Time Management for Law Students

Time Management for Law Students

Aerial view of person sitting in a black hooded sweatshirt. In center of a watch face.


Mastering time management in law school is essential for accomplishing your goals and lowering stress levels. There are people and tools that can help you organize your academic schedule in effective and rewarding ways. Try this strategy here to maximize your time and success in law school! 

Taking Stock

  1. Write down your required commitments for this semester. 
    • This includes: your class schedule, club meetings, and work. This will work as a skeleton for your calendar. 
  2. Write down goals you want to achieve this semester.
    • Be uncomfortably specific. Do you want to get to the library earlier? Do you want to learn a new skill? Balance working out and school? Read more for pleasure?
    • Don’t make any changes just yet. Write down your goal on a slip of paper and keep it at your desk. 
  3. For one week, perform a time management audit and write down what you did.
    • At the end of each day, ignore the to-do list you made and look at how you actually spent your time. Instead of “getting ready took 2 hours” look at what you did in those two hours. Did you brush your teeth, brush your hair, and eat? Did you scroll through Instagram for 30 minutes and then get out of bed? Without judgment, write down how you spend your time for one week.

First Steps

  1. Find your system.
    • Planners
      • Test out if you prefer digital or print planners. Don’t be afraid to try something new! If you’re looking for a new system, you might discover something you didn’t know existed or find your needs now are different from before. 
      • Physical planners that offer student discounts:
        1. Happy Planner
        2. Papier
        3. More options on Student Beans
      • Digital Calendars (Beyond Apple and Google)
        1. Microsoft 
        2. Fantastical 
    • Apps
      • Apple and Android phones come with apps for notes, reminders, and calendars. Carve out 15 minutes in your day to play around with the tools you might already have at your fingertips! You might learn a function you didn’t know about. 
      • If you’re looking for something more tailored to classes and assignments, there are apps designed for saving resources, creating mind maps, and more!
      • Screen time limits on your cell phone:
        1. Look at your most-used apps on your phone. Are these helping you achieve your academic or career goals? If not, use your Settings app to limit the amount of time you spend on distracting apps. 
  2. Prioritize.
    • Priority Lists vs. To-Do Lists
      • Each day, write down tasks you need to do.
      • Review your to-do list and select a maximum of three tasks you absolutely have to accomplish day. This is your priority list. 
      • The rest of the list consists of things you need to do but that do not necessarily have to get done that day. These can carry over to the next day. This is your to-do list. 
      • If there is a big project or task, plan ahead and break it down into smaller parts that can be completed each day. 
    • Personal Due Dates
      • By planning ahead, you can schedule personal due dates to achieve your goals and allow a grace period before the actual deadline. Life happens. External or internal pressures throw plans off. Give yourself time to adapt. 
  3. Organize your workspace.
    • Make your workspace at home or in the library something you look forward to occupying. Whether it’s fun stationary, a favorite coffee mug, or simply organizing the space, studying in a space you actually enjoy will help you stay on track with your goals.
  4. For one week, write down what you did again. Compare to how you spent your time before (refer to Taking Stock). 
    • Did anything change? Where are you spending the most time? Are there other ways to accomplish these goals?
    • For example, maybe writing your briefs takes longer than you expected. Try meeting with a research librarian to find different approaches or tools. Research librarians have a J.D.; they are well-equipped to help you!

Keep it Sustainable

  1. Find the patterns that stick.
    • Don’t force yourself to commit to any system that does not work for you! It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the way you expect it to the first time. Don’t give up and try again! Ask around, especially someone either farther along in law school or a research librarian, what works for them. It could inspire something for you! 
  2. One thing at a time.
    • If you are feeling overwhelmed, try making one small change and slowly build up from there. You don’t have to make the perfect system overnight. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
  3. Don’t forget about your health!
    • Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sleep hygiene affect how well you are able to focus and perform in class! If you find yourself lost on how to manage self-care, explore USF CAPS resources for students. They offer therapy, recommend mental health apps, and direct you to free/affordable resources to maintain your mental and physical health.

Write a Letter to Your Future 3L Self!

Write a Letter to Your Future 3L Self!

Congratulations on starting your law school journey! These next few years will be full of incredible professors, supportive classmates, challenging internships and jobs, and self-growth. When you graduate, you’ll likely find you’ve grown more professionally and personally than you could have imagined. Zief Law Library welcomes you to reflect on your current goals and write a letter to yourself to read when you graduate law school. The library staff will keep your letter sealed and return the letter to you when you graduate.

Blue USPS box


  1. Pick up the letterhead and envelope by the Daily Chuckle in Zief Law Library.
    1. Located on the first floor of the library across from the Circulation desk.
    2. Or, email your letter to sando@usfca.edu. Steffi Ando, the Access Services Lead, will print it on letterhead. All letters will be kept confidential.
  2. Write a letter to your 3L self. Suggested prompts are located at the bottom of this page.
  3. Write your name on the envelope.
    1. If you are not a 1L but want to participate, write your graduating year on the envelope. We organize the letters by graduating years and do not want to misplace yours!
  4. Zief Law Library staff will stamp the envelope with the date you submit the letter on. We will stamp the envelope with the date you pick it up on too!

You may follow these prompts or come up with your own:

Why did you choose to apply to law school? Why did you choose the University of San Francisco School of Law? What are you most excited about? What are you most nervous about? Where do you hope to be in 3 years? Who do you want to be in 3 years? What do you want to ask your future self?

New Materials: May, June, and July 2023

The image above is a collage of eight book covers: How To Write Law Essays and Exams by S.I. Strong; Advanced Introduction To Mental Health Law by Michael L. Perlin; The Guide To Belonging In Law School by Russell A. Mcclain; In The Shadow of Death: Restorative Justice and Death Row Families by Elizabeth Beck, Sarah Britto, and Arlene Andrews; Roadmap: The Law Student’s Guide To Meaningful Employment by Neil W. Hamilton; The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Towards Authentically Empowered Advocacy by Heidi Brown; The All-Inclusive Guide To Judicial Clerking by Abigail L. Perdue; Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and The Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence by Kate Crawford.
The image above shows eight selected titles from the summer 2023 new materials list.

Welcome back, law students! The Zief Law Library added new materials to its collection over the summer. Topics from May, June, and July include: legal research; business and economics; technology; cybersecurity; civil procedure; legal ethics; freedom of speech; human rights; mental health law; women and the law; environmental law; housing and gentrification; privacy law, sports law, elections and United States politics; capital punishment; career planning and vocational guidance; law clerking; and bar exam preparation. Click the titles below or explore our monthly New Materials at Zief Law Library webpage for the complete list of recent arrivals.


Law Library Hours: Fall Semester and Labor Day Holiday

Hi All!

Please note that the law library will have the following hours for Fall 2023 and adjusted hours for the Labor Day Holiday:

Fall 2023 Hours:

Saturday-Sunday: 9:00am – 8:00pm

Monday-Thursday: 8:00am – 11:00pm

Friday: 8:00am – 8:00pm

Adjusted Labor Day Hours:

Saturday-Sunday, September 2-3: 10:00am-6:00pm

Monday, September 4: Closed

See you then!

Welcome Back!

The Zief Law Library team welcomes our new 1Ls and returning upper-level law students to a brand new school year! We hope you’ve had a restful summer and are ready to start the semester off strong. Stop by and let us know what you were up to!

We’ll post regular updates here on ZiefBrief every Monday morning, so check back regularly for news and updates from your law library!

Have a great year!