With Santa Clara Law about to kick off their orientation this week, I thought now would be a good time to finally write this post: A letter to my 1L self.
Dear 1L Jess,
So you decided to go to law school.
I don’t mean that as in “why would you do this to yourself, run for the hills” but really, why? Why now? Why is this important to you? Where are you and where do you hope to be at the end of these three years?
The answers to these questions will be your North Star. When things get overwhelming, and they will, return to the why.
Law school isn’t hard, academically that is. Do the readings, put down your phone, maybe actually do some practice essays, and put in the time. The material isn’t hard to grasp. The hard part is deciding whether this is where you want to prioritize your efforts.
And spoiler alert, it won’t be. That’s okay.
Don’t be so cocky.
You aren’t going to get straight A’s this year – trust me, you won’t have time. And when you’re inevitably blindsided by that C, or two, or three, don’t be so hard on yourself. Trash, stupid, not cut out for it…do yourself a favor and torch these words now. You’re not defined by your transcript and your worth is not measured in letters.
Neither is it measured by those of your peers. Don’t be so easily fooled into self-doubt’s trap by making such unnecessary and unproductive comparisons. This is your story – you’re the author. Start writing.
You’ll meet a lot of people. Some will overwhelm you. Some will manipulate you. Some will try to change you. Some will emotionally drain you. Some will guide you. Some will inspire you. Proceed with caution…and curiosity.
Give yourself a break.
The person you are now and the person you aspire to be like have D E C A D E S of life experience in between. Don’t try to live your life in one day.
But also, save yourself a couple headaches and listen to that person every once in a while.
Spoiler alert, they’re always right.
Accept constructive criticism and failure gracefully. You need it. You’ll grow from it. Why are you here?
But at the same time, acknowledge your successes. Share them. Be proud. You d̶e̶s̶e̶r̶v̶e̶ earned it. Why are you here?
Don’t lose your spark. But when you do, recharge. Why are you here?
You may not be top 10%. You may not be “Big Law” tracked. You may not have the best outlines. And hell, you may not “fit in” like everyone else. But who says you have to? Well, truthfully, lots of people. Here’s how to do law school “right” or so I’ve heard:
Go to a top school, get top grades, ace OCI’s, 2L summer at a nice firm, and accept a hefty full time offer at the end.
Spoiler alert, that’s not going to happen either. And that’s okay.
The shortest path between two points is a straight line, but it’s also the most boring. So take a couple detours and enjoy the ride.
“You can’t go in-house” yes you can.
“You need to generalize” no you don’t.
“You’re closing doors” and opening others.
“You’ll only be half a lawyer” because the other half will be a leader.
Keep an open mind and guarded confidence. There’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. It will drain you. It will excite you. And sometimes, it will break you. You’re most vulnerable at your lowest point. Don’t let the intrusive thoughts take control.
You don’t have it all figured out right now, though many will be convinced you do. Don’t feel guilty about that. You aren’t expected to have all the answers.
You’ll have too many options one day and you’ll have no options the next. You’ll declare your “dream career” today and denounce it tomorrow.
Spoiler alert, you still haven’t quite figured it out yet. And that’s okay.
Because you belong here.
You made the right choice.
And you’re going to be great.
Welcome to law school.
And for fuck’s sake, remember to eat, sleep, and go outside every once in a while.