Scared to Death

Law school is often described by the phrase,  “First year they scare you to death, second year they work you to death, and third year they bore you to death.” While I can’t speak to the second or third year just yet, in my personal experiences with 1L year so far, I’ve found that while it can definitely be scary, those fears can translate into formidable learning experiences.

For me, my “scared to death” moment was my first cold call. No one wanted to be the first person on call—especially me. Luckily, I wasn’t called on in any of my classes that first day, but on the other hand, I became increasingly fearful of when my turn would come.

In college, I was often the most outspoken in class, but when I arrived at law school, something about the 70+ person classes and the atmosphere in general silenced me. Even though I did my reading, I was still genuinely afraid to speak in class and dreaded the day that one of my professors would call on me.

My time to talk came about three weeks into first semester. Halfway into Torts class, I was asked to describe the case of Osborne v. McMasters. The case itself laid out a generally straightforward rule of negligence per se (which you’ll all learn about at law school so I won’t bore you with it here!), but I was so nervous that I could hardly utter the facts of the case without getting flustered. The 15 minutes or so that I was on call were a total blur, and even though some of my professor’s questions were not difficult, I was relieved when the whole process was over. The rest of the day I replayed the on call experience in my head, getting increasingly angry at myself for what I considered inarticulate answers and even cried about it when I got home that day!

Needless to say, my first on call experience was nothing short of terrifying for me. Yet even though it wasn’t my finest law school moment, getting it over with allowed me to rest easier in class. I was able to rid myself of the fears I had and realized that at the end of the day, those 15 minutes weren’t going to make or break my career as a lawyer or even my grade in the class. The second time I was on call, I was less timid, and my confidence grew each subsequent time I spoke. By the end of the semester, I regained the confidence I had in college when answering questions, and this semester, while I haven’t technically been on call yet, I’m optimistic that I won’t have a repeat of my Torts class catastrophe.

For those of you who will be 1Ls next year, you will probably all have your scary moment. Whether that fear comes from cold calls, outlining, exams, or something else, it is important to realize that those worries are only natural and will subside as the workings of law school becomes more familiar. But no matter what scares you about law school, don’t let it scare you to death – law school is not your life, it is just a part of it!


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