Day in the Life of a Law Student: 1L Atticus Swett

My name is Atticus Swett, and I am a first-year student at the BYU Law School. I live just off campus and I try to start most days at the student gym, working out with one of my good friends from law school. After getting ready for the day, I walk to the law school and get to work. I spend most of my waking time at the law school attending class, reading, listening to guest lectures, and sometimes just enjoying down time with my classmates. In the evenings I like to read, run, or simply spend time relaxing and talking with my roommates and other friends. I try to maintain a healthy balance between the rigors of law school and the importance of everything that makes life rich and full outside of the law. So far I think I have been able to do that here at BYU.

Learn more about what a typical day in law school is like for me below.

Q: How does your experience in law school compare with the expectations you had when you began?

Atticus: I had a pretty good idea coming into law school of what the time requirements would be. Both my mother and one of my older brothers went to law school, and though they did not go to BYU Law, the legal education you receive at almost all law schools is very similar in terms of structure and time requirements (at least in the first year). For that reason, I knew it would be a lot of time spent reading and preparing for classes, and I have not been surprised.

Q: Though law school can often be difficult, what are the rewarding aspects? What motivates you to put in the hard work?

Atticus: Some of the greatest benefits I have felt so far in my experience at law school are the relationships that I have made with classmates and faculty at the law school. I genuinely look forward to getting to the law school each day because I have incredible friends there, and I have a feeling that the relationships we’re forming are the type that will last a lifetime. IMG_9650 CHATTING EDIT Aside from those friendships, the other reason I love being at the law school each day is the fact that the things I am learning deeply interest me, and I enjoy preparing for class so that I can participate and get as much out of the experience as possible. The readings are long, and at times can be difficult to get through, but it is not usually because they are uninteresting.

Q: In terms of time, what sacrifices have you made to attend law school? What sacrifices have you not made?

Atticus: The main sacrifice I have made of my time is the decision to devote three years of my life to obtaining a JD. I could have decided to pursue work right after graduation from my undergraduate school instead a law degree, but I did not. Once I made the decision to go to law school, however, I think the main time sacrifice was already made, because law school is my current reality. Any sacrifices that I need to make on a day-to-day basis at this point are not sacrifices, they are merely assumptions based on the fact that law school requires most of my time. Fortunately I have been able to keep my Sundays relatively free from law school encumbrances, and I do still make time throughout the week to not be a law student. But I try not to complain if I have to stay late on a particular day or come in at 6 am on another, because I know that is part of the program sometimes when you’re in law school.

Q: What do you do to maintain a sense of peace or even balance in law school? How do you manage stress?

Atticus: The thing that helps me maintain peace and balance is trying to keep a healthy perspective on my studies, my goals, and the broader definitions of what it means to be successful. It is so easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of law school, to focus on a grade you wish had been higher, or to worry that other classmates are landing opportunities that seem out of reach to you. But remembering that “law student” is just one small part of who I am, and though it is incredibly important right now to be the best student I can be to prepare for my future career, I should not let the current situation cause me to neglect the rest of what makes me who I am. Continuing to work on my overall development, while I study law here at BYU, is what really helps me maintain peace and balance. unnamed (3)-2

Q: What do you wish you had known when you were a prospective student about what law school would be like?

Atticus: I wish I had spoken to more lawyers who spoke glowingly of their chosen profession, and of the law school experience. Fortunately, my mother and brother both loved law school and made me excited to have chosen this path for myself, but aside from their comments, the most common response I got when telling people of my plans to attend law school was “Why?” Lawyers and nonlawyers alike seemed to revel in denigrating the law school experience, painting a picture of misery and toil, without adding hardly any redeeming qualities. I have not found that picture to be an accurate one. Hopefully my thoughts won’t change over the next couple years!

5:50 - Wake up and go to gym 6:40 - Get ready for day  7:15 - Walk to law school  7:30 - Gospel Study  8:00 - Read for class/review for first class - I try to stay ahead on the readings, so often I'll be reading for a class a few days early. Usually in the fifteen minutes before a class I go over my printed notes to jog my memory so I am ready to participate in class.  9:15 - Head to first class - My morning classes this semester are Structures of the Constitution and Criminal Law, both of which have been fascinating so far. In Structures of the Constitution we get to dive into the text of the constitution and understand how it forms the foundation for our entire legal and political life in the United States, and in Criminal Law we explore our system of criminal justice, the arguments for and against punishment, the challenge of balancing the interests of individuals and that of the state, and many other complex topics.  11:00 - Introduction to Advocacy - This is the second part of a year long research and writing course all first-year law students take.  12:00 - Lunch lecture or event - One of the best parts of life at the law school is the never ending array of interesting and engaging lunch events.  1:00 - Afternoon class - My afternoon classes this semester include Civil Procedure and Legislation & Regulation. Civil Procedure explores the intricacies of the civil justice system, and Leg Reg covers the overlap between the judicial system and the legislative functions of government.  2:30 - Continue to work on class readings and other work for law school. Often there is socializing sprinkled in with this afternoon work time, but I try to be productive with this part of the day so that I can go home at the end of the day feeling on top of my work and able to relax.  6:00 - Walk home from the law school  6:15 - When I get home I like to read, or go for a run, or just spend time with my roommates. I am not terribly productive in the evenings, by design, because I like to feel like a normal, social person as much as I can when away from the law school. I am fortunate to have great roommates, and an awesome ward, so I really enjoy my time away from the law school. Whether I'm at Family Home Evening, Institute, or just relaxing with friends, I find that the evenings provide an important time to unwind that helps me each day to be ready to go the next day. Of course, sometimes I bring a casebook home and do some reading for the next day, but I try to do that as infrequently as possible.  10:30 - Go to sleep 

Read more in the Day in the Life Series:

Michael Buckley (2L)

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