With exams looming in little over a month for all of us, graduation for 3L's, and summer externships for the 2L's, there's a lot to think about.
There's also a lot of stress. After three years of law school, stress has become a daily part of my existence. Even on my best days, I'll still have moments of doubt about the future. My 1L year, I hated the stress. In fact, I hated it so much that I almost didn't come back for year two. Year two saw me sitting in class, thinking "okay, I've decided to stay. How can I deal with all of the pressure that accompanies this degree (and profession)?"
In this post, I'll share some things I've learned that have helped me keep my sanity throughout the process.
First, get into the habit of thinking of positive. I know that sounds like rah-rah, Tony Robbins stuff, and it is. But it also works. The key to positive thinking is perspective. Here's an example. My 2L year, I had a brutal fall semester. Five exams, tons of reading, a precarious G.P.A. to balance. When I walked out of my last exam that fall, I was smoked. I couldn't imagine repeating the process three more semesters in a row. Then a thought came to me: I was halfway done with law school. There was something about that realization that spurred me on the rest of that year, and does still.
So live life with the glass half-full. If you get a rough midterm grade, don't panic and join the peace corps. Find out what you need to know, study hard, and ace that final exam. Look at it as an opportunity, rather than the sky falling down.
Here's another tip: don't get too emotional about the day-to-day things. Too often, the little problems in a day threaten to upend our equilibrium when they really shouldn't. The fact that you are in law school is an achievement in itself. If you are close to graduating, you've made it a lot farther than many who left after their first year. Those are the big milestones. So is staying (or getting) married, paying your taxes, etc. The point is, the big things demand enough time and energy, so why focus on the little things? Just roll with the punches - deal with the problem, and move forward.
But - don't make the mistake of being a couch potato, and putting in a "good enough" effort. Remember that your law classmates are smart, talented, hardworking, and motivated. That means you, my friend, have serious competition for the jobs you want. So work hard. Take opportunities that can flesh out your resume. Don't go to Cancun two spring breaks in a row.
On to my last bit of advice for punching stress in the mouth: don't live for "someday", because "someday", really means never. Yes, I shamelessly stole that line from a Tom Cruise movie (Knight and Day). Instead, put in the effort now to achieve the goals you dream of getting "someday." How does that ease stress? Because when you take the time to ask yourself, "what do I really want to accomplish?" You align yourself with what makes you happy. The next logical step is, do what makes you happy. So if you want to be a famous trial lawyer, take trial advocacy courses. Apply for externships that let you prosecute criminals. Get after it.
Whether it's being a trial lawyer, or becoming an FBI agent, use your time in law school to get closer to your dream. One thing that is often easy to forget is that we have access to some of the best educational resources in the WORLD. Think about it. Some of our courses are taught by Stanford, Harvard, and Yale, alums. Other courses are taught by lawyers who have argued in front of the Supreme Court. The externship opportunities, study-abroad opportunities, are phenomenal. And it's all there for you to use as you see fit.
A final note about stress. It many ways, its a blessing in disguise. Without the challenge, the reward wouldn't be as sweet. When you get to walk in May of your third year under the bright lights of the Kibbie Dome or Grove Center, (and you will), it's going to feel awesome because of the all the days you wanted to quit, but didn't.
That's pretty cool.