I always encounter recurring questions about law school from my family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. So I was inspired to write this. Perhaps to enlighten you, my dear reader, that law school is way different from college. Sui Generis as we call it. But I hope you don’t get me wrong. This is neither to brag nor to make the study of law sound superior than any other discipline in the academe. My point is simple; there are factors which makes our lives unique and sometimes miserable.
Being a law student is a challenge in itself. It will test your entirety as a person. Mental, spiritual, emotional and financial problems will arise along the way. Worse, some people seem to be insensitive with what you are going through. They really don’t understand what it feels like to be in your shoes. It’s normal but it’s not helpful.
To my fellow law students, here’s my simple way of making the people around us understand the grueling task that we have to face every day.
A FRESHMAN’S REALIZATION
When I was in first year, I felt like I was in cloud nine. My hopes were high and ambitions were big. But after a while, problems in my life have grown by leaps and bounds. During the first few weeks, I was totally shocked with the voluminous reading materials that were pitched by our professors. In addition, I had personal problems to hurdle then. Bit by bit my enthusiasm withered and my once strong fortress crumbled. It was unbelievable. I realized that law school is a very tough world. It is an arena with mostly bright and (some) insecure people. We are like tributes in Suzanne Collin’s hit trilogy, The Hunger Games. We have to fight for survival amid the expectations and demands of our course.
We have to study hundreds of pages every day. When I mean study, we have to Read, Understand and Memorize (I just coined this) everything to save ourselves from disgrace in the recitation. You’ll never know what would be the question. Sometimes we are asked to recite a case, a provision or annotation of a noted legal luminary. But for the love of law, we suck it up and continue fighting. We pursue our dreams despite the seemingly impossible task. We aspire even if sometimes our fate lies in the Professor’s discretion. It’s very unpredictable. One cannot rely on simple “stock knowledge” that we do in college exams. If you don’t study, you’re screwed.
So what sums up a law student’s performance? In my opinion there are five major factors: 1 Innate Abilities, (i.e. strong analytical skills and impeccable memory) 2 Resources, (like books, gadgets, notes, environment etc.) 3 Attitude, (which includes perseverance, optimism/pessimism, etc) 4 Professor, (every professor has his/her own style that can either make you or break you) 5. Others (this one’s very broad because every law student has his/her personal issues and problems to settle).
In other words, you can’t simply rely on intelligence to judge the merits of a law student. You don’t have to judge at the first place. It’s not as simple as I-go-to-school-without-studying type of environment. Survival in law school requires a conglomeration of wit, hard work, resources, perspective, focus etc. The only remedy we can do is to study well and pray for the things that are beyond our control.
Our world is not a place full of rainbows and butterflies. Actually, we live in an environment that only the fittest shall survive. Utmost degree of excellence is required in order for a student to surpass each subject. As a matter of fact, for most professors the only thing that matters is correct answers in our recitations and exams. And then reality bites, sometimes we win and sometimes we learn. It’s hard to be consistent. We have to study with all our hearts or else we will end up weeping during drinking sessions. At the end of the day, we can’t put an excuse. We just have to go for it and do our part. After all, it’s part of the process.
Law students are survivors. So if you are a friend, colleague or someone who has nothing to do with a law student’s studies, spare us from your unsolicited negative comments. Trust me, it’s easier said than done.
SO MANY QUESTIONS
I always encounter questions like, “when will you graduate?” or “how’s your love life?” I’ll grab this opportunity to explain even if I don’t I have to.
With regard to the first query, I always answer a particular span of time. Honestly speaking, it’s not easy to graduate in law school. Like what I said earlier, there are factors affecting a law student’s path towards becoming a lawyer. We really have to earn our grades the hard way and sometimes things can be ruthless.
On the second question, the answer is simple. We cannot afford to give more time to another person more than ourselves. In fact, sometimes we even compromise our family time, sleep and even eating.
But there are also law students who are in a relationship. Most of them are exceptional cases like those who are already married before they went to law school or their significant other is also taking up law (or Medicine). Again the former is the general rule the latter is the exception. Love life is one of the least things that we can think of.
So if you have a significant other, sibling or friend who is studying law, I hope you’ll understand why they have different shortcomings. I know, as much as they want to give you more time and effort, their schedule dictates otherwise.
READY, SET, FIGHT!
To you, my valiant comrade, just hang on tight. This too shall pass. Just listen to people whose opinion matter in your life. Like what Winston Churchill once said, “You will not reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”. Let’s keep our vision and work hard to achieve it.
For now, let’s rest and rejoice for the short hiatus. Seize your lucid interval (haha!). A new semester is coming and may the odds be ever in our favor.