One of the silver linings of quarantine has been seeing my fellow law students going back to their old hobbies and investing again in leisure. With the hectic schedule of 1L, preserving time to relax and participate in activities that bring joy can be difficult and seem impossible. Having hobbies is so crucial to wellbeing, though, not only because it provides an opportunity to think about something other than law school, but because it’s a safe space to fail and to be bad at something. Especially with so many summer internships going remote or being canceled, this is the perfect opportunity to invest in some self-care and leisure.
If given the choice, I would rather be outdoors every single moment of daylight.
This can be a difficult lifestyle to maintain in the midst of the chaos of law school and especially now, when staying inside is so crucial to public health. My way around the need to stay inside has been to bring the outdoors in with container vegetable gardens. Fair warning about choosing a hobby: If you choose something like gardening or plants, some of them will die. It may break your heart. That is ok. If you choose something that you aren’t very good at yet, you have to consciously decide that it’s ok for you to not be good at it. I started drawing last year but got discouraged at how truly bad at it I was, so I decided it would be better to choose something that didn’t make me feel worse about myself.
Friends have told me that since the beginning of quarantine they have started reading again, playing music, painting, writing, running, and sewing. Each one of them has said it with a twinge of guilt, but mostly joy at having the opportunity to do something that makes them happy.
If you are on the market for a law-school friendly hobby, here are a few fun ones to consider!
And to convince you all to come to the dark side of gardening, just look at this tiny little celery sprout and the crazy growth on my potato plant!
I want to know all your weird hobbies and to hear about how you are handling this rapidly changing time! Reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife!
Well folks, I hope the end of the semester is treating you well. I finally limped through the last of my exams and now have a few days to recoup after the heavy emotional toll that limping to the end took. As we all continue to adjust to this new world we live in and to working remotely, I thought I would share the five tools that have gotten me through my seasons of working from home.
I am currently on a five- to six-cups of coffee a day habit, but I still get immersed in my work and forget that I have coffee waiting for me. Very few things are as disappointing to me as a lukewarm cup of coffee, and we don’t have a microwave for easy reheating (plus, microwaved coffee gets kind of weird, let’s be real). So we have invested in enough of these cheap mug warmers to have one in each room of the house, because we are extra extra, and I never have to think about my coffee getting cold.
I love, love, love these notebooks. I keep everything in them from my reading, grocery, and wish lists to phone numbers, my daily schedule, and all of my to-dos. Sometimes I jot little poems or quotes or things I am thinking down in them as well. They are small enough to stash in my back pocket if I am doing things that require movement and very, very sturdy. Look out for sales on their website and at your university bookstore (if we ever get to go back to campus), because when they go on sale they are one of the most cost-effective notebooks I have found.
I love these headphones because they block out noise like no other headphones I’ve ever had, and they customize your listening experience based on your hearing profile. Plus, they have the option to rent a pair instead of purchasing. If anything happens to your headphones while you’re renting, they will send you a new pair. I am a broke law student, so I deeply appreciate the cheaper and insured option here. I don’t know if I would have survived exams with a roommate and a dog if I didn’t have the option to go into my own little soundproof universe of focus.
This project board is much more organized than the eclectic wall of stickies I set up for exam preparation but having a color-coded system with big font and easily moveable pieces worked VERY well for me. As I’m getting ready to start my virtual summer internship, I’m going to translate what I did for exams into something a little nicer to look at.
There have been plenty of jokes and memes about how everyone is dealing with quarantine by baking sourdough, but I feel like what better way to comfort ourselves than freshly baked carbs loaded with butter. My one recommendation if you are following this recipe, don’t ever punch your dough down. Treat it gently, as though it had feelings. You don’t want to destroy all the goodness that your yeast or sourdough starter has worked so hard to create.
Stay safe and well, fellow sojourners, and as always, feel free to reach out on Twitter and Instagram @the1lLife and let me know how you are hanging in!
