The GSU College of Law Library is excited to post this 4th installment of “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Law Students, and other interesting folks write actual letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. Today, we’ve got a dispatch from (and to) 3L (and Law Library GRA) Ross Crowell…
Dear My 1L Self,
This is going to sound crazy, but you do not have to be the last person at the Law Library every night. I know you have always been told by everyone your entire life that you can succeed by outworking everyone else, but here that ideology does not work. By mid-December, you will be completely burned out and your brain will barely be able to function. Work hard, but do not make law school the only thing in your life.
While you are studying, do not worry about day-to-day issues. If you cannot figure out a case on a random Tuesday in October, odds are it will have no impact on your grade. If you get called on and are not sure of the answer, it is not the end of the world. Everyone else is in the same boat as you, just trying their best to get by.
Once you start studying for exams, do not just focus on memorizing information, as that will not benefit you on the exam. Get your outlines completed during Thanksgiving break, then spend the next week before finals working on practice problems. Do not just read a problem and casually jot down your thoughts. You need to get in the habit of writing out full answers under a time limit. Once you practice writing out these answers several times, you will have a better feel for timing on the exam.
Additionally, over Thanksgiving break (and the rest of the semester), do not spend a disproportionate amount of your time on Lawyering Foundations. While the class is important, do not waste your entire Thanksgiving break reading over your final memo 100 times. Make time for your other classes as well. Further, do not worry about the abundance of negative feedback you get on your papers; your bosses the next two summers will let you know that your writing is just fine.
Finally, it is important to remember to enjoy life. Watch Sunday Night Football instead of stressing over the case you just read but do not understand. Go for runs and bike rides during the week. Play Xbox and let your brain turn off for an hour or two. Also, eat some salads and do not just heat up frozen pasta dishes when you get home at 8:00 every night; your brain and body will feel much better. I know this goes against everything you have heard in life up to this point, but working harder and longer than everyone does not guarantee you success. Work hard, but do not make school the only focus in your life. It might sound crazy now, but your brain will be fresh and ready to go in December for Finals.
The GSU College of Law Library is excited to announce an all new Blackacre Times Series – “Dear My 1L Self.” In this series, Librarians, Law Library GRAs, Students, and maybe even alumni will write letters to their 1L selves giving them advice and telling them what to expect from law school and the practice of law. We hope that some of this advice will be transferable to our readers, and show that even the most experienced of us have made a lot of mistakes. So, without further ado…
Dear 1L Patrick,
DO NOT fake it till you make it. You are starting law school and are so much less prepared than you actually think. The things that made you good at high school and college, mainly being really good at remembering lots of information, are NO LONGER USEFUL. I mean, they’ll always be useful, but if you don’t strip down your intellectual process and rework your approach from the ground up you’re not going to do very well. Read books about how to succeed in law school and do a ton of practice problems. Having a really well put together outline will not matter if you don’t spend some time learning how to take law school exams. In fact, you’ll end up getting a C+ in contracts, the class you basically explained to everyone all semester, because you didn’t really get what the professor wanted in the exam.
This “clever slacker” persona that you’ve whole heartedly accepted for yourself will no longer work. You’ll need to learn to ask for help, and give things enough time so asking for help is an option. Remember when you were an undergrad and took symbolic logic and were terrified you’d fail, so you went to every office hour and ended up getting the best grade in the class? You need to be that engaged for every. single. class. I know you are very confident about your ability to do this. That’s great, but it’s basically unfounded. Innate ability alone is not going to be enough to do well. You have a lot of work to do, and it’s better that this gut check comes from me (us?) now than after a whole semester of very inefficient work. Go see your professors now. Be engaged in class. Stop asking other 1L’s for advice – they’re more clueless than you. Instead, bite the bullet and utilize your professors and academic success department. Do things the right way. This is the only way you’re going to do as well as you want.
Also, stop going to chicken wing night every Tuesday at the William Penn Tavern. If you can’t stay in, at least go late and leave early. You can watch the Pittsburgh Penguins by yourself at home.
As we get closer to exams you may be wondering how to make the most of your study time. One of the biggest distractions can be the constant barrage of new text messages, emails, and social media posts. Studies have shown that every time you check email or look at social media you lose 23 minutes. However, there are some things you can do to create a distraction free study space.
Turn off the notifications on your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. You can control when you take a break from studying instead of being at the mercy of notifications.
Install an anti-distraction app. See some suggestions below.
If your phone is the problem, set it on airplane mode while you are studying
Freedom– Mac, iOS, Windows – You can use Freedom on your devices, computer, iPhone, and iPad. An Android subscription to (OFFTIME) Pro (see below) is included with purchase. Freedom allows you to block specific websites and apps or the entire internet. You can schedule specific times for the blocking to start and even put your device in locked mode. However, Freedom is not free. (See what I did there?) You can get unlimited access on a month by month basis for $6.99/month. If you commit to a year, it is $29/year.
(OFFTIME) – Android and iOS ((OFFTIME) Light) phones – (OFFTIME) allows you to block apps, calls, text, and notifications. The Android version allows you to select people who can still get through. The app has some other interesting features such as analytics of your phone usage and the ability to invite others to a shared (OFFTIME). The less robust (OFFTIME) Light is $2.99 for iOS devices. The Android pricing is somewhat unclear. It appears that you can download the app for free and upgrade to (OFFTIME) Pro for a suggested payment of 3 Euro.
SelfControl – OS X – SelfControl allows you to block email and websites for a period of time that you choose. Caution: Once it is started you can not turn it off until the timer runs out. It is Free Software under the GNU General Public License (GPL). If you know how to code, you can make changes to the sourcecode posted on Github.
Focus Lock – Android – Lock out selected apps for a set period of time. The default setting is for 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. Free.
Focus – Mac – Block websites and apps for a set period of time. Focus also allows you to schedule blocked times. A license for one Mac is $19.99.
Looking for other options? Try search anti-distraction apps to find what works best for you.
Now, stop being distracted and get back to studying. Good luck on exams!