways, I came out of that year truly proud of myself in a way that I have never felt, either before or since. I sort of hate the term “self-growth,” but that’s what happened to me. I went into 1L unsure of so many things about myself, and I came out a totally different person. I think I learned more in my first two semesters in law school than I did in my entire college career, and I was truly amazed at how far I had come. Even better, I got decent grades, I made new friends, I learned that I was pretty good at moot court, and I figured out that my time/stress management skills were on par with the best of them. Basically, I came out of 1L year with the confidence that I might actually be a good lawyer one day, and I truly mean it when I say that all the fear in the world is worth it if it ultimately produces that kind of confidence in your own abilities.

2L – Work you to death. Answer: Absolutely, unequivocally true.

For the past two years, I’ve been a 1L advisee, which means I am paired up with two or three 1Ls and I pass down to them my sage words of wisdom about law school. Given my impending graduation, I guess it’s time to admit something: I’ve been blatantly lying to my advisees. You see, in the midst of all that 1L terror, when grades and cold calls weigh upon you every moment of every day, it’s really hard to accept the possibility that there might actually be an even harder phase of law school ahead of you. That knowledge might make you lose hope on the whole endeavor. So, when my advisees say to me, “1L is the hardest, though, right?” I nod and I look them in the eyes and I say, “Oh yeah, it definitely is.”

This statement is a blatant, bold-faced lie. I say it for the greater good of my advisees, because thinking about 2L is the absolute last thing they need to do in the middle of finals, but it’s a lie. 2L is the hardest, if by “hardest” you mean “the hardest year of your entire life to date in finding any kind of work-life balance.” This is due to a combination of factors. Most noticeably, your workload in individual classes goes up drastically; professors assume that, with one year of law school under your belt, you’re much better at briefing cases and understanding legal principles than you used to be. Although that’s true, it’s still quite the transition to go from having say, 15 pages of reading for one 4-credit class each night, to something more like 40. Multiply that by two or three, and suddenly you have a massive amount of reading to do every day.

The second problem is that you’re expected to participate in more things outside of strictly schoolwork as a 2L. Journals, moot court, clinics, mock trial, student organizations, pro bono activities, and many, many other things are all options that are available to you, and guess what? You really need to participate in at least some of them in order to have something to put on that nice top portion of your resume, a.k.a. the thing employers see first. Finally, you have the issue of trying to get a job lined up for your 2L summer. By this point, you probably have a better idea of what field you may want to go into, and it can be paradoxically more stressful trying to figure out how to get a toe in that particular door than when you were a 1L, hoping that someone somewhere on earth would hire you to do something that was even vaguely related to law. The job search often stretches well into the spring, so you’re juggling all of your increased school responsibilities with that whole process as well, and it can be very, very hard to manage.

There are things you can do to alleviate this stress, of course. You can make sure not to take more than a couple of four-credit classes each semester; you can choose carefully about how many extracurriculars you want to get involved with, from journal to moot court to clinics; you can (maybe) get a firm job for your 2L summer lined up before school even starts so you won’t have to worry about interviews all year. But the thing is: you almost certainly aren’t going to be able to do all of those things.  I personally thought, at the beginning of 2L, that I was doing a good job of managing my time. I took four classes each semester, roughly 14 or 15 credits total; I joined a journal; and I participated in moot court during the fall and the spring. That was pretty much it. On paper it seemed fine and yet, somehow, my schedule still meant that I spent more weekends than not holed up in my apartment like a hoarder, surrounded by giant books and pondering why on earth I had done this to myself. My work-life balance was at an all-time low that year and, sadly, I think that’s a pretty typical experience for 2Ls.

My point is simply this: 2L WILL be stressful. It just will be. It might not be as bad as mine, or it might be worse, but you will absolutely be shocked by how much more work you have to do than when you were a 1L. For that reason, I have to conclude that 2L is most certainly the “work you to death” year.

3L – Bore you to death. Answer: Not true.

It might seem like I’m lying when I say that this one isn’t true, but it really isn’t! (Keep in mind that I’m graduating in 2 weeks and I already have a job lined up, so I really don’t have much of an incentive to lie about how my last year of law school has been.)

One of the great things about surviving 2L is that you probably knocked out a ton of core, bar-tested classes along the way: things like Corporations, Trusts, Wills, & Estates, and Administrative Law. This means that your 3L schedule is much more open, and you can finally (hopefully) fill your days with classes that interest you. That was my experience, anyways. As a 3L, I took legal history classes, a 14th Amendment class with one of my favorite professors, and a Law and Sexual Minorities seminar that ended up being probably my favorite class in law school. None of these classes were boring to me, because they were about subjects I’m interested in.