[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]
Today, I attended my last law school class, and it finally hit me: after next week, I will no longer be a law student. The realization is bittersweet: I’m ready to be finished with law school, I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life; but I’ll also miss my friends … the familiarity of it all … my campus.
You might say I’ve been feeling a little sentimental these past few days, so it only seemed fitting to take you down memory lane with me. As a 1L it can be hard to look past the intensity of the coursework and the grading curve, but as a 3L I’m able to look back over my three years and see all the good that I have experienced. So, without further delay, here are my highlights.
All the Orientation Events:
I’ve always found orientation programming to be awkward and somewhat unnecessary. I’m an introvert, so I’m not a huge fan of mingling with strangers – the feeling held true during my law school orientation. That said, looking back at it, I’m really appreciative that my law school made attendance at orientation mandatory because the bulk of my close friendships were formed at orientation.
I studied abroad during my 3L fall semester, so I only attended two barrister ball events during my time as a law student, but they were still amazing. The event itself may have been somewhat disappointing – I always picture Gatsby, but let’s be real, no school can afford to throw a party like that. But the opportunity to see my classmates outside of the classroom, all dolled up with their significant others, and ready to socialize in a non-oppressive setting, was truly refreshing, especially as a 1L.
Receiving 1L Grades:
An odd one right? Usually, when law students think back to 1L exams their thoughts are filled with dread, and trust me, mine are too. But, I also remember that glorious moment when I pressed submit on my final exam of 1L. I remember the minute I received my final grade of 1L and realized that I’d actually done it; I had survived 1L. For me, I don’t think I really believed that I had what it takes to succeed in law school until I saw those little letters on my transcript.
Joining the Hockey Team:
Law school isn’t necessarily seen as a ‘sporty’ place, but the world is what you make it. Sports have always encompassed a huge part of my routine, I’ve been a competitive hockey player since I learned how to walk. I was recruited to play for the Penn Women’s ice hockey team in November of my 1L year, and it was a blessing. The smell of a hockey rink in the wee hours of the morning has an insane calming effect on me (maybe it’s a Canadian thing); practices and games became my therapy and helped me keep my head on straight.
My 1L Summer Job:
I LOVED my 1L job – like seriously, I loved the people, I loved the work, I loved the clients … I just really, really loved it. I had worked in legal settings before, but this job really solidified that I had made the right career choice.
With the exception of 3L, which was filled with the uncertainty of COVID-19, my spring breaks have been absolutely fantastic. During 1L I attended a conference in Tokyo, Japan, with a small group of law students. Not only did this give me a chance to further explore one of my favorite cities in the world, but I also made international friendships that have lasted well beyond that one week. Likewise, in 2L, I participated in I-trek with a group of Penn Law students – it was honestly one of the best weeks of my life. I highly recommend taking at least one programmed spring break during your time as a law student.
If your university participates in the infamous softball tournament at UVA, go to it. It doesn’t matter if your athletic, or if you’ve never held a baseball bat before in your life … well, maybe it does if your school participates competitively. I am admittedly terrible at softball (yes dad, I finally admit it), BUT the softball tournament is so much more than what happens on the field. In reality it’s one big party for law students from across the country.
My 2L Summer Associateship:
After loving my 1L summer in public interest so much, I was somewhat worried that I wouldn’t fit in well at my big law firm; thankfully, I was wrong. When I pictured my career as a lawyer, I pictured myself practicing in big law; it felt amazing to have that dream come true. I accepted my offer for post-graduation, but even if you don’t, there’s no denying that the summer programming in big law is superb. You’ll gain at least ten pounds from all the food and alcohol, but they more than makeup for that by planning extravagant outings.
3L Study Abroad:
If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I live to travel. If I could get paid to just travel the world and explore new cultures, I would throw my law degree to the wind. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place was the flexibility the career offered in terms of traveling (in big law, we have offices all over the globe, and we get opportunities to visit those offices from time-to-time. Plus, US law degrees are transferable, meaning you can seek entry into a range of countries after a few years of practice). Taking that into consideration, it should come as no surprise that spending the fall semester of my 3L year in London filled me with insurmountable joy.
