Someday you plan on being a successful attorney so that you can fight for minority rights or lead internationally-renowned cases. Today, however, you are just a law student, living off caffeine, balancing deadlines, and trying to get a grasp of what this “legal” thing is all about. If you’ve chosen to pursue a degree in law or want to be informed about what you should expect of your education, here are 16 struggles every wannabe lawyer faces:
1. You know that every rule has an exception
Ninety percent of legal rules have a few exceptions, and some more exceptions to those exceptions. It eventually makes you wonder whether the whole legal system is based on rules, or on exceptions.
2. Your reading list is long and expensive
Compared to your peers studying at other graduate schools (with the possible exception of med students), the list of books you need to buy for just a single course is so extensive that it touches the floor. Even worse, those books cost you a tiny fortune, and aren’t necessarily helpful. Out of fear of going broke, you spent your first year learning where to score discounted books and find free academic articles online.
3. You have learned to discuss the readings without reading them
You can talk for hours about things you have never read, and still sound smart doing it.
4. You hate moving or going home on holidays
Packing is your worst nightmare, because you know at least 70% of your suitcase will be filled with textbooks, half of which are on next semester’s reading list that you’ve vowed to read during the breaks.
5. You are broke
And probably will be for the first few years of your career. You enviously watch your Facebook friends post pictures of new cars and houses while you continue to share a tiny studio with a roommate and eat cereal twice a day. You’re afraid to look at your bank account at the end of the month when it’s time to pay off your student loans. While out on a cheerful Friday night, you secretly calculate how many more beers you can afford if you plan to pay your bills on time.
6. You often doubt if you have chosen the right degree
You know folks who’ve switched degrees and now study something they enjoy, while later planning to take another shot at legal in grad school. Sound like a really appealing scenario to you too? The good news is that you can actually transfer your credits to an online degree program like the one at Regis University. With a degree from RGS, you could study something you actually enjoy and save a ton of money at the same time.
7. You are tired of giving free legal advice
Your best friend, your mom, your dad’s cousin, and even his dog have asked you for some minor legal advice at least once (or twice, or ten times). You’re tempted to scream that you plan to become a corporate lawyer specializing in mergers, and are unable to answer questions like: “How can you represent someone you know is guilty?” And no, you can’t help with their phone contract. Nor do you have any idea of the legal intricacies of Internet libel law.
8. You need to learn everything for exams
As one of your tutors puts it: “This amendment is not examinable material, but is good to know for the purpose of your exams”.
9. Your best friend is caffeine
You catch up at least five times a day, and often at night when you need to finish another seven page essay by tomorrow. You can’t live without each other, yet you often blame it for making you see noises.
10. You never stop competing
Law school has turned you into a gunner. You are always forced to compete against fellow students for the best grades. Some schools have even made things worse by using a bell curve to mark the group, making your grades directly depend on how the rest of the year performs. You know people who become extremely defensive and do everything purely for personal gain (and often at the expense of others). You think the television show “The Apprentice” features some mild drama and low competition compared to the battles happening in your classroom.
11. You have love/hate relationships with tutorials
Yes, it’s the legal playground where you are supposed to learn and act, but most days you simply try not to appear clueless and avoid the wrath of the tutor. Although you do admit that these small group interactions gave structure to your learning and helped you remember the material, you can’t stop hating these days as they approach.
12. You are constantly asked about “commercial awareness”
It’s your #1 pet peeve requirement on any job listing. It’s a somewhat mythical concept each employer regards as crucial for a position with them, yet hardly any of them ever bother to explain what exactly it entails.
Let’s get this clear once and for all – commercial awareness in a nutshell is an interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which it operates: customers, competitors, and suppliers. Basically, apart from coming with a hoard of legal knowledge, the employer expects you to know some business basics as well. This also secretly means knowing all things possible about their market, the issues that may potentially bother their customers, and everything about their aggressive competitor’s strategy and how you can help to squeeze them.
Sure, you can read a few business articles and take advantage of your skills to talk wise about things you know little about, but be prepared to study more if you’d like to get that job!
13. You speak and understand another language
The legal language that is: one sentence paragraphs composed of a peculiar mixture of Latin and unpronounceable English words, spiced up with even more twisted jargon. You can even speak like this sometimes, especially when you don’t want to appear clueless at the tutorial.
14. Your career prospects are rather vague
You try not to read the news too often, with headlines such as “energy sector cuts lawyers” and “legal aid cuts” appearing every other week. Getting a job as a recent law grad is tough. But when there are no jobs to take, how are you expected to pay off your loans?
15. You blew a lot of your money on highlighters
Sometimes you wonder if you’re reading your textbook or your little sister’s coloring book. You just need to highlight the most essential parts, even if that means coloring the page in five different colors.
16. You can’t imagine having another career
Despite it’s woes, pressure, debt, and caffeine withdrawal symptoms, life as a law student is the only way you can imagine it. You would still love to become an attorney one day to help people in trouble, fight for justice, or just finally got to know the right definition of “law”.
Featured photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via flickr.com