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How to Survive Commuting to Law School

Hello friends!

This is a highly requested post that has taken me a little while to compile information for because it is not something I have personal experience with. I do not commute a large distance to law school- I have about a 15 minutes drive. I know that many people have to commute to law school (or grad school of any kind) and I can imagine it would be difficult on top of an already busy and exhausting schedule. Though I do not have personal experience, I polled a few of my super successful classmates who commute to law school for the information found in this post. Though this is not my own thoughts or opinions, I trust the people who I talked to implicitly and I think their advice is very valuable as they have all managed to commute through law school while still doing amazing in school. Sometimes I quote them directly and sometimes I summarized but overall, I hope this is helpful to those who are currently commuting to law school or those considering it in the future.

1. Utilize Your Commute
I got this advice from two different people but in slightly different ways.
Opinion 1:

  • "Commuting an hour to and from school is a big loss of valuable time to study and prepare. Because of this, I searched for ways to make my commute valuable and to utilize that time in a positive way. I downloaded lectures on topics of law we were learning in class and checked out legal books on CD from the law library. This way, my two hours of driving each day were spent learning and enhancing my education. Something that was extra helpful around finals time is to use the NaturalReader app to read my outlines aloud from my iPhone. This way I am listening to the law while driving which is a way to study and make my driving time more useful." - a 3L student 
Opinion 2: 

  •  "I use my driving time to and from school to relax. I spend my time at school hustling to get as much done as possible and when I get home I have reading, outlining and regular life stuff like dinner to fill my time with. This leaves very little time for relaxing and doing fun things. My relaxation while driving varies by day but here are a few of my favorite options. 
    • Audiobooks: I have the free Libby app and I use it to download free audiobooks to listen to on my drive. After a long day of law school, I love listening to a fun romance novel or a thrilling mystery. It gives my brain a break and makes the drive go so much faster. When I do arrive home, I am more relaxed and ready to take on more work because I have had a little time to relax. 
    • Phone Calls: Law school is so busy and sometimes I run out of time to keep up with friends and family. I like to make "phone dates" with people during my commute time. This way, my driving time is spent catching up with a dear friend or filling my mom in on my life. It is important to have people support you during law school and this is one of my favorite ways to maintain those relationships and make my drive fly by. 
    • Jam Session: Honestly, what is better than a good, old-fashioned jam out in your car? Especially after the long days. I love to cue up all my old favorites and just sing along at the top of my lungs all the way home." - a 2L student 

2. Maximize Your Time at School 
Everyone I talked to agreed on this point. If you commute, you have to maximize your time at school. You already have so much dead time in your day driving to and from school so you have to be extra productive while you are there. Meet with professors, meet with career services, spend time with your classmates, etc. When you live far away and commute, it can be harder to get involved or just run over for something real quick so you have to be extra organized to make the most of your time at school and make sure you do the things you need to do. Planners and To-Do lists were suggested by multiple people to help with this.

3. Make a Friend who Lives Close to School 
Not to try to tell you who to make friends with but this was a piece of advice from several people. Specifically, one of my classmates commutes and his law school best friend lives less than a mile from the school. On nights before mornings exams, my friend who commutes crashes on his friends couch so that he doesn't have to make an hour drive the morning of an 8am exam. There have also been instances with bad weather where I have personally offered my guest room to a few of my friends who commute so they don't have to make the drive in a snowstorm. Law school is better with good friends!

4. Take Care of Your Car
Commuters have to rely heavily on their cars. I don't think anyone can argue about that. If your car breaks down and you live 15 minutes from school, you can ask a friend to pick you up or grab an Uber. If you live far away and commute and your car breaks down, you may have a much more difficult time getting to school. The ABA sets rules for law schools that you can only miss a few classes every semester so getting to school is very important. My friends who commute stressed over and over again how important it is to care for your car and keep it in good running order so that you can continue making your commute. Change your oil, make sure your tires are in good condition and get it checked out when your "check engine light" comes on. 

What it is like Being Married to a Law Student

Hello everyone!

Today we have a fun post from a different point of view- my wonderful hubby is guest posting! I have had several people ask for more posts on what it is like to be married while in law school. I thought it would be interesting to see the other point of view- what is it really like to be married to and to live with a full-time law student? I am sure there are lots of spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends out there who wonder what it is like to live with and deal with a full-time law student. I successfully bugged my husband until he agreed to do this post.

A little background: my husband and I got married the summer before I started law school. We were still very fresh newlyweds living together for the first time when I began my 1L year. It has not always been easy to balance marriage and the demands of law school and I know it has been hard of my husband. To his credit, he is has been a trooper. He puts up with my constant studying, listens to all of my whining and complaining about classes and makes sure I eat and sleep during final exams. I am beyond lucky to have such a wonderful partner beside me throughout this journey!

