Maintaining Motivation, Intellectual Curiosity and a Love for Law

How to manage burnout as a law student

Tanya Singh, 1L

As I’m sure everyone knows, law school involves a LOT of reading, which can quickly lead to burnout. This semester, more so than the past two, I’ve found it to be challenging to keep up with reading assignments. Sifting through decisions and articles chock full of legalese can be difficult (and that’s to be expected), but it doesn’t change the fact that they can be terribly boring and aggravating.

I’ve probably sworn to myself a thousand times that I will never read another legal decision or read for fun (I never follow through). Recently, I found that setting goals for myself and refreshing my brain has alleviated a lot of my burnout, keeping me motivated and reminding me of why I like the field of law to begin with.

Setting goals seems like an obvious way to remain motivated, but I find it difficult to remain motivated when I set big-picture goals – such as passing the bar exam or needing these credentials for a prospective career. Mantras like “I am going to be a lawyer” or “I will get this J.D.” do nothing for me because they are difficult for me to visualize now – I feel like I am still so far away from having either of those in my reach.

And if those large goals help you stay motivated, that’s great! Goal setting looks and works differently for everyone, so there is no one right way to do it. Personally, I need to focus on the short-term and the “now” when I set goals.

Creating a series of goals that I can readily accomplish within the upcoming week has been invaluable in keeping me motivated because these are goals that I am certain I can accomplish. Not only do I feel more productive when I achieve these goals, but I feel more incentivized to keep setting goals and accomplishing them for the future.

Engaging in activities to refresh or reset my brain has allowed me to remain curious about the field of law while learning more about other subjects I’m interested in. Obviously, brain refreshers can include a lot of the more typical self-care activities, such as napping, going to the gym, and hanging out with friends and family. However, I find it difficult to completely turn my brain off, so I usually turn to reading or studying something else.

This is probably where I should disclaim that I’m a major biology nerd, as my brain refreshers are overwhelmingly biology-related. Sometimes I’ll switch between reading my casebooks and articles from the Journal of Herpetology; I’m very partial towards snakes, especially pit vipers. Recently, I’ve been reading more about parasitology and astrobiology (I do have a favorite parasite and believe in extraterrestrials). Other times my brain refresher may be studying for the MCAT. 

The contrast between biology as a discrete, hard science, and law as a fast-paced, unpredictable field has allowed me to remain curious and appreciative of the legal field.

– Tanya Singh is a 1L KU Law Student Ambassador from Manhattan, Kansas