Law School,  Work Life Balance

Put in the Work: Preparing for Finals

We talk a lot about stress in law school, especially during finals time because guuuurrrl it is stressful! Beyond anything you experience in college. It is a mental mind melt and it can feel confusing as to why it feels so rough. Trust that you’re not alone in feeling frustrated and that it’s very normal to feel like you’re at a loss during finals. You’re about to go into exams without any real idea of how well you understand the concepts you’ve been learning. It’s all riding on these grades and not only is it curved, but you also have to worry about format. Issa lot.

But it’s not impossible. There is still enough time between you and finals that you probably aren’t feeling the pinch. So take advantage of this time now to make a plan of action. What can you do to prepare and be as stress-free as possible?

One. Control what you can, let go of what you can’t. I remember being so furious (stress-induced) about having to work at Express during my 1L year. I had to take as many shifts as I could to make ends meet. I would commute from the gold coast to ravenswood (so far!!) late at night, tired and behind in my readings. It just felt so unfair because I had friends who didn’t have to work; who lived literally across the street from the school; everything just seemed easier. It wore me out to feel like I had to work harder just for crumbs. But knowing what I know now, I realize I gave too much of my energy and time focusing on why things weren’t working for me and should have focused on figuring out ways to make my situation better. Seriously, finding a new job, closer to my apartment would have made a difference. That was something I could control. So instead of worrying about things you can’t change, focus on what you can. You can create a study schedule, you can do your best to abide by it, you can set boundaries, and you can ask for help.

Two. Take care of yourself. Setting boundaries and seeking help is important. Lots of things can happen during finals. And we often subconsciously self-sabotage. We’ll take a mini-emergency as an excuse to not study; to go full-force to redress the emergency rather putting yourself first. Look, obviously we’ll choose family in real emergencies every time. But finals is a finite period. Make it a point to put yourself first during this time so that you excel in your exams. And if you feel like the pressure is more than normal, always-always-always seek out help from your school’s counseling services.

Three. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Have you mastered IRAC? Are you comfortable writing answers in this format? It’s not enough to know the rule/have an analysis. You need to format your answer in a way that’s succinct and persuasive. Practice as much as you can. Go to professor’s open hours to ask for feedback. Attend workshops that student groups may host–and if you’re a student leader for a Latinx student group (or something similar) please make an effort to host these types of workshops!

And the final point is to think long-term. I remember skipping a big, huge job fair because I had to work a shift at my part-time job. My career counselor gave me a lot of shit for missing it because it was the the go-to event if you wanted something in public interest. I bit my tongue but remember thinking, “lady, I have rent to pay. I don’t have time to network at a random event.” And yes, it was true. I needed to have money for rent. Obviously, don’t get behind on rent. But could I have tried to move my shift around? Could I have done more to find a solution so that I could attend? Yes! And I didn’t. Because I was thinking short-term (I need rent money) vs. long-term: I need a solid job post-law school.

Unfortunately, law school requires a lot of this type of strategic thinking and sacrificing time/money/comfort to get to your goal. It’s exhausting and it’s worse around finals time. But it’s doable. And I know you are capable of doing what needs to get done.

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