Last week, my fellow students at the University of New Brunswick began sitting for, receiving, and uploading their graduation photo proofs on Facebook.
A flurry of robed, collared, and tastefully Photoshopped pictures filled my newsfeed. They were accompanied by calls for feedback before students ordered a slew. (‘Keeping-it-real’ side note: Many lovely cherub faces, but the cynic in me wonders doubtfully if the recipient of these grad shots groans silently when they consider where they must now feature the photo prominently. On a side table? Fridge door?).
Regardless, the photos mark a poignant step toward the completion of law school as the images will soon fill a composite that will hang in the basement of Ludlow Hall like the graduates before us. Many students accompanied the four-panel proof with a shout out to friends and family and disbelief that the end is so near.
“8 years, countless hours of work, and some really important friendships later, it's almost all over. It's been wild. ?#?jurisdoctor? ?#?somuchdebt? ?#?reallife?,” wrote Kristen Fulton.????????????
“I cannot believe how quickly my time at Ludlow has gone, how much I've learned, and how many amazing people I have met. I'm so excited to get to spend the next 6 months with you all. Xo,” wrote Jen Johnson.
“Oh hey mom and dad. ?#?almostalawyer,” wrote ?????Stacia Smith. ???
Reading the sentimental posts between studying for exams given Amsterdam’s truncated eight-week semesters hit a sentimental nerve in me. I felt out of touch with my peers since being away on exchange, but I was also reminded that the light at the end of this dark and sometimes booby-trapped and sometimes just plain brutal tunnel called law school draws near.
With only six months remaining during which I can call myself a student, there are still a few goals I would like to realize or at the very least pursue.
In the few yoga classes I have taken, “mind, body and soul” are frequently referenced. The yogis are pretty balanced and organized folks to devise life’s priorities. It’s clear to me that law school permeates every aspect of my life — mind, body and soul — to varying degrees.
Like many law students, I tend to indulge in self-deprecation. It’s a quality upon which close law school friends frequently and jokingly prey (Erika Anschuetz, Bailey Campbell, and Amber Haighway, I’m talking to you).
It has also served, however, as a helpful coping mechanism for the challenges of law school. My performance measurements in school — both qualitative and quantitative — suggest that the sense of drowning is misplaced. I have a respectable transcript. I have won a couple of scholarships. I earned a summer job and articling position on Bay Street. I scored an exchange spot in Amsterdam. Some professors say I am a nice addition to the class (I suspect that others grit their teeth at my occasional or even frequent absurdity. Further evidence of my self-deprecation).
And, so, why do I and many other law students with these or much shinier credentials routinely doubt ourselves? We routinely think we are in way over our heads and the subject matter is beyond us. “The gig’s up,” I say to myself when a professor summarizes how grades will be dealt.
“Cut to me failing in a few months,” I will joke, part seriously, with friends. It’s the imposter syndrome multiplied in law school and confidence is dispensed faster than that pesky case that doesn’t suit your argument.
Among the benefits of working in a large firm this past summer is that I have begun to develop a sharper sense of what from the classroom is critical in practice and what is not. And I succeeded: I actually knew things and was able to apply that knowledge to the satisfaction of a supervising lawyer. However, that developed sense of what is applicable in practice has also been problematic. It has fostered a feeling of “I don’t think I need to know this” at times in lectures, which will likely need reigning in to succeed in exams.
I would like to improve on my approach to law school in 3L. I’ve survived two years of this and, if the past is an indicator of the future, my applying the same techniques and habits as in previous years, I should survive again. Cue the confidence!
Law school is bad for your health and your jeans from 1L. This, I have come to learn. Case briefing trumps cardio exercise. Greco Pizza beats out a garden salad. And a deserved sleep-in trumps high-intensity circuits.
From all reports, apparently, the carousel’s speed will not slow in coming years. Word on Bay Street is that articling and the first years of associateship are as gruelling as law school, sometimes more so. Good habits locked down now will pay dividends post-graduation.
“There’s no such thing as cold weather, just inappropriate clothing wear” — advice a friend once shared with me to prepare for a winter run — will be a mantra I need to recite as I tie my running shoes when the snow and ice hit Fredericton this winter.
The Maritimes are good for the soul. Many of my fellow students from Atlantic Canada are the most warm-hearted people I have encountered. Equal parts funny, endearing, interested, and compassionate. No doubt, this community helps to take the edge off the competitive nature of law school.
Before I return to Toronto’s admittedly more aloof culture, I want to saturate myself with all the zen of my classmates. I would like to make the most of our time remaining before our visits become much less frequent.
I would also like to leverage the benefits of being a student. From continuing to advocate for New Brunswick’s queer community through my membership in UNB OUTLaw to calling upon lawyers for advice and guidance, academia brings benefits such as a platform and opened doors.
As many of my friends and classmates know and tolerate, I learn many life lessons through the sport of figure skating. At the 2013 world championships, one of my favourite competitors, Carolina Kostner of Italy, reportedly told the media, “I just want to leave skating a better place than I found it.” They’re deeply inspiring words that I hope to apply in my final months as a student and advocate at Ludlow Hall.
If all else fails
And to temper these lofty goals with something reasonable, I would also like to grow my beard.