Studying law gives you the opportunity to make a difference to people's lives for the better. You'll defend the truth and bring justice, and you'll give those who need to be heard a voice.
However, studying law is also one of the most overwhelming, grueling experiences you'll ever face. From a never-ending workload to the fierce culture of competition, at times it can crush your motivation and even make you question if you're truly fit for the legal world.
But rest assured that you're not struggling through this alone. Virtually every law student has lost motivation and belief in themselves at some point. In fact, we guarantee that even those who "made it" have fallen victim to this too!
You don't have to combat this alone either: here are 17 effective tips for regaining your law school motivation.
Remind Yourself of Why You Wanted to Study Law
Studies have shown that the intense nature of law school can lead to a loss of intrinsic motivation, and pressures students to take on "expected" motivations. In other words, law students often lose their personal drive under the stress of trying to achieve material results, like the highest possible grades or getting into a prestigious law firm.
While material results are important, focusing solely on them and losing sight of your true reason for studying law will undoubtedly cause you to become demotivated and overwhelmed.
Considering this, a good way to regain your law school motivation is to remind yourself of why you wanted to study law in the first place. Whether you're motivated by a desire to make a difference or want the respect and admiration a law career often brings, the more you focus on your personal drive the more motivated you'll become.
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
In such a competitive field, it can be extremely tempting to compare yourself to others and their achievements. While healthy competition with peers can motivate you to work harder, if you're always comparing yourself it will whittle away your self-confidence and motivation. As Mark Twain once said, "comparison is the death of joy."
Instead of focusing on others, focus on your own achievements and remind yourself of how far you've come. It's a good idea to create a progress log to help you see this in tangible form — we go over this in create-a-progress-log greater detail below.
You should also remember that in many cases, you're not comparing yourself with a realistic picture of your peers. You and your peers are always going to be more open about their achievements than their setbacks. For example, your classmate might have received a higher grade on the recent exam — hence why they're sharing this information with you — but they might have struggled with the previous exam, which you aced — but they didn't let you know that.
So, when you find yourself thinking "I'll never be as good as them," remember that you don't have all the information. In fact, they're likely thinking the same about you!
Put Your Knowledge to the Test
Self-doubt is one of the most common causes of motivation loss. If self-doubt is the culprit, a good way to regain your confidence (and motivation) is to put your knowledge to the test. This will show you in tangible form how much you've learned, and how much progress you've made since starting law school.
Even if you test yourself and discover that you do have a few gaps in your knowledge, this will still work in your favor. Once you know exactly what you need to improve on, it's easier to feel confident about what you do know. It's also easier to motivate yourself to get started on addressing your knowledge gaps.
Don't Forget to Take Breaks
96% of law students suffer from significant stress, and it's no surprise why. The intense workload and competitive nature of law school can make you feel as if you have to be constantly working in overdrive, studying day in and day out without taking a break. In fact, many law students have reported feeling guilty for even taking an afternoon off.
However, studying without taking breaks is actually counter-intuitive. It will elevate your stress levels and leave you exhausted, irritated and demotivated.
Taking a break from law school will help prevent burn-out and give you much-needed time to refresh and recharge. Once you get back to studying, you'll feel refocused and more motivated than ever before.
Plus, studies have shown that breaks decrease the chances of fatigue and sleep disorders, which are both known to negatively affect motivation levels and mood.
The most beneficial breaks are those which are social, like a fun weekend trip with your friends, or relaxing, such as spending time in nature. For some more effective break ideas, check out this guide.
Set Clear Short-Term Goals
If you're solely focusing on the big picture, you're no doubt going to become overwhelmed and lose your law school motivation. It will feel daunting, impossible to reach and out of your control.
Breaking it down into achievable, smaller goals, on the other hand, will make it feel much more reachable and it'll also help you stay motivated. After all, by honing down on the next step rather than the big picture, you'll have something tangible to work toward, which allows you to focus on one particular thing at a time. Plus, every step you take will remind you that you're one step closer to attaining your long-term goal!
An effective short-term goal should challenge you but still be achievable. For example, one short term goal could be completing an essay draft by the end of the week. Another could be getting through all of your reading for the day.
It's also a good idea to reward yourself after achieving a short-term goal — a recently published study found that those who received immediate, regular rewards for completing small tasks were more driven and found more satisfaction in their work.
Connect With Like-Minded Students
Why not try taking part in a study group with friends, or joining an extracurricular activity? Being around highly-motivated people who share similar values can boost your own motivation, as well as rekindle your passion for law school. From bar associations to moot courts, there are various extracurricular activities to choose between where you can easily find peers with similar interests.
Avoid Unsupportive People
It's also a good idea to avoid those who hinder your long-term goals. If the people around you are constantly distracting you, encouraging bad habits, and putting you (and your goals) down, it will no doubt eat away at your motivation.
Here are the tell-tale signs that the people around you aren't a good influence, even if they have good intentions at heart:
- They talk you and your goals down and tell you they're unrealistic
- They pressure you to do things you don't want to do
- They're not excited by your achievements
- They constantly try to "one-up" your achievements
- Interacting with them makes you feel drained and bad about yourself
- You don't learn anything from them
- They don't inspire you
If you recognize any of these signs, it's a good idea to evaluate the relationship and decide if it's really beneficial for you to be a part of.
