Right now, it might feel like prepping for the LSAT or applying to law school is the most stressful experience in the world. A mentor once told me, though, that a legal career is like a hot dog eating contest in which the prize is more hot dogs. The harder you work and the more successful you are in your endeavors, the more work will come your way. Studying diligently for the LSAT and spending hours on your personal statement might get you into a top school, but you’ll find at that point that the REAL challenge is beginning. And that’s when it becomes crucial that you start caring for your physical and emotional well-being, as your intellectual development becomes more rigorous. There are a few things that you can begin doing even before you begin law school that will help your transition and establish the good habits that will prevent you from having a stress-induced breakdown.
- Start an exercise routine, if you don’t already have one. The many benefits of exercise to not only your body but also your mind are well-documented. An exercise program provides you with a consistent outlet for the nervous energy that builds up during hours of studying.
- Take up a hobby or interest that has nothing to do with law. Making friends outside of the law school will give you a welcome respite from the obsessive conversations that 1Ls tend to have about their studies. And accomplishments that are unrelated to your academic career—volunteering or creative arts, for example—will bolster your self-esteem even during those days when you feel like the least intelligent person in your class.
- Minimize annoyances and distractions. Before you begin law school, do some spring cleaning in your own life. Eliminate unnecessary clutter, organize the cupboards and files that you’ve been meaning to get to for months, and handle routine health issues like visits to doctors and dentists BEFORE your studies commence. Taking a morning off to get your teeth cleaned instead of going to your Torts class is probably not the end of the world, but why burden yourself with any additional concerns outside of your studies and your non-law outlets?
- Realize that there’s no way you can prepare for everything that will be thrown at you in law school, and accept that the experience will sometimes feel like more than you can handle. Feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared is part of the 1L experience; the process of re-learning how you think and express yourself can seem daunting, but the best way to overcome those feelings is to remember that you’re not alone. Everyone in your class will struggle with the same issues at one point or another. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that means talking to a supportive professor, spending time with friends, or seeking the services of your school’s counseling staff.
Law school is tough, but it’s also an extremely rewarding experience, one that I personally would not trade for anything. The best way to maximize your education and minimize your stress is to enter your first year calm, well-rested, and prepared for whatever academic and emotional curveballs you might be thrown. And remember, those three years go by quickly, so take time to enjoy the new ideas and friends you’ll be exposed to!