Minimalism in Law School: How Paring Down Can Help You Succeed

Minimalism in Law School: How Paring Down Can Help You SucceedPlease welcome back guest writer Jennifer Warren, attorney and Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law, to discuss how minimalism may help you to succeed in law school.

In college I often joked that I could fit all of my possessions into a single duffle bag. It wasn’t much of an exaggeration – between relocating each summer, traveling, or moving to new apartments, I had definitely learned to let go of nonessentials. Limiting the items I was sentimentally attached to didn’t just make it easier to move, however, it also brought a sense of simplicity and orderliness to my life that I found gratifying.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely acquired more possessions – a house, a car, a million items for my kids! – but I still make a concerted effort to limit the clutter as much as possible. I’ve also learned that my natural instinct to pare down and simplify is actually part of a bigger lifestyle movement: Minimalism. Numerous books and blogs have been written about minimalism in recent years, and, as I’ve learned more about the concept, I’ve started to embrace its principles in a more deliberate way. During my most recent minimalist motivated clean out, it occurred to me that many law students could benefit from incorporating a little minimalism into their lives.

What is Minimalism?

Broadly speaking, minimalism involves decluttering your life so that you are only left with those things that you truly value. Minimalism will look different for different people, and it does not require you to limit yourself to some set number of material possessions purely for the sake of having less. Instead, minimalism encourages you to pare down and simplify in order to give yourself more freedom to focus on those things that are truly important to you.

While minimalism is most frequently associated with letting go of unnecessary material possessions – think capsule wardrobes or tiny houses – it can also be about letting go of connections, thoughts, and emotions that may be holding you back in some way. Minimalism requires you to identify what you value, prioritize those things – whatever they may be – and then intentionally remove anything that doesn’t make the cut.

How Can Minimalism Help Me in Law School?

On the whole, law students tend to be a distracted, stressed out, dissatisfied bunch, which is why minimalism has the potential to be so beneficial to some students. Practicing minimalism often helps people feel more focused, more satisfied, and less overwhelmed, all while making their life easier to manage. Here are several areas of law school life where you might benefit from taking a minimalist approach:

  1. Your Personal Space. The less stuff you have, the less time it takes up. Think about it: possessions take time and effort to maintain, clean, find, organize, etc. Although minimalism isn’t just about living with less, paring down your material possessions can save you time and energy, which can then be redirected towards more important endeavors – like studying! The next time you have a free weekend, do a massive clean out of your personal space and donate, sell, or trash anything you don’t truly need or value.
  2. Student Loans. Most minimalists would rather live with less than feel beholden to debt. Virtually every law student has to take out some loans, but you can try to limit your debt load to the bare minimum by living a frugal lifestyle. Get a roommate, eat cheap, buy used, or, better yet, don’t buy at all, unless it’s something you really need.
  3. Choosing a Law School. Before you decide to attend the most prestigious school you were accepted to, consider what your long term goals are. Do you need to attend the high priced Ivy League school because you’re aiming for a federal clerkship, or does it make more sense to attend your local public university because you eventually want to practice in your hometown? Is there a smaller, private law school that might give you more personal attention or better individual opportunities? Ultimately, you need to determine what you value most – whether that be prestige, cost, location, size, special programs, or something else, and let go of the rest.
  4. Study Schedules. Your law school study schedule should not be overly complicated. Prioritize the basics like reading for class, creating your own outlines, and practicing the necessary skills, and you will be building a solid foundation for academic success. If you’re feeling lost, reach out to a knowledgeable resource like a tutor or academic support office for targeted advice before rushing to buy unnecessary supplements or engaging in activities that won’t actually help you.
  5. Time Management. If you’re consciously making a point to prioritize the things you value, you’re less likely to waste time on needless distractions. If you find yourself easily sidetracked by social media, television, internet surfing, or similar activities when you should be studying, it may be time to cut the cord. Are you getting anything valuable from those activities or are they simply causing you to procrastinate? Consider giving up, or at least limiting, these distractions so that you can improve your focus and efficiency.
  6. Personal Well-being. With grades, rankings, and job competition, it’s virtually impossible not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other students. But doing that almost always leads to feeling unsatisfied, disappointed, or worse. Minimalism involves letting go of things that don’t bring you satisfaction, and measuring your own success solely in relation to others is rarely a satisfying activity. It’s not easy, but try to let go of the need to compare yourself to others so that you will be free to focus on what is really important – doing your personal best while maintaining your mental, physical, and interpersonal well-being.

You don’t have to become a hard-core minimalist to reap some of the benefits of minimalism. Instead, simply try to streamline your possessions, schedule, and lifestyle to the extent you can. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find that incorporating even a little minimalism into your life brings you less stress and more satisfaction.

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About Jennifer Warren

Jennifer received her B.A. in Politics cum laude from New York University and her J.D. with highest distinction from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She has several years of experience in the areas of juvenile law and civil litigation and is the Academic Achievement Coordinator at Oklahoma City University School of Law.


  1. Blakely Moore says

    Not comparing yourself to others is difficult, especially in law school. Law school seems build around the idea of forcing students to compete. But making a real effort to give that aspect of law school up has made a huge difference in my overall well being. I don’t know if I’m truly a minimalist, but your post definitely resonated with me in that regard!

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