I’m nearly two weeks into my recovery from law school, and I’m exhausted. Actually, I don’t think I’ve even begun to feel the full extent of my exhaustion.
It’s been a rough eight months, and that’s putting it rather mildly.
So I’m taking some time to relax. But I also can’t help but reflect on the past couple of years.
I’ve come to the conclusion that law school was somewhat of a disappointment.
Over the last couple of weeks, my Facebook feed has been full of people rejoicing about finishing law school, and those status updates usually contain something like, “Finished law school! It was the BEST three years of my life! Looking forward to starting my career!”
For them, law school was kinda like this:
I don’t begrudge them that (well, maybe I do). But law school was NOT the best three (uh, four) years of my life, which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it. But overall, I expected something more.
The night before law school began, this is how I felt:
But needless to say, I’m a little stressed right now. I’m tired from all of those nights I worked and am pretty nervous about starting law school. I spent some time today reading some ‘Top Ten Lists’ which helped to calm my nerves. I know I can handle the schoolwork part; I’ve been in school so long that writing papers and exams is a breeze – as long as I don’t procrastinate. However, I’m paranoid about this whole Socratic method where apparently the teachers call on anyone at anytime to answer a question. And I have it on good authority that at least 2 of my 6 profs are some of the worst on faculty. Then there’s the ‘mooting’ thing which scares me to death; I can sing in front of people but speaking in front of them can be an issue – especially when it’s for school. But mostly, I’m just worried that I’m going to be a sucky lawyer.
And then I went to my first day of orientation. After that, I felt like this…
Today I had my first day of law school orientation. At some points I thought, “I LOVE it here!” At others I inwardly cried, “I DO NOT want to come back tomorrow!”
This seems to be the normal reaction to the first day of law school.
We were welcomed and re-welcomed, commended for getting into law school and told that getting in was the hardest part. I beg to differ.
My midterm December classes are worth 20% while my finals in April are worth 80%. I will probably fail one of my midterms; in one 1L (first year law) class section last year, EVERYONE failed the property midterm.
I also learned that the U of S can give out a grade of F— (yes, F triple minus).
I understand the ‘scare tactics.’ I know I’m going to have to study like I’ve never studied before. And I will be EXTREMELY happy if I keep my average above 75. I don’t know if that’s a good goal or not, but it’s my goal. Apparently marks go up in 2nd year, as 1L is a learning year, where you figure out all the concepts, how to study and research and how to properly communicate in legalese.
However, I don’t feel that overwhelmed. I’m intimidated, but it’s all doable.
For me, law school was a means to an end. I was tired of having a bunch of degrees yet not having one that would really help me earn a decent living. I wanted a profession of some kind, and being a lawyer seemed like a good fit for me.
I am glad I went to law school. It challenged me academically. I now have a degree that’s transferable and useful in many fields because if I hate practicing law, there are many other ways in which I can use it.
But the experience of law school was less than desirable.
This year, a second year came up to me and asked who I was. I had to inform him that I’d been around the college nearly twice as long as he’d been. Hell, I was one of the Law Review editors and people would ask, “Who’s that?” The most embarrassing moment was when I went to buy tickets for my grad banquet and the sellers had no idea who I was.
At grad, my table was on the outside corner of the room, which seemed like an apt metaphor. I suppose that’s what you get for going on an internship and not graduating with your starting class…
The three best experiences of my law school life by far were the Jessup Moot, my internship at the Legislature in Regina, and being at the helm of the Saskatchewan Law Review, which is funny, because at various times throughout those experiences I was ready to tear my hair out.
But in all of those situations, I was basically left to my own devices to supervise myself and others, meaning we basically shaped our own experiences. Maybe that says something about me.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been grieving a little bit. I came to that conclusion after I read this.
When I was finished my last exam, I wasn’t that relieved. I was excited for the first couple of hours, but that excitement quickly turned into anger and sadness. It wasn’t what I was expecting. At all.
You see, this past year did not go according to any of my plans. I wanted to join the inner city legal clinic and get some practical experience. I wanted to do another moot. I wanted to be involved in more social activities, etc.
Instead, I found myself being knocked to the bottom of a well and spending most of the year having to climb back out of it.
A lot happened in a small space of time. The stress was nearly unbearable at times, the sadness overwhelming. And when I finally made it to the finish line, by body said ‘enough,’ and my mind and emotions took over.
In September, I honestly didn’t know how I’d make it through the school year. It seemed an impossible task. To have made it, to have lost so much along the way and yet gained so much was emotionally and physically draining.
It’s going to take a while to recharge.
The best thing about law school was that I made two good friends, people whom I hope will be in my life for a long, long time.
And by far, the biggest lesson that law school taught me was that it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t know the answer. Furthermore, chances are you aren’t going to know the answer. What matters more than anything is that you know how to go about finding the answer.
I think that has translated in to a big life lesson for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last four years. Some of it I knew, but hadn’t reconciled with it yet. Other things were new to me and eye-opening. Regardless, I learned that I could make my way through the fog – through the doubts, the fears and the unknown – and not just survive, but eventually thrive.
Maybe law school wasn’t the disappointment I thought it was.