For the most part of my law degree, I worked and studied full time. At the time, I had the energy and made the time to do so, but I had not considered the long-term consequences of doing both.
I wish back then I had been kinder to myself. I was in my early 20’s when I started my degree and was full of determination to become a lawyer as soon as possible. I enjoyed the thrill of working within a law firm, learning what it was ‘really like’, and studying the law whilst working towards my degree.
But working as a paralegal full time learning the ropes, as well as studying a law degree full time, was tough and took all my time. I had become overwhelmed with the workload and competing pressures I had at work and at university.
In those early days of my degree, a senior lawyer enquired how my studies were going and what four subjects I had that semester. She quietly said to me, “you know Starsha, a law degree is a marathon, not a sprint. You can take your time with it”.
And in hindsight, I knew she was right. But I did not learn that until I was approaching my fourth year when I made the decision to step back and work part time to focus on my last year of studies. My grades went up and I was able to be fully present on the days that I was working as I knew I had the time to complete my studies on the other days.
What I would say to my younger self:
- Know your limits – be realistic with yourself, ask yourself what you want your life to be like now and in the future, and how you can make it work to get to your goals.
- Ask for help – speak with your colleagues or peers if you are having a hard time managing your workload, or if you don’t know the answer to a problem. Be open to receiving constructive and helpful critique from your peers.
- Learn how to balance – take it slow and enjoy the experience of learning.
- Pace yourself – if you are a student concerned about gaining employment in a law firm, there are many roles to get your foot in the door. Don’t be afraid to start in an entry level role – you can always progress whilst studying. You have time and your entire career ahead of you to practice law.
Although I may have made different choices knowing what I know now, you still must make the decision best for you at the time and in learning about yourself as a person and lawyer-to-be. Be kind to yourself, remember it’s a marathon, and enjoy your career of ongoing learning and growing.
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