Sunday, August 7, 2011

Law School Reality

This post is for my readers that wonder about law school, are thinking about going to law school (or just starting law school), or just want to know what it's like compared to Legally Blonde. It's also for me, so I don't forget my experiences from the last year. I'm about to start my second year of law school, and I just wanted to write something about what the first year was like. I know I would've loved to read something like this before I started, so here it is:

Now that I'm getting close to starting my second year of law school, I've been looking back at the last year of my life a lot and thinking about all I've been through since I became a law student last August. I don't think I've ever really been honest on this blog about how difficult and crazy it was at times, and I don't want to give the appearance that I just have it all together all the time. That's not what law school is like. 

Law school is by far the hardest, most challenging thing I've ever done. Sometimes it makes me physically and emotionally exhausted, sometimes it makes me cry, and sometimes it makes me miss my husband and my family. It makes me question my ethics, it makes me second-guess the path I've chosen for my life, and it makes me want to quit all the time. I can't begin to tell you how many times last year I just wanted to drop my classes and do something easier, something simpler, something that was anything but law school. 

My first semester was terrifying. I would look at my fellow students, all so dedicated and hard-working and intelligent, and sometimes I worried that there was no possible way I could ever measure up to them. My classes left me feeling confused most of the time, and I felt like I just couldn't make myself think on a high enough level to "get it." I spent the entire semester living in fear of finals, in fear of my professors, and in fear of failure. 

I wasn't confident in my ability to succeed, and it worried me a lot that I didn't just love law school like I thought I would. I didn't thrive in the intimidating stand-up-and-recite-a-case-on-command classroom style (the classroom questioning part is actually quite similar to Legally Blonde). I saw other students that just seemed so captivated by what we were learning, and that just wasn't me. Some days, I would burst into tears as soon as I got into my car to leave. Other days, I would be fine until I got home, and then burst into tears at the sight of my husband cooking dinner... I so badly wanted to spend more time with him, and I wanted to be the one who made dinner every night. 

I was afraid to tell people that I didn't feel like I was loving law school. I was afraid to say out loud that I was actually really afraid of failing my finals. There were times when I thought I might have made a horrible mistake coming to law school, but I never told anyone but Jeff. Looking back, I think all the other students were just like me... we just didn't act like it. When you take a bunch of smart, confident students, and throw them all together in a situation where only a small percentage of them can get A's, it drives them crazy. At the time, I thought I was the only one who was second-guessing everything. I thought I was the only one who was afraid of failure. 

When it came time for finals, I was terrified. I had no idea how I would do... and I remember thinking that regardless of how bad my grades were, I wouldn't be surprised. I told myself that if I didn't do well enough to keep my scholarship, I would just quit. I prayed over and over again that God would show me what I was supposed to do with my life. I prayed for really bad grades or really good grades... I honestly didn't care either way. I wanted an easy decision.

But then, my grades came in... and they were really good. Like, beyond my wildest expectations good. Not only did I keep my scholarship, but I actually had the highest grade in the class for two of my classes. My prayers had been answered with a very clear Yes, you are good at this, and it's worth continuing.

The second semester was harder in some ways (more classes, more confusing professors), but in a lot of other ways it was way better. I had already proved to myself that I could handle it... I knew I could make it through and I could thrive, and that knowledge made me so much more confident. Additionally, my classmates started to be more like friends and less like "the competition," and we were finally admitting to each other that 1) we were all being challenged by law school, 2) we all thought our classes were really hard to understand a lot of the time, and 3) we all fantasized about easier things we could be doing instead of law school (My Personal Favorite: a friend whose back-up plan is to open a bar and call it "Whiskey Business").

During the second semester, I learned to trust myself. I used the same study methods that worked for me in the Fall, and I had enough faith in those methods to not worry when I saw other students doing something drastically different. I stopped worrying about needing to find good study groups, and I spent more time just teaching myself. I made myself take breaks in the evenings, and I made myself go on a Spring Break vacation to Washington D.C. and Virginia (even though the rest of my class spent Spring Break writing their final brief papers).

