It’s been four years since my dude Kevin decided he was going to pursue a law career. He made the decision for several reasons but mostly, he’s got the knack for it. His brain is just wired for all that analytical lawyerly thinking.
I have always thought he would make a terrific attorney and like any good woman who believes in her man, I stood right by him, clasped his hand, and said, “I’m with you all the way.”
I was all,
Because we were in our late twenties when we embarked on this journey together (think almost 30) and neither of us are trust fund babies, we knew it would mean a lot of hard work and sacrifice for a number of years. But we believed the end would justify the means.
So, if you too, also, as well are thinking of going back to get a juris doctorate, get used to this phrase for the next few years of your life:
Let’s start at the very beginning. You have to study for the LSATs, the exam that determines where you can go to school, which is actually kind of a Big Deal. Law schools come in “tiers” and whether your school is in a top tier will likely decide what kind of law career you have (ambulance chaser vs. corporate litigator vs. unemployed altogether).
The LSATs are comprised of bizarre types of questions, including “logic.” Kevin played lots of logic games over the summer of 2009. He read me a few sample test questions, and let’s just say…
It’s definitely a good thing it wasn’t me who was going to try my hand at law school.
After a summer of studying full-time for the LSATs (and there is a TON of pressure to try to reach that brass ring score of 170 and above), the exam happens. The first hurdle is over!
After an agonizing wait, you get your LSAT score, which will elicit the below response, whether you’re relieved or upset at the score:
Once you’ve digested your score, which will determine where you can actually try to get into school, come the law school applications.
Keep in mind, we’re only at the precursor to actually attending law school. All of this costs a lot of time and money, so prepare to batten down the hatches. It’s a longass ride.
After you’ve applied for your schools, most students join the online forums to banter and agonize over when they’re going to find out whether they’ve gotten in. There is a lot of comparison and speculation going on, especially those who brag about their super high LSAT score, or, they got a lower score, like a 160, and think they’re going to Northwestern.
At long last, applications are being reviewed, and acceptances start happening. Because Kevin applied at the height of the recession, when everyone else was running away to school to wait it out, the competition was so intense, that he even got waitlisted at a school that any other year he would have sailed right in. It was like,
If you’re an above average potential law student, however, chances are you’ll get accepted to one of your top choices of schools, and life suddenly starts looking up.
If you go to a good law school, you’ll be moving. Although moving is definitely its own level of hell, it’s worth it when you feel happy about all the potential your future holds. Still…
Fast forward to 1L year. You find out that there are actually reading assignments due before the first day of class on any given semester.
Additionally, the first semester of law school weeds out anyone who doesn’t have it in them to really make it.
The competition is even greater now, because you’re up against all the smartest kids in class from all around the country, concentrated into one class of two hundred something people. You don’t go anywhere without a lot of books and your laptop. And I mean, you don’t go anywhere without your laptop.
After you make it through your first semester, here comes your first set of finals! Here’s where you eat, sleep, and breathe at the law library for about two weeks straight, after you’ve already spent six weeks on “outlines” with your study group. Your entire grade is based on one final exam. You don’t get brownie points for homework. At some point, someone will turn to you and say,
And social activities?
After you’ve had an unpaid internship for your 1L summer, we get to the 2L school year, where you find out that law firms recruit for summer associates in OCTOBER.
Kevin took some other people’s advice and crammed his 2L year full with more required classes and other such important things like Moot Court and an externship. And don’t forget the illustrious Law Review! There is an insane desire to stand out as the creme de la creme but it’s hard when everyone is super smart. Each weekend, I would watch him toddle off to the law library. Meanwhile, I acted very needy as I was feeling ignored.
If you’re fortunate to snag a paying job for the 2L summer, you get a small taste of what it’s like to work in a law firm and even earn some lawyer money.
I remember that feeling of having the option to spend money a little frivolously.
When the money goes away after a paying summer job, it is a sad time. You have to go back to doing things like selling plasma to make ends meet.
By the time 3L year rolls around, you’re a “senior.” It’s old hat. Your approach to your finals may look something like this:
At long last, you make it to graduation. It’s here! You’re a a proud graduate of law school!
But now it’s time to get down to srs bsns because the biggest hurdle is yet to come–that of studying for your state Bar exam. (Don’t forget about moving and/or finding money to sustain you for the Summer of Studying Hell, because if you thought taking the Bar might be economical, you would be way way wrong.)
You might have one to two weeks to move and relax between graduating and beginning your bar review of choice.
As you begin your Bar study, you’ll come to find that it doesn’t get any easier from the outset up until the actual exam. (Click here for a classic NSFW blog post regarding how it messes with your mind.)
Your friends and family (particularly your roommates or your significant other) may find you testy when you’re interrupted whilst taking a timed test…
…warranting this kind of reaction:
When you’re not studying, you can only think about two other things:
By the time you get to the last weekend before the actual exam, you’re feeling like this:
You can’t imagine life after the Bar, even if you do have a job offer already. All you can think about are the words on your giant box of index cards, trying to put certain laws and lessons into mnemonic devices and acronyms that make sense only in a special kind of hell.
At long last, you make it to the testing center (with its absurdly strict rules that makes the TSA look friendly and relaxed). You endure each drudging day of the exam. (Some Bar exams are three days, which makes even me want to cry for those poor bastards.)
You may emerge feeling something like this:
When you’re done with the Bar, even if your future is tenuous and you’re unsure what the result is going to be, you can’t help but feel:
I guess what I’m saying is really think about it before you put yourself through four years of unequaled stress, endurance tests, competitions with your fellow man, scavenger hunts for money (read: student loans!), and an unparalleled background check (“character and fitness test”). That’s all BEFORE you job hunt in a recovering economy that is seeing law firms, big and small, tighten their belts and hire fewer and fewer graduating law students.
Make sure you really want it, kids.