It’s noon on the day after Thanksgiving and I’m taking a few hours to hang out at a local coffee shop and work while my family is out Black Friday shopping. It’s only a few weeks until exam time, and yet it’s also the beginning of the holiday season. What better time to write about balancing law school and the rest of your life?
When I was preparing for law school last summer, my career counselor asked me to take some time and think about what success in law school would mean for me. Without thinking much, I told her I wanted to get really great grades, and find a great job in three years and that would be success for me. “Really?” she asked, “What about your relationships with your boyfriend, your sister, and all your friends at home? What about your health you’ve worked so hard on? Don’t you think those should factor into what success in law school will mean for you?”
I took my counselor’s advice to heart, then, and wrote this list of the things that would mean success in law school for me:
(1) Academic Success: The grade format in law school is intimidating because of the grade curve and the single exam, so I really have no way of knowing if I’ll get the kind of grades I want, or if I’ll have to settle for a little less. What I can control though, is how much work I put in. Success for me will mean I gave it my all – I did all the homework, I went to all the classes, and I spent enough time preparing for exams.
(2) Strong Relationships: Success in law school for me will mean I both maintained the relationships that are most important to me, and also made new connections with people in law school. Success will mean keeping my relationship my boyfriend strong. It will mean being around for the important events in my sister’s last year of high school. It will mean keeping in touch with my friends from home, and making new friends in Boston.
(3) Health: Sucess in law school for me will mean I eat reasonably healthy foods in reasonable portions, I’ll get enough exercise, and I’ll get enough sleep. It will mean I keep working to strengthen my joints and fight the good fight against early onset arthritis.
I know if I fail at any of the three of these, I’ll be upset with my law school experience in the long run. Knowing that, I’ve come to view the time I’m not spending studying in a different light. When I spend a Saturday at home in New Hampshire sitting on the couch and watching football with my boyfriend and our dogs, I’m working on point (2) of my law school success. When I stop reading at 10:30pm and go to bed because I’m tired and my hands hurt, I’m working on point (3) of my law school success. I remind myself of this a lot when I start feeling guilty or a little panicked about my schoolwork. I’m going to do my best on that, but it is only a part of what will make these three years a success for me.