By Natalie Yello • May 08, 2017•Law School, Pre-Law, Other Law School Issues, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life, Mentoring and Networking
The decision to attend law school can be daunting and it often can feel like it is taking over your life. In order to stay sane, make sure you keep these three things in your mind and you will do just fine!
Find Your Support System—Both In and Out of Law School
You cannot complete law school with your sanity intact without a support system of some kind. I suggest having a support system both within and outside of law school. For me, I met my circle of girlfriends within the first months of law school and relied on them for support and guidance that my family and other “non law students” couldn’t quite understand. Outside of law school, my support system included my family, none of whom are lawyers. In hindsight, I wish someone had told me to “prepare” my family better because I think it would have helped them understand the process more. If you are planning to attend law school, sit down with your loved ones and talk to them about the changes that are going to come. For me, that meant helping my mother understand that I couldn’t come home on weekends as often as I could have during undergraduate. It meant that even when I was home, I wasn’t going to be able to sit and binge Netflix all day like we used to love to do. And it meant that she should expect a lot more phone calls after 10 p.m. during finals in December and May. Preparing your support system for the stress law school will entail will allow them to better help you and support you through your three-year journey.
Prioritize Your Passions
Once you begin law school, it sometimes might feel like there is only time to study and sleep. Unfortunately, some students, myself included, will forfeit the things they used to love doing before law school in order to maximize study time. Students do best when they are fulfilled, therefore when you start law school, make sure you prioritize your passions! Taking care of your body and mind is an integral part of law school success—by continuing to develop your passions, you feed your mind and support your mental wellbeing. Whether it is yoga, cooking, or paddle boarding, making time for the things you love will ultimately make you a better student.
Support a Cause
In law school, your attention and time will be pulled in many different directions and it might be hard to focus on one thing—environmental concerns, social justice causes, child advocacy—the list never ends. Instead of doing everything—as appealing as it sounds—try to focus your energy into a couple causes which are especially important to you. If child advocacy is especially close to your heart, consider volunteering as a guardian ad litem in the court system or opt to spend one lunch a week with a local high school student. Getting involved in a social cause in law school allows you to feel intrinsically motivated about your study of the law. During my second year of law school I read a survey administered by the Florida Bar which illustrated the severity of gender bias in the legal profession in Florida. In response, the president of the Florida Association of Women Lawyers at Stetson and I spent our entire third year preparing Women’s Week—a week of programming highlighting important gender issues and celebrating women! Women’s Week became my project with the Ms. JD program and it embodied our response to the shocking gender inequality in our state and in our profession. Women’s Week was focused upon service, education, and fellowship and it featured a different event on each day of the week: Monday was a community service event benefiting a local women’s shelter, Tuesday was The Vagina Monologues featuring students and faculty, Wednesday was a panel discussion on gender bias with local practicing attorneys, and Thursday was a networking event for local attorneys and students. We also wrote form letters to Florida legislatures encouraging them to support HB 319, proposed legislation which would close the gender pay gap in Florida, and provided them to our attendees to sign in support. Women’s Week required months of planning, however, it didn’t feel like work because I was doing something that I was passionate about and I truly cared about. An investment of your time and energy into a social cause will always yield the greatest reward.
Stetson Law students kicking off Women's Week with a donation drive and cards of encouragement for Alpha House, a local women's shelter.
Day two of Women's Week featured The Vagina Monologues, performed by faculty and students.
Day three included a panel discussion titled "Tools for Tackling Gender Bias," and included, from left to right, Judge Pamela Campbell, attorneys Kristina Feher, Shavarne Dhalquist, and Katherine Earle Yanes.
Form letters to legislatures urging their support of an equal pay legislation were provided for attendees to sign. After Women's Week was over, the letters were mailed to legislatures with Wonder Woman stamps on them.