Ultra Vires


Dear 1Ls, it’s Okay to…



Rachel Chan (2L)

In 1L, I often found it difficult to stop working. I felt like there was always something I should be reading or working on. If you are like me, then you might find yourself feeling a little guilty for taking a long Netflix break or thinking about that to-do list while eating dinner with friends. This restlessness followed me everywhere. My advice is to let that feeling go.

It took me a while to come to this conclusion (and, even now, I have to remember to take my own advice). Here is the story of the two-week existential crisis that led me to it.

After a year of studying, summarizing, and mapping, 1L came to an end. As I walked out of my final exam, the tension and stress dissipated into the summer air. For all of the exam period, I had spent every day at the library studying with my friends. In between vociferous arguments about obscure points of law, we talked about how excited we were for exams to be over and the chance to just do nothing.

I had two weeks between school ending and my summer job beginning. The first day was a haze. I took a nap and slept normally for the first time in a while. My mind was quiet: I did not have the requirements for granting an Anton Piller order streaming through my consciousness, nor was I questioning whether promissory estoppel should be used as a sword or a shield. I had become accustomed to the demands of 1L and the delicate (read: frantic) juggling of classes, extracurricular activities, friends, and family. Suddenly, it stopped.

Greatnow I had time for those hobbies and interests listed on the bottom of my resume. I made cinnamon rolls and gnocchi from scratch. I went for runs. I went to Niagara Falls for a couple days. I loaded my e-reader up with books. I even started sketching again.

None of it took up enough time. I needed more to do. My hobbies were, usually, a fun reprieve from my hectic schedule. Now I was boredI was so incredibly bored. It was this deep-seated listlessness and ennui that I could not shake. I started to question whether I actually had interesting hobbies, which morphed into asking whether I was interesting. I was having a complete Zoolander-staring-into-his-reflection-in-a-puddle “Who am I?” moment.

Some told me I was being ridiculous, which I knew I was; I also knew, in the back of my mind, that these thoughts were unfounded. But it was hard to embrace calm. I tried to keep in mind the wisdom of the upper years and Career Development Office: “You won’t have many more opportunities to relax like this once you start workingenjoy it.” Additionally, it helped to know I was not alone, and that others shared similar sentiments with me.

Even when things get hectic this year, there might be a day that you come to miss that busy feeling. But, in the meantime, remember that you have worked hard. In those moments, push the to-do list out of your thoughts. Take time to relax.


Norm Yallen (2L)

I hate to be the classic 2L who writes a pedantic advice column ostensibly directed at 1Ls but actually directed at the author. However, there is one piece of advice I would like to give: You will fail at this law school. Everyone here fails at some pointand that is okay. Just remember that you will all be fine.

Everything at this law school can feel like a big competition, especially at the beginning of 1L. There are clinics and club executives to compete for immediately once school begins. Then there are, of course, the marks, and only a certain number of people can earn Hs or HHs. Finally, there are jobs, and employers have a limited number of openings, with many students competing to earn those spots.

Most people here are used to succeeding. As the administration likes to mention, now and again, U of T Law is difficult to get into; presumably, if you are starting 1L here, you are not used to failing often. At this law school, however, I would say, without exaggeration, that every single person fails repeatedly: there will be classes in which you do not get the mark you were hoping for, clubs and clinics where you may not get the role you want, and jobs that you are passed over for. All of that is normal, and all of that is fine.

This law school is constructed so that it is impossible for everyone to get what they want. An entire class of students who averaged high marks in undergrad are competing for a limited number of high marks, so it is inevitable that students who submit high-quality work will not always get the best marks. The same goes for clinics and clubs and jobs. Failing to achieve a goal does not make you a failureit simply makes you like every single person at this law school.

Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about failing or feeling badly at this law school. It seems like everyone has an HH or a great job offer or very important work to do. But I would bet that any person you get to know well at law school can tell you about an opportunity they missed out on or an occasion when something did not go their way. Yet I am confident they would also tell you that they were fineand you will be fine too.

The other nice thing about this law school is that I am talking about failing in the sense of not getting what you want, because failing classes is next to impossible. If you decide that you would like to finish law school, you will graduate. Then you will get to be a lawyer! And, as everyone knows, no lawyer has ever had problems with debt, mental health, or substance abuse. Once you become a lawyer, all your worries and anxieties will vanish and life will be a paradise. At least, that’s what I have been told.

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