Law School: 1 Semester Down

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Hey everyone. It’s been a hot minute.

For better or for worse, it’s done. It’s the Monday following five finals over two weeks, the last of which wrapped up Friday morning. Holy crap, y’all. There is simply no way to convey what the first semester of law school is like. People told me…but it’s kind of like childbirth—no amount of reading or talking about it prepares you for the reality. The maxim is that the first year of law school breaks you, and the next two years are spent rebuilding you, and at this point: can verify.

I’ve been through some crap; we all  know I’ve earned my stripes. And while law school isn’t the *hardest* thing I’ve ever done, it’s absolutely, hands-down, the most mentally, and academically challenging. Think about it: to even *get into* law school you take kids with high grades, who did well on a really rigorous test, and you have a cohort of people who are accustomed to earning As and being considered really smart. Then you curve them to a hard C. People who have never gotten a B—let alone a C—suddenly half of them will be getting Cs or below. And consider this gem: a high score in law school is in the 60th percentile for many classes. That hard C curve suddenly seems like a mercy instead of a soul-destroying juggernaut. Another little gem? The Socratic method means for the entire semester, there is no way to gauge your progress or see where you’re doing it right or way off track. You have ONE three-hour test at the end of the semester, and your entire grade is based on that. That’s it.

No stress. No pressure. Everything is FINE. Oh dear lord, please let everything be fine… 

Yeah, I’m curled up at home with my dog and my cats and my kids and don’t plan on cracking a law book until January. It was so hard. And I worked harder than I ever have before. Previously, I pulled As with  minimal effort. This time? I was at the law library almost every single day of the semester, including Sundays when possible. For the last month before finals I was easily putting in 60 hours a week studying and writing. My family basically checked in with me during the evening hours when everyone else was home, and that was what we got.

If I don’t do well, it won’t be because I half-assed it. I put everything I had into this thing, and now I just have to wait and see where I fall on that curve.

I’m told that the first semester is the hardest not only because you haven’t done it before, but also because its a black-box of uncertainty. You don’t know if what you’re doing is working, but you have to keep plugging forward anyway. You have to be ready to be cold-called in any of your five classes, and you have to read insane amounts of dense texts every night, and be able to synthesize what you just read and write a brief so if you (please no, please no, please no) get cold-called, you don’t faceplant. It’s fun.

But for the next semester, we’ll have grades, so we’ll know if what we were doing worked, and where we can change up our habits and processes to make things better. I can already tell areas I devoted unnecessary attention and areas where the payoff was better than expected. My note-taking for 2nd semester will be much more concise and tight, and I will start working through practice problems much earlier, as we progress through the cases.

One of the most surprising joys has been some of the people I have met and have come to consider friends. It’s been interesting to watch  friendships develop in unexpected ways, and one of my takeaways is that upending assumptions about other people is a good thing. I found myself invited to a study group of people I’d never have put together on Day One, but it has worked out to be one of the singular joys of school, knowing folks who are so unlike me in life experiences and perspective, but who are studious and smart and funny and are turning out to be real friends. You don’t really make a lot of new friends in your forties…I feel very fortunate.

One of the other things that you’re also doing while you’re carrying this insane course-load of unfamiliarity and difficulty is pulling together a CV and soliciting places you want to intern over the summer. This floored me at first–“Wait, one top of everything else, I am supposed to be job hunting too??” It feels so impossible. And then you just…do it. So in the middle of finals, after a series of phone interviews, I was offered my dream internship in DC for Spring/Summer 2020. I can’t say much more about it yet, but it’s absolutely everything I wanted, and my supervisor has worked in this field for more than 20 years; I am over the moon that I was chosen for this internship and this mentoring. I will return and report more as is appropriate.

And now it’s ten days before Christmas, and I have to start my Christmas shopping. My kids put up the trees and decorated the house, because mom was AWOL, and even though I had to let go of so many things, I am so proud of them and how they have stepped up and practice their living and adulting skills. It’s been a double-edged sword for me—after 18 years as a stay-at-home mom, letting go is bittersweet. I am so proud of them, and I am also proud of myself for doing this hard and scary thing.

I’m deeply indebted to Jon for supporting me beyond all reason. He is the rock of Gibraltar, and he holds me down and lets me fly and loves me beyond all reason, and I count my lucky stars that he chose me.

Here are some pictures of my semester, for posterity. Enjoy your holiday. I know I will!