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Thriving as a law student in COVID-19 era | Nadine Tawdy

Wednesday, September 02, 2020 @ 11:59 AM | By Nadine Tawdy


Nadine Tawdy %>
Nadine Tawdy
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected all students and professions across the world. While some have witnessed their businesses crash, other have seen their businesses bloom. While some found themselves to be more productive at home, others had to face the reality of spending days at home in precarious conflictual situations, all while maintaining productivity. Mental health is at an all-time low and working from home turned into living at work. This has sparked many discussions surrounding students and professionals’ habits and routines, namely how to remain efficient and motivated through a completely virtual world.

My experience in working and studying from home has been somewhat of a roller coaster. On March 13, 2020, we were sent home and told that all classes will proceed virtually. All professors were very understanding and accommodating. Exams went smoothly and the few remaining classes were offered virtually, as professors were doing everything in their power to minimize disruptions. After we concluded our exams, we realized very quickly that this was going to be the new norm for some time. We watched courtrooms convert to Zoom court, travel bans were in place, airline companies were going bankrupt, and shortly, working remotely became the new buzzword.

I was fortunate enough to see my summer position proceed rather than get cancelled. However, knowing that I would not be experiencing a “normal” summer and be able to go to the office and interact with professionals was disappointing at first. Despite all my fears and apprehensions, I can say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the tremendous effort that my firm has exhausted to ensure that our experience is as normal as possible, and that we remain connected as people. I was exposed to several practise areas and high calibre legal work; I even had a few opportunities to physically be at the office. I will share a few tips that allowed me to thrive in the face of adversity this summer and that I will continue to use during my last year of law school.

Tip 1: Know your work style

Take a moment to self-reflect and determine your work style. To decide what works best for you, ask yourself some questions such as: when do you reach your optimal productivity? Is there a specific environment which motivates you more than others? Are you a visual or auditory learner?

Tip 2: Stay connected

Working from home does not justify self-isolation. Humans are social animals by nature and the little daily interactions make a difference. It is crucial to remain connected with your colleagues, friends and family by organizing some virtual game nights or even some socially distanced backyard gatherings. Now more than ever, the line between work and play is thin or non-existent, and this will be mainly felt by extrovert students, so take time to do things that make you happy.

Tip 3: Screen free breaks

Disconnect from your phone intermittently during the day. Studies have shown that simply having your phone nearby on a desk, even if flipped over, still produces anxiety and will decrease concentration. This is the case now more than ever, particularly due to the increased expectation of availability during remote work. Zoom fatigue will be the main source of your energy being drained and the time you spend away from your screens will truly benefit you and allow you to process information faster.

Tip 4: Avoid multitasking

It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we can use our time working from home or being on a Zoom call to accomplish more in less time. Indeed, research has shown that this cuts into one’s performance, so rather than having five tabs open while attending a Zoom meeting or class, try focusing on one task at a time to maximize your concentration.

Tip 5: Put yourself out there (‘masked’)

Putting yourself out there and building relationships with lawyers is a key aspect to your success and will distinguish you among your colleagues, especially now that networking will be much harder. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to professionals, getting involved in the legal community, writing about an area that you are passionate about, asking professors for feedback, virtually volunteering with organizations with which you share values and a common goal, or just being an active member of your faculty. The legal community has exceptional professionals who are always willing to provide their insights and advice to relieve some of the doubts that students may face.

Ultimately, I believe that the post-pandemic future will truly test your adaptability skills. You will discover new things about yourself and will overcome many hurdles that you never thought you could. This pandemic has been an equalizer and a reminder that we are all human. So, try to see the silver lining and the perks of virtual law school, and brace yourself, as technology will be omnipresent in the very near future.

Nadine Tawdy is a third-year law student at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. She is interested in commercial litigation and the intersections of AI with the law, as well as the advancement of women in the legal field. She is an active member of the faculty’s student government, and a co-chair on the executive team of the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program. She is an incoming articling student at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

Illustration by Chris Yates/Law360

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