So, no, I wouldn’t say 3L is “boring” per se. But the year does feel … something. It’s not quite that classes are irrelevant, but things like grades and class attendance matter much less to you as a 3L than they did earlier. A large part of this is the frustration you feel at being so close to graduating and facing the real life problems of being a lawyer, yet still being saddled with a ton of schoolwork. You have to get a job lined up, which is more critical to your success than all the A’s in the world, and you have to start preparing for taking the bar in July. Even more than that, I think, is the fact that many 3Ls are just tired by this point. It’s hard to keep that level of dedication up for three solid years, and I think most people are ready to begin a new phase of their careers by the time spring of 3L rolls around. All of this means that 3L is a very particular type of psychological struggle, but it’s certainly not boring!

Whew! That was a long blog post! Then again, it’s been a long three years, so I guess that makes sense. I’m not sure if I’ll write another post or not before graduation, so I’ll just say now that it’s been very fun to share my thoughts on this blog throughout my law school experience. To any law school hopefuls out there: I hope some of the things I’ve said have been even slightly helpful to you in deciding whether law school is the right choice for you. And finally, I’ll conclude by saying that, to anyone struggling through law school right now, I promise you will make it through. You can do this!

Transition from Law School to your Summer Job

As I was sitting in the Career Development Office’s final event of the semester, “How To Have a Successful Summer” last week, I realized that I would be starting my summer position in less than two weeks. My employment over last summer was a bit unique in that I worked at the same law firm that I had worked at previously. However, this does not mean that there was not an adjustment to be made as I transitioned out of what was the constant hustle and bustle of law school finals and into a more structured work style. Below are some tips and some general thoughts on how best to transition from law school to your summer job.

For those who have never held a full time job and went straight from undergrad to law school, their first summer job can create a lot of anxiety of not knowing what to expect. One of the major adjustments is needing to focus and be attentive for a steady 8-10 hour period of time. While law school is certainly busy and no law student is a stranger to those dreaded 12-14 hour days during finals period, work time requires a different kind of attention. Unlike law school where you can pick and choose when you want to do work over the course of the day, work largely requires you to get your work done within a certain window of time. Also procrastination (something many law students can relate to) is not a good idea for law students in their summer job as time management is critical and something summer employers will often emphasize.

If you are like me and it takes a while to get your day moving in the morning, plan to get to work a half hour early to start your day. Getting into this kind of routine at work can help avoid some of the unnecessary stress. In addition, having a good repertoire with your supervisors and coworkers is important in any summer job. While law school is largely an independent exercise, learning how to work collectively and part of a team is a big part of any job and an important skill to gain. In addition, knowing how to work for superiors and being clear about things like deadlines and expectations for an assignment can be helpful for any new summer employee.

Lastly, getting into a healthy routine outside of work is important to have success at your summer job. You may see that you have a lot more time on your hands on weeknights and weekends especially compared to finals period. However, it’s not advisable to use this extra time to go to the bar around the corner from work every night. Joining a running club or participating in sports is a great way to balance the monotony of the work week and also continue maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Alternatively, you can work on pending school items over the summer such as OCI preparation or your journal note (which I hopefully will be doing).

I hope everyone enjoys their summer and I look forward to checking back in with you soon!

Today’s secret word is …

Readers, I’ve been holding out on you. There’s one essential ingredient for success in law school that I haven’t yet let you in on.

So, here it is: love. Specifically, the love of my husband. Sorry, you can’t have him. Maybe you’ll find your own anchor, confidante, comedian, and helpmeet? Good luck!

Without him (and I hate when people say this, but it’s true), I don’t know that I would have gone to law school in the first place or survived it with my sanity intact.

Today's secret word is ... LOVE. (Image from that one trippy Pee-Wee episode where the playhouse goes to space.)

“Today’s secret word is LOVE. … For the rest of the day, whenever anybody says the secret word, scream real loud!” (Image from that one trippy Pee-Wee episode where the playhouse goes to space.)

We got engaged while waiting on LSAT results and were married a couple of months before law school, which means our third anniversary is popping up just days after I graduate, and that we’ve been in law school together essentially the whole time we’ve been married. I got calls about law school admissions on our honeymoon, for goodness’ sake!

Many (many, many) people told us when we started that we’d be divorced before it was over. Sorry, clairvoyants.

Law school has shaped our marriage, and for the better, I think.

