I have always heard that 3L year is the easiest year of law school, and this has proved to be both true and false. On one hand, law school gets easier as you get used to the demands place on you. Cases get easier to read, legal research becomes more efficient, legal writing becomes more natural. The ability to select courses allows for a class schedule that is more interesting and enjoyable. It also allows for a loading of classes in the 2L year to reduce credits in the 3L year. On the other hand, some things never change. Deadlines always seem to group together, whether for reading, midterms, writing assignments, or extra-curricular activities. Getting sick or having some other outside distraction invariable follows. Deadlines during 3L year carry a sense of urgency or immediacy, perhaps because there are so few opportunities left in law school to squeeze out points of GPA, apply for jobs, or make a positive impression on professor who might be writing recommendations. This week is one of those deadline-dense weeks.
Probably the most important thing that I have learned in law school is the ability to prepare as much as possible, and to avoid procrastination. Preparation does not merely include setting aside enough time to get all class readings done. Rather, it requires a certain amount of foresight as deadlines approach. If one week is particularly light, perhaps a professor is out of town at a conference, or there are no intermediate writing assignments due, the natural inclination is to take the week to relax and recover. There is no doubt that this is a good option; law school can be very stressful, and time for relaxation is limited. However, too much of a good thing can be very detrimental. While spending time away from school is beneficial, spending too much time can contribute to the very problem which required this time off. Having the foresight to get assignments or readings done early when busy weeks are in the near future can be the difference between getting sleep that busy week and not. It doesn’t take a psychologist to know that work product suffers when high stress and low sleep mix. While it may seem attractive, procrastination can be extremely harmful once deadlines start to draw near. Mastery of preparation and the avoidance of procrastination are the skills that will set students apart from their peers.
Not only are these skill critical for success in law school, but it will also translate well to the practice of law after graduation. I have had the opportunity to work for two different small firms during my summers in school, mostly doing civil litigation work. While the culture and personality of the firms were different, they were both successful for the same reason: they prepared for all of their impending deadlines, not just the most immediate ones. This ability to prepare for the long run allows the attorneys to run their practice on their own terms, rather than terms dictated by deadlines. There was never a time where I saw the attorneys staying until 11 pm to make a filing deadline, or scrambling to get all documents together before closing a deal. The key was expert preparation, and the avoidance of procrastination.
You may not be in law school yet, but these skills can be learned in virtually any setting. Just remember, quitting 30 minutes early two days in a row can lead to an hour of extra work when there isn’t an hour to spare.