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Top Ten Law School Fears, and Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Here we are, halfway through July, and for some of you it is less than a month away from THE START OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Yep, for students starting 1L in mid to late August, we are officially in the seventh inning stretch. On the other hand, for those of us soon to be starting 2L, we are halfway through recovering from the miseries of last year, while eagerly anticipating the good parts we’ll get to relive next.

For those of you studying for the LSAT… enough wasting time, get back to it.

Today, as a tribute to these waning days of the world as we know it, I’ve once again reached out to my favorite pre-L, (who will soon enough know just as much about law school as I do) James Swift. This time he shared with me ten of his biggest fears (which, to his credit, all look pretty familiar), and I agreed to either debunk them, or at least provide the best advice I could.

So once more, for old times sake, A Pre-L’s Top Ten Fears (and why he [and you] shouldn’t worry):

1. I am going to fail

In one sense, you probably will. This is the single worst thing about law school; more so than any other institution I’ve ever been a part of (at least since my father coached my second grade t-ball team… thanks again for the long-lasting emotional damage, Pops), law school is designed to make you compete with your peers. Like really compete. Some people will thrive on this, and do better than they ever have before. Most will find it annoying, and try their best to ignore it. Some will be completely undone by it. But no matter where you end up falling, there is only one certainty: there will be far more losers than winners. And the winners are most likely not reading my blog right now. Instead they’re probably memorizing Proust or communicating with the mother ship or watching Star Trek or successfully reprogramming the MIT virtual reality equipment to self destruct as it broadcasts the word of actual reality or engaging in some other sort of mutant maintenance behavior. Point is, winning at anything is tough. Winning at law school is really tough.

So yes, in that sense, there will be failures. But, at the same time, you will also succeed. There will be a class where you’ll get your grade and actually want to call your parents and brag about it. You’ll be elected as a leader for your student group. You will answer a cold call so well that you’ll feel the envy of your classmates burning through their eyes. Your legal writing professor will scribble “excellent work” on the bottom of your paper. You’ll get on Law Review or a Journal. It may manifest in a number of ways, but there will be successes.

Sure, you may not get high honors, but almost nobody does (for example, my school’s website indicates that as few as eight people IN THE ENTIRE 1L CLASS will get high honors in any given year). But there is more to success than being at the very very top. Try your best to focus on the good and the bad equally, and you’ll be fine. I promise.

And, to fortify you during those times when law school does not seem to be going your way, I will quote a Republican for the first and last time in my life:

“Failure is no more a permanent condition than success.” – John McCain.

Admit it, although the man may have twitter conversations with Snooki, he makes a good point. So don’t forget it.

2. Everyone is smarter than me

Incorrect. At worst, for a single person with the lowest GPA in each law school class, everyone is better at law school than them. But guess what? The ability to vomit thousands of words about nonsensical fact patterns in a limited period of time does NOT equal smart. When someone gets an A in a class it means two things: 1) They were able to vomit thousands of words about a nonsensical fact pattern in a limited period of time, and 2) They got lucky. I know this for a fact because I have gotten A’s. And it’s not because I was smarter than most, or even anyone, in my class. It’s because, on that final, I was able to nail the two criteria above. That’s all. And let me assure you, even the village idiot could get an A in a law school class if the stars aligned.

3. I am going to do ok, but the curve is going to crush me.

During your first semester finals, this worry is going to occupy about 95% of your thoughts. And I won’t be able to say anything, because the same thing happened to me. Especially if it’s your first time being graded on a curve, it can be very unnerving to think that you’re not being evaluated on the actual merit of your work, but rather how your work measures up to your classmates’.

Unfortunately, this is going to be one of those “live and learn” situations. Nothing I say ahead of time will convince you that you won’t be crushed by the curve… but by second semester you are going to wonder why you ever let it bother you. Primarily this is because you’ll have realized that grades are completely arbitrary, and you should have just spent more time drinking.

4. Because I spent my college working at Pinkberry no firms are going to hire me.

Welcome to every 2Ls’ (and a number of 3Ls’) current nightmare. I can’t really speak to this yet (although as the year goes on I’ll be sure to keep readers updated), but I will say that you do want to take a second to make sure your career goals align with reality, at least to an extent, before you plunge yourself into six figures of debt. If you are truly going to law school only to make oodles and oodles of money, then you better make sure that earning the big bucks is at least a possibility for graduates of the school you’ve chosen.

On the plus side, if you do have problems getting a firm job, it’s not going to be because of your previous experiences (or lack thereof). It’s going to be because the ECONOMY IS IN SHAMBLES. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about your teenage calling as a shaved iced technician.

5. I won’t get laid.

Answer for James: Nope, probably not.

Answer for everyone else: If you can get into law school, you can get laid if you put your mind to it. There will be at least one other person as desperate as you. I’m not sure if that should make you feel better or worse.

6. This was all a terrible, horrible idea.

Yeah, so that feeling doesn’t really go away. And I imagine it won’t until either all your debt is paid off, or you die. Whichever comes first. BUT, as someone who is something of a connoisseur of terrible, horrible ideas… I rarely consider law school to be my worst. That has to count for something, right?

7. I will buy the wrong books/ The books are big and scary.

I’m not entirely sure which undergrad college you went to where the bookstore didn’t hire thousands of employees at slightly more than minimum wage to fetch your books for you and/or cashiers who were forced drill the return policy into the customers as if their chance at redemption depended on it, but becoming a law student doesn’t exempt you from the laws of commerce. If you buy the wrong books, you can return them.

And the books are a little big and scary. But, much like every other sort of reading material that you have ever encountered, you will go through them page by page. By the time the end of the semester rolls around, you will look at those previously scary books (which will have been decimated with highlighters and margin notes) and feel strangely fulfilled. “Yeah,” you’ll say to yourself, “I read all of that. What now, world?”

Then you’ll vomit out thousands of words about that book in a limited period of time, and once again end up feeling like nothing more than an empty shell.

8. My eyes will cross from all the reading I have to do.

Possibly, but from what I understand being a lawyer isn’t much different. You didn’t get into this field because you love Pictionary. Reading comes with the territory. A lot of reading. Sometimes hundreds of pages.

However, those hundreds of pages are assigned ahead of time, and if you are the sort of person who is good at managing your life/time, you can spread the reading out so each night you have a comfortable amount. On the other hand, if you are like me, you’ll be up until two in the morning finishing your reading more than once. Either way, you will survive, and in the long run come out no worse for the wear (optically, at least. Financially, it might be another story).

9. By the end of law school I will be bald, frail, and pasty white.

For the love of God, you are going to law school, not being revived from a cryogenic freezing (remember when Mel wasn’t horrific?). Unless you currently look like Dumbledore, this should not be a worry (and, to his credit, even the old wizard has a great head of hair).

10. I won’t get laid.

Still nope.