Law school is something I dreamed of for years. When I found out that I had made my first preference law school in 2013, I’m almost certain that tears of joy ensued. I had a tonne of expectations going in to law school – I totally thought I was destined for it, that I would fly through every assessment, that it would be a walk in the park. Obviously, I was wrong, but I’m glad I was. Law school has undeniably been both the most terrifying and gratifying experience of my life.
I still have another two and a half years to go of uni – I’m currently undertaking a double degree in Law and Justice. My Justice degree usually flies under the radar, because as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to end up walking down a career path of courtrooms and court robes. Justice is really just an added bonus that I enjoy doing, but it’s ultimately not where I want my career to head. Even though I still have a ways to go before I graduate, I’ve had three years of law school experience, so I thought I would share my expectations and experiences. This may come particularly in handy if you’re considering law school yourself.
My first expectation was that I would have a perfect GPA, or at least, that it wouldn’t be that hard to maintain a perfect GPA. Boy, was I wrong. In high school, I somehow managed to do pretty well for myself and ended up at the top of my class for the majority of my subjects. But as it turned out, my best at high school was actually pretty darn average at law school. This proved to be really hard on my self esteem. I was totally used to being the “smart one”, but at law school, everyone is smart. Be prepared for this awakening.
My second expectation was that the workload couldn’t possibly be as time-consuming or tedious as the lecturers made it out to be. Wrong again! I thought everyone was exaggerating. But a 40-hour workload each week is easily spent at law school. With all your readings (a law degree is basically just reading a million cases a day), lectures, classes, assignments, and studying for exams, a 40-hour week flies by. Be prepared to work your booty off.
My third expectation wasn’t so much of an expectation as it was an experience. Coming into my third year, I realised I was beginning to show signs of a potential mental health issue. I thought I was alone and that I wasn’t able to handle the workload. I would break down if I got any grade below a B and was in a constant state of panic about my GPA. I found it really difficult to switch off at night too – my degree became an obsession and I wasn’t sleeping well. I’d heard statistics relating to law school and mental health – for instance, one third of law students develop mental health issues during their time at law school. It’s amazing how true this is, yet no one wants to talk about it. My advice here is to make your mental health a priority. Doing well at university is important, but you’re not going to do as well if your mental health is out of whack.
All of this makes law school seem like a horrible experience, but the benefits outweigh the negatives. I’ve met a lot of like-minded people, I’ve pushed myself beyond what I genuinely thought I was capable of, and seeing all that hard work pay off is the best feeling in the world.
If you’re heading to law school next year, good luck! I hope sharing my experiences has helped open your mind and prepare you for what’s to come.