By: Noah Hock (WFU Law ’20)
One of the most important lessons I learned over the first year of law school was that to succeed in law school, a student must find a healthy balance between his personal and academic life. One valuable way to achieve this balance is to find something unrelated to schoolwork that is more important to you than professional success. Before returning to school, I worked full-time as an academic administrator and held down performance contracts with three part-time symphonies. As such, my time commitment did not change appreciably as a student, in spite of the colossal amount of work required. What did change was the level of stress I experienced.
There’s no way around it: law school is stressful. I began classes in the fall with very little practical knowledge about the law or how to succeed in a law school class. I was essentially required to learn a new way of reading and writing while trying to get up to speed on legal terminology and case law dating back to the 1800s. These challenges included preparing 50–100 pages of intricate reading each day, being “cold called” to answer increasingly complex questions regarding an assigned case, and presenting oral arguments. As exams approached, the stress compounded as we wrestled with a strict grading system of mandatory averages and distributions across an unforgiving curve.
The only thing that keeps me sane through the madness is my wife and young daughter waiting for me at the end of the day. No matter how stressful a day has been, or how many hours of homework wait for me that evening, from the moment I pick up Clara from daycare until bedtime, I am just Dad. We talk about our days, we eat, we play silly and imaginative games, we snuggle together and read a book. These hours impose a mandatory mental break from the stress and struggle of school and provide a constant reminder of the more important things in life that I carry with me throughout the day.
This year has made clear to me the vital importance of balancing professional goals with personal responsibilities and interests. Parenthood is, perhaps, an extreme example of this balance, particularly for the average law student. However, the same valuable experiences can come from countless sources: volunteering, pet ownership, a sport team, community participation, even exercise. Students benefit when they can find a way to detach from the stresses of law school and engage with an activity or commitment that provides purpose and perspective.