1Ls hit the ground running in the new year with the 1L Recruit: applications for firm and government jobs came due January 25, and applications for Faculty positions were due on February 6.
While the CDO warned us about these dates in first semester, many of us did not expect the application process to be as overwhelming as it was. For one, we were still recovering from the stress of first semester exams without having had the chance to celebrate New Year’s properly. On top of a heavy reading load and first-year moot tryouts, there was a lot to do in the first weeks of the semester. “Should I apply?” seemed a daunting question amidst an already stressful schedule.
Most of us spent first semester not worrying about jobs at all. We were told to focus on our academics, since it was rare for 1Ls to get legal jobs anyway, and that 1L summer was our last “free” summer. Despite this, the unspoken rule seemed to be that we apply anyway. At the recruitment information session, the message was that even though there are only a handful of positions available, there’s no harm in applying.
But harm is possible. Crafting your application is time-consuming. You have to research firms as well as write cover letters and edit them at least a few times over. This means less time for schoolwork, which in 1L seems to be more important than other years (as upper years keep telling us). More importantly, the pressure to apply can negatively impact students’ mental health. While there are certainly those who are eager to start their Bay Street careers, many students—including myself—applied because of the fear of missing out. These students were not sold on firm or government jobs, but felt they would be disadvantaged by not getting experience writing resumes or cover letters. This is not merely unproductive—people tend to craft better applications when they are genuinely interested in what they want to do—but it is unproductive to the detriment of other more worthy goals, like keeping on top of your readings.
Issues with the application process itself also perpetuate this pressure. It was unclear why firm tours were crammed in at the same time as the application process, instead of during first semester. Students effectively had to decide which firms to apply to before getting a sense of what those firms are really like. Moreover, we didn’t receive our first semester grades until five days before the application deadline. Since grades are a key determinant of who gets a 1L interview, this uncertainty exacerbated our anxiety about whether we should even bother applying.
All of this made it easy to spiral into the all-too-familiar law school existential crisis, prompting questions like: What am I doing here? What is my purpose in life? What if my law school debt follows me to the grave?
And this should not be the case. The 1L recruitment process encourages acting before thinking. The law school can do more to support students who are either on the fence about applying or decide not to participate at all. For example, they can hold information sessions to assuage student anxieties around not participating in the recruit, assuring them that this does not affect our chances of success in the future. Upper-year students who did not participate in the 1L recruit, or had an unsuccessful experience, can also share their stories. Alternatively, the school can provide tips on how to look for legal experience in the summer in a more realistic way—perhaps information on volunteering opportunities that do not require such a high degree of time commitment.
After all, it doesn’t make sense for 1Ls to rush into something after only a semester of law school. We should instead take this time to figure out the different areas of law, and to actually appreciate what we’re studying in class. Most importantly, we need to support our fellow classmates in whatever they decide to do, and actively combat the dangers of law school hive mind.