• School of Law

  • Time Management: Creating a Semester Schedule

    Getting a grasp on your weekly schedule is important, but it's just as important to be able to look ahead and plan for the semester.  The following is a step by step guide.

    1.   Get a monthly calendar for the semester--this can be one you leave at home, as long as you remember to update it as necessary.

    2.   Look at the syllabus for each class.  Note the dates of any special assignments.

    a.  Some first year classes have graded mid terms or short papers.  Of course, the same is true for upper-level classes.  Put these dates on your calendar

    b.  Enter the due dates for your main legal writing assignments.

    3.   Note no-class days and other scheduled breaks--you can use these for outlining, legal writing,and  generally catching up.

    4.   Note days when you'll be away or unavailable (an out-of-town wedding, a business trip, hosting visitors, etc.)

    Note:  T the greatest extent possible, try not to have these types of events overlap with major due dates, exams, etc.  If an overlap is unavoidable, by going through your calendar early at least you'll know in advance of a pending time crunch and be able to plan accordingly.

    5.   Block out time for legal writing assignments

    Legal writing takes a lot of time.  DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE!!  Plan in advance so that you do not fall behind the week before a major writing assignment is due.  Once you've marked the due dates on your long-range calendar, do the following:

    a.  Work backwards from the deadlines.

    b.  Set intermediate deadlines with specific tasks--the requirements associated with your tutorial schedule can help with this.  Some suggestions for intermediate steps:

    i.  Research--find and read a group of useful cases

    ii.  Outline arguments

    iii.  Complete first draft

    iv.  Complete a major research or writing revision (perhaps after the first tutorial?)

    c.  Research and writing tasks usually are more effective in big 3-4 hour blocks of time, and are ideal for a weekend session.

    d.  Revising and proofreading can usually be accomplished in smaller units of time, and for many people are active enough in nature that they can be accomplished effectively during the "less advantageous" study opportunities (see guidelines for weekly planning).

    e.  Add emergency time for computer failures, blizzards, etc.--do not designate the Monday morning the assignment is due as the time for the final proofread and print.

    f.  Print the draft of your legal writing assignment at least 24 hours BEFORE the due date so that, even if you have a last-minute catastrophe, you will have a close-to-final version of the assignment to submit.

    6.   Block out time to catch up on outlines.  Again, scheduled break days can be good for this task but be realistic.  If you're traveling home to see your family over Thanksgiving, will you really get a lot of outlining done?  For most people the answer is no. 

    7.   As the semester progresses, add time to review and to do practice exams.  If you've been outlining steadily, some of that time can be used for review.  Also, remember that legal writing assignments end before the end of the semester, freeing up time for review.

    8.  Block out the exam period 

    a.  Free yourself from outside obligations as much as possible--take time off from work, arrange for extra child care, etc.

    b.  If there are non-negotiable holiday events (mostly fall term) or other obligations or other obligations, note them now so you can work around them.

    c.  Keep the day before each exam clear for calm, panic-free reviewing.

    d.  Schedule some down time after each exam.  Law school exams are exhausting and the exam period lasts about two weeks.  You will need to unwind, but not too much!