There were times when I actually cried because I missed him — when, even though we lived together, we were so, so busy, it felt like we’d barely had a conversation in weeks. Now, we make time for each other. I began making a real dinner whenever I could sometime in our second year, and we eat together (when we can), too. We chat while I stir, and while he does the dishes. This is love: Communicating because you want to, and because you care about what the other has to say.

That doesn’t mean our study habits mesh perfectly. Right now, we’re sitting basically back-to-back in our preferred spots, me on the couch and him at his desk (mine hasn’t been used in days), while he plays a quiet song that doesn’t drive me nuts and I have on all the floor lamps instead of the chandelier. We read to each other when we come to something interesting, and toss ideas off each other as we write. This is what respect and compromise look like in a law school romance.

We’ve had the excellent opportunity to take (budget) vacations together in our time off in the winter and summer, far more time than we would have had if we were still in our old jobs. We’ve stretched a dollar. We’ve moved somewhere new. We’ve coexisted in (almost) 600 square feet, with a cat.

Taking the whole wedding photo thing about as seriously as we should take everything.

Taking the whole wedding photo thing about as seriously as we should take everything.

 

What a joy it has been, getting to know my social justice warrior and compassionate partner even better in the pursuit of a common goal. Three years down, ninety-three to go.

What can you do to have what I have?

In my first-year section of law school, to my memory, there was one other married woman, a married man, a couple of engaged people, and a few in long-distance or local longer-term relationships. A few paired off with people from our section, others paired with fellow students from other sections, a few began relationships with new non-lawyers (mostly online, let’s be honest), and a lot of people casually dated or ‘hooked up.’ (I’m too old and married to ask for details there.)  Most people found what worked for them, I think.

I honestly don’t know what makes some people cleave together and others cleave apart (“cleave” is a delightful contronym, huh?), but I do know how invaluable a great partner is. So, if you’ve got one coming into law school, I suggest keeping him or her around. I know it’s yet another thing to work on when you’re working on some of the hardest actual work you’ve faced so far, but when it works, it’s even more rewarding than an A on a final exam.

Whatever support you have now will become all the more important, so whether it’s friends, or family, or maybe even a therapist, don’t let those relationships slide when you get overwhelmed by school. You won’t regret it.

… Also, my husband always teased me that I should write about him when I was coming up short on ideas for this blog, and now that I’m just a few weeks from graduation, it seemed like now or never! Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

Staying Healthy During Final Exams

It’s the last week of class here at BU Law, and that means one thing – finals season in here. As the end of my 1L year draws near, we all know that my body is a temple and I am a pure being who eats nothing but kale I’m one short night away from double-fisting two cold brew iced coffees trying to remember what sleep is. As study schedules expand and the amount of time in the day seems to shrink, it can be hard trying to stay healthy right about now. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that our bodies can only function as well as we allow them to, and ultimately we’ll be much better off if we take good care of ourselves. Luckily, there are some things that we can try to do to make staying healthy during finals a little bit easier.

Before we begin, something to consider at the outset – and this seems to be the one piece of advice that frequently makes it into my blog posts, regardless of topic – figure out what is going to work best for you. You know yourself best, and it’s all about being realistic. If you aren’t someone who exercises regularly, it might not be a good idea to go into finals season expecting to wake up at 7 AM every morning to go for a run. Or maybe you love exercising but have never been able to cook without lighting something on fire, and cooking dinner every night is just not going to happen. Everything is about balance, and you don’t want your new health kick to end up stressing you out even more. Even baby steps towards healthier living can make a world of difference.

1. Stay hydrated
This is so important, and yet often overlooked. When you are going to be spending long days studying, properly hydrating your body is a simple way to keep yourself functioning at top form. It will help keep you feeling awake and energized, and less likely to reach for those cookies that you totally only brought for your study group to have and not just for you. Infusing your water or even just adding lemon juice can be even better, and have great effects on your metabolism and energy level.

Not your forte?
Just fill one large water bottle and bring it with you when you leave in the morning, and try to finish it by the end of your day.

2. Eat Well
In a similar vein to staying hydrated, monitoring what you put into your body is incredibly important to make sure you are functioning at your highest capacity. Eating the right kinds of foods can mean the difference between being alert and being sluggish and jittery, particularly if you’re drinking a lot of caffeine. Don’t skip meals, and try to opt for more generally healthy options. Instead of fried foods, see if there are grilled options. Instead of fries on the side, maybe opt for fruits instead.

Not your forte?
The next time you go to the grocery store, focus just on your snack selections. Instead of potato chips and candy, opt for popcorn and nuts. That way when you don’t need to think about how to prepare healthy meals and can just reach for snacks during a study grind.

