Ever ask an-about-to-graduate law student if he or she is excited about graduation, and get a forced yes and pained expression in response? Let’s take a look into the mind of a graduating law student. A scary place, but maybe we can gather a few reasons why graduation just doesn’t get law students revved up like it should.
Not an Elle
Admittedly, I probably didn’t start out as a great decision maker. I consult a Magic 8 Ball to decide trivial things like, “should I go to the pool today?” I do opinion polls via SnapChat about what nail polish to use.
But law school made the problem much worse. Years of “it depends,” and essay exams with no right or wrong answer and multiple choice questions with a “most right” answer have addled my brain. I can’t count the number of professors who have spouted some variation of, “I don’t care what conclusion you make, so long as you make a conclusion. What I care about is analysis, seeing that you carefully considered both sides.” Well, I’ve got the weighing of both sides down. Hell, I’ve got that in spades.
About a month into this semester, a classmate told me he “almost wished he could do law school again.” Cue my wide eyes and partially-dropped jaw. At the time, we were less than four months from our law school graduation. As a class, we have spent the last five semesters commiserating together, and I don’t know a single soul who ever indicated an interest to spend another five semesters together.
As part of my graduation 3L experience, I have the (mandatory) opportunity to participate in an exit interview. I’m not sure if my school has done this before; I don’t care if they do it again. I do know that I have to spend 15 minutes with an assistant dean I’ve never met sometime this week, discussing a two page survey I have to complete prior to our meeting. Rumor has it I may even get a pen as a parting gift. Woo hoo.
As my law school career draws to a close, and I realize so many of my friends without degrees are making more money now than I will when I graduate and (if I find a job) start working, I’ve increasingly thought about the actual costs of law school. What exactly am I paying for here? There are the obvious answers, like overhead and faculty and staff and administrator salaries. There are the clichéd answers as well, like getting a legal education and a J.D. and becoming a lawyer. And while all of those things are true, they don’t quite seem to cut it. So after doing some thinking, I came up with a list of 6 things I’m paying for, by way of my law school tuition.
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One of the things I didn’t think of when I was thinking of going to law school was how I would have to make new friends. I recognized, of course, that I wouldn’t recognize anyone there. But I forgot that I’d have to remember how to make friends, that this wouldn’t be some continuation of undergrad where I’d see at least one familiar face in all of my classes. That this wasn’t a house party where I wouldn’t know half the people or a volunteering event with multiple RSOs; this was like going to my first college party where I didn’t know anyone but my roommate and the semi-sketchy dude who invited us, except without that my roommate or that dude. If I had realized that, any of that, I’d probably have welcome Shady McSketch with open arms.
The farther I get into law school, the harder it gets to avoid the reality that, at some point, my education will end. And at that point the real world will begin. The real world will of course include bar prep, the bar exam, and some type of employment: unemployment, funemployment, part-time employment, under-employment, non-legal employment, or the elusive and mystical fulltime legal employment.
As that finish line inches ominously closer, I find myself in more and more conversations with friends and family and random strangers about what I’m going to do next. They ask what I want to do when I graduate, what kind of law I want to practice, what my plan is. Seven months ago, I didn’t know how to answer their questions. I still don’t.
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For New Year’s Eve, I went to a house party hosted by a married couple. The couple is about my age, married, and employed. She’s a high school English teacher; he’s a self-described garbage man.
Everyone at the party was employed, with the exception of me and one other law student. Everyone was committed to engaging in the polite small talk that comes with talking to students – how far along are you, when will you finish, what will you do when you graduate? It seemed they all shared the belief that upon graduation, we would immediately become attorneys with more money than we knew what to do with.
For those law students deluded enough to believe things will get better, there’s a better chance you’ll CALI your classes than find this to be true. Being a law student never stops being awful; it just starts being awful in different ways. If the old cliché is to be believed, 1L is awful because you’re terrified, 2L is awful because of the workload, and 3L is awful because of the tedium. I’m inclined to agree, sort of.
Winter break is rapidly drawing to a close. For some of us, it’s already over. THANK GOD!
I love winter break. Even more, I love the idea of winter break. Four full weeks of sleeping in, no classes, real meals, catching up with friends and family, maybe even a bit of traveling. But, the reality of winter break doesn’t always match up so nicely with that romanticized idea.