Dear incoming student,
My name is Sarah Ferencz and am an incoming 2L student. I am so excited you will be joining us in September. It was not long ago I was in your shoes and I still pinch myself thinking about how lucky I am to be studying law at UBC. The privilege of studying with a diverse group of students, bringing many academic disciplines, personalities, and interests to the classroom is something worth cherishing.
Prior to law school, I studied Criminal Justice at the University of the Fraser Valley – a university much smaller than UBC. My undergraduate experience was extremely positive, and I was lucky to have close working relationships with my professors. While things are slightly more formal at law school, I learned that you can still develop meaningful relationships with professors. You will come to realize that law is quite formal and proper greetings are important in practice, such as properly addressing a judge and maintaining professional boundaries with clients and colleagues – this is all part of the profession you are entering. Your professors have insecurities and vulnerabilities themselves and, given the opportunity, can be personable mentors regardless of their formal titles.
After I finished my undergraduate degree, I took a year off school to travel and work. Taking time off school is not uncommon, so if you are in this boat do not feel insecure about your age. In fact, no matter what age you are, don’t sweat it. Within my study group, the ages for entering law school ranged from 21 to 30. Everyone comes to law school with their own life experiences and all are deserving and capable of putting in the work.
When you begin law school, you will hear about many exciting extra-curriculars. The difficult task will be deciding what you can reasonably fit into your busy schedule. During this time, I tried to remember what I was passionate about before law school and what I want to leverage from my JD. During my gap year, I worked in the research industry as a research coordinator and research assistant in the areas of drug policy and other topics in criminal justice. Wanting to maintain my research skills, I joined the UBC Law Review as an assistant editor and joined student clubs that were engaged in these areas of work. For example, I helped organize a drug policy panel on Alternative Drug Policy Models in Canada with Law Students for Decriminalization and Harm Reduction and in partnership with the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. What I loved about this experience was socializing with students outside of law school and thinking about legal issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. I also volunteered with Pivot Legal Society and had the opportunity to assist with representing residents of the Anita Place Tent City in Maple Ridge as part of a British Columbia Supreme Court proceeding. Further, I was hired to work as a research assistant for the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, producing a memo on social science research on Mental Health Courts. These experiences allowed me to exercise my social science muscles and leverage my background to learn new legal skills in my areas of interest.
As I am writing this, I feel so proud of things I accomplished in my first year, but also want to acknowledge the many times I fell on my face and life was hard. I applied for several positions I was not chosen for. I experienced a stressful family event a week before my final exams, which affected my performance. I stopped regularly exercising and became frustrated and insecure with my own body (strong women still have superficial insecurities too!). I broke down in tears in front of my friends many times. So much about this past year was exciting and wonderful, but there were also a lot of hard times. All the work and hardship you endured to get into law school does not end once you are there. And hard times will inevitably continue when we leave this place. Remember to call your mom. Hug your dog. Put on a nice dress and go dancing on Friday night, or a Tuesday night, whatever!
Now that the first year of law school is behind me, I realize how fast it flew by and how excited I am for next year. Even though you do not get to choose your courses in your first year, there is a lot of flexibility to mold your education in accordance to your interests in your upper years. Thankfully, UBC has a fantastic selection of upper year courses to look forward to. I am especially excited for a seminar this fall on Substance Use Issues in the Law. I was also lucky enough to get accepted to the Wilson Competitive moot, alongside one of my closest friends that I made in my first year, coached by one of our favourite professors. Pinch me! Wow, law school is great. You’re going to love it.