Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A New Year, A New You: 5 Resolutions for Law Students

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The clock has struck midnight, the crystal ball has dropped in Times Square, and the corks of champagne bottles have popped – it’s 2014!  It’s also that time of year for New Year’s resolutions.  Lose weight, quit smoking, try something new are just some of the more common resolutions, and most people ditch those plans by February.  The reason many New Year’s resolutions fail is because people tend to set too many and/or unattainable goals.  This can be overwhelming.  Avoid losing your gumption by choosing one resolution that is really important to you, creating a plan to reach that goal, and writing it down somewhere that can be a constant reminder. For all you law students out there, here are a few New Year’s resolutions designed just for you and tips on how to sustain them.
When you select your goal, try to make it time-specific, achievable, and measurable.  These are keys to making a successful resolution.  When you create your plan, write out small steps that you can take towards your end goal.  Small accomplishments can give you something to physically cross off, and will motivate you to stay on track as well as boost your morale.  Finally, write your goal and your steps down, and then place it somewhere you will see every day such as on the desktop of your computer, on your fridge or as an alert on your cellphone.
1.      Goal:  Improve class rank by the end of the spring semester. Achieving a high class rank will increase your chances of employment upon graduation.  Example Plan:  Drop extracurricular activities that are stretching you too thin.  Form a study group with those in the top ten percent of your class.  Tweak your study habits (check out Learning Your Learning Style for tips). Do one practice test every other week.   
2.      Goal:  Make Law Review or Moot Court.  Both are competitive, and will help your résumé and increase your job opportunities.  Example Plan:  Talk to whoever is in charge to find out when selections will be made as well as the requirements – this will give you your specific time and some of your steps.  Practice in mock trials or get a research assistant position to fine tune or improve your skills.
3.      Goal:  Pass The Bar.  Whether you’re a 1L or 3L, passing the bar is the ultimate goal to practicing law, and it’s never too early to think about it.  Example Plan:  Look up the state’s admission requirements and deadlines.  Invest in a good bar prep course.  Take courses that are tested – most of your 1L classes cover the MBE and MPRE, but electives may be needed for state-specific essays.  Read 4 Bar Exam Bargains While You’re Still in Law School and 4 Bar Exam Purchases That Got Me Through the Bar to get more ideas as you build your plan.
4.      Goal:  Acquire a scholarship for next year.  Free money will help lessen your financial stress during school and your burden upon graduation.  Example Plan:  Talk to your school’s admission office and career counselors, search online, and check with local and state bar associations to find out about opportunities and requirements.  Take steps to fulfill those requirements.  Determine a certain number of applications to submit each week or month.  Check out New Scholarship Opportunities for Law Students.
5.      Goal:  Create a budget and stick to it for 3 months.  Establishing a 3-month time frame is less overwhelming and you will be less likely to abandon it if you mess up a week or two.  Plus, after doing something for 3 months, it will probably turn into habit.  Example Plan:  Spend like you normally do for a set period (1 week or 1 month) or look at the previous month’s expenses and design your budget.  Pick an area that you can cut back (don’t cut back everything all at once – again, this can make it overwhelming).  Add a new area to cut back each month.  Clip coupons.  Read Barrister on a Budget:  Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank for specific budgeting plans and tips.
So, here’s to 2014 – a new year, a new you!  Cheers!

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