A week or so ago I had a sudden realization - the middle of February signaled the six month marker of my time as a law student. Some days I feel like it's been only about six days, others I feel like it's been approximately six yearus. Either way, these past six months have been an absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions and life lessons. One of the best things about blogging is that I can take these lessons that I learn, and share them with you. So, in the interest of sharing, here are some lessons I have learned over the course of my six month legal career:
1. The phrase "I'm a law student" carries a lot of weight
When you first start law school, it's likely that you'll be eager to tell anyone and everyone about your status as a law student. For me, it was so annoying for people to lump me in with all of the undergrads milling around campus - I already have a degree, damn it! So you tend to drop hints that you're doing some postg-grad schooling to anyone who will listen, just to let them know you're one step above the drunk eighteen-year-olds clutching fake IDs. Luckily, you usually get a pretty big response from people.
People are obviously impressed when you tell them that you're in law school. After all, attorneys are in one of the most prestigious careers in the nation. Thus, you'll probably be perceived as smart, hard working, and successful. And I won't lie - this is pretty awesome.
There is a flip side to this. Occasionally, you'll receive groans or worried looks when you tell people you're a law student. My therapist went through full disclosures when I started, my landlords made sure I agreed to every aspect of my lease, and when I take my car to get repaired they are so diligent in obtaining my signature on repair consent forms. Law students are known for being very litigous, so everyone is suddenly afraid of being sued. This part is a bit annoying.
2. Friends and family will ask you for legal advice all of the time
I don't know why anyone would think that a person who has only survived one semester of law school can advise them on a divorce, yet it happens all the time. Once you start law school, you'll get questions all the time like "Can I sue for this?" or "So explain this law to me." Last semester, my mom asked me to draw up a 'Consent for Medical Treatment' form for her. This is far from unusual, and you will get these type of questions all the time. As if one torts class can give you all the answers in the world. It gets real old, real fast.
Luckily, you have a good excuse not to answer these questions. Giving legal advice before you are a licensed attorney can actually damage your legal career - so just tell people that you legally cannot give them advice. Secondly, be honest. Tell people you have no idea. It's totally okay to do and it stops them from asking future questions. Thankfully.
3. You took everything in undergrad for granted
Things I miss about undergrad: dining halls, flexible class schedules, being able to get by without doing the assigned readings, being able to have a job, and textbooks that all fit in my backpack.
We all have different things we loved about college, and chances are, you won't realize some of the things you've loved until they're gone. Although there are several things in law school that are better than undergrad, it doesn't change the fact that you'll feel like you didn't really take full advantage of all that you had in the first four years of your education.
It's a pretty common joke that all law students do is complain about law school. Which is more of a truth than a joke, in all honesty. It's not like law school is the worst thing in the world, but it is definitely much harder and much more stressful than college was. I think part of what makes this transition so obvious is that I went straight from undergrad to law school, but there is definitely a big difference.
4. The competition is so real
When I was searching for law schools, one of my criteria was that I didn't want to attend a school that was overly competitive. I wanted to actually be friends with my classmates and not be afraid that everyone in my classes was trying to sabotage me. There are law schools like that out there, undoubtedly. This is usually something that is expected with top tier law schools, but it can really happen anywhere. Luckily, at my school, we have a very friendly group of students who all get along quite well. But that doesn't mean there isn't competition.
I started noticing my competitve side when it got closer to finals. People would ask me questions, and I would often say "I don't know" even when I definitely knew the answer. I just didn't want to share - more help for me on the grading curve. Throughout the semester, I didn't share my notes with anyone, except the occasional time when someone was sick and really needed it. Of course, I wasn't a total competitive jerk. I helped explain material to my friends, worked with groups to understand during class, and submitted my outlines to community outline banks. But there's always the underlying pressure of competition, and no matter how nice everyone is, the competition is incredibly real.
5. You'll be more stressed than you ever have been before
Lately, I've been telling everyone that law school finally made me go off the deep end and spiral into a level of crazy that has always been inevitable. I have ulcers, I'm in therapy for the first time in my life, and more days than not I feel totally and completely overwhelmed with school. This is all due to the fact that law school has made me more stressed than I ever have been in my life. Of course, I'm not saying this to scare you, but it's the hard and unfortunate truth.
Luckily, future lawyers are problem solvers, so when stress becomes the problem, you'll find a way to solve it. Most people know that I am an advocate of finding a stress relief you love. I highly recommend you look for an activity as stress relief, whether it's a creative outlet, exercise, a book or TV show you love, or even starting a blog! Along with that, don't be afraid to get help. Talk with your friends and family about the stress. Start going to a counselor. Share you struggles with your professors. Take care of yourself. While law school has been the most stressful period of my life, it doesn't mean it's something that I can't handle.
6. There's a lawyer inside of you
Alright, so this might sound cheesy. But one of the most important things you'll realize in your first year of law school is that, although it might be difficult, you are going to be a lawyer one day. It'll hit you randomly sometimes, whether you're studying in the law library, answering a question in class, or simply walking into school one day. There's a reason you're at law school. There's a reason you picked this career for yourself. You're meant to be a lawyer, and you'll be one someday.