How to Maintain a Relationship During Law School

However it may seem to applicants nervously awaiting decisions from law schools and managing waitlists, there is a lot more to life than getting into law school.

And no matter how generous a scholarship you are awarded, attending law school is not worth the cost if it undermines invaluable aspects of your life, like your physical or mental health or your relationships with your loved ones.

Law school is a lengthy, stressful and transformative undertaking. So, here are three tips for how to make it to graduation with your relationships intact — or even stronger.

— Anticipate the challenges of the first year.

— Don’t litigate your relationship.

— Be clear about your future goals.

Anticipate the Challenges of the First Year

No matter where you attend law school, the first year will likely be the most challenging. Whether you are coming from college or the workforce, the rigor of law school classes can be humbling.

[READ: How to Survive and Thrive First Year of Law School.]

The standard first-year curriculum requires students to read hundreds of cases and be ready to answer professors’ questions about them in class. It’s hard to know how to prepare for law school classes and exams, at least at first.

Fortunately, the challenges ease in later years, when you can choose your own courses, take a meaningful role in clinics and activities, and have a better handle on the workload.

Until then, anticipate that you may not be at your best. Communicate with your partner about how to manage this stress, so that you don’t alienate or overburden the person you may lean on the most during this experience.

Don’t Litigate Your Relationship

Law school is intended to teach students to “think like a lawyer.” Graduates learn to break down legal quandaries into intricate parts, parse ambiguities, apply legal rulings and defuse counterarguments.

These mental habits and skills can be invaluable in speaking with clients, colleagues, judges and other lawyers. However, they can also seep into your personal relationships, even subconsciously.

[READ:Soft Factors That Can Give Law School Applicants an Edge]

For example, identifying logical flaws may be helpful on the LSAT and in the classroom, but it may prove less popular with a partner who is not looking to spar over every disagreement.

Learn to recognize when your brain goes into “lawyer mode,” take a step back and reevaluate. If your partner asks you to stop “acting like a lawyer,” listen.

Be Clear About Your Future Goals

When you apply to law school, it’s important to articulate your commitment to a legal career but it’s not essential that you have specific goals in mind.

By the end of law school, it’s likely that you will have a better sense of the work you want to do. Legal careers vary widely in topic area, lifestyle and remuneration.

There are vast differences between being a criminal defense lawyer, a corporate lawyer and a lawyer working on wills and estates. You may find that a field that caught your intellectual interest is not a good fit for the lifestyle you envision.

[Read: Tips for Law School Applicants on Choosing a Legal Career Path.]

These choices will directly affect your partner, so be sure to talk them through together. Be realistic and forthright about the challenges and drawbacks to your career goals, such as long hours, frequent travel, emotional stress or unreliable income.

Talk to lawyers and potential mentors in your chosen field about their day-to-day life so that you and your partner both know what you’re getting into.

Good lawyers are empathic listeners, clear communicators and fair-minded negotiators. The skills you gain in law school can strengthen your relationships, and the challenges of law school can reveal which of these relationships are most important to your life.

Stay humble and open-minded, and you may come out of law school not just a better writer and thinker, but also a better partner.

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