Why the First Semester of Law School Does Not Define You


If you have been reading for a while, you may know that I struggled with my first semester of law school. If you have not been reading for a while, here's the cliff notes version: I entered law school having always been a top student, one of the smartest in my classes, on a full tuition scholarship and having just graduated Magna Cum Laude with dual Bachelors degrees. I was ready to crush law school just like everything else. Suddenly, everything I though I knew about school and studying didn't work and I was surrounded by people just as smart and often smarter than me. That was a big adjustment. I questioned myself and my choice to attend law school daily. Eventually, I got into the swing of things and it got easier. Then, I took law school exams... wow. They were unlike any exam I had ever completed and I struggled. A lot. No matter how hard I studied, it didn't seem to be enough and the format of the 4-hour exams was just draining. I squeaked by but my grades were nowhere near where I wanted them to be and I was confused, heartbroken and completely frustrated. I contemplated dropping out. I thought of back up plans if I couldn't finish law school. I cried to my parents and husband.

Finally, my wonderful mother got tired of my whining and moping and gave me the kick in the butt I needed- She informed me that it was okay to be upset and disappointed with myself. But she also said I had never not excelled at something I put my mind to in my entire life and it was about darn time I got knocked on my rear. She told me to stop whining and make a decision- I could either buckle down, work harder than ever before and prove to myself and my school that I could excel in law school the second semester. The other choice was dropping out and figuring out something else to do with my life. I took the first option.

I am happy to report that my hard work paid off- I reengineered my study tactics, worked my butt off and was able to pull my GPA up 2 entire points after the second semester. I got a higher grade in every single class and I even got my first A in law school which led to me dancing down the hallway of my internship. I am eligible for Moot Court and moved up in the ranking. I have a wonderful internship and I am learning something every day. Overall, I am heading into my 2L year much more confident and set in my plan to finish law school and succeed in the legal field.

So why did I tell this story?? Because one semester does not define you. You can fail and fall flat on your back... it's okay. You can cry it out. Just pick yourself up, make some changes, buckle down and choose to improve. Never ever let one bad class or one bad semester break your dreams. I failed. I had the worst GPA of my life. I got my first C's. I took that failure and let it fuel me to never get those grades again and succeed. If I can do that, so can you!

Never give up after one tough break. You are smart enough, you are good enough and they would not have let you into law school if you couldn't do it. Reengineer, redouble your efforts and attack it with a vengeance fueled by all your frustrations. Work so hard you will never have grades that low again. Make success the only option. Whining and complaining will not change your grades- only hard work will do that. Do not give up after one bad semester.

The caveat to that is that it is okay to change directions. If after the first year you truly realize that law is not for you, then find something else. That is not giving up- that is making a way for yourself that is right for you. The law may not be for everyone and it is not what it seems from the outside looking in. There is no shame in choosing to go for a different career. You must do what's best for you.

I wish everyone finishing their first year the best of luck as grades come back- I hope the curve falls in your favor. For those gearing up for their first year of law school, prepare for a lot of hard work, exhaustion and the possibility of failure... but remember, you can always improve and that first semester does not define you. As my internship supervisor wisely told me, there are a million great lawyers out there making a difference and some never even got an A in law school. Grades do not define you. Keep your head above water- you can do it!!

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