By Rachel Kulhavy • August 31, 2015•Writers in Residence
There’s a forest preserve in Colorado called the Never Summer Wilderness. It’s apparently named this because, well, it’s never summer there. It snows until July, then starts snowing again in August. It’s a solid trek over really steep mountains to the nearest ski resort or quaint antiques shop. The Continental Divide runs through it. It’s really, really high. And icy. There’s the threat of hypothermia. And there are bears.
The Never Summer Wilderness is also what I would call that unspeakable thing that all night students dread: the 12-hour semester.
It’s almost inevitable that you will experience this cold and windy place if you want to finish a part-time law program in 4 years. You can take summer classes, but if you’re on scholarship, have an internship, or just want a couple months of social life during your law school career, you probably won’t be able to take enough summer hours (and your scholarship probably won’t cover the cost) to escape this fate. However, just like planning for a hike through the wilderness, a few simple tips can help you can survive:
Pack enough food and water. Try and plan the essentials as far in advance as possible. You’re probably working at least part-time during the day, and your evening classes will likely run from around 5:30 – 9 four days a week. Pack lunches (sandwiches are nature’s most perfect food) and snacks so that you don’t have to stop for dinner between work and class. Keep water at your work fridge or in your car so that you can stay hydrated for that 7 pm probate class. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than a dehydration headache in the middle of wills & estates (warranty deed, what?)
Dress comfortably. If you have to dress up for work, at least ponder taking a pair of comfortable shoes for class. You might not need them, but throw them in your car just in case. If you’ve had a rough day, walking across campus to the car in the dark in new stilettos (or for the fellas, those unbroken-in dress shoes) at 10 pm with a wills & estates dehydration headache is not anyone’s idea of a good time.
Know your limits. This semester is probably not the time to impress your boss by taking on that new account or offering to train the entire class of new interns. This is the time to focus on your existing projects and concentrate on getting through the semester. Take it one day at a time. You don’t have to set the world on fire every day; your brain will collapse if you don’t take care of yourself throughout the semester. Concentrate on making it to class, to finals, to (yes!) that wonderful Christmas/spring/summer break.
Use your zero days. Magical little pockets of unexpected time seem to open up while you’re in law school. In the midst of facing down weeks of deadlines and impossible study schedules, suddenly you get a cancelled class, a rescheduled rough draft deadline, or a good old-fashioned weather day (going to school in Texas usually guarantees time off for ice storms, for example). Use it! Anytime you get a deliciously free moment of time, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. And by accomplish, I don’t necessarily mean memos, briefs, or outlines. Even if you use that time to go out to dinner with your classmates or recharge your brain over a trashy TV show, it’s time very well-spent.
Last, but most importantly:
NEVER LEAVE ANYONE BEHIND. Despite the reputation for competitiveness, law students need to stick together. If one of your classmates is struggling, be supportive. Do they need help with outlines, notes, or just making it through that evening? Offer them sustenance. Walk with them out to the car at 10 pm. Let them sit next to you in the cafeteria. Let them sob on your evidence outline (don’t worry- you can still read it). We’ve all been overwhelmed. Don’t let anyone walk down that mountain alone, because rest assured, someone will walk with you, too, and you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful view at the end of the trek.