EVERYONE, I HAVE SOME BAD NEWS: IT’S APRIL. EXAMS ARE HERE.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
AND IT CAN BE SO HARD TO FOCUS WHEN IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE.
AND WHEN THE LIBRARY IS FULL OF LOUD, OBNOXIOUS 3LS.
WHO CANNOT SHUT UP ABOUT HOW THEY’RE ALMOST DONE LAW SCHOOL.
AND IT’S NOT LIKE YOUR PROFESSORS HAVE ANY TIME TO HELP YOU.
BUT IN SPITE OF THIS, WE’RE SURE YOU ARE ALL WORKING HARD.
IT’S A SCARY TIME OF YEAR THOUGH, RIGHT?
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT DEPENDS ON THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.
AND LET’S FACE IT: NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO GET STRAIGHT A’S.
AND UNFORTUNATELY, THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH THAT A GIF OF A CAT WITH SAMUEL JACKSON’S FACE WILL ACTUALLY MAKE YOU FEEL ANY BETTER ABOUT THIS.
LIKE THAT MAY HAVE ACTUALLY MADE THINGS WORSE.
SO THAT’S WHY THIS MONTH WE BRING YOU MORE THAN GIFS. WE BRING YOU KNOWLEDGE.
HARD WON WISDOM, PASSED DOWN ACROSS THE GENERATIONS.
WE ASKED U OF T GRADS AND UPPER YEAR STUDENTS: “WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN IN 1L?” THIS IS WHAT THEY SAID. GET READY FOR REAL TALK.
FIRST THING: EVEN IF YOU DON’T GET THE GRADES YOU WANT, YOU WILL BE FINE
Jeremy Ablaza, Class of 2012:
“I can’t stress enough that success in April exams does not translate to a job at a full-service firm. There are plenty of cautionary tales about students with honors standing who cannot pick up a job at any firm despite their excellent grades. Meanwhile, there are plenty of competent people who are flourishing in those same firms because they are humble, pleasant, hardworking, and willing to learn“
DAMN STRAIGHT JEREMY. BUT THERE’S MORE. TAKE IT AWAY LAURA BERGER:
Laura Berger, Class of 2013:
“As it happens, your 1L grades are much less important than you might think. Take it from someone who went through umpteen job interviews in 2L. You know what matters in an interview? Clinic work, mooting, volunteer experience. Solid references from people who know you. Being confident and articulate about the legal issues that matter most to you. Your passion and your work ethic matter; whether you earned a B or B+ in admin does not.“
IT’S A FACT PEOPLE. EVEN IF THINGS GO BAD IN APRIL, YOU CAN STILL GET THE JOB YOU WANT. WHY NOT? THESE PEOPLE DID IT:
“1L marks came as quite a shock to me. I can distinctly remember my heart pounding after receiving Celia’s email that April marks had (finally) been posted. I had felt pretty confident after final exams and had spoken with people following the exams and thought I had caught issues that they had missed. The only thing that was going through my mind was wondering how many A’s or B+’s I might get. I was in for quite a shock.
Upon opening my account my heart sank: B B B B B….and then the last mark floored me: C+. I was stunned. After all, in the class I had received the C+ I had known the material pretty well and was in fact teaching some of the issues in that class to my fellow peers beforehand (luckily, they all did fine in the class, and I kept the secret of my low mark to myself).
I knew that these marks did not bode well for OCI recruiting. I don’t want to create any false hope at this point – if your marks look like mine did, the likelihood of a 2L summer job are not good. I had 2 OCIs, 1 in-firm interview, and 0 job offers. I thought my life was over.
I was despondent for weeks. Hadn’t we all been promised Bay-street jobs? Wasn’t that the reason we came to U of T?
It took some time, but I accepted that the only person that could change this result for the future was me. I had to learn how to write law school exams – something I should have realized prior to 1L finals. Professors weren’t looking for the right answer, they were looking for all the possible answers and the reasons that each were more or less likely. It seems like such an easy thing to learn but without that shock of 1L final marks, I was too blockheaded to see that.
Approaching exams in this new fashion made a world of a difference. I received respectable marks in December and April of 2L and received a handful of articling interviews and job offers at two of the “seven sisters” firms.
A Bay-street job is not everyone’s goal; it needn’t be and I don’t want to give the impression that it should. I do want to give you hope though, that if you are disappointed with your April marks and are one of those people left without a job after OCIs, it isn’t the end of the world. Once you’ve had some time to reflect, speak with your professors and see what it was that they were looking for, ask yourself what you did wrong, how you can change it, and take action to do it.
By the time you get to where I am your 1L marks will be a distant memory; a crucial signpost in the rear-view mirror that thankfully indicated a need to change the route I was on.”
