13 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Finished 1L Year

Don’t worry, I’m not going to make a joke about tapes.

I’ve been looking for that catharsis all day. Today is significant. I finished my first year of law school. But at the moment, it’s taken so much out of me, I don’t know that I’ve really got the energy the feel much about it at the moment.

It’s trite to say I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t think that statement is ever quite unpacked fully. Yes, I’ve acquired an expansive (and expensive) body of knowledge, but I’ve learned so much more about character and resilience.

So, briefly, some notes from 1L year:

1. People are complicated. My criminal law professor said this in the context of a discussion of how the worldviews of SCOTUS justices profoundly impact their rulings. We can’t assume we know it all by knowing a little.

2. There’s a place for you. My contracts professor said this as a closing salvo to us first semester. You don’t know how much you need to hear that when doors on doors on doors close in front of you some weeks.

3. If the most you get out of law school is a bigger lexicon, you’re missing the point.

4. I’m not the best, the second best or the 85th best. I confirmed this when I went to check my class rank. For the first time in my life, grades didn’t carry me. I had to find other things to believe in about myself. They exist. Look for them, love them. Don’t let others steal them.

5. Not everyone is in law school to change the world, and you have to be okay with that. Your mission and soapbox is someone else’s misery and soap opera.

6. You might not end up wanting to change the world. Most major Constitutional struggles were a century in the making. Read: you won’t live to see the fulfillment, so unless moving the baton an inch gets you out of bed, it’s okay to rethink.

7. Upperclassmen are life savers. I owe my peace to those who gave sound and sage advice, putting a face to the phrase, “This too shall pass.” Seeing your success and sanity was more than enough.

8. Not everyone there is going to like you. You’re not going to like everyone. But you do have common ground, even if its commiseration.

9. Your physical and mental health are not worth sacrificing. Go to the gym. Get some sun (and wear sunscreen). Watch that show. Kiss that person. Don’t drink half as much as you feel like you need to.

10. Go home when you can. Don’t let #FOMO keep you in the Swamp.

11. People will brag about their accomplishments. It will be hard to stomach, especially when you’re not meeting your goals. And if I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times: they might do it in the guise of humility. They might put Bible verses about humility next to it. And you will know better than to do business with them. But for now, you smile and say congratulations, because they earned it and that’s respectable.

12. Do other things. People outside of law school, as well as your peers, actually want to talk about other things besides that super interesting notes case. If you do nothing else, you won’t have much else to talk about.

13. Fight like hell to keep true to yourself. That’s not to say you should resist change — let it change you. But the self-monitoring, the moderation, the tempering…it can anesthetize those parts of you that will open doors. I can’t tell you all the times I didn’t do things or get out in front of something because, frankly, it’s uncomfortable at Levin sometimes to be liberal (which my conservative friends will laugh at to the contrary), to say “he” when you’re a guy talking about your partner, and to speak out when a professor says or does something insensitively. Double down on values. You can be typecast, but nobody’s making you take the role.

That Netflix show caused a lot of controversy, but it did have a resounding theme: we all need kindness, at all times, and we all deal with unkindness in different ways. Justice is blind, not kind. That latter part is up to us.