Finding balance in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

At each stage of life, we are tasked with the challenge of finding balance. As children, we are taught to balance time spent playing video games with time spent outside getting fresh air. In college, we must learn to balance time spent enjoying our friends’ company, with time spent in the library enjoying textbooks. In the professional world, there’s a struggle to balance time spent fulfilling work obligations with time spent tending to household duties.

For my entire life, I have been expected to find balance, and as far as I can recall, have done so relatively easily. Law school, however, presents new challenges that require almost expert deftness. Balancing staying up late to finish the next day’s reading, with going to bed early and getting a full night’s sleep. Balancing reducing anxiety by napping or going for a walk, with feeding anxiety by foregoing reading and outlining. Law school requires mastery of many balancing acts, but among the most nuanced, is finding balance between navigating the competitive nature of law school, with establishing and maintaining meaningful and authentic relationships with classmates/competitors.

We are told often how important it is to establish relationships with our classmates — the people who will one day be among the most important parts of our network. This seems counterintuitive given the fact that while in law school, we compete for scholarships, interviews, internships and grades. How much stronger could our networks be if just about every aspect of the law school experience wasn’t a quasi-zero-sum game?  

A recurring theme from my legal education so far, is that in any given situation, there is rarely (if ever) one, and only one, reasonable solution. How do you find balance in law school? It depends; what are your goals? For me, the goal is, of course, to always be as prepared for class as possible. This naturally involves being caught up on reading so as to enhance my understanding of the concepts and be able to meaningfully contribute to class discussion. Likewise, the goal is to be competitive in law school and the legal profession.

But more than one thing can be true at the same time — the goal is also to maintain effective selfcare routines, and ultimately, a sustainable lifestyle. Some days, that requires me to spend more time outdoors with my dog, than I do indoors briefing cases. Most days, that means I prioritize a full night’s sleep over checking more tasks off my to-do list. Every day, that means I rank nurturing meaningful relationships over clinging to unhealthy competition.

Finding balance in law school and in life isn’t easy. But identifying your goals; setting your priorities; and recognizing that there are many solutions to finding balance and many ways to succeed in law school, is a good place to start.

— By Cortez Downey, a 2L from Edmond, Oklahoma and a KU Law Student Ambassador.