April 20, 2020
Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #8 - Doing Too Much?
Dean's Fellows consistently strive to support students in realizing their full academic potential, leading ultimately to success on the bar exam and in the workplace. To support all Southwestern students in this goal, the Dean's Fellows created this Digest as a way to check-in at critical times throughout the semester with helpful tips, strategies, and encouragement.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Doing Too Much?
Doing Too Much?
By: Abe Bran & Sam Dennis*
Ironically, and relevantly, finding the time to meet together and write this blog post has been chaotic. While we spend a lot of time together, we do so in many different roles, and that’s what we wanted to talk about today: Avoiding overcommitment as an upper-division law student.
Full disclaimer: We have enjoyed everything that we did this year. From serving on SBA, working on Law Review Production Assignments, flying off to Negotiations Honor Program competitions, to serving as a Teaching Assistant, we wouldn’t give anything up. And trust us—the list goes on.
When deciding what you want to apply/run/audition/interview for, here are some things to keep in mind (and remember, Table Day is on Tuesday, April 21st):
- Making your Wish List: Create a list of all the positions or activities you would like to be a part of—if you had time for everything. Next, rank these items from what you want to do the most to what you could live without. We recommend running these ideas by your close friends so you can practice articulating why you want to do these things. Finally, talk to a professor or a colleague (like a Dean’s Fellow), and see what workload you can feasibly handle along with your classes.
- Checking Schedules for Classes/Final Exams: While you may want to take certain classes in a specific order, be cognizant of course final exams that happen back-to-back (e.g. on the same day), which could ultimately negatively impact your performance. Similarly, be careful of stacking your classes on certain days just to have Fridays off. Your future self will thank you for avoiding eight hours of class on a Monday.
- Asking if Extensions are Available on Assignments: Look, once you have committed to something for the year, people are counting on you. While the whole point of this blog is to encourage you to be careful and not do too much, life happens. It’s good to know where you have more flexibility in your schedule and your obligations. For example, Sam had to ask for an extension on her Law Review note last semester. However, the Law Review class did not afford extensions, BUT would allow a late assignment submission, taking off one point from the overall allocation. Sam opted for this option, knowing her overall grade would be unaffected, provided she timely submitted all other assignments. Identifying areas of flexibility ahead of time allows for strategic decisions when life gets overwhelming.
- Making your Calendar your Friend: Whether you use Outlook, a printed planner, or some other alternative, KEEP IT WITH YOU ALWAYS. Whether it’s a meeting with a club, the CSO, the externship office, or a networking coffee date, you are going to be busy. We recommend filling in your calendar weekly with all of your daily obligations by the hour. This way you know, again, where your areas of flexibility are. Maybe you don’t complete everything you scheduled for Tuesday. That’s okay. Since you already created the full schedule for the week, you know you can move those incomplete items to Thursday’s extra space! No need to fret. This game is all about reducing stress in areas that you can control so you remain productive no matter what comes your way.
- Messing Things Up: The best way we can talk about this is through experience. For example, Abe held multiple leadership positions this year, and on multiple occasions he thought: “If I would have only done half of these things, I wouldn’t be stretched so thin. I could have put everything I had into this one role.” Sure, maybe there are things you could have done better, but all you can do now is make a mental note, learn from mistakes, and move forward. Clearly, if you are in leadership roles, you are a capable human being. Be honest when you need help from your peers and work hard to ensure next week is better.
- Picking your Battles: Whether you are working with another student, organization, faculty member, etc., you will hit roadblocks. Not every roadblock is worth advocating against in full force. Doing so may make you lose your credibility with these groups when really important issues come up. When you are involved in multiple organizations on different projects, you will work with the same people across campus and need their help to resolve a plethora of problems. Diplomacy and compromise can work wonders.
- Walking Away Gracefully: You should constantly reassess your performance in your endeavors and be (constructively) critical. If you feel that you cannot continue a particular project or role, we recommend being upfront and transparent. While there is no easy way to throw in the towel, the people depending on you will appreciate the time to find alternatives or solutions.
- Simply Enjoying What You Choose to Do: At the end of the day, you are going to spend a lot of time in each particular role and position. Even if you are simply undertaking the role to “boost your resume,” you need to find what you enjoy in it. Otherwise, your heart won’t be in it and people can tell.
We’re not experts, but we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and how we operate. While, yes, we want to warn you about taking on too much, at the end of the day, we have no regrets. Please be smart and strategic in what you choose to do—for your sake and those around you. But, if you find yourself struggling to navigate all of your obligations, know that we’ve been there, and are here for you!
*About the Authors:
Abraham (Abe) Bran is a 2L traditional day student. Abe is concentrating in civil litigation and is a former Research Assistant for Professor Dorff and former extern at the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. In addition to being a Dean’s Fellow, Abe served as the treasurer for the Latino Law Students Association and for the Environmental Law Society, a peer mentor, a staff member of the Southwestern’s Law Review, a Teaching Assistant for Vice Dean Waisman’s contracts class, and Associate Dean Stier’s torts class, the Director of Academic Affairs for the Student Bar Association, and an extern at Larian Law Firm. Next year, he will be returning as the President of the Latino Law Students Association and as the Special Projects Editor for Law Review.
Samantha (Sam) Dennis is a 2L traditional day student. Sam has participated in a volunteer program with the Christian Legal Aid of Los Angeles and worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Lind and Vice Dean Waisman. Sam is pursuing a concentration in civil litigation. In addition to being a Dean’s Fellow, Sam serves as the Secretary for the Latino Law Student Association, the Student Bar Association President, a peer mentor, a staff member for Southwestern’s Law Review, a competitor for the Negotiations Honors Program, a Teaching Assistant for Vice Dean Waisman’s contracts class, and an extern at the Rosen Law Group. Next year, she will be returning as a fellow to the Negotiations Honors Program and a Lead Article Editor for Law Review.
Dean’s Fellows are upper-division students with strong academic skills who go through a rigorous application and training process. They are an integral part of the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department. They are carefully selected based on their academic excellence and ability to teach other students best-practice study methods that will help them become acclimated to the study of law. Dean’s Fellows meet with students as academic mentors.
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