#The2Llife: Smarter vs. Harder

GUEST BLOG By Harrison Thorne
2L at UCLA School of Law

Smarter vs. Harder, Efficiency, and Having a Life.

During my first year—especially my first semester—I thought working around the clock was a prerequisite to doing well in law school.

Of course there are cycles. Sometimes you’re working to make a deadline, or sometimes you have to play catch-up. This happens, and cannot be avoided.

However, I realized that working longer hours is not always the best use of time. I think this really clicked after my first set of finals during 1L. I had briefed every case (which I still do, and still recommend). But I had also made a flashcard for each case, made two different outlines, and had a list of rules and rule statements printed on a separate document. After realizing exactly what I needed to know, it hit me that I was WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME.

I will admit that I am a slow reader, and that I find it difficult to “get it” after reading something once. However, here are some tips that have really helped me.

  1. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you have to read something a few times, or that you read slowly, plan accordingly. Be realistic with your process and the amount of time things will take.
  2. Make a plan. I have all my assignments and reading in bullet points on my computer. I start each day with a goal – i.e., finish Assignment 1-3 for bankruptcy, Assignment 2 for evidence, etc. Stick to the plan.
  3. Use the resources available to you. I often used BARBRI lectures to explain big-picture ideas. I used my BARBRI first-year outline book to create outline structures. Use these tools. They help.
  4. Take breaks. I like to set a timer for 45 minutes. I work for those 45 minutes, and then take a break. Avoiding distraction and working without breaks is amazing. You can get a LOT done in 45 unbroken minutes.
  5. Take it easy.

I think #5 is the most difficult. Knowing when to “turn it off” can be very, very tough. But like everything, practice makes perfect. If you want to thrive, you have to keep some semblance of normalcy (in my opinion). I suggest finding 2-3 things you enjoy doing. Once you have those things, DO THEM.

For me, I go to the gym/run, I hang out with friends, and I watch television/read. I do these things regularly, and they keep me balanced.

I also like to keep things light and enjoy other students. A good friend of mine recently started a website, Res Ipsa Whatever, that pokes fun at law school and the seemingly ridiculous things teachers and students tend to do regularly. Never lose sight of your goals, and never lose your humor during the process! http://resipsawhatever.com