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The Dos and Don’ts of Law School

Ankita - source Ankita Article imageThe Law Student Filter

There is a constant refrain among law students: “But I’m in law school!” You become the priority, the exception to every rule, the excuse to not go out when you’d rather stay in, to your mediocre GPA, to binge-watching Narcos because you’re “so stressed” and just “need a break.” Because law school.

It’s a different world down this rabbit hole.  There are things you can’t do here. There are things you absolutely should do. These aren’t hard and fast rules, by any means. But there are good guidelines for all law students to follow. The Rules of Law Student Conduct, if you will.

DO wear a lot of black. Black is classy. Black is sophisticated. I recently heard of a judge with red nail polish and the lawyer who complained about it. Yes, pink has been proven to make people happy. But we’re not Elle Woodses.  Keep the colour at home. This is law school.

DON’T sleep too much. Let’s be real: if you’re getting enough sleep in law school, you’re probably doing something wrong. We’re law students. Health comes second (or third or fourth or eighth). Ambition is always first.

DO drink a lot of coffee. Look, coffee is just a way of life, #WeTheNorth, #TimmyNation, #lolstarbuxsux, #whatever. It’s not just to get you through a 22-hour day; this is the symbol of hard work. If we wanted the health lecture, we would’ve gone to med school. But we didn’t. We’re in law school.

DON’T read non-law books (especially young adult or romance or high fantasy). We like what we like, but we’re in a demanding, highly-specialized field now. Law is different. Law needs technical language and knowledge. Pick up some Stuntz and grow your brain.

Most importantly, DO disregard everything you’ve read here. Look, law school is hard. We all have all-nighters and seven-cups-of-coffee days. No one can manage square meals, lavender oil rubbed into their wrists, breathing in the smell of orange peels every day (all actual suggestions for stress relief, by the way). But there’s a difference between “I’m busy” and “I’m busy because I’m in law school.” Hint: it’s in the last five words.

It’s something specific to this Snapstagram generation of moping selfies with your twelve 1L textbooks, or photos of your coffee cup balanced on your open laptop, your half-finished essay on screen, three extensively-highlighted textbooks in front of you, with a caption like “Law school got me Lit the hell up.” No judgment: I’ve been there. But the social media obsession around law school is dangerous. Law school, and being a law student, becomes a crafted image. You’re not just a law student, you’re a #lawstudent.

But here’s a hard truth: law school doesn’t make you special.

Hear me out. I am not Annalise Keating, leagues above mere mortals, or the Blue-Haired Lawyer, nasally tearing down an innocent waiter who can’t pronounce chowder (do I watch too much TV?). I’m just a 2L who spent far too much time last year differentiating herself based on her law school acceptance, telling you to stop putting that pressure on yourself. Yes, law school is hard to get into. Yes, you should be pleased. Yes, the work has just begun.

But few things cause more stress than putting yourself on a pedestal. You put unrealistic demands on yourself, and even when you realize that, you can justify it: “Yes, I’m exhausted, BUT I’m in a harder program now—I can’t sleep like I used to”; “yes, I’m stressed, BUT I can handle it, or I wouldn’t be here”; “yes, I’m sad all the time, BUT I’m in law school.”

Don’t touch the but, Nemo.

That “but” is the line between you and the rest of the world. Cross it and you fancy yourself superwoman or man, able to leap judgments and scale references—and too proud to admit when you’re drowning in Latin.

No one is saying you shouldn’t be proud or push yourself. Just know: pride doesn’t belong here. Nor does pride NOT belong here. A lot of people won’t like what I’m saying, but this is just a building. Do what you want, be as you are. But don’t define yourself by your law student status. Law school is school and school is part of life. Law school is not a filter on Snapchat or a hashtag for Twitter. Law school is not your crowning achievement in life, and law school is definitely not your burden to bear alone. There are so many resources available to you for a reason; use them.

Forget the witty captions and the staged stress sets. Law school life has no special place on your social media profile. Law school is not a Kardashian. Law school is laundry day. Congrats on making it this far. But take it easy on yourself. You’re not done yet.

You’re a law student.