A New Year: Starting fresh after winter break

By Alison Monahan

Sometimes, law students feel like they have been beaten down through the gauntlet of finals in the already-stressful days and weeks leading up to the holiday season. Under the best life circumstances, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, are filled with chaos and countless distractions.

During this same period, law students are expected to study and prepare to be tested on volumes of readings, memorize case briefs, and synthesize statutes and case law in order to use the law to answer exam questions. 

It is easy to feel defeated, fatigued, and isolated from the “real” world. The good news is, winter break is an excellent time to reset, renew, and get a fresh start before spring semester begins.


Take A Minute

It is not uncommon for law students to feel like they will suffer if they don’t continue learning and studying throughout the entirety of law school, even during breaks.

While this may be true for summer breaks when it is in the average law student’s best interest to work and gain experience (internships, externships, clerkships, etc.), as a rule, winter break lends itself to true rest and recuperation for the beleaguered law student. There are few expectations to this rule. People expect you to spend time with family and recharge, and unless you have projects due in the new year, that is exactly what you should do.

Take a moment to breathe deeply, read a non-legal book, go to a few movies and dinners with friends and family; take time to let the pressure and anxiety associated with law school to fall into the background. It is okay to take a moment to do a few activities not related to law school over the few short weeks of break.


Shake It Off

As Ms. Swift advises, “shake it off.” You have completed your finals, submitted your papers, and completed all other tasks required of you by your professors. There is nothing more you can do, once finals are over, to change the outcome of those end-of-semester evaluations. There is absolutely no reason to stress over how well you did or didn’t do. Once your final is over, just let it go.

One key aspect of this is to refrain from any and all communication with your law school colleagues about the contents of the exams. Grades probably won’t come out until the end of break or even after the spring semester begins, so live in delightful, blissful oblivion of your performance, until such time that you get the grades. Until that happens, relax and put your exams out of your mind.


It Might Help to Be Empowered

I know that I  have just spent 400 words telling you to  delude yourself into forgetting that  you are in law school over break, but there are law-school-related activities that might actually help you start the spring semester fresh and feeling empowered. How does a law student feel empowered, you ask?

Find a good internship, externship, or clerkship. No matter how stressed and beaten down I felt in law school, I always felt like I was walking on cloud nine when I got notice that I had obtained a great experiential learning opportunity.

I am not suggesting that applying for these positions is enjoyable, it’s not. However, this is a perfect time to engage in this valuable activity that has nothing to do with learning the law. The outcome of your labor could fill you with so much confidence that last semester will seem like a distant memory.

 Use the break to do a few informational interviews, complete a few applications, and re-connect with professionals in your legal network. I am talking about conversations over coffee or lunch. Submitting a few resumes and cover letters. Relatively low-stress activities that can have a significant impact of your confidence level going into spring semester.


Don’t Lose Sight of “You”

You are a law student. True. You are also a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter and friend. You are so much more than just a law student; winter break is a great time to embrace those other parts of who you are. By doing so, you can fill your cup with something other than just law school.

If you are mindful of this over the few weeks that you are away from the hallowed halls of your law school, you stand a significant chance of rediscovering the person you were when you began law school. The person who was anxious and excited to learn the law and join the noble profession of lawyering. No other time in the year provides such a great opportunity to hit the reset button and start fresh. You’ve got this!


Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School®, which is a leading resource for women (and some men) embarking on a legal career. Alison is also a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox® and Bar Exam Toolbox® which provide free resources, tutoring and a variety of courses and tools to help law students and bar exam takers succeed with less stress and anxiety.