Now without further ado, I turn the keyboard over to my wonderful hubby!

Hello blog-people. I am the husband of this situation. My wife won't stop bugging me to write this so I finally caved. Maybe it will help future law student husbands or wives or boyfriends or girlfriends. I have 5 tips for being married to and living with a law student. It is not a walk in the park but I am still happily married after 2 years so it is possible.

1. Find a Hobby
Law students are busy all the time. My wife literally reads all the time or she is at school. She has an office in our spare bedroom and she disappears into it for hours on end. I have learned that she needs her space and I need to find another way to occupy my time that's not hanging out with my wife. I went back to grad school online to get my masters so now we study at the same time. I also play video games a lot... because she is always reading. My best advice is to find a hobby to fill your time when they are busy studying and to give them their space to get done what they need to get done.

2. Make them take Breaks
My wife is way to high strung and type-A for her own good. It is not unheard of for her to stay up until 3am getting things done or baking cookies (she is a weirdo). There are times I can see her working herself into a frenzy and it's not good for her mental health. Therefore, I make her watch a movie or go for a walk or eat real food. It is not good for anyone's mental health to work constantly and one thing you can do to help your law student is to keep them from over-working themselves.

3. Be Supportive but Don't Try to Relate too much
Nothing sets my wife off more than people who have never been to law school trying to relate to what law school is like. If you haven't been through it, apparently you can't understand it. I gave up on that during her 1L year and now I just nod, smile and say "yes dear" or "that sucks dear" when she is whining about law school stuff. There are plenty of ways to be supportive without trying to relate; I make sure she has food during finals, I keep the coffee drawer stocked and I try not to bug her when she's studying. I also let her get a third dog during 1L so that she can have all the puppy cuddles when she is stressed (and we love our rescue pup).

4. Go in with your eyes open
It is not going to be easy. Know that going in. Law students are stressed out and not always super fun to be around. They are going to talk about cases and laws that you could care less about. Living with a law student is not always fun... my wife gets stressed and exhausted and angry sometimes. She doesn't have time to do laundry some weeks. I just try to remember that she is going through something really hard and I just need to support her and help out. It can be very hard to watch your loved one struggle... I hate seeing how stressed and anxious she is during exams and I wish I could make it easier. It is hard to be the sole breadwinner until she is done with school. But I think it is all worth it. I am proud of my wife for pursuing her dream and I love telling people that she is going to be a lawyer. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy 3 years and I knew it wouldn't always be fun but we are getting it done and our marriage is doing just fine. As long as you don't expect it to be sunshine and butterflies, you won't be super disappointed.

5. Remember it is only 3 years
Law school doesn't last forever. Someday you get your spouse back. Granted, then you are married to or are living with a lawyer and they are better at arguing but at least they won't have homework anymore. Just keep in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Thankfully my wifey only has 2 semesters left!

Good luck future law student spouses!

Huge thank you to my wonderful hubby for guest posting!!!

A Thank You Giveaway to My Readers

Happy Labor Day!! I hope everyone is enjoying a day off from work and school. Today, I have a very exciting announcement:

I am doing a big giveaway on my blog as a thank you to all of my loyal readers and followers!!!

Everything included in the giveaway!!! One lucky reader will win all of this!

I am so humbled by the reception my blog has gotten in just over 2 years. Every comment, email, and message I receive warms my heart and I am so glad that my little blog has helped so many aspiring and current law students. I want to pay that back to those who follow along and take the time to read my blog with this giveaway.

I will be giving away a "Law School Survival Kit" full of things that have helped me survive law school thus far. Here is what will be included in the giveaway:
  1. "Law School Probs" Mug
  2. Cozy Blanket Scarf
  3. Pastel Index Cards
  4. Weekly Planning Pad
  5. Plum Paper Planner Sticky Note Desk Pad
  6. Gel Highlighters
  7. Plum Paper Planner Bookmarks
  8. Book Stand
  9. Plum Paper Planner Address Book
  10. "Happy Thoughts" Desk Pad
  11. Soothing Hyacinth Candle

In order to enter the giveaway, you must use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Entries must follow The Legal Duchess Instagram page, The Legal Duchess twitter page, tweet about the giveaway, visit and like The Legal DucheFacebook, and follow The Legal Duchess on Pinterest.

In order to be entered in this giveaway, you much complete all entry qualifications. The giveaway contest opens 9/3/2018 and closes 9/10/2018 at midnights EST. The winner will be contacted and asked for their address in order to ship the prize. If the winner does not claim within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected.

How Different is Law School from College

Happy Saturday!

