GUEST BLOG by Harrison Thorne,
Associate Attorney at Vedder Price
UCLA Law graduate
After transferring to UCLA Law as a 2L, I met new people and learned a lot. It was a great experience. However, I also found myself wasting a lot of time and that made me wonder what I could do differently my final year of law school. To be honest, I was frequently distracted by Facebook, Gmail, Gchat, iMessage and the other usual culprits when I was supposed to be reading or paying attention in class. Something had to change, but I didn’t quite know the steps to take (but I would eventually).
For starters, I made a “strong” decision: enough with these distractions. There are many people, it seems, who can use sheer willpower to avoid the temptations of, for example, surfing the web during a (particularly boring) class. I was not one of them. My renewed focus meant leaving the computer in my office and bringing only a notebook and pen to class. Cold turkey.
And here’s what I figured out and did differently as a 3L:
WRITING NOTES BY HAND LEADS TO GREATER RETENTION, FOCUS
At first, I worried that I would miss so much of the lecture trying to force my hand to writer fast(er) in keeping up with the lecturer. I actually found the opposite to be true. I retained a lot more from lectures, and it is significantly easier to stay focused. I have even begun taking reading notes by hand. I use my computer a lot less, which has helped alleviate the constant headache I get when staring at a screen all day.
READING A WEEK AHEAD HELPS ELIMINATE ANXIETY, FEELING RUSHED
During the semester, I made a plan to read over the weekend for the following week’s classes. On Saturday/Sunday, I would read for my courses the coming Monday through Thursday. Before doing it this way, I found that reading right before class was causing me a lot of anxiety. I read slowly and sometimes can’t put enough attention into a reading assignment if I know class is about to start in 30 minutes. By reading ahead, I was much less worried and rushed.
Another benefit of reading ahead on the weekend, by the way: you can dedicate Friday to outlining from the previous week’s readings and lectures.
CUTTING OFF WORK/STUDY AT A SPECIFIC TIME GIVES BACK MORE TIME
During my 3L year, I had four classes, was Editor-in-Chief of the Entertainment Law Review and mentor to another transfer student, and was juggling various other commitments. It would have been easy to get bogged down in all this. However, I made the choice to stop working/studying at 5:30 pm, unless I absolutely needed to push that self-imposed deadline a bit further.
My thought was: If I could successfully read for the following week, there should be no need to work past 5:30 pm. Law school tends to breed a culture of constant, around the clock “half-work” in which people are always reading or writing something but always with a lot of distraction. I was determined to work really hard during the day, leaving my nights open to spend time with my family and friends.