It hasn’t happened yet, but call my psychic because I know my graduation (the real in-person one, not the virtual slideshow) is going to be the topper on the cake that is law school.
What have your highlights been so far? Let me know on Instagram!
By now, none of us are strangers to uncertainty. Between grading shifts, bar exam postponements, the uncertainty of what the fall semester will look like, and summer internship cancelations it is totally reasonable for things to seem scary and a little out of control. Here are two things I am trying to do to make the most of this strange time.
Try to maintain your routines, both in the day-to-day and the big picture.
Full disclosure: this has been difficult for me. The first three weeks that I was house-bound due to having a fragile immune system in the age of Covid-19 were really productive. I was waking up at my favorite 5:30 am and getting more accomplished before 9:00 am than I often do the entire day if I sleep later. Around the fourth week of not leaving my house or really interacting with other humans though, I started to lose motivation and it has been difficult to get it back ever since.
I have realized in this time that I rely heavily on the anxious buzz of the classroom and the student commons to keep me focused and motivated. Even as a very introverted introvert, I need a lot of contact with my peers to remind me of the good in all of the mundane overload of case reading. One of my short-term goals is to research and brainstorm ways to cultivate that connection if classes remain online in the fall and how to leverage those connections if we are able to return to campus.
Be a good goal-setter.
As you take stock of this semester and think towards next semester, it might be helpful to have two sets of goals in mind: one for if classes return to on-campus face-to-face format, and one for if your school sticks with virtual classrooms for the fall. Depending on what classes you’ll be taking, these two sets of goals may require radically different mindsets and plans, or they may simply require a plan with a little bit more wiggle room. Either way now is the perfect time to start mapping out what those goals may look like. Here’s a very early draft of a life plan I have been working on lately. It is only half-filled out, and half of what is there has already changed, but that’s part of the fun.
If you, like me, are a natural dreamer but not a natural goal-setter, try to think in categories such as academic, social (including professional networking), health and wellness, spiritual, financial, family, and leisure. Start with your ten-year, blue skies, no obstacles dreams, and work backward down to five years, three years, one year, six months, one month, and one week. Ask yourself at each step what you need to learn and do in order to move towards those ten-year goals. Keep in mind that as you move forward those goals may change, especially in a moment as uncertain as this one. That’s ok! Flexibility is a key skill to develop to thrive in the legal profession.
Though it may seem counterintuitive to take this time of uncertainty to build your game plan, I think a time like this reminds us to make the most of the time that we have, whatever that looks like for each of us.
This post started out as a list of great books to binge instead of studying for exams, but then I remembered that we are all exhausted law students who probably need a break from all the reading. I am so glad to live in this golden age of television. Even after being house-bound for 41 straight days, I have neither run out of incredible things to read nor truly excellent television to watch.
I try not to watch legal shows during the semester, just so that I can remember that there is a life outside of the law. Here are some binge-worthy shows that have nothing (or almost nothing) to do with law school, or the bar, or courtrooms, or anything of the sort.
The Shows I watched in One Sitting
Avenue 5 (Amazon) – This is a show that I didn’t know I needed until I watched all of it. Hugh Laurie plays the captain of a gigantic luxury spaceship owned by Josh Gad’s character, who seems to have a dangerously low IQ. If that isn’t enticing enough, about halfway through the first season, the ship becomes enveloped in a literal cloud of feces that are stuck in its gravitational pull.
Bad Omens (Amazon) – Have we talked about how much I love David Tenant? Not yet? Oh, well, I love David Tenant. Just look at that face. He is the central figure in several of my favorite shows and plays a disturbingly un-disturbing villain in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Anyway, this television version of the Neil Gaiman book is thrilling and hilarious and so, so smart.
Barry (HBO) – Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor. Let me just repeat that: Bill Hader as a contract killer turned actor.