For all of those who finished their first week of law school- CONGRATS! Isn't that a great feeling?

I was having a conversation with some of the new 1L's at my school the other day about how law school is different from undergrad. I thought I would type up my thoughts on the subject as a blog post because this is a question I have gotten quite often from prospective law students while I give tours at my law school.

Law school is in a league all it's own. There is really no way to "prepare" yourself for it.... even if you were a pre-law student in undergrad, law school is going to be very different from anything you have ever done. I think this is good and bad; on the plus side, it is a fresh start and provides an opportunity to reinvent yourself in preparation of a legal career and everyone comes in in the same position... on the negative side, it involves a lot of trial and error to figure out how to be a good law student. I found that law school was vastly different from undergrad in both good and bad ways. Here are a few of the biggest differences.

1. You MUST Prepare for Class
Maybe others are different but I was able to get by in undergrad without ever truly preparing for class and I still got really good grades and graduated Magna Cum Laude. I would read in the 10 minutes before class or do a quick skim while the professor was saying hello to the class or sometimes I would just show up and hope for the best. Don't get me wrong, I studied for exams and spent some time on my papers to make sure I turned in something halfway decent but for class, I was able to get by without ever really preparing for classes.

If I have said it once on this blog, I have said it a million times: In Law School, you really have to prepare for class. Like extensively. Before class, I do the reading, I take reading notes and I make sure to do one last skim in the last few minutes before class. Because many law professors cold call during class, you never know when you will be expected to answer questions on the reading material. Also, law school classes are intense and without reading before class, it can be very difficult to keep up in class. I had a professor during my first week of 1L year tell us that you need to work like it's finals week from the first day of law school. To me, that means making sure I am 110% prepared for classes and any potential cold calls, keeping up on my notes and outlining, and going to the professors when I am feeling confused about something.


2. One Exam = Your Whole Grade
So this might be my least favorite think about law school... right behind core grammar from 1L year. In almost every law school class, one final exam at the end of the semester over the entire course will make up your entire grade. Prior to law school, I had never been graded in this format. In undergrad, my grades were always based on a variety of assignments, quizzes, tests, and papers. None of my undergrad professors graded on a curve. It seriously stressed me out when I realized that my entire grade in law school boiled down to one gigantic exam. It takes some getting used to and through the semester, you have to stay self-accountable to prepare for the exam because generally there won't be quizzes, tests or assignments to keep you on track as there are in undergrad classes. (I have had midterms in a handful of my classes but they are the distinct minority and a few of my classes count participation into the grade but it is only like 3-5% of the total while the rest is from the exam). I think what stressed me out the most was knowing that if I had a bad day on exam day, my entire grade would suffer.... and the two straight weeks of non-stop study are pretty unpleasant. But I have survived it and gotten used to it... I won't say it is fun but you just have to power through and make it happen.

As for grades, they are not the end all be all of your legal careers. Most law school classes are graded on a curve and only so many A's are given out. This can be very frustrating because you can complete what feels like an A exam and still get a B+ because the curve was tight in that class. But, it is not the end of the world. One bad grade doesn't kill you and it's all relative. In some classes, I feel I deserved higher grades and in other classes, I was surprised my grade was so high. But at the end of the day, if you work hard, do your absolute best and learn something from the experience, then you have done all you can.

3. Professionalism Matters 
There is nothing wrong with wearing leggings and a baggy sweatshirt in undergrad. In fact, it was pretty much my entire wardrobe. Showing up late to class in undergrad may be embarrassing but most professors don't really care. You can online shop all through class and generally, it doesn't matter. I also didn't really think about the bigger picture and any career stuff other than getting into law school.

Law school is different- from day one of orientation, they will be preaching professionalism at you. Your legal career begins the day you start law school. And all that other stuff I talked about above should probably come to an end. You never know when lawyers will be in the law school so I always dress presentably for class in law school. I refuse to be late to any of my law school classes. I generally don't even use my computer in classes for law school. Also, from day one you have to be thinking about your professionalism, your future internships and jobs and character and fitness for the bar. Law school is in a whole other league of professionalism from undergrad.

4. Time Management is a Thing 
I don't know about everyone else but I kept myself pretty busy in undergrad. I was a varsity athlete, I had a job, I had two majors, I lived on my own all four years, I was in a bunch of organizations and held leadership roles, and I planned my wedding. However, I was horrible at managing my time because I could get away with procrastinating on my homework and other stuff in favor of watching High School Musical with my roommates or going to a party.

