New School Year Resolutions: Advice for the Third-Year Law Student

Hopefully, by the time you start your third year of law school, you've got case briefing down to a 10-minute science and the Socratic Method no longer gives you a stomach ache. And hopefully you've also got a permanent job offer in your back pocket. If so, you should make a point to enjoy your final year of law school.

No matter what kind of law you wind up practicing, your life will change drastically next year. Before you know it, the stress of the bar exam will rear its ugly head. Soon after, you'll be adjusting your personal life to fit around your work schedule. So this third year of law school is really a great chance to live it up a little before "real life" kicks in. We've got some tips for making the most out of being a 3L.
First, when it comes to planning your class schedule, try to pepper it with classes and clinics unrelated to the kind of law you plan to practice. For example, let's say you already know you're going to be a corporate securities lawyer at a big firm. In that case, consider doing a criminal law externship at your local district attorney's or public defender's office. Alternatively, offer to work as a research assistant for a property or family law professor. Another great option is earning law school units by teaching street law at a local high school. The point is: get some variety now before your whole professional life is devoted to one practice area. Don't worry -- you'll still learn skills that will apply to your practice.

In addition, sometimes law schools have exchange programs with sister schools across the country. For example, if you're a Boalt student, you might qualify to spend a semester at Harvard Law School. It would be a great change of pace.

Similarly, we recommend spending some time each week volunteering. For example, you could do intake for a disability rights organization or a legal aid foundation. Or you could go the non-law route altogether and slap on a tool belt to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity. (Short-term volunteer projects are easy to find via The idea is to do something other than just study or watch t.v. You'll feel good about helping others, particularly because you'll likely have little time for that kind of rewarding work during your first few years of law practice.

Although you shouldn't neglect your studies (particularly if you're gunning to graduate in a certain percentile in your class), be sure to have fun during your third year. By fun, we mean spending time in non-law endeavors. For example, take an art or pottery class. Or offer to write a humorous column for the law school newspaper (or, if your law school is part of a larger university, the university's newspaper). Get in shape -- now's the time to train for that challenging 10K race in your community. Read that classic novel that's been sitting on your nightstand forever. Better yet, consider penning your own novel -- c'mon, all lawyers want to be writers.

Our point is this: your first year as an attorney is going to be busy -- very busy. Not only will you be working long hours, but it'll seem like the only people you meet are other lawyers. So take advantage of this last year of law school -- a year that's still tough in its own right but comparatively laid back -- and do some things for yourself. In a few years, when you're a seasoned attorney, you'll look back and be glad you did.



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