15 New Year's resolutions for law students

Just like everyone else, whenever a new year comes, law students are excited. This is because it is one of the perfect opportunities to set things straight, sort things out and think things through. It is a good chance to think about one's law school performance in the last year and how s/he can improve it in this brand new year approaching.

A New Year's resolution is a tradition which involves a person resolving to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life. New Year's resolutions are not a new thing for law students because four or five, at least, new years of their lives are spent resolving to improve their law school standing.

Below are 15 New Year's resolutions that law students must promise to stick to this year. Of course, there is no perfect New Year's resolution. Nevertheless, it may help a lot if you keep this list and remind yourself to stay on track.

[1] I will read (x number of) pages per day.

It does not have to be 50 or 60, though. It can start from 10 or 20. As long as you do it constantly, it still helps a lot. Imagine: 20 pages a day for 30 days. That amounts to 600 pages which is already at least one textbook. Don't ever underestimate the power of little but consistent effort.

[2] I will allocate and manage my time better this year.

Time management is always the problem. You decide to read on a certain day but your friend calls you or you remember something else that you have to do.

Jordan Peterson has said: "Don't waste time. Make a schedule. What's wrong with a schedule? It's not a bloody prison!"

[3] I will be more honest to myself, pointing out my own weaknesses and strengths.

Sometimes, we love or hate ourselves so much we lie to ourselves. This is not good. Be honest to yourself whenever you make mistakes. Don't try to justify your bad arguments and incorrect answers simply because you want to build a world in your head where you are correct most of the time.

Law school is a training ground before the Bar examination and practice to law. It is better to make mistakes there and learn from those mistakes before they turn into a solidified errors and incorrigible tendencies that will make it harder for you to pass the Bar or win a case in court.

Don't take it too personally whenever you are wrong.

[4] I will regularly (every morning, etc.) remind myself of my goal: to become a lawyer and what it takes to get there -- to study hard and study smart.

Most of the time, we get so caught up with the drama and difficulties of law school that we forget why we entered it in the first place. We want to become lawyers and that is our goal. We should be reminded of this CONSTANTLY because the desire to get there fuels and motivates us.

[5] I will find a mentor or a study-buddy.

It does not make you less of a person if you admit that you do not understand a concept or a whole subject in law school. Find someone who does and seek help. This is especially true between 1Ls and 4Ls because there are thousands of pages in between.

1Ls can learn from their 4L brothers and sisters because the latter have already gone through all the subjects in law school and vice versa because the latter can get the chance to recall subjects taken up three or four years ago.

[6] I will learn something new (at least one thing about law) every day.

One thing every day and that is good enough. It is not ideal to limit learning to one thing per day but it is a good start. Sooner, you will notice yourself learning ten or twenty (or even more) new things every day. Start with one and you will be okay.

[7] I will drink or party less until I become a lawyer.

Professor Gorospe, a well-known author and expert in constitutional law, has said that, in law school, students have two options. Enjoy life now but suffer later after failing the Bar examination, or suffer now but enjoy later when they become lawyers. It is a small sacrifice to make, he even adds.

[8] I will keep my body health because a sound mind requires a sound body.

You know what they say. "Mens sana in corpore sano." A sound mind means a mind capable of good, positive and free thinking mind. A healthy body is obtained by maintaining a good diet and doing a good amount appropriate exercise to keep the body going. When the body suffers, the mind suffers. When the mind suffers, the body suffers. Therefore, we need to keep both of them in good shape.

[9] I will lend a helping hand to my classmates and underclassmen whenever they struggle with law school subjects.

This has something to do with item [5]. If you are a 3L or a 4L, chances are that you have already forgotten many of what you learned in your first year in law school. Extending a helping hand to underclassmen will help you recall those forgotten concepts and, bonus, help you earn new friends.

[10] I will use my money to buy textbooks instead of splurging on stuff I later regret buying.

Instead of buying that bag on sale online, why not save the money for your textbooks next semester? Textbooks are your best friends in law school. To a surprising degree, your performance depends on them.

[11] I will read one (just one) Supreme Court case every Sunday.

Just one and it is enough. It does not have to be lots of cases. One case per week is enough to equip you with the right amount of legal language and legal principles to answer law school tests and Bar examination questions.

[12] I will use less time on social media or mobile (or computer) games. Instead, I will devote my extra time to improving my knowledge and understanding of the law.

This does not have to be explained. Most law students are into social media and mobile games. Although they are sometimes helpful in achieving relaxation, they can, at times, turn into a distraction.

Instead of spending five (5) hours a day on social media and games, we can use 50% of that time to ready a few pages on our textbook or one (1) whole full-text decision.

[13] I will brush up my grammar by reading a grammar book or asking a friend/classmate to give me a crash course on language use.

Good grammar is critical regardless of industry, especially in law. The meaning of a sentence can change drastically simply because of a misplaced phrase or a poor choice of word.

As Professors Moliterno and Lederer say, "The legal profession lives and breathes through the written word."  As such, we -- of all people -- must be particularly careful with how we use our words and cognizant of the impression we make when we use them. (Lisa A. Mazzie, 2012. So you think Grammar don't matter? Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog. law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2012/10/so-you-think-grammar-dont-matter)

[14] I will improve my handwriting.

The funny thing is that most professions have done away with handwritten essay exams but Philippine law schools stick to tradition in the same way the Supreme Court sticks to jurisprudence. Another interesting matter is that lawyers often use computers to write their pleadings while doctors write prescriptions with their own hands but the first are expected to have good handwriting while the second are not. [2020 update. This has been affected by the new rules regarding computer-assisted Bar exams.]

Be that as it may, you have no choice. You have to improve your handwriting and you have to start with those elementary school books that teach you how letters are properly shaped.

[15] I will not quit law school. Or, if I really need to stop, I will take a break from law school but not from my law books or codals. Codal lang ang pahinga, ghorl!

Law school is hard. Everyone in law school knows that. It drains your energy, time and resources. You almost don't have time for family and friends, or for yourself.

The bad news is it is not going to change. Law school will remain one of the hardest schools in the world and one of the most difficult things you have ever decided to accomplish. However, the good news is it never lasts too long. Four, five or six years in law school, and you are done. You will become a lawyer soon.

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