If you’re reading this as someone who’s already been through a semester of law school, hopefully you’ve recovered and are well on your way to resuming what I like to call “life as we know it.” If, however, you’re reading this as someone who is about to plummet head first into 1L, sit back and relax, because nothing I say can really change a thing. The point of this essay is not to give anyone a leg up against the competition or prepare you for what’s to come (because that’s just impossible), but just to stress two important, albeit quite different points: 1) you’re in for one hell of ride, and 2) when it’s all said and done, you’ll be happy you did it.
Law school isn’t going to be what you expected it to be. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done previously, law school is a beast unlike any other. If you’re fresh out of undergrad and excited to go back to “school” – think again. Law school is more akin to a full time job. Well, actually it’s more akin to a full time job that requires 70+ hours a week and compensates you only with the guarantee of massive student loans, stress, and an Xtra Large helping of competition.
I don’t say this to scare you. I say this because it’s true. To be successful in law school, it requires that you make it and only it your number one priority. Sure there will be kids who skip class. Sure there will be kids who go out every night. But those kids aren’t competing for the top grades…and therefore aren’t competing for the top jobs.
In the beginning of the semester, all the stress, all the competition, all the dependence on grades and shifting job markets really got to me. How was I going to compete with kids who went to Ivys in undergrad? What if I don’t get the grades I’m expecting? Everyone is giving me conflicting advice – which do I choose to listen to? What if I’m just not good at taking law school exams?
Then, one day, I just decided to give up stress. On a whim, just like that, I made a choice that I wasn’t going to let it get to me. It was hard, and it took some time, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Instead of worrying about what could happen if I don’t do X, I was determined to make X happen. Instead of complaining about the ridiculous amounts of reading I had for homework, I started looking at the reading as a means to an end – great grades. Instead of looking at finals as hauntingly determinative of my future, I started looking at finals as a stepping-stone that I could use to further my career.
Even with this new and improved attitude, law school was hard (and still is). But that’s okay. Nothing in life worth fighting for comes easy.
After it’s all said and done, after outlines are constructed, exams are taken, and grades are received, after it all you’ll look back and realize – Shit, I learning a lot.
During the daily grind of reading and briefing and going to class and networking and trying to maintain your sanity – during it all you don’t realize just how much your mind is expanding. You don’t realize the skills you’ve subconsciously learned, the argumentative methods and strategic logical skills you’ve developed. But after it’s all said and done, I urge you to reflect. Take a minute and just think about how much you know now that you didn’t know four months ago. It will astound you.
Law school is tough. It’s competitive and it’s stressful and it will take your whole being to succeed. But once you do you’ll be better for it, whether you realize it or not.
~ Successfully Struggling but Confident Law School Student
Class of ’16