Personality Problems

When I first started considering law school, I had this bizarre idea that only some people could be lawyers, because only some people had the right personality traits. I was naturally thinking about television (I’ve mentioned before my childhood obsession with Matlock) and John Grisham novels and 12 Angry Men. Knowing virtually nothing about the law (in real life) meant that my brain had defaulted into an ingrained assumption that the legal system was only for a select handful of men brave and clever enough to weather things like getting yelled at by judges and giving impassioned speeches to juries. These some people were stubborn, opinionated, loud, and – most importantly – unfailingly confident. I worried for an embarrassingly prolonged amount of time that I shouldn’t go to law school because I simply didn’t possess the right set of personality traits.

Well, I was almost 100% wrong, as you might imagine, not least because of the subconscious patriarchy that had caused me to imagine all lawyers as old, white men.  One of the (many) things I’ve learned over the last 2.5 years is that lawyers really do come in all shapes and sizes. You can be an introvert and still be a lawyer. You can be a polite, conscientious person without getting trampled on by big, mean senior partners. You can be an excellent attorney even if you prefer quietly formulating your argument over out-screaming the opposing counsel.

There are many reasons for this. The first is that many lawyers don’t practice litigation and thus are very rarely in a courtroom in front of a judge; even trial lawyers try as hard as possible to settle cases before they ever get to trial. Despite what you see on TV, you almost definitely won’t be racing in and out of a courtroom on a daily basis like those nutjobs on How to Get Away With Murder. In fact, in my experience, lawyers spend much more time planning for things than actually doing those things; client meetings, hearings, settlement agreements, negotiations, and, yes, trials – all require a lot of legal research and writing well before the event itself. Being fairly type-A, it was refreshing to realize that, even if you aren’t the most confident person in any room, you can make up for much of this by simply doing your homework (so to speak) in order to be prepared and organized.

That’s not to say that the legal profession is for everyone. Law school does push you out of your comfort zone, and one of the main ways it does that is by forcing you to speak up in class (the dreaded cold call) and, at BU anyways, forcing you to participate in moot court as a 1L, which includes an oral argument. I was honestly uncomfortable for most of my first year at BU, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at any given moment. For me, that’s fine, because it made me a better public speaker, a better critical thinker, and (hopefully) a better lawyer. For other people, though, that kind of stress and pressure is not a good learning environment.

So yeah, law school isn’t for everyone. Much like you probably shouldn’t be a surgeon if blood makes you puke, you probably shouldn’t go to law school if talking in class makes you faint from nerves. But, if law school is something you’re considering, I truly believe it’s a valuable experience for more than just the Matlocks and Annalise Keatings of the world. Law school can be for anyone who is willing to make mistakes, learn through experience, and work very, very hard.

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