I am halfway finished with law school, which is mostly exhilarating with a dash of terrifying. But rather than look forward to what I’ll be doing come mid-May 2014, which is something I think about constantly, I thought I’d take a moment to consider what I’ve learned over the past year and a half. Here are some of the most important things (not including substantive law) I’ve learned from going to law school at BU.
1.Getting all the coffee-related lessons out in one item: the Student Union right next door to law school sells Peets Coffee, which is delicious, cheap, and has short lines. There’s free coffee till 11:00 a.m. in the law school’s first floor cafe every Wednesday. The Starbucks across the street has a fire and is toasty-warm in the winter, the Starbucks in the GSU almost always has long lines, the Starbucks about a five minute walk west is often packed but has really nice baristas, and the Harvard Yard Starbucks is a short bus ride away and open until 1:00 a.m.. Espresso Royale, across the street, has great bagels, fine coffee, but burnt espresso. Panera, a five minute walk west of school (right by the aforementioned Starbucks) has good coffee and comfy armchairs, plus it picks up the BU wifi network so you don’t have to worry about getting kicked off of Panera’s during lunchtime. Blue State Coffee, a 10-15 minute walk east of the law tower, has good coffee and espresso but is a little pricey.
2. It is not true that being a successful law student means not eating, sleeping, exercising, or having a social life for three years. I eat – I even cook! My roommates and I have made some delicious dinners. I sleep – not always a lot (okay, rarely a lot) – but I get by well enough with a little coffee-help (see number 1). I dance and I run. Friends and I enjoy fancy cocktails at Eastern Standard, beers at the Dugout, and all of the fun and cheap/free things to do in Boston.
3. In fact, for me to be a successful law student, it is absolutely necessary that I eat, sleep, exercise, and have fun. I am more engaged in Evidence when I’ve had a really good run that morning, more willing to actually think about questions posed in Critical Race Theory when I’m not thinking about that I haven’t actually had fresh produce in four days, and more present and thoughtful with my clinic clients when I’m well-rested. Sleep, exercise, eating healthily, and having fun with friends and family have made it possible for me to achieve whatever modicum of success I’ve managed in law school thus far.
4. Grades do not rise and fall on who has the most hornbooks, hi-liters, or post-its. Hornbooks are supplements, books that have practice questions and otherwise explain the cases. My first semester I didn’t use any hornbooks, and I panicked when I saw what felt like every single person using nine gabillion hornbooks plus a couple trillion hi-liters and towers of post-its. I had to keep talking to friends I studied with to remind myself that not everyone studied like that. Retrospectively, I realize that people actually had far fewer hornbooks, hi-liters, and post-its than my panicked imagination thought. Moreover, people have different study habits. Some people do have tons of hornbooks, hi-liters, and post-its. I prefer my notes, a legal pad, and some colored pens. Different strokes for different folks, and it is ridiculous and unhelpful to compare my study methods to others. I will do fine.
5. Actually, that last sentence deserves its own item: I will do fine. My first semester, I was terrified of exams. I had never been graded on a law school exam before (obviously), started pacing if I thought about the curve for any length of time, and thought it was entirely possible I could fail all of my classes. I did not fail any of them. Millions of people have gone to law school and succeeded. I and my classmates are no less intelligent or motivated than any of them, so there is no reason to think we will not likewise succeed.
6. And by the way, there is more to my law school than grades. This is not to say grades aren’t important, or that I don’t work hard to do well. They are and I do. But law school is not a one-size-fits-all hat. I needed to mold it so it would be most useful to me. I want to do public interest law, so I do a lot of emailing, calling, and writing nonprofits to introduce myself and ask if I can do legal volunteer work for them. I attend events with public interest-y speakers. I take advantage of pro bono opportunities. I use the CDO’s contacts to meet people whose jobs I want when I graduate and ask them what they did and how I can get there. I take classes I think will be useful in my practice. My law school experience, what I need to do to make sure someone will hire me so I can do what I can to law school to do, is specific to me. That’s as it should be.
Here’s to another year and a half!