The Legal Hero(ine)’s Journey: Part One

One of my favorite topics to teach when I taught English literature was The Hero(ine)’s Journey, an archetypal progression that countless myths and epics stories have incorporated to some degree. Whether you pick up Gilgamesh, Harry Potter, Twilight, or the Bible, you will inevitably encounter the same handful of tropes in some form or other. Law school, too, is an epic quest, and I offer you some reflections on my first year cast in the form of the Hero(ine)’s Journey! See a nifty chart here!

This will be a three-part series, tracking the lead-up to law school, the first and second semesters, and then the summer after the first year. Enjoy and check back soon for the second installment!

The Journey comprises three stages: (1) Separation, (2) The Supreme Ordeal, and (3) Unification.

The first and third stages take place in the “ordinary world” while the second stage takes place in a “special,” often supernatural world.

A Fledgling’s Guide to the Hero(ine)’s Journey through 1L

First Stage: Separation (Preparing for and Taking the LSAT)

The Journey begins with a “call to adventure.” This, obviously, is whatever wonderful decision led you to begin thinking about law school and studying for our friend the LSAT. I personally was called to law school by a desire to put the skills to work that I had cultivated in graduate study and my teaching career.

lsat studyOf course, the call to adventure usually involves some moment where you “refuse the call” before gaining encouragement from friends, family, or some sort of loss. For me the choice to pursue law school also meant leaving the career I had spent almost a decade cultivating. It was difficult to leave the educational community, but my colleagues, friends, and family gave me the support I needed.

The stage culminates in the “final test,” which of course is the LSAT. It seems scary and challenging at the time, but by the end of the journey the hero realizes that it was just the first step. Think: Harry Potter fighting Professor Quirrell in The Philosopher’s Stone or Frodo choosing to break away from the Fellowship and travel alone to Mordor.

frodo samOf course the call to adventure also usually involves a long and tedious “road of trials” where it seems like not much is happening. The hero(ine) needs to gain entrance to distant places, prepare him or herself, and gain new allies (i.e. that really long part of The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo just walks across the countryside for 200 pages. Think of this like filling out your applications, interviewing, and choosing which law school to attend.

By the end of the first stage in the Journey, the Hero(ine) has achieved some degree of separation from his or her normal life by “Crossing the First Threshold.” He or she has struggled, but the initial fight was really just a prelude to real challenges that lay ahead.

Stay tuned for part two of three!

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