5 Tough Lessons I Learned During My First Year In Law School

Flickr / Leo Hidalgo
Flickr / Leo Hidalgo

1. Prepare to feel completely lost.

“Lost?” you ask yourself, there is no possible way that a law school bound student could possibly not know who they are by now! Lies. Prepare to feel like the baby deer that just learned to walk and is struggling HARDCORE, but the sad part is the mama deer won’t be there to help you, aside from trying to decipher your silent sobs over the phone about the awful cold call that you endured from that one scary professor who keeps yelling at you to read ALL the footnotes.

2. You WILL feel like the dumbest person in the room more often than not.

Think about it, you’re going to become colleagues with every other person who was top of their class, and who is just as clever as you, and who probably has been dreaming about becoming an attorney, just like you. There are times where you will be giving the professor your undivided attention and still not able to grasp what legal concept they are discussing, while everyone else looks like they’ve got a handle on it.

The moment you accept you won’t understand everything and it’s okay to feel dumb sometimes is the moment you don’t measure your intellect by how you are feeling at that very moment.

3. If you have a significant other in your life, prepare for them to just not get what you’re going through.

This leads to A LOT of break ups — I can count eight off the top of my head. Even if your S.O is also in another graduate/PH.D program, it’s just not the same.

Law school is another animal because of how competitive it is. Most other graduate programs don’t have what is known as the First Year Curve (the source of all anxiety and anguish for 1Ls) that ranks you against your colleagues. Law students have to compete for EVERYTHING. Long gone are the days where a signup sheet granted you a spot in an organization. Law students have to compete against one another for just about anything and everything that is granted to them – organizations, classes, grades, and most importantly JOBS. Thus anxiety and depression skyrockets.

4. More of your colleagues will wish for you to fail than succeed, that’s just the sad reality.

Hell, I would rather pass the year than anyone else in my class, that’s just how it works. Your first year of law school you are stuck with your incoming class for every single course, for the ENTIRE year. So, prepare for the following questions now:

“Have you finished all the reading?” (And the gasp and horror if you ever respond with a no)

“Have you started outlining?” (Even though it’s been only a month into the semester)

“Have you applied for summer jobs yet?” (Even though more often than not, they don’t care for your response, it just cues their monologue about how they landed a summer job studying at Oxford, but it’s “nbd,” as they purport).

“OMG, OCI’s are coming up, have you updated your resume?!” (face palm)

5. Life doesn’t stop for you – yes even law students.

As a first year law student, you are experiencing some of the most taxing and challenging material there is. It IS a foreign language (oh, there is a bunch of Latin too).

While you are being pushed to your breaking point, competing with all of your colleagues for a basic chance at surviving your first year, let alone the following three, you sometimes get hit with a reality check, that the world doesn’t revolve around your brief, or moot court competition.

It could be a death in the family, a breakup, cancer, war, homelessness, drug overdose, alcohol – it could be as small as receiving a letter from an estranged friend. All it takes is one moment to snap you back to realize life is so much more than the pettiness that is your first year of law school.

It’s hard to get through it, but don’t let the environment blind you from the real world out there, the real people that are still there for you, and the people that NEED you, more than you need to read that one last case for the night.

I’ve learned many lessons this year, but once you accept the fact that your shortcomings do not define your worth, you will be able to rise above the looming depression and are able to take your first year one day at a time! TC mark

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