Happy graduation season, law students! Welcome to an exciting time in your life, as you are celebrating a major academic achievement. You have a lot to look forward to, and you're probably glad to be leaving certain aspects of law school behind. But even if you’re excited that the days of cold calls, case briefs, and Zoom lectures are over, there are some things you may not even realize yet that you will miss about law school. As you look toward the bar exam and the start of your legal career, here are a few things to smile about as you reflect back on your time as a law student.
The social aspect
Law school is a shared experience with hundreds of peers from different walks of life, and that provides an incredible opportunity to build friendships and learn about new worldviews. It also adds a dimension of fun to the law school experience, and makes the tough times less isolating. In law school (pre-pandemic, anyway), you had the chance to hang out with friends on campus, meet up for study sessions, and schedule social plans on a whim—like a coffee run before Torts or a dinner break before more outlining. And even during the pandemic, you probably found commiseration in your classmates, even if all that meant for a while was texting and sharing relatable memes. You and your classmates went through a challenging life experience together, and that often forms the basis for lifelong friendships. Make sure you take this time to celebrate each other's accomplishments—and don’t lose touch with your law school friends as you go your separate ways.
Yes, you worked hard in law school. Those cases didn’t read themselves. But despite all the reading, outlining, writing, re-writing, memorizing, practicing, and more outlining, you could complete those tasks on your own schedule and in your own style. If you liked studying at home in your pajamas, you could. If you liked using 10 different colors in your outlines, you could. If you wanted to take a spontaneous mid-day break to run an errand or hit the gym, you could. You are probably never going to have quite the same level of flexibility in your career that you did as a student. Sure, the proliferation of working from home has helped create some leeway in the workplace, but at the end of the day, your schedule as a lawyer will be up to your clients and the court. You will learn how to juggle deadlines and carve out time for yourself—but it might make you miss the law school days.
As you settle into your career, you’ll become more and more experienced in a certain area of the law or type of law practice. It will be exciting to find yourself growing as a subject-matter expert while your career progresses—assignments that seemed daunting in your first year of practice will eventually start to feel like old hat. On the flip side, there is something to be said about getting to delve into new areas of the law throughout law school. One semester, you might have been tackling securities regulations, and the next, you were exploring the ins and outs of environmental law. Learning about new practice areas from the most accomplished people in those areas—without having to commit as a career—is one of the greatest perks of being a law student. But remember that settling into a career doesn't mean you can't still explore—see if you can try an assignment in a new area, or take a CLE course about an unfamiliar topic for a taste of that law school learning.
No doubt, you will face challenges in your legal career. But there is something special about law school and the unique challenges you had to conquer to earn your JD. Starting law school is like entering a new world—it essentially requires learning a new language and a new way of thinking. There were many milestones to achieve throughout law school, and it probably felt good to cross them off every semester. Remember how confusing it was the first time you had to read and brief a case? Or how scary it was to face your first cold call as a 1L? Remember how nerve-racking it was to give your first oral argument? Or how stressful it was to navigate the Law Review write-on competition? These challenges weren’t all that long ago, but you have come a long way since your days at law school orientation. As you enter your legal career, remember that if you can conquer the challenges of law school, you can conquer the challenges you’ll face as a lawyer.
Congratulations to all new Juris Doctors, and best of luck as you turn to bar exam prep and your career!
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