British Shows that Outrank Almost All American Counterparts
Miranda (Hulu) – This is perhaps the most underrated show ever made. It is probably the only show I’ve ever watched that has made me laugh out loud multiple times while I was watching it by myself. Perks: Tom Ellis is in it.
Killing Eve (Hulu) – Female assassins, government conspiracies, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and written and created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. On top of that, it has one of the most unique soundtracks I have ever heard.
Honorable Mention: Dr. Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, because obviously.
Shows From the Great Age of Streaming Services
Atlanta (Hulu) – If I had the time and energy to rank every TV show I have ever watched, oh wait. I do. This is one of the top five shows I have ever watched, and I don’t just say that because I have a huge crush on Donald Glover.
The Whole Netflix Marvel Franchise, but mostly Daredevil (Netflix… obviously) – Daredevil technically is about two lawyers (Nelson and Murdoch, Attorneys at Law), but its mostly about a blind superhero who fights big boss crime lords in Hell’s Kitchen.
The Mandalorian (Disney +) – I haven’t actually watched The Mandalorian, because I am a little burned out on Star Wars honestly, but I hear it is absolutely fantastic.
Brooklyn 99 (Hulu) – Ok so this one is about the law in that it all takes place in a police precinct, but let’s be really honest. It is actually about Terry Crews’ affinity for yogurt and about elaborate heists that can apparently happen in the precinct because no one is ever working?
30 Rock (Hulu) – We are all Liz Lemon.
The Good Place (Netflix or Hulu) – I cried like a baby when The Good Place ended. It was so smart and so funny, and Ted Danson is the 6,000-foot tall fire squid demon that I have always wanted.
Honorable Mentions: New Girl (Netflix) and Jane the Virgin (Netflix): I hated New Girl when it first came out. Jess, the main character, seemed like a hot and whiny mess. Then I entered the era of my late twenties and found a whole new appreciation for a good leather couch to cry on. Jane the Virgin is very polarizing, I know, but I really love its self-aware absurdity, its telenovela love triangles, and its strong, if often confused, female leads. I also love shows that manage to be bilingual without isolating watchers, which I think this show does particularly well.
I hope you are all hanging in during these last few weird weeks before exams. Let me know what your favorite binge shows are on Instagram and Twitter @the1lLife (unless its Tiger King, and then please just don’t).
[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]
This past week I had the amazing opportunity to virtually connect with my fellow BARBRI bloggers – we spent time getting to know one another, and talking about our individual law school experiences.
The paths that we each took to get to law school, and our reasons for wanting a law degree, were so different that it surprised me to find out that we all shared one very unique experience. Each of us, for our own reasons, had to consider whether to defer (or withdraw) from our legal studies. Even more interesting, we each ended up making different decisions with one of deciding to stay, one of withdrawing and restarting their 1L year during the following academic year, and one of us deferring before matriculating.
Deferring and withdrawing aren’t topics that routinely discussed amongst law students; maybe because it’s relatively rare (we think), or maybe because there’s some degree of stigma attached to (which is stupid). Either way, we all agreed that there was a significant lack of information available to help guide us through the decision making process.
It’s not an easy decision – trust me, I know. But sometimes deferring or withdrawing is necessary whether it be for medical reasons, family reasons, mental health reasons, financial reasons, or simply because you want to pursue another avenue or opportunity first. Whatever your reasoning, if you’re considering deferring or withdrawing, with the intention of returning, here are some things we think you should know, based on our collective experience.
Deferring Before Matriculation
In order to secure scholarship money and awards, schools will require that you sign a binding contract guaranteeing that when you return to law school, you will return to theirs.
It can be tempting to reserve your placement offer and awards with certain schools, however, if it isn’t your absolute dream school you should consider the fluctuating nature of acceptances. You may get into different schools on your second go-around (especially if you re-take the LSAT or pursue career and/or academic ventures). Likewise, you may receive more funding.
