Aspen Publishing

Back to Blog List

Topics/Previous Posts

Law School is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

2L, University of Georgia School of Law

“Where am I?”

I looked up at the faces that shadowed mine, blocking out the bright Georgia sun. As I glanced groggily around, I remembered that I was at my high school state cross country meet – I had collapsed about a tenth of a mile from the finish line.

“No, no, I’m fine,” I gasped, embarrassed as my coach and teammates loaded me onto the first aid golf cart, which quickly whisked me away toward the medical tent where other injured runners were recuperating. When I reached the tent, I bore the further disgrace of being forced to lie down with an oxygen mask on my face while my mom, ever the photographer, snapped photos of my sun-splotched face and heaving diaphragm.

Looking back now, my family and I often laugh about this experience, but it illustrates an important lesson that I have learned during my law school studies: law school is a marathon, not a sprint. At the cross country meet, I started out much too fast, exceeding my usual pace during the first mile of the race so that, when I reached the three-mile marker, I passed out. In the same way, if you approach law school as a sprint, as opposed to a marathon, you can similarly find yourself “passing out” emotionally and physically.

I’m sad to say that my approach to my first semester of law school was decidedly sprint-like. I had my first class each day at 9 AM and would study after classes were over until two o’clock in the morning - I rarely got more than 5 hours of sleep a night. I also didn’t take time to relax, believing that the only way I could “beat the curve” was to out-study my classmates. Although I did well grade-wise at the end of my first semester, I finished it with dark bags under my eyes, a sickly complexion, and an exhausted mind.

After the nightmare of my first semester, I resolved to do things differently for the second. I tried my best to get close to 8 hours of sleep each night, and I took time to run, go to the gym, read, and date. I still studied a lot, but I didn’t overdo it – I resolved to study smarter, not harder. At the end of the semester, my grades were just as good as were my first semester grades, and I ended the year with a rested look, the beginnings of a tan, and a mind ready to take on the challenges of my summer internship.

Last month, I ran a half-marathon. I started out at a moderate pace and maintained it throughout the course. I refrained from rushing up the looming hills that confronted me and instead opted to climb them steadily and determinedly. At the end of the race, my feet were covered in blisters and my clothes were covered in sweat, but I felt like I could run another 10 miles and I wasn’t stretched out on a table wearing an oxygen mask. In running, as in law school, I had learned my lesson: consistent effort wins the race, not bursts of frantic activity.


So many 1Ls get caught up in the pressures of first semester, and forget to take time for themselves: exercise, family gatherings, and the occasional night off are all as important as they were 6 months before law school started. I think the stressful nature of 1L year causes students to reach out to their classmates to discuss their anxieties, hoping for solidarity with others who are going through the same new experience. Unfortunately, these conversations, which are meant to be a stress relief, often turn into a tit-for-tat "who's doing more work, and who's working longer hours" conversation. Students don't suddenly lose the competitive edge that got them into law school when they talk to classmates, and these conversations perpetuate the stress that so many students hope to shed when they reach out to friends. My advice would be to try socializing with your peers, but maintain relationships and hobbies outside of law school as well. It is important to remember that this 3 year period, while important, should not be your defining characteristic. You are more than a law student, you should have more interests than the First Amendment or the Rule Against Perpetuities, and keeping that in mind is the key to law school success. What's more, if you can't remember how to live a balanced life in law school, how will you maintain balance once you start a busy career?


Leave a Comment

(Input is case sensitive)

 Only comments approved by post author will be displayed

Back to Blog List