By: Shameka Rolla (WFU Law ’20)
“You must always have faith in people. And more importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”– Elle Woods
If I could give one piece of advice to the person I was on the first day of law school, it would be to listen to my inner Elle Woods and always have faith in myself. On a Wednesday afternoon in early August, I received an email stating that I had been accepted to Wake Forest University School of Law. Classes started in two days. I was overwhelmed by self-doubt. Was I prepared for law school if I got off the waitlist two days before classes started? Was I good enough? Would I do well? Ultimately, after some hard nudges from my parents, and despite my self-doubt, I decided to go to law school.
On that first day, I wondered how much I had missed out on over the summer. There was a summer reading book. I hadn’t read it. Shameka: 0. Everyone else: 1. My name wasn’t on the class roster. Shameka: 0. Everyone else: 2. People connected over which classes they had attended on Admitted Students’ Day. Shameka: 0. Everyone else: 3. It felt like the odds were stacking against me, but what I didn’t know then was that I was the only one keeping score.
As the semester progressed, I realized that everyone was adjusting to law school. Some of my classes offered midterms, which acted as a checkpoint in my progress. I soon realized that being on the waitlist didn’t make me inadequate or less qualified as I’d once thought. To the contrary, I was doing well. I just needed to have faith in myself.
I have come to realize that self-doubt only makes difficult experiences more difficult. During my first oral argument, I was incredibly nervous and afraid of doing poorly. Afterwards, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance, and no surprise, my primary feedback was that I appeared nervous. I learned that no matter how much I prepared, my presentation would always suffer if I lacked confidence.
Over the next few weeks, I channeled my frustration into working with friends on ways to better manage my nerves. My progress was clear when I competed in our school-wide 1L Moot Court Competition and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In my final round, I competed in front of professors and practitioners, and despite all my practice and progress, my nerves came rushing back. Again, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance and received feedback that I appeared nervous.
While I clearly still have a lot of work to do, now I am more conscious of the fact that to succeed, I must first have faith in myself and my abilities. So if I could give one piece of advice to the person I was on the first day of law school, it would be “You are prepared. You are good enough. You are going to do well.”
What advice would you give to your 1L self? If you have a talented student who would like to publish with us, encourage him or her to email his or her blog to [email protected]