1L is hard – law school is hard – so being in the best mental, emotional, physical, etc. state is very important. So, if you have a reason to be worried about your ability to succeed in law school (beyond the general concerns that every incoming 1L has) deferring may be right for you.
Deferring and/or Withdrawing During 1L
Your health and wellbeing is the most important thing, don’t let fear over what people will think or say stop you from doing what’s best for you. But at the same time, remember that there are resources available to you if you’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed. That is to say, you don’t have to stay because people tell you to, nor do you need to leave because you feel like you’re not succeeding.
Prepare yourself to not come back. It’s incredibly hard to return to your legal studies when you know just how hard 1L really is. The momentum and excitement that you have before entering law school, before experiencing law school, may be gone, and that could impact your motivation to return.
Having a solid understanding of why you want to pursue a legal degree is extremely helpful in terms of motivating yourself to return.
Likewise, acknowledging that law school gets better after 1L is useful to overcome any dread you might feel.
It’s a bit socially awkward when you return. If you’ve watched greys anatomy, then it’s a bit like George when he fails his intern exam. You’ll have connections with your former classmates who are now 2L’s and 3L’s, but you’ll also be placed in a 1L section and expected to bond with them. The 1L’s around you will be experiencing everything anew, whereas you’ll be experiencing it for the second time, this may lead to some complications when it comes to forming a relationship.
Relatedly, you may be becoming the person that 1L’s come to for help, since they may form an expectation that you know more than them. This can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it goes away eventually.
According to your school, your scholarships may, or may not, be impacted. Make sure to check early on.
Overall, our advice is to ignore the social stigmas and do what’s best for you. We each made different decisions when it came to continuing our legal studies, and yet here we all are, making our way through our JD degrees.
[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]
What was supposed to be an interview about asking Mackenzie of the @The3LLife about expectations and advice for 3L, quickly evolved into over a 2-hour conversation between Mara, @The1LLife, Mackenzie, @The3LLife and myself. I don’t think either of us expected that this was the community and the conversation we needed at just that moment, but it was apparent that it was.
We took turns talking about what was happening with our classes, assignments, jobs, life, and more. It was interesting to discover that even though we approach our blogs each week with our own unique perspectives, how similar the three of us are. It was downright surprising, and I think an excellent reminder that we all have more in common than we often realize. When I talked about reaching out earlier in the semester to get to know the people in my class better, it never occurred to me to also reach out to those I am connected to in other ways.
We, of course, finally got on task and asked each other a lot of questions. Here are a few of the tips Mackenzie provided to help 2Ls effectively prepare for 3L.
Take Classes That Teach Skills
I was relieved that this was the first bit of advice that Mackenzie provided. She said she started taking these classes as a 2L, and the partners at her firm really appreciated how they made her “practice-ready.” The fact that she had advanced writing and research classes really benefited her because her firm recognized that she knew how to research, and that allowed her to help with even more assignments. I had heard the advice about taking advanced legal writing but was encouraged that the aspect of advanced legal research had also benefited her.
Time Classes Well
Another piece of advice Mackenzie offered that had been passed on to her by the first and second-year associates at her firm, is to time your bar related course well. For example, they encouraged her to take Evidence in her last semester because that timing would benefit her most for bar prep.
Pick Classes with Employer Needs In Mind
Mackenzie also suggested that you might want to take a mix of classes, based upon the needs of your firm. If you know you are going to be hired into a specific practice group, you should likely add related classes into your schedule. I know right now that this is a bit difficult because we all do not know what is taking place with our summer positions. I was notified in late March, that my firm was exploring a variety of avenues that could potentially impact my summer associateship program, and that we would be alerted by the end of April. I know many of you are in similar situations. But I also know that some of you have already been informed as to what is happening. For instance, some programs have been modified, others have moved online, and while some have been canceled, some of those cancellations also came with a guaranteed job. Consider reaching out to your future employer or someone who is in the field you desire to be for class advice.
