About one year ago, I received a phone call at work from the previously unrecognized 617 area code.  The man on the line asked me if I had any questions about the informational packet I had received from Boston University School of Law.  My response was a confused “What packet?”  The subsequent explanation led to some screaming and a small celebration which nearly cost me my part-time job.

Today, it is the Spring Break of my first year of law school at BU and I am taking the time to decompress back home in California.  I know I’ve been in Boston too long when I am sweating in the “sweltering” 65 degree heat of the Bay Area.  Last year, I was splitting time between work and school as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley.  Every day was a roller coaster ride – the anxiety peaked around 3 PM when the mail arrived and subsided most days with little fanfare.  The admissions process seemed to go on forever and the time I had to figure out my next step seemed so incredibly finite that it felt like a split second decision.

Taking time to reflect a year later, I can’t help but think that the more things change, the more they have stayed the same.  The days are still full of ups and downs, but instead of waiting for admissions letters, the order of the day is summer job offers.  It’s almost funny how you are expected to make a pretty decent salary as a college graduate but get paid minimum wage (if you’re lucky) during your first-year summer.  Add this to the daily grind of law school and it creates a potent blend of tension, exhaustion, and adrenaline.

As unappealing as that may sound, it really is not as bad as it seems.  The biggest lesson I’ve taken away from law school so far is it is not what you are doing – it is how you are doing it that is important.  You can read a casebook front to back, memorize every fact and decision written by judges like Learned Hand, Cardozo, Posner, and thousands of others and not become one step closer to becoming an effective lawyer.  The important step is learning how these rules function.  How are the laws written?  How do new judicial theories affect their implementation?  How are they applied in the course of a normal trial?

In the same way, you learn how to deal with the law school grind.  How am I going to keep eating healthy?  How am I going to save money?  How am I going to maintain any semblance of a personal life?  In the midst of going through one of the most challenging and arduous experiences imaginable, you realize that it’s also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling, and the experience has left you better prepared for the rest of your life.

I am on day three of my week long break, and I am already anxious to go back to the frozen streets on the Charles River.  Any decompression at home is preparation to get ready for the mad dash to finals in May.  More than anything, I cling to the idea that the long and demanding path to a law degree is just as important as the degree itself.