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Keeping Yourself Out of the Quicksand: Time Management in Law School

2L, University of North Carolina, School of Law

There are countless metaphors for describing law school and the workload it imposes, but my personal favorite way to describe it is: quicksand. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out, and once you’re out it’s hard to avoid the next hole. Once you are behind in a class it is hard to catch up and hard to learn new material as it comes. This is where time management comes into play in law school. Time management is all about finding a system that works for you and sticking to it - the steps below are what I find to work for me.

  1. Buy a planner-and use it. I find that if I go through my syllabi and write down all of my assignments for the next week it makes it easier for me to stay on top of things and plan my week out in advance. I usually do this on the Thursday before, that way I know how much I need to get accomplished over the weekend.
  2. Go to school on Fridays. I say this because at my law school most upper level course don’t meet on Fridays- therefore I usually have a 3 day weekend. That being said, I usually still go to school for a least some of the day on Friday because I find that it is easier to be productive in an environment where people are doing school work. It also helps to not have to carry all of my books home.
  3. Figure out how long it takes to do things. One of the biggest reasons people get behind is because they don’t realize how long it takes for them to do things so they end up running out of time to get everything done. I try to combat this by making a mental note at the start of every semester of how long each reading takes. For instance, I know that if I am assigned 15 pages of evidence reading it will take me 1-1.5 hrs. depending on the difficulty and the number of problems assigned. I also know that if I am going to take reading notes afterwards I need to tack on 15 more minutes. What all this means is that I usually allot 1 hour and 45 minutes for evidence- and if I finish early it means I get a study break or I move on to the next thing ahead of schedule.
  4. Do the hardest/most dreaded thing first. I have found that if I do whatever reading I am most dreading first the rest of the reading seems to be all downhill. If I save the dreaded reading for last then the chances of me actually doing the reading drastically decreases.

These tips being said, there are countless ways to organize and manage your time. If you think about law school as being your job right now, and put as much effort into it as you would your summer internship then you will be fine.

Comments

Great post Carrie. I would also add a key time management tool that has helped me through law school is to treat school like a job. Arrive early in the morning at the same time every day and work until dinner time. By budgeting and allocating your time throughout the work day, every day, it keeps you efficient, focused, and maximizes the most useful hours in the day.

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I totally agree that the law school workload is like quicksand - a great metaphor! A related strategy that has worked well for me, related to #3 above, is to block out chunks of time by which I have to finish a certain task or reading. When I'm under pressure, I can read much faster - so if I have a several-hour-long block of time, I won't be as focused. Instead of reading aimlessly for 4 hours on a Sunday, I'll give myself 2 hours for one class, schedule a coffee date with someone or walk my dog, and then take 2 hours on another assignment. That way I impose time pressures to make sure reading doesn't take longer than it needs to.

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