I could go on and on with the valuable advice that Mackenzie provided, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is that new friendships and communities are all around us waiting to be discovered. We just need to reach out. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me at the @The2LLife.
This week I had the pleasure of sitting down, via Zoom of course, with Stephanie (The 2L Life) and Mackenzie (The 3L Life) to ask them all of our pressing questions about thriving in 1L and beyond. The biggest takeaways: Do your research and be flexible.
When it comes to which classes to take 2L and 3L year, consider whether doctrinal or more job-oriented classes would be more valuable. Job-oriented classes provide the ability to learn practical research and writing. Don’t be afraid to experiment with things you know you will love and subjects you might hate. This is the time to find out if you are secretly a tax attorney.
Ask during interviews and OCIs what employers might want you to take. During your summer internship, ask other attorneys and supervisors what they would advise you to take.
Whether you intern with a firm, a government agency or a public interest organization, don’t be afraid to say that you are interested in a particular type of law but remember that flexibility is key. Broad exposure to the legal field is valuable, and you may miss out on job opportunities if you pigeonhole yourself by focusing too adamantly on one area.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself, wisely. You are looking for an organization that will be a good fit for you just as much as they are looking for a candidate who will be a good fit for them. If you would have to redo everything about yourself in order to fit into the organizational culture, that might be a red flag that you wouldn’t ultimately be happy there.
We both did journal rather than moot court or mock trial. Journals offer diverse opportunities depending on the size and subject matter. Sometimes with smaller journals, there are more opportunities such as funding to go to conferences.
If you are trying to gauge how much of a time commitment a journal is, look at two things: First, look at an average article from that journal. You’re going to have to look at all of the sources cited in that article. Second, look at how often the journal is published and how many editors it has. The more frequently they publish, the more of a time commitment. Perhaps most importantly, find where your people are.
Do journals help job-wise?
They demonstrate that you have the ability to research, fact-check, and meet deadlines, all of which are crucial skills in the legal job market. If you are planning on going into further higher education after law school, experience editing and researching for published works is also very important.
What is your top piece of advice for 1Ls?
Remember that the people you meet now are going to be your colleagues. The things you do now can stick with you in the future, and sometimes be detrimental and embarrassing. On the flip side of that, don’t be afraid to branch out from your section and get to know people you may not have classes with. Consider scheduling one day a week where you ask someone outside of your section to grab lunch or a coffee.
Maintain good contacts with professors. Eventually, you’ll need bar recommendation letters, so pick one professor from each semester to try to maintain a real relationship with.
If you have any other questions you would like to ask @the2lLife or @the3lLife, reach out on Instagram or Twitter!
[ Makenzie Way, 3L at the University of Pennsylvania ]
Zoom has officially taken over our classrooms, and 98% of our social interactions. To anyone who purchased stock in Zoom pre-COVID-19, I applaud you.
By now, you likely have a pretty decent understanding of how Zoom works and the basic do’s and don’ts — i.e. do mute yourself when you’re not speaking; don’t leave your video on during your bathroom break.
But alas, there’s always more to learn, so here are four shocking and/or useful Zoom facts.
1. Attendee Attention Tracking
Raise your hand if you knew that meeting hosts (aka your supervisor or professor) have a sneaky little feature called Attendee Attention Tracking – I certainly didn’t.
Basically, the feature enables hosts to see when participants spend 30 seconds or longer on another window. So, if you’ve been ‘stealthily’ perusing Facebook during class, your professor probably knows.
2. Quick Unmute
There’s really nothing worse than scrambling to click the little microphone button in the corner of the screen to unmute yourself during your virtual cold call. To make your life easier, simply hold the spacebar on your computer’s keyboard to unmute yourself – just remember to put yourself back on mute once you’re finished.
3. Virtual Backgrounds
Some of us are lucky enough to have home offices or clean white walls, others of us have studio apartments and piles of laundry. If you’re too lazy to clean, conscious of your privacy, or simply just want to have a little fun, you should consider trying out Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Some law schools have even uploaded their own backgrounds to make you feel right at home.
