I started law school one month ago and, despite having a full week of orientation where I ended up with more questions than answers, I have finally figured out a few things. However, I am still basically riding a bicycle that’s on fire, while I’m trying not to fan the flames. Here’s the good, weird, and shitty things I’ve come to realize this semester:
- To your friends and family – you’re a lawyer, even if you’re not actually one yet! Before you even start school, friends and family (and even rando-acquaintances) will start asking you for legal advice. Honestly, why would anyone want advice from someone who basically is 1/18th of the way through law school and knows nothing about the system? Because you know more than they do! Remind these folks that you have no clue what you’re doing, but welcome them to keep you on retainer once you pass the bar!
- The DRAMA is real. Law school is said to be like high school, which is true. There’s way more drama than there should be with people who spend so much time together, they may as well be related. What no one talks about is how quickly your perception of people will flip-flop. Some students come in and impress the pants off of you with their ability to spew about Federal Question Jurisdiction and Contract Defenses before classes have even started. If you meet this person…RUN!
You need to be on par with your study mates, otherwise, you’ll start to feel less than and it could lead to tanking your study methods, which could lead to lower grades.
- Food is LIFE – remember that! Studying is an all-consuming activity when school is your job. You forget to eat and start considering coffee as a major food group. Every professor tells you to “remember to eat healthy foods” and then follow that up with “I lived off of caffeine and the occasional Ramen cup…” So you start to think that it is physically acceptable to subsist on chai lattes and the occasional Kind bar. Now, not to throw shade on Kind bars (because really, they’re amazing and everyone should carry an extra on their person) but one of these delicious granola sticks is not sufficient enough to meet your caloric needs. I know it is a huge imposition to pre-pack a lunch and microwave it before heading to the library in order to silently fight someone over a study room – but your brilliant self will thank you for doing so.
- Everyone feels like they’re drowning. EVERYONE. What you need to remember is that your legal education is a marathon, not a sprint. Sure, it sounds cliche, but this is the stone cold truth. You simply cannot read, brief, and interpret every case, for every class for the semester in 1 week, plus sleep and feed yourself. You are not a robot, nor are you capable of condensing and understanding the information you’re being water-boarded with unless it’s explained to you. Everyone in your class feels like the amount juggled is not sustainable – and everyone is right! So take a beat. Make some time for yourself and work on self-care, because it is completely possible to feel like you’re drowning and not actually drown. Pull up your big girl panties and straighten that crown. You’ve got this!
- You are a sucky writer, crummy reader, and you have no clue what’s going on.
Law school is a trial-by-fire situation. What you need to remember is – one day, when you’ve graduated and can look back on this experience – you are the sum of your parts. Everything you learn can be applied to cases you will soon argue. You will be counted on more times than you can possibly imagine. You will be the knight slaying the dragon. But you have to start somewhere. Unfortunately, you can’t drink Lawyerade and know all the things. However, you will get better. Aim for progress, not perfection.
Law school professors aim to break you down, and then they build you back up. You need to know what it feels like to fail – because you will…often. As a former teacher, let me tell you – this is just one step on your way to greatness. Try not to be the Debbie Downer, because no one will want to be around you. In the same token, don’t be the class know-it-all either. In my short experience, it’s best to be honest and straightforward with everyone, especially when you’re not understanding a concept.
Finally, share your struggle! Your legal education will be an uphill battle, but you’re certainly not alone. Dedicate time to study, focus on attainable daily goals, and carefully consider your dedicated study group peers, because you need to be surrounded by those who want you to succeed and can add value to your situation.