“I have a ‘C’ on my transcript, which is loosely equivalent to a ‘low pass’. And that ‘C’ was in Evidence Law. This was particularly bad because a) it meant I disappointed Hamish Stewart, and b) because I want to litigate. Yes, I was asked about it at interviews. And I NAILED those interviews, and ended up with my dream job. Being asked about that ‘C’ was my opportunity to prove that I knew evidence law, and that my transcript didn’t define me. Because, real talk: it doesn’t. I have gotten good grades in several courses which I understood far less than evidence. We joke about it, but grades are slightly arbitrary. Grades are a single metric based on a 3-hour evaluation. You will spend the rest of your career proving that you know the law, in meetings, in memos, in courtrooms, in boardrooms, in bars, and yes, in interviews. And because you have worked so incredibly hard, you already know the law.
I still recall being interviewed by my soon-to-be articling principle, and being asked about that ‘C’ in Evidence. After that, the majority of the interview was spent discussing hearsay and s.24(2) of the Charter, things I learned in that course. In a very real sense, that ‘C’ in Evidence Law was what got me my job. The world will not implode if you get a ‘low pass’. The world will not implode if you get no ‘high honours’. If you walk away from this year feeling like you learned something, than you will do just fine.”
“After receiving decidedly unremarkable grades on 1L finals (B+s, Bs, and gasp, a dreaded C+), the world did not stop. I still managed a couple of OCIs and in-firm interviews at national firms. Even though those didn’t pan out, I still got a great 2L summer job, and a great Bay Street articling position in the field of law I wanted to practise. My firm treats me like a person, educates me, and gives me enormous amounts of responsibility.” (Anonymous)
BOOM. BUT WE’RE NOT DONE YET:
By now your brains and bodies have become convinced that this exam period will decide your entire futures. Rest in the reality: that’s total bullshit.
My computer crashed before my 1L criminal law exam. My transcript is littered with Bs and Cs. I should win some kind of award for panic induced procrastination (complete with hours of nothing more than YouTube and self-loathing). I didn’t get a fancy 1L summer job. I didn’t get a fancy 2L summer job. I only really got my stuff together in 3L. And guess what? I got an articling job that I am extremely happy with. I in no way feel that I “missed the boat”.
The world is way bigger than you can even imagine right now. Sometimes life happens and you don’t get to perform how you would like to. But luckily, there are a thousand different paths to getting where you want to. Exams will end, your myopia will relax, and you’ll realize what I’m talking about. Or if you don’t, feel free to contact me, I’ll tell you all about it.”
SECOND THING: YOU WILL BE FINE BECAUSE YOU’RE SMART & COMPETENT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
Jennifer Wall, Class of 2012:
“I came to law school with a science background, and in 1L I was really concerned that I would be at a disadvantage because most of my classmates were used to doing a lot of reading and writing a lot of papers while I wasn’t. I was fine- and 1Ls, no matter what your background is, you’ll be fine too”
Jeremy Ablaza, Class of 2012:
“What I wish someone had told me as a 1L is that, no matter how brilliant my classmates were, I was smart too and I had it in me to perform at the same high standard as everyone else. I think that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how incredibly smart and engaged the rest of the class is, and to forget that there’s a reason why you’re there too.”
Anonymous, Class of 2013:
In December of 1L, I failed my constitutional exam. It was the first time I had ever received an “F” in my life. I went to speak to the prof, got some tips on where I should focus, joined some study groups with friends, and then, like everyone else, ended up mostly cramming at the end of March. I ended up with a B in April.
1Ls need to know that December exams aren’t always indicators of how April exams will go. 🙂
Lane Krainyk, Class of 2013:
I have a tendency of thinking of great answers to exam questions… after I leave the room. On several occasions, I have left the exam room only to realize as I headed home, or when I woke up the next morning, that I had missed something HUGE and probably had failed. In one particularly bad example, I left my first April exam, Criminal, and realized that I had basically answered one (out of three) questions *completely* incorrectly. I was so disappointed with myself, as I felt like I had worked so hard and had completely blown it when it counted. I let what felt like a failure on my part get me down. In the end, I got a B+ on the exam. You will NOT answer every question perfectly and missing some stuff (even a lot of stuff) will not necessarily do you a lot of harm markswise.
Cary Ferguson, Class of 2013:
“It’s easy to get caught up in the law school bubble (especially during exams), but you need to remember something, really, really important: you are awesome. Really awesome! You are an accomplished, intelligent person – that’s why you got into law school. Take a minute every day to remember some of the amazing things you’ve done. Not too shabby, eh?
One of my 1L profs told us to write “Remember: I am awesome” on the top of our exams. Do it! It’s really easy to lose yourself, including your sense of perspective, during 1L exams. You’re surrounded by really smart people who work really hard and who seem to know everything there ever was to know about the law. But don’t forget that, to someone else, you are one of those people.
