By Kathryn Pope, University of Florida Levin College of Law
I want to preface my day in the life of a law student with a piece of advice that many people will tell you – law school is a marathon, not a sprint. Your very first semester of law school is definitely a marathon and arguably the most important race that you will complete during your law school career.
With that being said, it is imperative that you are getting enough sleep to allow your brain to function optimally. Personally, I know that my body needs at least seven hours of sleep to process, store and retrieve my homework and in-class information. Listen to your body and let that be the primary driving force for setting your daily schedule.
Here’s how one of my days of the week unfolds and feel free to use as a guide.
What my Tuesdays looked like
[5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.] Set my daily intention, breakfast
My typical day in the life of a law student begins at 5:30 a.m. with a quick meditation, breakfast, and time to set my daily intention. I structured my schedule the week before orientation based on the BARBRI Law Preview recommendation and used orientation week to test my daily schedule. By making modifications during orientation week, I created a concrete study and sleep schedule before classes started. Having a schedule has held me accountable with outlining and reviewing for final exams.
[7 a.m. to 8 a.m.] BARBRI 1L Mastery review
This is the time that I begin my work. I typically start the first hour using BARBRI 1L Mastery, specifically the on-demand lecture videos on relevant subject matter. As I write this blog, on this particular day, I watched the 1L Mastery video covering the Erie Doctrine for Civil Procedure and used the 1L Mastery Civil Procedure outline to supplement my homework notes, filling in any potential gaps. I have found that 1L Mastery provides a broad framework for understanding not only specific topics but also how to use the topics in an exam question.
[8 a.m. to 9 a.m.] Zoom review session
The next step in my routine is a one-hour Zoom call with study partners to discuss the homework from the night before and any relevant hypos from the “notes and questions” sections in the reading. It can be tempting to gloss over the “notes and questions” sections of your casebook but it’s important to review any relevant hypos and email the professor if you have any questions. These are an excellent resource for testing your knowledge and can even prepare you for being cold-called during class discussions.
[9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.] Get ready for the day
After my review session, I add any relevant material that I did not have in my homework notes and start to get ready for my day in the life of a law student.
[10:30 to 11:15 a.m.] Torts Class
A friendly tip for law students: make sure to allow yourself enough time to get to class and be there early. Professors do not like you arriving late. It can set a wrong impression at the start of the semester. I always aim to make it roughly 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule.
I always have Emmanuel’s Law in a Flash in my bag for that particular class so that I can use my time effectively. This resource was introduced to me by Law Preview and it has changed my life.
Law in a Flash is a set of roughly 500 flashcards for each specific course, providing black letter law and hypotheticals. During class, I take notes on my computer directly in my homework notes, putting professor comments in purple and student comments in blue. If my professor goes over something that I already have in my homework notes, I change the color to purple instead of rewriting the material. Everyone has their preference for handwriting or typing their notes. (Extra tip: I would caution you to disable iMessage if you use a Mac laptop to avoid class distractions.)
[11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.] Break, lunch
I come home after my first class to walk my dog and eat lunch. I make sure that this is a “working lunch” in the sense that I portion out the amount of time I want to spend on my break and then promptly begin my work again. This was another tip that I learned from Law Preview that has positively impacted my first semester of law school.
[12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.] Condense in-class notes, transfer into outline
As close to the end of class as possible, I like to condense and review my homework and in-class notes while they are still fresh in my mind. If there is a clear break in a topic, I will further condense my notes and transfer them into my outline. The benefit of using a color-coded system is that if my professor makes a comment such as “I love negligence per se,” I have that in purple (so I know my professor said it) and I put an asterisk by it, which reminds me to make a note in my outline that this will probably show up on the final exam.
[1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.] Review and outline for other classes
After reviewing my notes from Torts, I then like to review my previous assignments for my other doctrinal courses: Criminal Law and Civil Procedure. I also use this time to condense my notes, transfer them into my outlines and review my Law in a Flash notecards for those courses. At this point in the semester, I am a huge advocate of condensing your outlines more and more as the semester progresses. This was another top I received from Law Preview and it has genuinely optimized my studying.
By starting with a more extensive outline, you force yourself to condense your in-class and homework notes and critically decide what is essential and extraneous. As the semester continues, you need less material in your outlines to jog your memory of that topic, if you review along the way.
For example, the first topic my Torts class covered was ‘battery’ and I originally had an overview of each battery case’s relevant facts in my outline. Now that I am eight weeks into law school, I have looked at those cases so much in my outline that I no longer need the fact pattern to remind me of the rule statement. By condensing your outlines into shorter “attack outlines,” you can access key phrases faster for exams (if your exam is open note).
[3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.] Introduction to Lawyering course
Next, I have my Introduction to Lawyering course that focuses on professional development and core attributes that great attorneys possess – empathy, patience and diligence. This week (as I write this blog), my class was online via Zoom and discussed how to write a legal resume.
[5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.] Dinner, break
After class, I take a one-hour break. And you guessed it. I walk my dog and have dinner. I make sure that I am not using my phone or computer because I have found that too much screen time during the day can disrupt my sleep.
[6:30 p.m to 9:30 p.m.] Review for Civil Procedure and Criminal Law courses
My last task of the day includes reviewing my other doctrinal courses and supplementing my notes and outlines with 1L Mastery materials. I have found that Tuesdays are a great time to review topics because each of my doctrinal courses has office hours on Wednesdays. By reviewing the day before, I can highlight any gaps in my knowledge and create a list of questions to ask my professors.
[10 p.m.] End of workday!
Referencing my first “day in the life of a law student” tip, it’s essential to take care of yourself while in school. If you are considering a career in law or you are currently in law school, it is evident that you are smart, capable and have a strong desire to produce positive, viable changes in peoples’ lives. Just remember that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Happy scheduling!