Keep Your Workspace Organized and Clean
According to Psychology Today, a disorganized and messy space can clutter up your heart; it hinders your ability to concentrate, and makes you feel demotivated and less in control of your day-to-day life.
Reclaim control with these tips on how to keep your space organized and clutter-free. You should also remove anything that could potentially distract you while studying — any temptation, no matter how small, will hinder your focus.
Set up a Dedicated Workspace
Don't currently have a dedicated workspace? It's a good idea to set one up. Having a space solely for studying will help you regain your law school motivation: it gets you into the "at work" mindset, and it also ensures you have a healthy study life balance.
We advise setting up your workspace in a quiet, distraction-free area. It's also important to make your workspace a place that feels welcoming — the more pleasant it is, the more you'll be motivated to work there.
Besides keeping it clean and organized, other ways to make it welcoming include adding plants, pictures and comfortable seating. If possible, set up your workspace in an area with natural lighting; it's a renowned mood booster, and can help keep your motivation levels up.
To further help the motivation flow, you can even fill your workspace with thing that inspire and empower you, such as motivational books and posters of your role models. You can even decorate the walls with post-it notes that have motivational quotes written on them.
Commit to Regular Exercise
Physical activity has long been considered one of the best ways to improve your motivation. When exercising, your body releases endorphins (the "feel-good" chemicals), which elevate mood and energy levels.
You don't have to fully commit to a full-on weightlifting or marathon-running workout either: even light exercise like a daily walk can bring about drastic changes.
Listen to Music
Yes, it might seem a little strange, but it's backed by science: listening to music can seriously improve your motivation to study. This is because music triggers the release of dopamine, the chemical that mediates pleasure and regulates your motivation and goal orientation.
If you're wondering what type of music to listen to, opt for the music you love. Research has shown that doing so releases even more dopamine.
Improve Your Sleep Schedule
It can be tempting to stay up late to finish your reading, or pull some all-nighters before an exam. However, a poor sleep schedule can leave you feeling irritated and exhausted, which will make it harder to stay motivated.
Some of the signs of poor sleep quality include:
- An inability to fall asleep within an hour
- Regularly waking up throughout the night
- Spending less than 74% of your time in bed asleep
- Waking up feeling irritated or groggy
For advice on how to create a healthy sleep schedule, check out this comprehensive guide.
Think About Your Role Model
Take a moment to think about a person you look up to and highly respect — it could be someone in the legal field, a celebrity or even someone close to you. Now, ask yourself how did they get to where they are today?
We guarantee they experienced plenty of challenges throughout their journey.
Considering the challenges your role model overcame can help you strive to conquer your own challenges. It reminds you that just like them, you will reach your end goal, no matter the setbacks you face.
Visualize Your Success
Visualization allows you to truly experience how it would feel to have achieved your end goal, and it also builds your belief that reaching it is entirely possible. So, it goes without saying that the more you visualize, the more likely you are to regain your law school motivation.
Plus, if you're constantly thinking about your long-term goals, it's much easier to focus on the steps to reach them.
Every day, take some time to visualize yourself reaching your long-term goal; if your dream is to become a prosecutor, imagine yourself representing a client in court, and successfully proving their innocence.
Visualization works by altering your Reticular Activating System (RAS) — the thing that dictates how your brain filters information and what you focus on. For further guidance on visualization techniques, click here.
Create a Progress Log
It's important to remind yourself of your achievements and how far you've come since you first started law school. This will help boost your motivation and silence any self-doubt you're harboring.
A great way to do this is to make a progress log, where you record every topic you have covered since starting law school, as well as all your achievements.
Speak to Your Mentor
Your mentor is a fountain of knowledge, and they're sure to have plenty of tips for regaining your law school motivation. After all, they know all too well the challenges of law school!
Plus, they have no doubt guided countless students in your exact position, so they'll know what works and what doesn't. If your lack of motivation has been caused by a particular struggle or setback, they can also provide tailored advice for how to tackle it.
You can even ask them to become your "accountability buddy." Schedule regular meetings with them, and set goals in each meeting to be fulfilled by the next time you both meet.
Of course, an accountability buddy could also just be a friend or family member. It could even be an app that keeps you in check.
If you're suffering from overwhelming negative thoughts, or haven't been able to regain your motivation despite trying various strategies, it's a good idea to seek professional help.
Virtually every law school offers counseling services to assist those in need. Don't be afraid to reach out — they are there to support you and help you reach your goals.
You can also seek support from a lawyer assistance program. These confidential programs provide advice and support of all kinds that's specifically designed to apply to the unique challenges faced by law students and professionals.
Tips for Regaining Your Law School Motivation: A Final Word
A common misconception about motivation is that it's impossible to harness by choice, but in reality, this is far from the truth: motivation is within your control. In fact, motivation you actively encourage brings about the best results.
Whether your demotivation is the result of self-doubt or burn out, the tips above are sure to spark your law school motivation. We've also made sure to include various tips that'll help you stay motivated in the long term.