Post authored by Stephanie Nikitenko
Disclaimer: I am not here to preach to you like your school’s Career Services Office. I am simply imparting some wisdom proven in practice about the importance of proactivity in the life of a law student. That being said, let’s get started.
When I talk about proactivity, it’s not simply the notion of completing your work before it’s due. “Being proactive” may sound like an egregiously obvious concept, but the extra obstacles law school tends to fabricate makes being proactive much more difficult. I’m hoping that by sharing some different and creative ideas about proactivity, it will inspire you to think of useful and out-of-the-box ways to implement it yourself in the daily grind of law school.
I like to compartmentalize in different areas of life.
It’s easiest for me to start here because, well, it’s what I come home to every day. As a first-generation American, family is incredibly important to me, along with making time for them. That was the case until I got to law school. I had no idea about the time constraints I would face as a law student. Phone calls to my family became briefer and less frequent, and eventually, I wound up with my grandmother yelling at me for apparently ignoring her. Bottom line is, be proactive with the people in your life. Friends, family, and significant others will have a difficult time understanding what you are going through unless they have gone through it themselves. Making the extra time to sit down with people to set realistic expectations about how little time you will have to see or talk to them is important to keep your relationships intact. And let me tell you, many of those relationships are going to be the ones that hold you up when you hit those rough patches in school, so do your best to be as proactive as possible in being candid and realistic with them.
You know how you’re told over and over again to only focus on your grades your 1L year? Well, it’s 100% true, and the best advice you can follow. After that, however, you start to hear about how critical it is to network in the legal community in order to forge relationships that could net you job opportunities and open doors to previously unknown fields. When you meet those fantastic and shining individuals, you start having to balance networking events, coffee dates, informational interviews, events your school is hosting, and events outside organizations are planning. The list seems to go on and on. How on earth do you manage all of that on top of the homework and classes you still have? Prioritize your professional communications. There is a 24 to 48-hour rule, and I highly suggest sticking to it. Make a little bit of time every day to thank people you just met and reach out to people you’re about to meet. Yet another form of proactivity intersecting with the monster under your bed that just won’t go away: time management.
Finally, and arguably the part of this article you were waiting for, being proactive in school. I could talk your ears off about the importance of getting your work done, but I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times. Instead, I’m going to talk about a different part of school that isn’t emphasized as much: extracurriculars. Whether you are president of the Family Law Society or writing for a journal, it’s yet another set of plates you have up in the air spinning. Time management plays a big role in this, but accounting for your workload and delegating work to other people is equally important to keeping your sanity while still getting everything done.
Ultimately, the point of this article is to refresh your thinking about proactivity and how you can use it to succeed and keep yourself from burning out. Three years doesn’t seem like a long time, but the opportunities we get as law students are tremendous. Hopefully, this gave you the chance to think about your own proactive tendencies and how you can implement new ones into your life.
About the Author:
Stephanie Nikitenko is a 2L at The John Marshall Law School. She is the upcoming President of the Intellectual Property Law Society at John Marshall as of April 2019. She is also a clinical student in the IP Trademark Clinic where she assists pro bono clients with trademark registration and navigating the USPTO application process.
Stephanie received her BA in Creative Writing in 2017 from Knox College where she fell in love with the law after taking a Constitutional Law class at the behest of the resident pre-law advisor. While at Knox College, she completed 150 service hours with the JusticeCorps program at the Knox County courthouse where she helped guide pro se litigants through the legal process and connect them with legal aid resources.
After graduation, Stephanie plans to stay in Chicago and continue to pursue Intellectual Property law, which is her passion. She hopes to author many more articles and papers, both advice-driven and substantive in the future.