When I contemplated going to law school, I was hesitant because I was worried about the cost and time that I would have to put in. After completing undergraduate, I knew that I needed to obtain a higher degree in order to live my life comfortably. However, with the growing need to just find “a job” to pay back school loans I wanted a quick and easy route, not a difficult 3-year route. I thought about just taking the shorter route and making money as soon as possible, but that thought left me a little uneasy. Too often, many graduates fall into the cycle of graduating, searching for jobs, and settling with any job in order to meet the end of the loan deferment grace period. It was then that I knew I did not want to work a mediocre job every day just to pay off my school loans. I wanted a job that would allow me to make a change and a job that would continue to challenge me every day. I quickly realized that no matter what I do from that point on in my life, nothing was going to be easy and nothing was going to be inexpensive. I already had school debt, so I might as well add to it by going to school for my law degree.
I am very thankful that the time and money I invested into studying for the LSAT allowed me to attend law school. However, nothing that I could have done before attending law school would have prepared me for the law school experience. I use to think that if I did vocabulary test on legal terms I would be able to understand something. I was so wrong! I knew law school was hard, but I did not know how hard. I remember after the second day of orientation, I walked to my car contemplating if I had made the right decision to attend law school. I thought about how hard it would be and how much I would struggle through it all. I felt discouraged and afraid. On the other hand, I thought about how much my parents believed in me, how they financially supported me, and how they sacrificed their opportunities to go to school in order for me to be there that day. I told myself that if I kept allowing fear to get in the way of challenges I would end up nowhere. I put myself through all the studying and testing for a reason, and that reason was to get into law school. I could not give up on myself now.
Becoming acclimated with the law school experience was a complete 360 for me. The first semester of law school was a semester of adjusting to study schedules, reading schedule, eating schedule, and trying to stay healthy schedule. During my first week I was so worried about being called on in class and not being prepared that I would stay up every night until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. trying to finish my reading for the next day. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was reading about or what the issue was for the cases. Not being able to understand what I was reading about, regardless of how many times I re-read a paragraph, was very frustrating. I felt like I was working against time and time was not on my side. By the time I was done reading for one class, I still had 3 other classes for which I had to prepare. So in order for me to keep up with the reading assignments for class, I would skip meals to read.
Although during orientation, students and staff recommended that students should study but also take care of their health, I found that recommendation to be easier said than done. I tried for the first week to eat healthy and be active, but I was so desperate to be continuously prepared for class that nothing could interfere with my reading. Eventually, not having enough sleep and skipping meals affected my productivity because I did not retain much of my reading assignments and was constantly tired. It was in those moments that my siblings and friends advised me to take law school as a jog and not a race. If I kept up with my lack of sleep and food I would not be able to keep up with the demands of law school.
Now, in my second year, law school has not become easier but it has become more manageable. I comprehend most of what I read and I keep up with most of my reading assignments. Most importantly now, I eat my meals and make sure I have sufficient amount of sleep. Some days I even take power naps in the library carrels to push through the long days at school. Although my experience of law school up to this point has been a challenge, it has also been rewarding because I love what I am learning. Some days it is easy to fall back into the old habits of that first semester of law school, but when 11 p.m. rolls around, I tell myself that if I want to retain anything that I read or worked on for that week, I need to sleep. As a reminder or an advice to current students or future students, remember that law school is a jog and not a race. Keep your pace and remember to breathe when it gets tough. You are already one step closer.
[UPDATE: Doaw wrote this in May 2016, Doaw is now a third-year law student. She will graduate in May 2017.]