University of Toronto Law Student, Class of 2016
“First year of law school was tough”, you’ve probably heard that a million times. For me, the hardest part of first year was the feeling that no matter how hard I try, everyone else is still ahead of me. Regardless of how many hours I spent reading cases and writing case briefs over the weekend and during late nights, I would arrive at class or overhear conversations that indicated to me that other students just seemed to “get it” more than I did. I’ve met a variety of people at law school, some of who will stay life-long friends. I’ve also met people who seem to have memorized the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the time they were 5 and seem just as comfortable in a suit as I feel in my sweatpants. I’m sure you’ve also met these students, these are the students that just seem like they’re born for law.
Naturally, I felt intimidated and also at a disadvantage. I avoided networking at firms and attending student events at firms because I always felt that I was invisible compared to these other students. The free food just wasn’t worth feeling like a guppy in a shark tank. These insecurities were compounded by the fact that it seemed everyone at the law school was heading towards corporate law, an area that I had no interest in. I think it would be beneficial for the law school to expose students more to other areas of practice. As a 1L, I had the opportunity to meet many corporate lawyers at on-campus events. However, being able to meet lawyers outside of Bay St. who thoroughly enjoy their work would be refreshing and inspiring.
The bright side is that I met people who are collegial, friendly, and laid back. I have met many amazing people, who I feel quite comfortable with and who have helped me get through the grueling times. I have also learned to not get caught up in the competitive nature of grades and OCI applications. I really had to force myself to take a step back and stop comparing myself to others, and to count my successes, no matter how small they may be. In order to survive the whirlwind of 1L, I had to develop a strategy and discipline myself to take periodic breaks and exercise. Doing daily yoga at first seemed like a chore and a waste of time, but resulted in a much longer span of mental stability than simply powering through the readings. I’ve also learned to value simple pleasures, like a well cooked meal or a bubble bath. These simple things help me to keep focused on what’s actually important in life, rather than artificial things like grades. I’ve learned that I define what success is to me, and regardless of who landed a prestigious job, or who did an amazing internship, other people’s success do not detract from my own.
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