Saturday, May 9, 2009

Unless You're In Lawschool, You Won't Get It

I realized yesterday that lawschool is so much like being a mom. Unless you are in lawschool you just don't get what it's like. Unless you are a mom, you have NO IDEA what a mom goes through (the good and the bad). And they both substantially change your life.

Yesterday I met up with two people from one of my classes to study for our final. I usually stay away from study groups. Usually, because I study better on my own but also because study groups remind me of highschool cliques. I remember 1L year people in my class meeting up in secret because they didn't want to let certain people "in" either because they didn't think certain people were smart enough, they didn't think certain people were dumb enough (if you were too smart you might ruin the curve) or they though people just weren't "cool" enough.

While my two friends and I were studying we started chatting about significant others. The general consensus was that significant others have NO CLUE what we go through during finals week (or anytime during the semester for that matter). This is like the one truth about law school- your non-lawschool friends and spouses just cannot fathom how hard it is. It's not just the academics that are hard either. It's the general pressure to focus only on lawschool and let the rest of your life pass you by. It's the stress you feel everday in class thinking you might be next in the "hot seat," answer incorrectly and forever be branded with a scarlet "F" for failure (or "T" for tool).

I hate to complain, but it is true that my husband has no clue. He goes to work in the morning and comes home in the evening. He doesn't see that I've been studying for eight hours straight while trying to arrange childcare for Jacob. When he comes home, I'm working on feedign Jacob and putting him to bed. When Jacob's asleep, I spend another 3 hours racking my brain. Basically, since class got out last week, I have been studying every spare second. I know I have too much to learn in the short time I have. It's just a sad fact. So I'm way stressed out and I feel relieved when my schedule changes to just give me an extra 30 minutes of time to study.

I tried to explain to my husband how hard these two weeks of finals were for me. He said, "I know. I've taken finals before." But that just proves how little he does know. Law exams are NOT like undergrad finals. Each final has the potential to impact your bottom line- your class ranking. And most of my classes this semester are curved. How is that for pressure? While my class ranking is around the middle, and I have peacefully learned to accept that, each final brings me this little bulb of hope that maybe, JUST MAYBE, I can bring that ranking up a tad.

You know what? I think I could. If I didn't have a baby. Or a husband. Or a life. I wish I could show my husband how, in order to really be a law school success, you have to put your entire life on hold. You have to eat, breathe, and sleep law. The past week and a half I've felt so anxious and trapped. Because I know what I need to do. I need to escape for 12 hours at a time to prep for exams. But with a baby, I simply can't. By the time I get him fed, dressed, changed, and out the door, half of my day is gone. I haven't slept over 5 hours in weeks so by the time I do get alone time with my books, I can barely keep my eyes open.

My husband is really awesome, but he doesn't realize that if he would step up to do the little things, my life would be so much easier right now. I just need finals to be over so things can return to normal.


je said...

thanks for writing this. it's so true. especially this: "It's not just the academics that are hard either. It's the general pressure to focus only on lawschool and let the rest of your life pass you by."

Reading this post also has me feeling guilty. I just stepped out for an iced coffee and T has gone to the post office. So I have some uninterrupted, guilt-free study time. Except, here I am on the blog. I can only imagine how hard doing law school with a kid must be. (And I've tried. It's something I've thought about.) Right now, I have no excuse except that it's just hard to stay so focused for so long, and even less pressing things, like a dog in your face begging to go outside, or a dinner that's not going to cook itself, or a request to watch a movie together... they all become aggravating distractions. It's hard to turn away from them, but it's hard to tend to them also. I feel like I should be doing much more than I'm doing, on behalf of all the moms in law school!

Hang in there, though. This is all an illusion. Life isn't really as gray as it all feels in the middle of finals. This moving train will slow down soon.

Anonymous said...

You're so right. And it sucks.

The pressure to devote your entire being to this one thing for 3 years, because it's the only way to be successful at it, at least in the traditional classrankGPAhonors sense.

I have no commitments outside myself so I *could* devote everything to this...but I just can't bring myself to sell my soul that much. As much as I want to do well, I don't want it enough to give it everything. And if that means the middle of the pack and nothing shiny to show for it, I think I'm okay with that. I'm still learning it all and experiencing it, I just can't give it my entire life.

But try explaining that to the pack of wolverines that is a bunch of 1Ls during finals. To them it's the end all be all of their very existence. Everything rides on this, their whole future and worth. I just refuse to believe that. Maybe I'll pay for it later on during the full-time job hunt, but so be it....

Good luck with the rest of your exams!
And Happy Mothers Day :)

Erica said...

You're amazing for studying at all! The only reason I managed to study consistently through finals was the fact that I don't have anyone other than myself to worry about. Otherwise it would not have been pretty, because I'm a big believer in my personal life taking the forefront. That's what is going to be there when I'm old and shrivelly, and I'm not going to put my mid-twenties on hold, when those years are so amazing! This view does not make me super-popular with my 1L peers, but nor I am stressed like they are.

And your grades help but I don't believe they're a definitive bottom line...your personality and connections can come through with a job better than a higher ranking. One of our "gunners," who has amazing grades, didn't manage to find a paid job for the summer because she generally oozes obnoxiousness, while people lower in the class who have social skills are about to cozy into their bigfirm internships.

But now I am rambling....

Taco John said...

"I wish I could show my husband how, in order to really be a law school success, you have to put your entire life on hold."

I disagree with this as a universal truth. Maybe some people need this all-encompassing approach, but there's plenty of ways to be successful in law school and not just have a life, but be engaged in that life.

LEO said...

I have actually felt the the people who live and breath only law school get so stressed out it ends up hurting their grades. I think my life outside of school is necessary to balance me and help me focus on what is most important. Without other commitments, I would have zero time management skills. That being said, I never took a full class load with a baby, and I certainly can't imagine doing 1L with a little one around.
I hope the rest of finals go well and fly by so you can get back to just enjoying family time with both of your guys!

Anonymous said...

This post is not correct. If you are THAT stressed out, you are doing something wrong. I know plenty of women with small children in law school. And you are a 3L for goodness sakes, stop sounding like you are now it should be fairly routine.

Stress during the crunch of law school exams *might* be a given, but not every day. To the extent that law students face stress during the the rest of the year, I'm convinced that we put it on ourselves. This isn't childbirth pain--it is not inevitable. The workload isn't overwhelming (it's not undergrad, but it sure isn't 80-hour weeks that dictate whether or not you can feed yourself and pay your bills this month, either). The concepts aren't impossible to grasp. The schedule is forgiving, even light by 2L and 3L years.

Anonymous said...

you are so right. unless you are in lawschool you do not understand the obscenely pervasive guilt that will accompnay finals. yes u can have alife outside the lib, if you can manage to block out the naggin voice in oyur head telling you that you should be at the lib!!! i can barely eat, sleep or pee w/o feeling like i should be studying my flashcards or memorizing outlines.