Ultra Vires


Taking It 1 L at a Time

Reflecting on the first semester of 1L

When making the decision about which law school to attend, I was repeatedly warned about ‘U of Tears.’ I was aware of the stories about students ripping out pages from textbooks or intentionally sending notes laden with errors. Since I, much like everyone else here, am a masochist, I chose U of T despite every red flag. Although I spent my fair share of time browsing forums to best prepare myself, law school has been vastly different from my perceptions. 

So what has law school really been like thus far? Take my thoughts with a grain of salt—I’m only three months in and have yet to write exams. I’m still blindly making my way through the semester. 

The first two weeks in Legal Methods were overwhelming, and not because of the content, but instead owing to the fact that you learn more names and meet more people than you can remember. 

As someone with a science background whose readings were optional and therefore always disregarded, once “real” law school started, finishing the readings felt unattainable. I spent one hour on five pages and somehow highlighted every second word under the mistaken belief that the judge’s off-handed comment would be crucial to my understanding (spoiler: it isn’t). 

Just when I started getting used to the reading load, the first Legal Research and Writing assignment threw me off my balance. I’m not ashamed to admit that by the time I submitted the assignment (yes, 10 minutes before the deadline,pretty good I would say), I was several readings behind in every class. In fact, feeling behind has been a commonly shared sentiment. It’s only exacerbated when combined with imposter syndrome. I know many others feel that the Admissions Committee accidentally let them in—I know I do, especially after meeting people with extensive professional experience or PhDs in topics of which I had never heard. With exam season lurking around the corner, it’s even easier to fall deeper into self-doubt when everyone around you has finished outlining and started practice exams. 

While you should be confident of your abilities and shouldn’t let other people’s stress bother you, that’s a lot easier said than done. We’re all grappling with how to deal with stress and imposter syndrome. The free food and coffee helps. Upper years help as well. Although I feel bad reaching out, upper years have been more than willing to impart their wisdom, summaries, and reassurance. 

Contrary to the stereotypes, no one has sabotaged me (yet). Instead, over the course of the semester, most people have been willing to provide resources, share notes, and create study groups. I’m grateful for the sense of community at the law school. It’s similar to high school, albeit significantly more intense; you spend all day in one building, you learn most people’s names by seeing them daily, and everyone has lunch at the same time. I’ve also enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with both like-minded people and those with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, all of whom are connected through the struggle. 

No matter how many times you watch Suits or how many hours you spend perusing Reddit forums, nothing can truly prepare you for the uniqueness of the law school experience. There’s no denying that it’s challenging, but I like to believe that everything will be okay. Check in with me again on December 19 once I’ve made it out to the other side of exam season. 

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