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August 11, 2021

10 Lessons We Learned From Attending "Zoom University"

We never thought when we started our law school journey it would be in front of a computer. We already knew that law school was going to be extremely difficult, but now we had to navigate it remotely. Virtual school caused a lot of missed opportunities, but it also created new ones and taught us some valuable lessons we can all take with us into the rest of our career. While we learned these lessons from virtual law school, most can apply to any type of virtual schooling and even virtual work: 

  1. Balance Is Key: Many people entered law school ready to jump into a lot of clubs. While some people lost ambition knowing that the clubs would not meet in person, others decided being online would allow them to join even more. Attending school virtually allowed people to join a lot more organizations, but many soon realized that their plate got much fuller than they had intended. Being in school virtually requires balance, just as in-person schooling does. Sitting in front of a computer doesn’t mean you should take on more than you can handle. You should be mindful of how much is on your plate and only do what you can give 100 percent of your effort to, even if you feel like you can do more. 
  2. Take a Break: Computer burnout is real. Even though it might not feel like you’re doing much because the majority of your day is spent sitting in front of a screen, you’re actually doing much more than you think. It’s OK to take breaks and step away from the computer for a few minutes or hours—however long you need to feel refreshed. The work will be there when you return, and you can’t do your best work without taking the time to refresh yourself. Take a break and regroup, because you’re working really hard even if it’s through a screen. 
  3. Change Your Study Scenery: Due to the majority of schools and offices being closed, many people attended class from home, worked from home, and studied from home. They did everything from home, and that can make people lose their focus and motivation to do anything after their school day or work day is done, especially read 80 to 100 assigned pages a night. The best advice for staying motivated is to switch it up. Study in one place, such as at school, the library, or a coffee shop, and once you get tired, go somewhere else. When you change your environment, you’ll probably find yourself with more drive to power through and get your work done. 
  4. Not Everything Must Be Face to Face: Before the pandemic, the majority of events were held in person. However, now we know that in-person events aren’t always the best option. Some meetings and events are actually more efficient when done via videoconferencing. Videoconferencing has made it easier for those obtaining their degree online or who live far away to connect with people or attend events they may not otherwise be able to. In some circumstances, virtual really is the better alternative. 
  5. Adapt, and Adapt Again: One of the biggest lessons I learned while attending law school virtually is that is it imperative for you to be adaptable and flexible. Not everything went according to plan, whether it was due to someone’s internet connection, computer problems, or another issue. We all went through an unprecedented experience where we had to be understanding of one another, and that was a valuable lesson all of us needed to learn for the future.                                                   –Autumn Burgin, Syracuse 1L Summer Associate
  6.  Perspective Is Key: No matter where you are in your career or what task is at hand, it is always imperative to know where you are going and where you are coming from so you can understand the significance of where you are at the moment and why. So, if you are a new law student, that may mean understanding your previous lecture and how an assigned case builds off it to fit into the greater scheme of the class. It may also mean starting an assigned case by reading the headnotes and the end of the case first, then going back to reread the case from the beginning so that you understand the decision as well as all the actions and elements that are pertinent to its overall outcome. When you are in school virtually, where you often are studying alone, this method acts as a self-check to aid in ensuring that you are picking out all the relevant parts of the opinion and leaving the dicta.
  7. Make Connections: Always be yourself, but be your best self. You never know who you will meet today who you may see again, work with, or need in the future, so being personable can help you make important connections that can last a lifetime. Although some people may think that this becomes harder in virtual settings, it doesn’t have to be. There are so many technologies that can aid in networking—social media apps like LinkedIn, email, group text messaging apps like GroupMe, etc. Just taking a couple minutes to send one email or message to one person a day can go a long way in fostering meaningful relationships.
  8. Two Are Better Than One: Starting law school virtually can make you feel like you’re in it alone because you don’t know anyone. Simply by making it to law school, you may already feel like you are capable of getting through it by yourself. Yet, no matter your drive or intellect, we all reach a point where our toolbox just doesn’t contain the most appropriate tools for the job, and that’s OK. You should never be afraid to reach out to someone who may have the right tools to help you. It doesn’t make you less than; rather, it makes you wiser because it will save you a lot of effort and time in the end. And you never know what relationships may be forged in the process. 
  9. Method to the Madness: Planners and organizers are your best friend. Throughout law school and your career, you will have various obligations and dates you’ll need to remember—some will be far away, some will be nearby, and others will be somewhere in between. The key to keeping track of all your obligations in a stress-free and efficient manner is to use organizers, planners, sticky notes, or another foolproof type of tracking system that works for you.
  10. Outlining Your Way to Success: Even if you haven’t experienced virtual law school, you can probably imagine how difficult it is to listen to virtual lectures all day, with classes that last over two hours at a time. It is a challenge to keep up and retain all of the information. The best way to check yourself and your knowledge is by outlining every weekend. Outlining allows you to refresh and reflect on the material you learned during the week, which helps you understand any parts of the lecture that may be confusing or unclear. Outlining also gives you the chance to identify any concepts you have a hard time with, so you can get in touch with your professors early. This will make sure you have ample time to work out any confusion prior to exams or assessments.          –Qui’Essence Harris, Buffalo 1L Summer Associate

Special thanks to all of our 2021 summer associates—Kristen Abele, Autumn Burgin, Kaitlynn Chopra, Leila Dwyer, Qui'Essence Harris, and Theresa Oliver—and congratulations on making it through a particularly tough year.

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