Law school has forced me to actually learn some time management skills. There are just so many things going on and so many hours in a day and procrastinating is simply not an option. I have really had to get regimented about my time and my responsibilities because I am pulled in a million directions. I take a full course load, I work in admissions, I am on Moot Court, I coordinate the oral advocacy competition at my school, I am president of the Criminal Law Society, I am Clerk for our schools chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, I mentor 1L's through SBA, I participate in a legal clinic with my own clients as a certified intern, I have a part-time job as a social media manager, I blog, and I have a house, husband and 3 dogs to keep up with. Keeping all the things organized and getting everything done is no small task but it is manageable as long as you manage your time. I am actually really glad that law school has forced me to become so good at managing my time because that is just a great life skill to master.


5. It's a bit of a Flashback to High School 
One of my favorite things about college was that it was nothing like high school. I absolutely hated high school. The only good thing that came out of it was that I met my now husband... other than that, my high school years were spent studying, avoiding classmates, traveling the country for horse shows and counting the days until I was out of there. I hated the cliques and drama and nosiness. College was much more my speed and I loved every minute of my 4 years of undergrad.

Law school surprised me by being a bit of a return to high school. You spend all day in classes with the same people, you have lockers, you generally hang out with your classmates in spare time.... lots of elements reminiscent of high school. I vastly prefer law school to high school but there are some overlaps I could do without. Law school can be kinda cliquey... I try to avoid it and be friendly with everyone but there are definitely cliques at my law school. Also, there can definitely be some drama.... putting a bunch of people together in a high-stress environment will always breed a bit of drama. While law school is not exactly like high school, it definitely brings back some elements from my high school years. However, I have had a much more positive experience in law school than I did in high school.... and despite this fact, law school retains quite a bit of the college atmosphere thank heavens. Regardless of your high school experience and any similarities between high school and law school, you can have a different experience. My law school experience has been really fun and I have met wonderful people and made lifelong memories. That is the polar opposite of my experience in high school. Make law school its own experience- it's not high school, it's not college so don't let those dictate how law school goes for you.

Dealing with Social Anxiety in Law School

Happy Monday!

Today was my first day of 3L year. It is so hard to believe that this is my last year. This semester, I only have one class on Monday's so it was a pretty low-stress first day. This does lead me into my topic for today's blog though. The class I have on Monday's is Business Associations and it is one of the few classes I have had in law school where none of my close friends are taking it with me. This lead to me having a small anxiety attack when I got to class this morning and had to decide where to sit... alone. I know that seems a bit silly but regardless, there was a flash of panic when I walked into the classroom. Thankfully, it passed after a few deep breaths and I found a good seat toward the front near an acquaintance who has always been a sweetheart.

I think social anxiety is often overlooked. I know it took me a long time to realize that I was struggling with it. I would get so nervous about events that I couldn't sleep the night before as I laid awake overthinking every possible situation. I would stand in a room and imagine that everyone was thinking the worst about me or my smile was looking weird. After a social interaction, I overthink the interaction endlessly. As a person who has always struggled with social anxiety, law school has presented some interesting challenges. It is a high-stress environment to begin with so any anxiety on top of that is magnified. Walking into big lecture halls stresses me out because I am always afraid of doing something embarrassing like tripping and I am naturally very shy so networking events are my personal version of hell. In my time as a law student (and just growing older and wiser), I have figured out some tricks for dealing with my social anxiety, particularly in the stress of law school. These are not from a licensed medical professional, they are not exciting ideas and they may not work for everyone but these are the simple tricks that have helped me to deal with my social anxiety.

1. Practice Deep Breathing
I feel like everyone says this but it seriously does work. Like I said earlier in the post, a few deep breaths is one of the best ways to calm myself down when I am starting to get anxious. It is simple but for me, it really does help.

2. Think Happy Thoughts
I can fall into a pretty negative thought stream when I get anxious. One of the other simple tricks I use to combat my social anxiety is to simply think happy thoughts. I try to find something positive to focus on and avoid any anxious or negative thoughts by focusing on the positive. It doesn't have to be big; just a small positive thought to keep the anxiety at bay.

3. Start Small
Something I have used all along (even before law school) in my battle with social anxiety is to make small progress and call that a win. I will conquer one small thing I am anxious about and just keep doing that until I have accomplished the things that were causing my anxiety.

4. Fake it until you Make it
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice. If you fake it until you make it, no one will ever know how anxious you were. So sometimes, you just have to listen to some pump up music, give your self a pep talk, slap a smile on and fake it til you make it. For me, most of my anxiety is completely invisible to the average person so long as I fake it. This method has gotten me through a lot of networking events and the whole first week of law school.

5. Practice makes Perfect
I will say that just like anything, practice and repetition make it easier. The more networking events I attend, the easier they get. The longer I am a law student, the less cold calls stress me out. Fake it til you make it and eventually it will get easier. I don't think social certain situations will ever be easy for me, but they do get easier with practice.