A Note for 1Ls (and those considering becoming one)

“You just have to wake up one day and realize it’s a lifestyle; it’s a decision.”

I was lucky enough this past week to bump into a friend from undergrad, Christian. We chatted a bit about what we had done since we left Whittier, me in 2009 and him the following May. We caught up on each other’s lives, and I asked him specifically what he had been doing since leaving Southern California (he’s from the East coast).

He told me that his company on the East Coast (he owns an auto-detailing service for corporate and fleet accounts) was up and running, but it didn’t need him there so he was traveling. He’d spent some time snowboarding on the Rockies, and then a month or two in San Francisco enjoying his friends and the city, and how he was in Southern California, “just kind of living.”

I told him that I wished I could live a life like that and he responded with the quote above. (Keep in mind, he said this all while skateboarding alone in a parking lot, near midnight, following a lacrosse game.) The conversation itself began with me asking, “Don’t you have anything better to be doing?” and him responding, “I’d rather be doing this.”

At this time of the law school year, if you’re anything like I was last year, you’re seriously beginning to reconsider the decision to go to law school. The academic year itself is long, and feels longer as the Spring continues, the assignments due near the end of the school year begin to pile up, and the deadlines loom like freeway traffic in the distance. This is probably not a new experience for any of you, but rather simply a stronger impulse than you’ve had on the subject so far, because — and let’s be honest here — you’re tired of law school, no?

Keep in mind that you’re not alone in this sentiment. I mean, really not alone. We all feel that way. I know a lot of 3Ls who definitely feel that way right now. And with less than a month until many of them graduate, you would be surprised how many of them are thinking to themselves, “I’d rather go work doing just about anything but law.”

But for those of you who aren’t about to cross the finish line, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Researching and memos may be annoying and time consuming and off-putting, but there is definitely more to the legal profession.I can remember, quite vividly, just how much I hated going through the process of researching and writing memos and briefs throughout my first year in law school. And, for a guy who wrote quite a bit in undergraduate, I think I hated it more than most. Not because they were difficult, but more because as they went on, they really just began to feel like busy work. Keep in mind that memos are not the be-all, end-all of the legal profession. It wasn’t until our oral advocacy competition, when I was able to get up and actually argue in front of people, that I really remembered why I wanted to be a lawyer. And every time I get to actually make an argument, instead of just research and advocate, it makes it all worth it.
  • That said, research and writing skills are extremely desirable. It may not seem like it at the moment, but when you get out of the classroom and into the real world (even if that real world is just an internship/externship/clerkship) you begin to realize how much all you learned in your 1L research and writing class is really worth it. Having the skills that can help whoever you’re working with over the summer can be the difference between a good reference and a glowing reference.
  • The year’s almost over! The year, as I have already said, is long. And, not unlike any long sports season, it can be extremely difficult to make it all the way through without losing your motivation. Keep your wits about you, and remember that summer is only a month or so away. If you can keep that in your head, and you can convince yourself to power through the finish, you’re going to thank yourself later.

With all this said, however, remember that there’s the genuine possible that law school just isn’t for you. There is, sad or terrifying as it may be, a real chance of that. And if it really isn’t for you, there’s no harm in accepting that. Life is too short (and law school is too expensive) to spend three years (or the rest of your life) doing something you don’t enjoy. My grandfather used to say, “If you can find something you love to do, you never have to work a day in your life.” The ability to have a profession you enjoy, rather than a job you have to work at every day, is worth so much more than all the money, praise, or anything else you might get from the being a lawyer.

It occurs to me, now days later, that Christian was absolutely right — and that his quote wasn’t just about his style of living; it’s about all styles of living. With law school or lawyering or any other choice you make it life, “You just have to wake up one day and realize … it’s a decision.”

About Jacob Genzuk

Jacob Genzuk is a 2L at the Chapman University School of Law, where he is a Copy and Layout editor of the Chapman Law Courier and a member of the Board of Governors of the Chapman Student Bar Association. Raised across the southwestern United States (including time in Phoenix, AZ and El Paso, TX), he was educated in the Los Angeles area, culminating with his Bachelor of Arts degree from Whittier College with double majors in Political Science and “Ethics & Rhetoric.” During his time as a Poet, he served both as a Resident Advisor and vice president of the student body. He is primarily interested in constitutional law, specifically First Amendment, Due Process, and Equal Protection issues, and intends to pursue a career in criminal law. When away from the text books, he especially enjoys baseball and films.
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2 Responses to A Note for 1Ls (and those considering becoming one)

  1. James, Esq. says:

    Useful advice, but I would like to remind potential students that law school is the easy part. Most of my peers look fondly back on law school as a quasi-college experience. The bigger challenge is the job market facing new law school graduates. Good luck!

  2. Left the Law says:

    If you think you are envious of your friend’s freedom and happiness now, just wait until you finish law school. Life is way too short to waste it being a lawyer.

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