Five years ago when I began my degree I was excited and super keen to get started reading all those fabulous books and cases. I had celebrated with family and friends and now finally had proof that I was smart enough to enter the hallowed halls of law school.
I had always planned on completing my degree part time so that I could ostensibly still have a “life”. I needed to somehow sneak my degree into an already busy life full of children, marriage, mortgage, renovations and work. There was never any way I was going to be able to be a full time student.
In the last five years, I have completed 18 subjects, all off campus. I have not set foot in a lecture theatre apart from attending a symposium on human rights law back in first year. It is a very lonely experience being an off campus student and that has had its own issues and trials.
After all of that work and time and effort, I am more than halfway through but I still have 8 subjects left to complete after recognition of prior learning nicely wiped out a significant portion of the requisite units.
At every single family occasion bar none, the first question I am asked is “still at law school? How long have you got left to go?” and I watch in horror as I see my loved ones’ faces pale and drop at the mention of “only a couple of years”.
We have become such an instant society and the mere concept of spending over five years studying for only one degree sounds like madness to many. With the abundance of short courses and degrees that only take 3 years, people are flabbergasted at the amount of time expected to be dedicated to law school. “8 years part time? That’s insane!”
Maintaining your study motivation for longer than most Hollywood marriages is an effort in and of itself. Due to the nature and volume of the work and readings expected of law students, you can’t possibly keep up with the work if you are not in the right headspace.
In my many years of law school, I have discovered the following tricks for maintaining focus and drive in the world’s longest law degree:
Don’t overload. You will regret it. You do not have more than 24 hours in any given day.
Don’t make the mistake I did, and do all the cool and interesting subjects first. This was my greatest folly. I wish I had left a few of the fun ones to be scattered throughout the years to keep my interest piqued. Now I am left looking into a despair ridden sea of tax law, civil procedure and trusts.
Take time to do all the other things you enjoy. It’s good to take a break from the tedium of law school readings. I have also found it helps if I use a totally different part of my brain for a few hours. For example: go to the gym, for a walk, paint something, write for a law student blog, or sit and enjoy a game of Uno with an eight year old and a four year old.
Remember, law school is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time. Take care of yourself. Just think when Aunt Mabel and Uncle Jack are pestering you at the next family celebration, that short of a mistimed Mayan apocalypse, the world will continue to turn and you will get further through your degree.
If in another five years you find yourself still plodding away at law school, do not despair, because if my current rate of study is any indication, I will be right there with you.
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