The “9 to 5” Shift- a 1L’s Perspective on Time Management and Getting Involved

by Kang He, Class of 2015

kang_heKang He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill where he majored in German Studies. He is currently the Vice Tournament Counsel for Trial Team and will be spending the summer of 2013 interning for the York County District Attorney’s Office in PA. Kang would like a to pursue a career in litigation. 

If you don’t manage your time appropriately, deadlines will catch up to you. Being on the National Trial Team at William & Mary Law is a prestigious honor and similar to other organizations, whether they are competitive or academic; however, it takes up a huge chunk of time. Don’t let that scare you because you can balance it with class and exams if you exercise good time management skills, and at the end of the day, it may be worth all that extra effort.

Treat law school like a full time job. No seriously, imagine it like a 9-to-5 shift with an hour for lunch. Immediately after receiving my class schedule for the fall semester of my 1L year, I religiously planned out my life on a week-to-week basis using Google calendar. If any of you actually see my calendar, you’ll notice a barrage of multi-color coded boxes on every single day of the week (red = class, blue = work/study mode, yellow = personal affairs, and purple = miscellaneous).

My day starts in the morning at either 9AM or earlier if I have a class. I allot one hour for lunch at 1PM (typically mixed in with one of the several meetings or events offered), while engulfing all my free time between 9-to-5 with blue study boxes. Usually, by the time 5PM rolls around, all of my reading assignments for the next day, if not more, are complete. Then from 5PM-7PM I allot two one-hour purple boxes for working out and dinner. That leaves me approximately 4-5 hours to see friends, watch a movie, do Trial Team work, or work on my writing assignment for legal practice. Whatever fills up those hours just depends on upcoming deadlines.

Now, typically, no schedule works out perfectly. Perhaps you have to fill out a job application, go shopping, or attend a banquet. My advice: never delete a box once you create it, but shift it to another time slot. One time, I replaced a block to work on Trial Team materials with a block to play racquetball and Madden. As a result, I did not perform to my best ability since I only had a day and a half to prepare four days’ worth of material. If you manage your time well and follow your schedule, you’ll avoid these stressful moments and still have enough personal time.

Joining an organization will give you opportunities and experiences you will not get in the classroom. I recently played a witness in a tournament in Pittsburgh, PA. It was hosted in the federal courthouse with an actual district judge presiding and board-certified doctors playing expert witnesses. Opportunities like this are rare in law school and even rarer is being able to play the role of the attorney in a similar situation. While I only had about 15 minutes of fame up on the witness stand, the real benefits were from the advice and comments given to the teams by practicing attorneys in the region. Tips such as where to stand in a direct examination, how to effectively control a combative witness, and how to take advantage of the other attorney’s mistakes resonate a lot more when you actually make that mistake and are critiqued on it versus just hearing it in class.

Also, the networking opportunities with fellow law students and partners of local law firms that sponsored the tournament were equally beneficial. All that seems like a great time (we even got to eat at Primanti Bros. and stay at a 4-star hotel), but don’t forget all the work and preparation that goes into these “mock” trials. All that hard labor is completely worth it when you put it in practice and WIN. However, regardless of the outcome, it gives you crucial experience in researching and writing, which you will come to know as the two quintessential skills of an attorney and two of the greatest assets that your summer employers will look for.

Don’t brush off extracurricular activities and focus solely on your studies. You will have the opportunities and time to get involved if you manage your schedule well, and the experiences and benefits of participating will be worth it in the end.