As you go through April, remember that you are not your grades and your grades are not you – they’re not a measure of your value, either as a person or a lawyer or a thinker. They are not a measure of how good a lawyer you will be. They are 1L exams. They are graded by someone who has, in all likelihood, never even practised law. Your grades are a means to an end, and sometimes not even that. While your future may be uncertain, it’s bright.”
SO CHILL OUT, PEOPLE.
Laura Berger, Class of 2013:
“Throughout law school, I thought I was doing the right thing by toughing it out and logging long hours in the library. But I would just end up frustrated and exhausted, instead of really understanding the things I was studying. Then I’d stumble home and inhale half a box of crackers for dinner. Yuck.
Seriously, don’t follow in my footsteps. Learn when to quit, head home, make yourself a proper meal, and actually take a real break. When you return to your books, you’ll feel refreshed and productive. Amazing but true!”
Aditya Badami, Class of 2013:
“Everything will be fine. More than fine.
There is a tendency to have a very myopic view of life when you are in 1L. This is misguided, though understandable given the intensity of the experience. It is misguided for the obvious reason that there is so much more to life beyond the eight months you spend during one year of law school (though, of course, those eight months are amazing and you should get the most out of them).
Do not situate your happiness or self-worth in your performance at law school or in relation to how your classmates are doing. Do not tether your happiness to whether you got ‘x’ many As (or high passes or whatever they are called now). Doing so will make you miserable.”
Cary Ferguson, Class of 2013:
Do something everyday that makes you completely forget about exams. Watch an episode of Girls (jk, obvs you’re up to date on it). Go to a pet store and play with the puppies. Eat dinner with some friends and cast people you know from school in one of your favourite movies. Have a dance party on the tables in the lower rotunda. Whatever you do, just get yourself out of your head for at least a little while everyday.
ARE YOU FEELING BETTER? WE HOPE THAT YOU ARE FEELING BETTER.
BUT WAIT…WHAT’S THIS? SOME OF YOU HAVE A DEEPER, MORE PROFOUND CONCERN?
YOU’RE WORRIED THAT AFTER A WHILE, MAYBE YOU’LL REALIZE THAT YOU DON’T ACTUALLY LIKE LAW?
AND THAT YOU’LL END UP STUCK SOMEWHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE?
SHUT UP. NUH UH. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
FIRST OFF, SO MANY PEOPLE GO ON TO DO OTHER THINGS WITH A LAW DEGREE. LIKE THESE U OF T GRADS:
Rex Shoyama, Class of 2004:
I was in private practice at a boutique IP law firm, where I articled and stayed on as an Associate for one year. After that, I was in-house legal counsel for two years at Yahoo! in their Canadian office in Toronto. I moved on from practicing law because a great opportunity popped up at Osgoode Hall Law School to be the Assistant Director of IP Osgoode, their IP Law & Technology program. I’m a big believer in jumping at new opportunities if they excite you, so I decided to leave the practice of law. I’ve now moved on to Carswell (Thomson Reuters) where I work on product development of online legal research solutions. I have to say that I’ve personally never regretted leaving the practice of law — I really enjoy using my law degree and combining it with my interest in technology.
I certainly didn’t see myself ending up where I am now, but I’m very happy. I ended up leaving the practice of law because I realized there were great opportunities to use my legal training in ways I didn’t anticipate and it’s been great, but I do wish I had thought more about those opportunities when I was a student.
Mike Wagman & Jesse Dallal, Class of 2010. They both practiced corporate law for a year and a half before founding Mavensay, a mobile app for community recommendations.
Jesse: I wasn’t too sure what I wanted when I was at UofT. I definitely saw myself leaving law at some point (and Mike and I talked in week 1 of 1st year about starting a business), but at the time I honestly didn’t know if that would be after 1 year or 5 years. App development wasn’t a particular passion either, but I’ve always been interested in culture, design and technology so I followed those interests and ended up here.
Mike: Even at school I did not think I would practice law for too long. I had a big entrepreneurial itch to scratch and was always most excited by doing creative stuff in business. I wasn’t specifically hooked on app development and tech start-ups at the time, but now I am!
BOOM. YOU DON’T HAVE TO STAY IN LAW UNLESS YOU WANT TO, AND THERE ARE SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES OUT THERE FOR SMART, HARD-WORKING PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELVES.
IF YOU’RE STILL NOT INSPIRED, CHECK OUT THESE FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO WERE IN THE COMPLETE WRONG CAREER WHEN THEY WERE 30, OR THESE PEOPLE WHO DROPPED OUT OF LAW SCHOOL AND STILL TURNED OUT PRETTY GREAT.
OK FRIENDS: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
WE LEARNED THAT YOU’RE AWESOME
WE LEARNED THAT NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS THIS MONTH, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK