Exit Thoughts: Failing Better

Kevin Schoenfeldt (3L)

This is the last article I’m ever going to write for UV. In less than a month, law school will be over. And for maybe the first time since joining this paper, I’m at a loss for words. You didn’t see it, but I just wrote four different follow-up sentences to that and then crumpled up my laptop and threw it into the garbage. Reflection is hard. I have a million thoughts that have yet to develop into a grand theory of law school. So, instead, here’s one thing that was true for me about law school: I was bad at things and then I learned to get less bad at things.

I was bad at things before law school, too. I’m bad at sports, I’m bad at splitting bills in my head at restaurants, and I’m bad at going to the doctor even though that thing on my leg is now the size and shape of a baby triceratops. But those things are all easy to avoid. I don’t play sports very often, I am trained in the use of a calculator, and that thing on my leg is getting better, it’s definitely getting better, I don’t need to go see a doctor, okay?

At law school though, I’ve failed at things in the sort of spectacular way that makes life a super-fun thrill ride. For instance, last year, I tried out for a competitive moot and, as I wrote about in this newspaper, I bombed like I’ve never bombed before. Any intelligent thought I had in my brain about the moot problem seemed to spontaneously shoot out of my sweat glands as soon as I was asked a question. So, if I am remembering correctly, in place of actual arguments I just used my best cry voice and shouted out nonsense syllables until the panel asked me to leave. I did not get a moot.

Then it happened again at a substantive job interview. Then it happened again during the first few weeks of Trial Advocacy. Then I decided I needed to put some work into not having a nervous breakdown every time I had to talk law in public. Then it happened a few more times in Trial Ad. BUT, after some more practice, I successfully made it through a fake trial and the Upper Year Moot without once melting into a puddle. Progress!

So another thing I’m really bad at is making friends. Before I started at U of T, I was excited to meet new people and I was sure I would make tons of new friends. But that’s because I forgot how bad I am at making friends. Once I got here all my fight or flight instincts kicked in. I met person after person who I thought was interesting and funny and someone I’d want to hang out with and then, inevitably, the next time I saw them I’d try to avoid eye contact and rush off somewhere. This is not a good friend-making strategy. So, understandably, I did not make close friends in first year.

Over the next two years I joined the editorial board of UV and then the exec team of Follies and do you know what that means? It means that there were people who were forced to hang out with me two or more times a month for meetings; it meant that I got to know some of my extremely smart, engaged, and funny fellow students; and it meant that I walked around with my eyes firmly aimed at the ground less than I used to. In other words, guys, I made some friends! Is that a pathetic thing for a fully-grown adult to be excited about? No, it’s not. Making friends as a fully-grown adult is hard.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other things I’ve failed at during law school, but one other thing I’m bad at, and trying to improve, is keeping my word count reasonable, so I’m going to wrap things up here. Law school has been three years of highs and lows for me and, I assume, for most of you too. I think everyone here has failed at something and I think everyone here has probably learned to fail better the next time. We’re all going to fail more in the future. The only thing we can do is try to keep learning.