It’s only my second week of school and my schedule is packed! This year, I am taking Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Evidence, Criminal Procedure II (Fun fact: Michael Chertoff visited campus on Tuesday!), and an exciting Environmental Advocacy course (The top three oral advocates in this class get to argue in front of Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court when he visits our campus in the Spring!).
In addition to school work, I am T.A.ing (I wish that was a real word…) a section of Legal Analysis & Writing for Professor Barnett, writing case summaries for Ninth Circuit Review, helping put on the Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council’s Sustainability in Portland event, and organizing Minority Law Student Association events.
I’m busy. Yet, I can’t complain: I have high hopes that my hard work and persistence will pay off.
During your first month of law school, most of you will hear some variation of “law school is like training for a long distance race”: you have to start slow, find your rhythm, overcome hurdles, and, eventually (hopefully), make it to the finish line. Upon reflection, I think this analogy is spot-on (at least, in terms of surviving 1L).
When starting law school, all of us were required to take a two-week course called Legal Elements. This class introduced us to the dreaded “Socratic Method” and trained us on how to brief a case. One of the first cases I read was Garratt v. Dailey. I remember how challenging it was to decipher the procedural posture from the facts, find the issues, and understand the reasoning. In those two weeks, I remember spending hours on homework, looking up definitions of new words, and trying to comprehend every sentence to prepare myself for the possibility of being called on in class. I thought it was tough. Now, I can’t help but smile when I think back to those first two weeks. Eventually, things that seem so arduous and demanding will become second nature. I promise that you will find your rhythm.
Sure, law school isn’t easy. I still fear being called on in class when I don’t know the answer to a question. I still feel anxious near finals when I realize that my grade depends on one three-hour exam. But, law school is definitely not as terrifying as people make it seem. It’s all about developing an appropriate school-life balance and having a (healthy) stress relief option. Running was my way of dealing with stress. My weekly mileage averaged somewhere between thirty and fifty miles. And, after coming home from a run and taking a shower, I felt refreshed, energized and ready to hit the books (perhaps it was my shampoo…just kidding). That said, I did have a month period during my first semester where I stopped running and ate much more Nutella (Have you heard about the class action settlement with Nutella?) than necessary. And, you know what? That month was unkind. Find something that you enjoy and allocate time in your schedule for it.
There were two major hurdles for me during 1L. The first was having a computer meltdown only a few weeks before finals. Thank goodness for dropbox! The best thing you can do for yourself is to back up your files. Trust me. My second major hurdle related to first semester grades. I won’t lie. Grades mean a lot and, unfortunately, in law school, only the top 10% can be in the top 10%. If you are among the 90%, you will feel as though your options are limited and you will undeniably question why you decided to attend law school. Thankfully, this questioning period doesn’t last long because school doesn’t wait for you. You then have two options: 1. Give up or 2. Bite the bullet and continue trying your best. You should already know what option I chose. (As I have emphasized in previous posts, the community at Lewis & Clark is one-of-a-kind. Don’t fret. Speaking with upper division students, alumni, staff and faculty will almost certainly make your choice an easy one).
Sure, I struggled at points. But, I worked hard. More importantly, I tried my best. And, today, I made it to the finish line.