I’m officially done with exactly one-half of my law school education, and I thought it would be awesome to start off this celebration with a reflection of my first year, and the first semester of my second year with the top 4 things I have learned through this experience. 40 credits later; it all seems so surreal to be done right now. This semester was soul-sucking, grueling, exhausting–it was basically every negative adjective you can think of. I doubled my course-load, volunteered too many hours, and I just about killed myself in the process. Plus, I was on a serious hunt for a 2L summer associate position (which, by the way, worked in my favor—I will not have to worry about a summer job next semester; that is amazing). Next semester’s 2 exams is going to be a welcome relief.
Anyway, I present to you…..Jen’s top 4! (brace yourself)
#1: Grades DO NOT define who you are
I’m one to talk. I’ve always let grades define who I am. It’s such a nasty habit. Talk to some of my friends from high school; I’m sure I drove them crazy with my constant bitching about grades. I just knew I was capable of doing well so I pushed myself far past the “limit.” I’m convinced there is no clear “limit”–I’m of the mentality that anything is possible, man. I was willing to do whatever it took to succeed. I still have that drive, but law school is different. You don’t get lots of little grades to measure your progress throughout the semester. You get one big, fat huge test that measures your ability to recall everything you learned in the semester and regurgitate it in a concise, readable format with accurate analysis, rules and conclusions (although…it’s not really the conclusion that matters–its the argument). But this is where law school will wear you down. Yes, you might do awesome your first year but you might also really suck at interviewing. It’s all relative, and grades in no way define who you are as a person. The way grades turn out can be for any number of reasons. Grades in law school are part luck, part know-how, part craftiness….it can almost be a crap shoot sometimes. I hate checking grades. It is the single most painful experience for me. I’m not joking when I say that on several occasions I have had to have my husband check for me. How sad is that? What an incredible amount of pressure I put on myself. But, let me tell you, there is so much more beyond grades. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone to interviews over the summer where an attorney will be impressed merely by my work experience, my knack for being able to adapt to changes quickly, etc. Grades on several occasions never came up. Know how to do an interview. The job will come if you can blow the interview out of the water, trust me on this. You are more than any piece of paper will ever say. Besides, in 5 years they are not going to mean a damn thing.
#2: Talking about a law school exam, after-the-fact, is NEVER a good idea
Oh, the dreaded post-mortem of an exam. What an awful way to wrap up an exam you thought you killed. “Oh, you didn’t catch that issue?” “Oh, that was a forum non conveniens argument, not a venue question” “I listed that case a million times and it was so obvious…you didn’t do that? Suck to be you.” There isn’t anything you can do about your exam when it’s done, plus, how do you know your classmates analyzed the question right? There’s no telling until it becomes official. Law exam are graded on a curve; you are graded against how well your peers perform. It seems nice because you don’t have to be as smart as your professors, but I have some smart law school friends/classmates. I’d probably /killself if I talked to them for more than 2 minutes after an exam about the exam. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Your heart and sanity will thank you later.
#3: Earplugs are your friend
I discovered earplugs for the first time this semester. Yep, that’s right. I didn’t use earplugs at all last year. That means that during a test I was distracted each time a person coughed, shifted in their seat, started typing, left the room. IT WAS AWFUL. It’s hard enough to sit down and focus for 3 or 4 hours straight without even so much as blinking. Earplugs were my savior. For example, I took my Legislation exam last night, and I think I would have been murdered if not for my earplugs. That exam was purely throw everything at the wall aka how fast can you type? I’m certain I typed for 3 hours non-stop. I didn’t check my character count, but I knew what the Professor wanted and she wanted everything you could possibly get in there. Since there was so much typing there is a good chance my focus would have been thrown off if not for my beloved earplugs. Instead, I was in the zone. Completely in my own little world. A little caveat though: it’s important to stay calm. Earplugs amplify your heart-beat and your breathing. You are essentially listening to yourself very closely. This can work against you if you start to panic. For example, during my pass/fail Tax exam I knew for a fact I was going to be nowhere near finishing. When the proctor called “10 minutes” I had just started the huge computation problem. I immediately panicked. I actually had to take out my earplugs for the last remaining five minutes because my heart was beating so fast I could barely hear myself think. That was awful. But other than that, they are your friends.
#4: It’s so important to surround yourself with people who are supportive, loving and on your same wave-length
I’m a go-getter. I don’t play games, and I don’t slack off. I have to be around people who share in my motivation and want it just as much as I do. I had an absolutely amazing study group this semester, and we worked so well as a team. Most of my study groups have been great, but this one was by far the best I have had. We utilized Google Docs, took thousands of practice exams, talked about them until our ears bled—-it was great. I learned so much through them, and I’m so thankful. I’m also thankful to my poor husband who endured my complaining, bitching, tears and just downright depression these last few weeks. He kept me grounded in ways friends cannot do. And then my friends. I have met and became friends with a really great group of people who have done nothing but support me. It’s all in the mind, and with a positive atmosphere there is only one thing that will guarentee: SUCCESS.
Congratulations to my law school friends on officially being HALFWAY done with law school. We did it! Also, random shout-out to one of my best friends, Amanda, on her graduation from UCF’s MBA Program and to my wonderful 1L mentor, Crystal, on her graduation from law school! <3