This week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about why adding some fiction reading into your law school routine might be a good idea.
Open any law school online forum and you will likely find numerous instances of prospective law students asking questions like, “I’m thinking of going to law school, but I also like to read for fun. Can I do both?” or “How do you find time to read for fun in law school?” Oftentimes you will find responses such as, “Read for fun in law school? I couldn’t even find time to read my horoscope.”
The real answer to whether or not you can go to law school and also read for fun is yes, yes you can. But, more importantly, here’s why you should read for fun in law school.
As you’ve probably figured out already, law school is challenging. You will spend a lot of time reading case law – really old, boring case law. You will spend a lot of time outlining those really old, boring cases. And, you’ll spend a lot of time being interrogated about those cases in front of your classmates. Sound stressful? It is.
That’s why it’s so important to have an outlet – a healthy way to relax and rejuvenate from the inevitable stresses of law school. Enter fiction. Kicking back with a good book can do wonders for your stress level. Reading fiction allows you to escape into another world, to live vicariously through other people. Maybe you’ll fall in love all over again or for the first time. Maybe you’ll learn about baking or horticulture or run a marathon.
When you read fiction, you forget all about those pesky old cases, and that gives your brain a chance to regroup in order to prepare for the next round of homework. Take just a few minutes a day to read for pleasure and see if you don’t feel more relaxed.
For the last several months I’ve been reading a book about the corruption in our food industry. I seethe as I read about exploitive labor practices or grossly unhealthy production habits. It’s a similar reaction I had to reading a lot of the cases I analyzed in law school.
While the amount of work in law school is challenging, the subject matter itself can be depressing. Reading cases about violent crimes or people who’ve been wronged or about environmental disasters or messy divorces, has a way of bringing you down.
But fiction? Oh fiction! Fiction and its happy endings can be just the respite you need after a day of legal drudgery.
For example, after a particularly stressful work day recently, I chose not to open my food industry nonfiction book and instead I decided to indulge. I checked out Nora Roberts’s Vision in White from my local library. After my son was asleep for the night, I curled up in bed for another hour reading about the silly drama of the main character, a wedding photographer, falling for her love interest, a handsome English teacher. Following their flirtation-turned dating and reading about how each of them was overcoming personal issues and obstacles, I felt happy, that kind of whimsical, sappy, ridiculous happy you feel for fictional characters. And, best of all? The stress of my work day melted completely away. I fell asleep easily and woke up refreshed.
Working in the legal profession can harden you and make you cynical. Read for the pure joy of it and maintain your happiness.
During law school, I started having dreams of being called on in class via the Socratic method. I also developed recurring dreams where I am set to take an exam for a class I forgot to attend all semester. I woke up terrified and enormously anxious, which set the tone for the next day. We’ve all heard how important rest is to cope with stress, yet stress can lead to a negative sleep experience. It’s a vicious cycle.
Studies have shown, however, that reading fiction, particularly before bed, can increase the quality of your sleep. It makes perfect sense. We’ve already established that reading fiction can reduce stress and increase happiness, both of which allows for better sleep.
Take a page out of my book (yes, pun intended), and try reading a half hour before bed. I’m not talking about reading something like To Kill a Mockingbird and analyzing the racial tensions in America then and now. I’m talking about reading something you could almost classify as a guilty pleasure. Something that allows your brain to stop working so hard and rest.
Pick up a good book just before bed, and let it whisk you away to a calm, restful night’s sleep.
Reading To Become A Better Lawyer
You could spend 20 hours a day studying and analyzing cases. You could eschew spending time with friends, avoid going shopping, forsake all of your hobbies. It would honestly be easy to do that in law school.
The reality is you are a whole lot more effective when you are relaxed, happy, and rested. It may seem impossible that there’s time for both law school and reading fiction for fun simultaneously, but it’s possible. And, reading fiction may just make you a better lawyer.