A Letter to Law Students Studying for Finals (and anyone else stressed out)

Law School Finals Stress Cramming Antidote

Dear Friend,

To do extremely well on your finals, you might want to consider the inside — not just the outside.

The outside: cases, case notes, class notes.

The inside: your state of mind; your ability to focus, to persevere, to guide your thoughts, to remain calm and collected in the face of a challenging question.

Could you invest just 5 minutes today to meditate?  (such a practice, I argue, is better than 5 hours of studying).

Cramming and stressing out will severely inhibit your ability to THINK when faced with a challenging, open-ended question on the final.

Antidote: meditating and laughing.

Birds regurgitate; lawyers think.  To think, clear your mind.  To clear you mind, meditate; follow your breath, observe your thoughts (let them fly by like clouds).


You will do great and you already know too much,


Meditating During Law School Finals

P.S. – try this 2 minute guided meditation with Rumi poetry for beginners (I love this entire YouTube series — “The Meditator” by Deepak Chopra).  If you go to snipmp3.com you can get the mp3 file and put it on your iPod!

No One Is Stopping You But You, So Stop Stopping You

Who is Going to Stop Me Ayn Rand

You can do anything you want, be anyone you want.

The only one stopping you is you.

So stop stopping you.

Seth Godin Stop Sabotaging Your Own Work

No one else gets to decide for you!

Follow your heart, not the mob.

Dare to Be Different Progess

Fear may hold others back, but it doesn’t hold you back.

When you fail — and you will fail many times if you’re doing something worthwhile – keep trying until you succeed.

J.K. Rowlings Quote on Failure

Keep moving.


No blaming.

No complaints.

No excuses.

I Don't have Time

Death is fear.

Life is courage.

Life Courage Vincent Van Gogh

Grades Don’t Matter. Just Do Your Best


“Just do your best.” – Buddha’s last lesson 

Grades don’t matter.

“Get A’s” should never be your goal.

Instead, your goal should be: “do my best.”

The 1L Curve is mean — only a handful of the hundreds of bright, talented students in your section will get an A in any given class.  Past your 1L year, many professors are stingy with handing out A’s (this isn’t high school).

The Stoics (such as Marcus Aurelius) advised to set internal rather than external goals.

Thus, your goal in law school should not be to be #1 in the class or get a 4.0 (something external, over which you only have partial control).

Instead, your goal should be to study and perform to the best of your ability in every class (something internal, over which you have complete control).


By choosing the internal goal you will spare yourself the frustration or disappointment should you not achieve your external goal: Since it’s not your goal to be the best, you will not suffer the emotional turmoil as long as you do your best.

If you put in 50% effort and get an A-, you should feel ashamed.

If you put in 100% effort and get a C, you should feel proud.


Note: doing your best and being the best are actually causally connected; you’ll probably get higher grades if you’re only competing with yourself.

The wise Stoics realized that our internal goals affect our external performance, but they also realized that the goals we consciously set for ourselves can have a dramatic impact on our subsequent emotional state.

In particular, if we consciously set out to be #1 in the class as our goal, we arguably don’t increase our chances of being #1.  In fact, we might even hurt our chances: If it starts looking, early on, as though we are going to get lower grades than we hoped, we might become frustrated or burned out, and this might put us out of the race.

Further, by having our goal linked to an external event that may or may not happen (e.g. get all A’s!), we dramatically increase our chances of being upset on grade distribution day.

But if we set our goal as doing our best, we arguably don’t lessen our chances of getting excellent grades, but we do lessen our chances of being upset on grade distribution day.

Thus, internalizing our goal as doing our best has an upside — reduces emotional anguish in the future — with no downside.

You have complete control over the amount of effort you put into your studies, your essays, your finals.

You have little to no control over the grades you get.

(in fact, it’s well established that professors use the stair toss method to grade exams — luck might not be on your side that day).



  • Your Goal: Do My Best! (you’ll be happier and you’ll perform better)
  • Not Your Goal: Top 10%! (you’ll go crazy and you’ll open yourself up to burnout)

P.S. – Joe Biden, the guy with the most chill job in the world, graduated in the bottom 10% of his law school class.

Joe Biden Sleeping


You can always be VP.

Seven Ways to Cure Law Student Burnout


Burnout.  Loss of motivation.  For most law students, it’s a fact of life.  But it doesn’t have to be.

You can rise above burnout.

Here are seven antidotes:

1. Be Mindful

Law school and eating an elephant are both mastered in the same way: one bite at a time.


This is the only moment that’s real.


The past and the future are illusions; let any thoughts about such imaginary times just float right on by.

2. Be Optimistic

Optimism is a choice.  Be positive.


Think: how could I make this fun?  (how about making a music video out of legos?)

3. Reward Progress

If you read 10 pages then you get a cookie.


(in fact, your brain performs better when it has energy to convert into glucose — cookies do help you study by boosting up your willpower!).

4. Be Grateful

Wasn’t it your dream to go to law school?

Didn’t you get here with lots of loving support from others?

Didn’t you work hard to get here?

Your professors are helping transform you into a lawyer.  They don’t assign 100 pages of reading to be mean.  Everything they do is really to help mold you into an amazing, talented, thoughtful attorney.

Could you be grateful for this challenge?


Close your eyes for a few moments, take a few deep breaths, and imagine all of the people and the hard work that got you here.  Thank them.  Smile.  Get back to work.

5. Exercise

Create a ritual of exercising every day.


(even two minutes a day can work wonders)

(and you can listen to law lectures while exercising)

6. Set Clear Goals and Action Steps

Make sure you have definite, measurable, time-oriented goals.

smart goal setting concept

Then break your goals down into bite-sized action steps.


Then do it.

7. Adopt a New Metaphor for Life

What’s your metaphor for life?  (everyone has one).

If it’s pessimistic or unhelpful, change it.

If you can’t think of a new metaphor for life, try this one:


Moving means studying.  Persevering.  Not worrying about the final or all of the pages you have to read.

Moving is only now; this one word you are reading right now.

Keep moving.  Keep fighting.

Parts of your journey through law school may be painful.

But those are only growing pains.

You are undergoing an amazing transformation; coal becomes a diamond only under immense pressure and incredible heat.

Law school is not hard.

It’s just an elephant.

Eat it one bite at a time.