Weekly Academic Success Tip - Time Management and Balance

Time is a commodity that most law students lament during law school; however, balance can be achieved in law school.  A 15- or 16-credit law class load can be easily balanced using a one-third, one-third, one-third formula.  The 168 hours of the week can be divided neatly into sleep, law, and the rest of life. How does that work?  Do the math:

  • 56 hours of sleep (8 hours each night for 7 nights)
  • 56 hours of law (15 in class, nearly 3 times that [41 hours] outside of class)
  • 56 hours of the rest of life (eating, socializing, exercising, shopping, and attending to the score of weekly chores we all have to take care of)

If you need more than 41 hours outside of class, borrow a few of the “rest of life” hours. The real question then becomes one of scheduling, and of efficient use of each of the 56 hours of law. Lawyers work on rigid schedules, imposed by client appointments, court hearings, trials, filing deadlines, and other necessities over which they seldom have control.  In law school, except for about 15 hours of your 168 hours per week, you have nearly total control over your time, and thus there are no excuses for not having enough time to thoroughly prepare for class, review notes after class, meet with professors, outline, etc.  If you find yourself making excuses, you need to take control of your time and your life by creating a weekly study schedule. 

When creating a schedule, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Most students find that they get more out of their reading if they read for a class two days ahead.  For example, read on Saturday for all Monday classes; on Sunday for Tuesday; on Monday for Wednesday; etc.  This schedule allows you to read more carefully and to reflect on the material while reading; allows you time to review before class; and allows you to have Thursdays and Fridays for outlining, practice questions, time for papers or projects, review of your outlines, etc.
  • Put your commitments in first:  class attendance; work hours; study group times; sleep; meals; exercise; student organization meetings; non-law reward time, etc.  Then, fill in your reading/briefing, review before class, review of class notes within 24 hours, outlining, practice questions, project time, review time.  If you overdid it on reward time, you will have to designate additional study time. 
  • For most law students, 40-45 hours per week outside of class throughout the entire semester will mean reviewing near exam time instead of learning it for the first time. 
  • It will take 2-3 weeks to get a weekly schedule that feels comfortable and works consistently.  As you evaluate what worked and did not work each week, alter the schedule to make better use of your “alert” time and your ability to concentrate in blocks.  Include short breaks within longer blocks of studying so that you are able to focus and concentrate.
  • The rewards for good time management are that your stress goes down, you are better prepared for studying for the bar, and you are better equipped as a new lawyer to manage a client load and work tasks.