Going into May finals, I was worried because I didn't think I had studied as much as I did in the Fall. I don't know if that was true or not, but my worries were totally unfounded because my grades came back even better than my Fall grades! My final brief paper (which I totally procrastinated working on by going on that Spring Break trip) was chosen by my professor to be entered into a Houston Bar Association competition, and my final exam grades earned me a spot on the Houston Law Review, which has provided me with lots of wonderful opportunities in the area of job interviews and law firm connections.

Going forward, I think the next two years will be easier than the first. I know now that classes are supposed to be confusing. If you feel like you totally get it, you're probably missing something. I know that professors seem intimidating in class, but really they just want to help you learn, and if you stop by their office hours they won't yell at you for having a question about what they taught in class. I know now that although my classmates are really intelligent, competitive people, they're all going through the same things I'm going through, and they can be a great support system if I let them.

I know now that I'm not going to fail my finals (hardly anyone actually does). I've learned that I'm way too much of a perfectionist to let that happen, and I know that my grades in the next two years will probably be similar to those of my first year (which I was very, very happy with). I know now that it's okay if Jeff makes dinner sometimes or if we just order pizza... although I want to be the sort of wife that cooks dinner everyday, that's not our life right now, and that's okay. I know I have a husband that supports me through all of this (and convinces me to keep going, because even when I think I want to quit, he knows I really don't), and I don't feel bad about complaining to him every once in a while.

I'll probably continue to cry tears of relief every time I see an "A" on my online transcript after finals. I know I'll always feel like it isn't me doing it all (because it's entirely too hard, too time-consuming, and too crazy), but it's God working through me, giving me the skills I need to one day be a lawyer and fulfill the purpose He has for me. Law school is definitely hard. I've never felt as challenged and stretched as I have been in the past year, but I've also never been more proud of myself. Making it through one semester of law school meant more to me than graduating from high school AND college combined. I've always been pretty self-confident, but making it through the first year of law school with the grades I have has given me the confidence to believe in myself like never before.

It's tough, but it's oh-so-worth-it, and it's definitely worth hanging in there for. :o)


  1. What poignant reflections! Hang in there - you are clearly doing GREAT! :)

  2. I know exactly how you feel some days. There were so many days the first semester of my masters (ok, all last year) that I felt like I'd made a huge mistake moving my husband & myself out to Florida when all I could think about was getting out of it all. I've always said I'd go to law school after this, but after the last year I've been really questioning that. Reading your post made me think about that all over again - do I really want to do all this all over again? But like you said, it's worth it and it's ok to not have it all together sometimes. Kudos to you for being as together as you are and for doing so well!

  3. This post was so helpful! I start law school next fall and part of what scares me is the not knowing. It's good to know it's doable haha

  4. I am currently avoiding writing my personal statement for law school and second guessing if it's what I really want. This was really helpful!

  5. Katie, I can't tell you enough how thankful I am for this post. I start law school this Monday. If I'm being honest with myself, I have to admit that I'm already feeling a lot of what you talked about. I can't even count how many times in the past 6 months I've cried and second-guessed myself. Just last night, I broke down and prayed a similar prayer...that God would just show me what His will is for my life. I hope I have similar results at the end of this crazy year as you did. If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it! Thank you again!

  6. What a great post! You are doing so well- that is so exciting! Charlie is about to start his last semester of undergrad and hopes to start law school next fall (He takes the LSAT in Oct and has to apply by March). The whole thing is really scary to me, but I've known since the day I met him that it is what he wants to do. The money for school, the late nights, the crazy classes... it all seems like so much! I really worry about him. Hopefully he will do half as well as you! Congrats and good luck on your new school year!

  7. i'm glad that the first year went so well and that all your hard work paid off! it sounds like years two and three will definitely be easier. you get more flexibility in your schedule now, right? like you can take electives in the areas of law you're interested in?