3. Exercise
Exercising is a proven way to help clear your mind and improve your mood. The benefits that accompany even just 15 minutes of exercise are huge, and particularly helpful to you and your body during exam season. Be reasonable here- this is just about making choices to be more active throughout the day, whether its a getaway gym session, or just a walk around the neighborhood.

Not your forte?
Just do a routine of squats, push-ups, and sit-ups for 5 or 10 minutes either in the morning or at night. This light exercise will help boost your metabolism and help you sleep a little easier at night.

4. Relax
Ultimately, you won’t be any good during the exam if you’re a nervous wreck. Making sure that you maintain your sanity is also an important part of adequate exam preparation, and it needs to stay at the top of your priority list. This will look different for everyone! For some, it may mean making sure you get enough time to sleep every night. For some, it may mean unplugging from virtual reality and spending some quality time with friends or family. Whatever your preferred relaxation method is, make sure that you make time for yourself to get some rest and relaxation in.

Not your forte?
If this is challenging for you, or you need help identifying ways to manage stress, BU has some excellent resources for students. Take the time to make an appointment with a counselor at Student Health Services, or ask a faculty member for advice.

Finals: Part II

Finals: Part II

It seems like yesterday when the weather was a little chillier, the days a little shorter, and the time in the library sooooooo much longer. Yep, it’s here again: FINALS TIME. Although it’s never (ever) a pleasant time, I am much happier to say that this finals season I will be applying the intel I gathered from last finals seasons and hopefully not be making the same (or as many) mistakes. Straight from my experiences as a first-semester 1L and reporting to you live as (finally) a rising 2L, here are some first finals season takeaways and second finals seasons things to do:

#GymLife

This finals season try branching out and making a new friend: the gym. The gym should be your friend not only because “it’s good for you…healthy life….etc etc,” but also because 12+ hours of sitting will drive you crazy. Especially when those 12+ hours are spent studying for a single exam that makes up your entire grade for a single class and defines the success of your entire semester. But, no stress right? Yeah, the treadmill is looking a lot friendlier now, I know. And just think, in addition to alleviating stress and having an outlet for all the pent up energy you’re not expending, you’re also going to look great. You do your best when you look your best…that’s the motto, right?

Set Up Camp

Think less summer sleepaway camp and more like military bunker. Finals time is all about finding your study spot and—short from peeing on it or writing your name on it—mark it your own. There’s truly few things as frustrating as pumping yourself up for a multiple-hour study binge only to wander aimlessly in the building searching for a place to actually sit down any study (it may look like a big building but it happens often). Even more efficient: set up camp with a few friends. This way, if you decide you want to hit the snooze buttons a few times in the morning, you know you have a friend who can ward off those study space invaders.

Meal Prep is a Major Key

I know what you’re thinking about this one: isn’t meal preparation just for those Instagram fitness models or body builders? While I would usually agree, I’ve learned that meal prep is ingenious for maybe real life but definitely for finals season. Trust me (and my bank account), you WILL go broke spending money ordering in lunch and even dinner to the library. Save your money for better expenses (like caffeinated drinks or post-finals alcoholic drinks) and make a bunch of meals for the week at home. The law school keeps multiple refrigerators and microwaves throughout the building for your convenience! Take advantage!

Treat Yourself

Finals season is no walk in the park, but probably more comparable to the actual Boston Marathon. No one enjoys 4 cumulative final exams in a span of 2 weeks (and if you do—you’ve really hit your stride here at law school). Most of the time, you will feel defeated, broken down, and utterly exhausted. This is the time to treat yourself for the minor victories! Did you just understand a concept that you totally had no idea what the professor was talking about in class? Make yourself an ice cream sundae! Did you wake up at 8am to spend another 10 hour day in the library for the third day in a row? Watch that extra episode on Netflix! Are you almost done with the worst year of law school ever and about to make it to your 2L year and thus be almost halfway a lawyer? You take that one hour walk around the Charles River! You go you—you deserve it!

Perspective

Nothing is more valuable than knowing that it’s almost over. Sure, it’s a stressful time but hey, it’s only 2 weeks! You just got done with an entire semester, you can handle 2 more weeks! Start a countdown to something that’s more exciting than finals as a kind of “light at the end of the tunnel.” Mark down days in the calendar and feel accomplished you’re one day closer. But, most of all, remind yourself that life goes on after finals. It never really feels like it, but I promise you, there IS a real world out there beyond the windows of this building. And soon you’ll be a part of it! (Until Fall starts at least…)