By: Megan Grier (WFU Law ’20)
If I had to sum up my 1L year in 750 words or less, it would go a little something like this…Undoubtedly, being a 1L is very different from being a freshman undergraduate student, but there are many similarities. In both cases, everyone gets to campus feeling scared. And anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or inhuman. You’re (probably) in a new place where you (probably) don’t know many people. And just like freshman year, you show up to that first class bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with your shiny new notebooks and fresh highlighters, only to feel like you’re drowning within 10 minutes of listening to the professor. And then, you get cold-called for the first time. If you’re lucky, you nail it and your 1L year is off to a great start. If you’re not so lucky, like me, you get it wrong and call your mom after class, crying about how you’re never going to succeed here. But eventually, you muddle through the school year and your exam grades aren’t that bad. So, after an entire winter break spent figuring out if you’re going to stick it out for another two and a half years, or drop out and work in retail for the rest of your life, you decide you kind of like making enough money to live on, and your English degree will probably get you nowhere, so you might as well go back and give it another go. And then, you hit the ground running and just. Keep. Going.
All of that happened to me, and probably to most 1Ls all over the country. Law school isn’t supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to make you a good lawyer. But besides the substantive knowledge it’s going to give you (aka a piece of paper that says you’re passably competent in lawyering), law school really does try to give you, or perhaps force into you, the qualities of a good lawyer. Law school is tough because you need to know how to work under pressure, especially when, in the future, someone’s life or freedom may be in your hands. It teaches you how to not get flustered when someone is asking questions and expecting answers that you may or may not know. It teaches you how to prepare like never before. There will probably be many tears shed, and hundreds of calls to your parents logged. In the end, though, you’ll learn that this is just making you tougher, and you’ll be better for it.
One thing I didn’t know before coming to law school is that people love to say that law school teaches you how to “think like a lawyer.” And on some level, I thought to myself, “Yeah, that makes sense. I’m going to learn how to be super analytical and stone-cold in the courtroom.” Well, that may be, but “thinking like a lawyer” encompasses much more than that. It’s not only about being able to analyze, or comprehend difficult documents; it’s about thinking ahead, strategizing, planning, and even about ethics and compassion. I think my idea of what a lawyer really is will continue to evolve over my time in law school, and, I’m sure, even once I become a real lawyer and start practicing.
I have to say, though, the biggest surprise I’ve realized over my 1L year is, looking back, how much fun I’ve actually had. Sometimes (okay, maybe most of the time), the bad seems to outweigh the good. Especially when you have deadlines, oral arguments, and interviews looming over your shoulder. But, over this past year, I’ve made a lot of good memories too. These are the people that I’ll see again at a reunion, or perhaps by chance, and be able to reminisce with about those jokes our Constitutional Law professor made, or the shocked, sometimes disappointed, reactions our Civil Procedure professor would have to our answers. Some of the best memories I have from 1L year are funny comments my section mates have made in our group chat, or things we’ve laughed about after class. Sometimes, I feel like I’m in a sorority again because of the camaraderie between the students in my section. I mean, you spend almost 20 hours a week with these people. It’s impossible for them not to feel almost like a big, slightly dysfunctional, over caffeinated, sleep-deprived, perpetually high-strung family after a whole year of that.