It’s a new school year and the semester is now in full swing. You survived a summer job or internship and are getting back to basics: reading cases, trying to avoid getting called on in class, and wondering how you’ll make it out of law school alive. As you navigate through this semester and beyond, it’s important to think about what you want to accomplish this year. What do you hope to achieve? What plans are you making for the future?
These plans should differ slightly based on where you are in your law school career. Rising 2Ls have some different priorities than rising 3Ls, but many of the tips below are universal and can extend well beyond your time in law school. Keep reading for some motivation as you move into the new school year!
1. Review Existing Goals: What goals did you meet last year? It doesn’t matter if these are professional or personal goals. It’s important to revisit them and make sure you’re on track. You may find that some goals are no longer relevant or necessary, and you’ll likely discover that you accomplished more than you thought! And, even if you didn’t accomplish what you planned, simply being reflective will motivate you for the next step.
2. Revise and Set New Goals: Take step one and do an exercise in goal setting. Assess your strengths and weaknesses (maybe by thinking about what you accomplished last year, and what you wanted to accomplish that fell by the wayside). Think about what you really want, not what you think you should want. Come up with a few large goals, and break them down into actionable steps. Maybe ask some people you trust for feedback. Then, set a reminder somewhere to revisit this list in three months, then six, then nine...you get the idea. Keep re-calibrating. Your goals should change along with your life and needs.
3. Get Organized: Make sure you have everything you need to start the school year with no hassles. Take inventory of supplies like pens, highlighters, and notebooks, and make sure you have enough for the coming year. Taking care of what seem like minor errands before school starts can save you from stress when school is in full swing. This applies to your digital organization, too! Try platforms like Evernote and Workflowy to get your tasks and ideas in order.
4. Cultivate Healthy Habits: You want to set yourself up for success during the more difficult parts of law school, and it’s essential that you have sound self-care practices in place when it’s time to study for the bar exam. Whether this means going to bed at the same time every night, committing to drinking enough water, or establishing a workout routine (or, ideally, all three), make sure you’re treating your mental and physical health as your highest priority. Need inspiration for cultivating a gratitude practice and tips to maximize productivity and happiness? Check out Intelligent Change’s weekly newsletter and their Five Minute Journal for a kick start! The Five Minute Journal guides you through a daily mindfulness exercise, which prompts you to focus on the things in your life that matter most, and sets you up to succeed on your daily goals. It’s as simple as it sounds, but infinitely more powerful than you might expect.
5. Practice for Interviews: Though your law school probably has mock interviews in place to give students experience, make sure you know how to conduct yourself in a job interview. Learn the unspoken dress codes for different job types, practice answers to the most common questions, and draft a list of interesting questions to ask the interviewer. This type of preparation goes a long way in setting you apart from candidates who don’t take the time to prepare.
6. Figure Out What Type of Job You Want: If you want to go into Big Law, you need to know at the beginning of 2L year so you can prepare for the on-campus interview (OCI) process. If you know you want to take a less traditional legal career path, start getting creative with how to distinguish yourself. Learn how to tell your story. Use your career services office--that’s what they’re for! 3Ls should begin narrowing things down at the beginning of the year. The job hunt is important and takes time, so make it a high priority. Determine whether you’re planning to go into public interest work or into the private sector, and tailor your search from there.
7. Allocate Your Time Wisely: Whether this means saying no to a networking event to focus on a really important job application, or staying in on a Friday night to prepare for the week ahead, know when to prioritize your career and future success. You only go through law school once. In the same vein, if your school requires volunteer hours or a writing project, do these during your 2L year. During your 3L year, you’ll have less time than you think to get things like this done, and you’ll save yourself a headache by doing them early.
8. Network: Notwithstanding the advice in #7 to occasionally say no to a networking event, getting to know people in your legal community is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Many people find jobs through people they already know, and you are only doing yourself a favor by talking to as many people as possible. Take advantage of networking events offered through your school and use these to branch out. Don’t stand in the corner with a cocktail--talk to people! Lawyers and other professionals came to the event with the intention of talking to you. Don’t waste that opportunity.
9. Don’t Study for the Bar Too Early or Too Late: Commercial bar prep courses are designed to help you get what you need in the time you need it. You risk forgetting things if you start studying too far out from the exam, and you risk running out of time if you begin studying too late. Trust the timing of your bar prep course calendar.
10. Enjoy Your Life: Law school is hard and everyone is overwhelmed at some point in their law school journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Have fun, take breaks, and make sure you don’t forget to notice the little moments of joy.