3 Things Thursday: 3 Things I Miss About Law School (and 3 Things I Don't)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

3 Things Thursday: the "rule of three" principle suggests that sets of threes are inherently more humorous and satisfying than any other number of things.  On Thursdays I feature random lists pertaining to anything and everything -- grouped in 3, of course.

An obligatory graduation day selfie.... 

When I was considering taking the LSAT in February of 2012, my oldest sister said to me, "Jennifer, you can't go to law school!  It's incredibly stressful!"  She offered me this advice because, at the time, I was still processing some trauma (both physical and otherwise), had just undergone surgery, was adjusting to a 'new normal' living stateside for the first time in years, and I'm pretty sure everyone in the family thought I needed a major break from stress.  What nobody realized - except for me, apparently - was that what I actually needed was the opposite: I needed to be thrown headfirst into a whirlwind of distraction, discipline, and engagement.  But while I (somehow) knew that I would benefit greatly from that, I had no idea I would fall in love in the process (and I don't just mean meeting my husband); law school was just an unbelievably positive experience for me and I think back on it with so much fondness.  Here is what I miss most...

(1) The Community

When you're a law student -- especially a 1L -- you are just drowning in overwhelm.  The four walls of the law school itself become your second home (I am fairly certain I spent more time at the school than I did at home during my 1L year).  I know this is not the case for all law schools, but mine did a remarkable job of fostering the tightest knit community within the student body population.  My section-mates very quickly became some of my best friends - many of them lifelong, as we now share a unique bond that few subsequent experiences can outrank.  My 2 roommates (also both law students) and I are still in frequent contact with one another, despite living in 3 different cities/states, and I suspect that will always be the case.  Whether we were staying up all night finishing appellate briefs, practicing for moot court competitions, studying for finals, or just silently case-briefing side-by-side, the sense of camaraderie was strong.  I honestly doubt I would have made it through the first year but for that support.

(2) The Education (and The Educators)

I don't know that I was able to fully appreciate the brilliance amidst the faculty when I was a student.  The opportunity to learn from the country's leading experts on American Indian Law, to sit before geniuses who literally wrote the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to be mentored by professors who have clerked at the United States Supreme Court and have a catalogue of stories to share about the Justices themselves (and who introduce you to Justice Sotomayor as one of their favorite students) seemed so commonplace at the time but sometimes I ache to be in the presence of such greatness again.  And having attended law school in the pre-Trump era, I often envy the law students who get to take courses like Constitutional Law and First Amendment now, diving deep into violations of right to assemble and other mockeries of the Constitution.  Those class discussions now must be otherworldly.

(3) The Lack of Responsibility

As a law student, the pressure to keep up and stay afloat can seem crushing -- there's rarely a time when you're not working.  But, in hindsight, the lack of responsibilities I had is downright laughable. Could a reckless mistake at that time result in disbarment?  Nope.  Had I assumed direct control over anyone's finances or actual livelihood?  Never.  If I overlooked a case when researching, what was the worst that could happen?  Humiliation before a moot court panel, maybe, but not malpractice.  My attorney friends and I often look back and long for the days when we were at the bottom of the law firm totem pole, where the pay might have been lesser but so were the burdens to shoulder.

And yet.... there are aspects I was happy to leave behind.

(1) Certain...members of the community

For the hyper-competitive folks, law school didn’t necessarily bring out their best side (think: the token Bachelor contestant who utters the quintessential mean-girl line, "I didn't come here to make friends"). Whatever law school stereotypes you've heard about the go-getters and the networkers and the social-climbers...well, let's just say they're probably true.  And let's just say they're probably not people I still keep in touch with.  And that's okay!  They probably don't miss me either.

(2) The Anxiety

The stress of walking, unprepared, into a law school class is explicitly comparable to Schwarzfahring in Germany.  I had always read and case-briefed prior to attending class, just as I never rode the buses or trains in Germany or Austria without a ticket.  Even so, I still lived with the constant (however irrational) fear of getting called on without having read, as it is truly the worst thing that can happen to a law student.  I'm honestly surprised I don't currently have nightmares in which I show up to class without having read the cases!

(3) Finals Weeks

For those unfamiliar with the setup of law school, most courses entail absolutely no homework grades throughout the year.  One must prepare for each class so as a) not to humiliate him- or herself if called upon at random and b) to stay abreast with the syllabus and not fall behind.  Then, at the very end of the year, you sit for a comprehensive final exam in each class (3-4 hours in length) that amounts for 100% of your grade in the course.  Although finals weeks are pretty hellish (think: all studying all the time, sporadic eating, very little sleeping), you start preparing (outlining) for Winter and Spring finals in mid-October and Spring Break, respectively.  It's..... a lot.  But, it prepares you for the stress of the Bar exam as well as the stress of actually practicing in the real world.  Doesn't this make you want to run right out and take the LSAT?!

In seriousness, law school was (obviously) hard, but ultimately worth it, in my experience.  It completely changes the way you think (there are many cool studies detailing this), and sets you up for a variety of careers, even if they're not "lawyerly" in nature.  And if you just so happen to meet your spouse there..... then that's just an added bonus.

Nev said...

Goodness! It sounds wonderful...and bonkers-hard, too. I can imagine how amazing it was getting to learn from absolute experts in their field. (Also, aaaa, Justice Sotomayor! I know very little about her, being Down Under, but what little I know makes me like her a helluva lot.)

The three "miss the most" points almost make me want to go to law school, but then I realise that, hey, I've been copy-editing and proofreading court transcripts for the past 10 years...sooo, you know, those have kind of turned me off the incredible demands of a career in law. (Well, that, and I'm just not cut out to be a lawyer. A writer, sure, but a lawyer heck no!)

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