This week we welcome back guest writer Alexandra Muskat to talk about balancing a social law and law school – it can be done!
It can be extremely hard to balance having a social life and being in law school. I witnessed this a lot in law school and found that there are two types of law students: those that party too much, and those that don’t let themselves have a break.
When I was in school, I fell somewhere in the middle. I was a bit older than my classmates, and I really enjoyed both my alone time and my family time. But I knew a lot of individuals who fell into both categories. My friends tended to fall into the “party too much” category, always attending every social function with the same fervor as they would have on a night out in Boston when they were 19.
I had a very regimented approach to balancing school and social activities: I micromanaged my time so efficiently that I knew how many hours I could take off to hang out with people and still get enough sleep to be able to study or go to school the next day. I micromanaged my balancing act, and it worked out very nicely. I rarely had FOMO (fear of missing out), and I always had all my work done. Win-win.
1. Make a Schedule
If you have read my other articles, you know what a fan of scheduling I am. I like everything to be neatly stacked into little boxes that I can efficiently tick off. But I also have learned how to build in buffer windows for those times when everything I’ve planned seems to hit the fan – I thrive in chaos.
So, figure out your workload for the week. A few weeks into the semester you should know how long it’s going to take you to finish your environmental law assignment or your evidence reading. And you should be able to make a plan for the week based on your syllabus and what you know of your instructors’ pace. Write down what you have to do that week and commit to certain times when you’d like to be studying. I found that bullet journaling was the most effective way to keep track of things. I had a month outlook with major due dates and functions on one page, and then a week outlook where I put down what I was going to do each day within a specific time frame.
Once you have your work time commitments taken care of, map into the empty spaces the social functions you want to attend. They can be anything from “visiting Grandpa,” to “Women’s Law Social.” (You can also use this method to block out time for yourself and some self-care activities!)
2. Pick and Choose
There are so many events that happen during law school. Your first year you’ll be bombarded with clubs and study groups to join, parties to attend, and wanting to be home with your significant other or family. There is only so much time in a day, a week, a month, or even a year (high five if you caught that!). Pick and choose your social engagements. For myself, I didn’t enjoy going out every single night after class to get a drink like some of my classmates did. My first semester, I tended to go see family a lot more than spending time with my classmates. It helped keep me grounded, and I thrive on holding babies and playing with kids (I was a nanny for ten years before law school and had a lot of littles to visit). I always felt better and more charged after these visits. Second semester, I started to hang out with my classmates more. I went to more law school events, and I saw my family nearly as much. I liken this to the fact that I had gotten control over my schedule and making all of these things work.
After the first year, I was much better at picking and choosing when I wanted to go out. I made the decision that if I was going to go out late, it had to be for something I knew I was going to enjoy. And I stopped feeling bad if I missed out on things. I made balance my default and used my time as efficiently as possible to ensure I was still doing well in school and getting the most out of my social life.
The key to balancing law school and your social life is to make a plan. I know sometimes “planning” and “micro-managing” your time can feel like the opposite of “balance,” but I promise it isn’t. “Balance” is the ability to remain upright and steady. Going through law school can be a battle but learning to prioritize what matters to you – including school and a social life – requires planning. You plan so you can remain upright and steady.