Sunday, May 31, 2015

David and Lindsay's Tips for Doing Law School Well - Together

I wish I could remember everything the dean said word for word .... There was "by the power vested in me" and "confer" and "degrees" and "Arkansas" ... And then, "You may now move your tassel..." The last time I had a feeling similar to this moment was when the NCLEX (nursing boards) results came out, and I had passed. 

"We're done," I whispered. 

Three years of hard work, sacrifice, change, and dedication all for one purpose were over. Granted, we still have the bar to take and pass. But we don't have law school professors anymore or papers or late night classes or grades or last minute assignments given by first year, adjunct professors...

Sitting here in our second home in Arkansas with Avery Lynne kicking excitedly inside my growing tummy, Sperry laying under my propped up feet, Bowen playing solo with a toy, and David on the computer in the next room, I would so love to give Lindsay three years ago a hug and tell her it was all going to be okay and that she wouldn't believe how fast it would all feel by the time it was done. 

The truth is, it really did go by quickly. Last week, we got to take a week off and spend time with our families in Auburn and Atlanta before David's bar prep classes began. On our very funny drive, stopping every hour and half for me to walk and keep good circulation going, David and I spent some time reflecting on how we've changed and what we've learned since we made the long drive from Atlanta to Central Arkansas a little over three years ago. By the time we were done, we'd compiled a short list of tips for "doing law school well," and I thought they might be worth sharing. Of course, since we moved out of state for law school, our list includes advice for 1. couples who 2. relocated to a new city for school. Who knows, maybe some other young couple, whether they're moving for law school or any other doctorate degree, might find them helpful as well.

So, here they are: "David & Lindsay's Tips for Doing Law School Well - TOGETHER"

1. Go into it with the right mindset: Faith first, marriage second, law school third. Law school trumps pretty much everything except your relationship with the Lord and your marriage. As his wife, you have to not only understand that, but you need to support it 100%. There will be a lot of people those three years, including family members, who won't totally get why you have to live with this 100% commitment. But, your commitment to it will significantly affirm your husband on those weeks, especially finals week, when there is no other choice but to keep his nose in his books. 
2. Take advantage of your breaks. During the semester, and especially during finals week, you have to say "No" to a lot of things. So on your breaks, it's time to say (and plan for) YESes!! Getting out of town on our breaks was one of the best things to help us mentally reset and recharge for the next haul. We were so blessed by our parents who took us on a few vacations during law school, but we were also able to take a few of our own by ourselves. Some were more elaborate like spending our anniversary in NYC and others were short and quick like one night in Dallas, TX to have dinner with friends. Either way, just getting out of town was always worth the time and expense when it came to our emotional well being. 
3. Work. It doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, but you both should work while he's in school. Encourage him to apply for every clerkship/internship there is. The experience and networking is priceless for your future. And even if the work you choose to do is just selling homemade headbands on Etsy, it will provide a constructive outlet for the extra time that you used to spend with your spouse that will bring extra income into your home. (Money is tight while you're in law school. You'll love the extra few dollars to put towards date nights or those weekend getaways.)
4. Help with school where you can. It might take awhile for you to figure out the best way for you to help him with his studies. We tried me helping David with notecards one semester, and it was not pleasant for either of us! But, what we did find that worked well for us was me editing his papers and just letting him talk through cases he was learning about in school. For you, it might be ordering the books on his book list for the new semester off Amazon for a little cheaper than it would be at the school's bookstore. Find what works best for y'all and do what you can.
5. Attend all social / networking events that he wants for you to accompany him to. If your husband is anything like mine, he doesn't jump for joy when there's a party to attend. But, there will be functions that he should go to during law school, and if he wants for you to go with him, make every effort to be there. It's important to start networking as soon as possible, and you can bring more to the party than a little eye candy. Go support your man's career with your graceful presence. Behind every great man there's a great woman - be that woman! You'll end up making friends with the other great women who are there doing the same for their hubbies too!
6. Keep a family calendar. Your husband is keeping up with A LOT between his class schedule and assignments, and then even more when he starts working. Keeping events he needs to know about / attend up to date on a family calendar (i.e. iCalendar) will help him manage his time and keep surprises (and stress) to a minimum. Encourage him to keep an up to date school / work calendar so you can schedule both of your free time around his school / work schedule. 
7. Share the load. While it's helpful if you help him with a lot of the little things (i.e. keeping food in the house, filling prescriptions), let him manage the home stuff that he is good at or is typically his responsibility, like yard work or paying the bills. It helps maintain some normalcy for him and prevents you from taking on too much. Just because he's in school doesn't mean he has an out for everything. You're a team and every aspect of those three years should be a team effort. 
8. Plug into something edifying where you can make new, likeminded friends. This is especially important if you moved cities/states like we did. He's going to be making new friends of his own at school. You need to make new friends of your own too! But, they MUST be likeminded women. It might take looking into a few different places to find them, but they do exist wherever it is you've moved to. And if you find yourself running with a non-affirming circle of friends, cut ties and move on. You don't have space these three years for friends who will not lift you up and give you wise counsel. 
9. Encourage balance. Your hubby is going to need his downtime - time to just shut his brain off 100%. Let him! Encourage him to find a physical outlet to accomplish this aside from just watching a football game. Whether it's playing with the dogs, volunteering as a boy's baseball coach, buying a couple bikes to ride, or taking a walk after dinner, the physical activity will be so good for him physically and emotionally after a long day of sitting in class. 
10. Get the basics established before classes start. If you move for school, it's really important to get both of you established as soon as possible with the basics - a family doctor, OB/GYN, hair dresser, dentist, etc. Getting "home" for your annual isn't realistic, and if you or he get sick mid-semester, it's a whole lot easier to go see a family doctor you're established with than take a trip the minute-clinic (which aren't available in all towns anyway). 

And to the young wife who is reading this, guess what pretty lady, these three years really will go by fast. Before you know it, you'll be just like me, sitting in an auditorium holding your breath as they drape this black and purple hood over your husband's shoulders. Yeah, you won't do these three years perfectly. And in those moments when you realize how short you've fallen, turn to your Maker and receive the grace and edification He is always so faithful to bestow upon us. Grow and bloom more and more into the wife He is creating you to be - the beautiful, humble, strong, and courageous woman who will stand beside that great man. 

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:10-12