4. Beauty Filter
You may not be looking your absolute best while in quarantine – and who can really blame you – but Zoom has you covered should you want to at least appear put together for your classmates. By using the ‘Touch up my Appearance’ feature, your video will display with a soft-focus, which is supposedly meant to cover imperfections. Admittedly, I’ve never used it, so I’m not sure of the logistics behind getting it up and running, but there is a Zoom support page about it.
I am a naturally skeptical yet curious person, and I am doubly skeptical when people tout anything as the key to an improved lifestyle or mental wellness. This is how I felt about meditation until I found myself in law school, overcome with stress and anxiety, and in desperate need of better tools to manage the pressures. At first, all I could manage was five minutes here and there on days when I was having an extra difficult time coping. Five minutes was often agonizing. My mind wanted to move at a thousand miles a minute and my attempts to force it into silence and stillness resulted in even more corporeal anxiety.
Fortunately for me and everyone who has to interact with me regularly, I attended a workshop and learned all of the ways I was meditating unproductively and with much daily practice, have since graduated to 20 whole minutes!
Meditating regularly has proved to be beneficial in pretty much every area of my life, and I get a lot of joy from the way my face sometimes tingles if I have been stress-holding my breath for a while and then take 20 minutes’ worth of deep breaths. Here are the impacts I have noticed on my study habits
I focus better
I am sure I’m not the only law student who finds the perpetual cycle of casebook reading a little droll and repetitive. By Spring semester, I had become conditioned to open my casebook to the reading, reading a few sentences, and then zoning out while I unconsciously flipped pages. Meditation is about awareness in and of the present moment and cultivating the ability to gently redirect focus back to the task and moment at hand. So while I still often struggle to sit down and finish the constant barrage of new cases, I have learned how to more effectively gently redirect my attention back to what I am reading and to even find joy in the seeming mundaneness of the ritual.
I am less anxious and feel more prepared
I don’t really know how to explain the way that meditating regularly has cleared out space in my mind, but it’s like my conscious brain is busy connecting with my breath and my body, so my unconscious brain is freed up to do the sweeping and tidying. (I picture my conscious brain as a needs and constantly hungry child that follows my unconscious brain around all day asking for snacks).
Additionally, the practice of deep breathing and cultivating connection with your body (something law students are notoriously bad at) reduces the physical stress and anxiety that our lifestyle tends to cultivate. Muscles that have been stress-clenched for weeks have the opportunity to relax and receive a fresh injection of oxygen.
There is plenty of research in the field of psychology that demonstrates that meditation can have positive impacts on anxiety and depression. There is also research in neuroscience that regular meditation can create new neural pathways, which means that meditation actually changes the way our brains process information. Not only does this help to reinforce productive future brain processes, but its also just really cool.
I felt calm and prepared going into my oral argument
Our oral arguments were the weekend after we found out that we would be moving to remote learning for the rest of the semester but before our school announced that we would be moving to a mandatory pass/fail grading system. It was a strange and stressful time, so I had very little energy to focus on preparing for my oral argument, but because I had been working so intentionally on deep breathing and being present in the moment, I was able to give my argument over Zoom without any anxiety whatsoever.
I sleep better
I am not the kind of law student who sacrifices sleep to get assignments done, because I love sleep. I value it very highly, second only to good coffee and good food. But, school can have a significant impact on sleep regardless of whether it is by conscious choice or not. In addition to implementing a semi-strict no-screens before bedtime routine, I have also started a light meditation ritual when I get in bed. It helps me let go of any of the stresses of the day and the intentional breathing slows my heart rate to be more fit for sleep. Often I fall asleep before I even finish meditating, but even when I don’t, I definitely law awake staring at the ceiling and stressing about all of the work I haven’t done much less frequently.
Have you tried meditating? Are you skeptical of the skeptical sort? Reach out and share your experiences with me on Instagram or Twitter @the1lLife.