First Impressions

I admit it: I didn’t sleep particularly well the night before the first day of classes. I laid in bed going over one unlikely situation after another, wondering what in the world I was getting myself into. I arrived for orientation with my eyes a tad blood-shot and my heart pounding, only to discover that there wasn’t much to get myself worked up over.

I enjoyed my first three days of law school so very much, I was honestly surprised. This left me feeling somewhat guilty about my apparently low expectations, when I realized I had made some false assumptions about what the next three years would be like.  Last week made me reconsider at least two of these presumptions.

First, I expected the classroom dynamics to include a hefty dose of competitiveness. I remember telling a friend of a friend that I would be starting law school in September, and his response was “I hear if you drop a pencil during an exam in law school, the person sitting next to you will kick it out of reach.” All I could manage in reply was a squeaky “Really?”

He continued: “Yeah. And that people tear pages out of books on reserve in the library!”

Well, friend of a friend, I’m not sure where you heard these things, but you were wrong. The orientation activities, getting to know the group of people I’ll have all my classes with, and the vibes I got from upper year students have put these notions to rest. Sure, in some ways we’re competing, but the tone so far has been one of collaboration and camaraderie.

Second, I’ve always seen the legal profession as being a bit of a man’s world. While I am not yet in the work force, what I’ve seen from UBC Law in terms of diversity, I’m really happy about. Five of my six professors: women. At least half of the distinguished speakers last week: women, and diverse women at that.  More than 50% of my classmates: women. Going beyond gender, we seem like a good mix of backgrounds and perspectives.

There may be one more day of orientation left, but for the most part introductions have been made and tomorrow we’ll roll up our sleeves. Tonight, I expect to have a good night’s sleep and will be bright-eyed and ready to go!

1 thought on “First Impressions

  1. DB

    Hello you three: welcome to law school! Wow, I remember that first day. It was sunny, I wore a pink sundress, and my two immediate impressions of UBC law school were, “Hey, so many people with glasses!” and “Suddenly I am not the smartest one in the class.”
    To prepare for law school, I watched the “Paper Chase” and read 1L. My treat to myself on weekends was drive to my mom’s to do laundry and watch “Cops”.
    Yes, there are those who are pretentious, arrogant, and competitive (there were books with pages missing in the library). Everyone is smart and talented, some more obviously, the ones who speak out in class all the time, some the silent type like the guy who won #1 student and only said 5 words all year. Favourite prof was Diebolt, Susan Boyd is nice too. Some not so nice, some I didn’t think should be there, but law school is a diverse place just like the big world and you have to learn to get along.
    In hindsight, I wish I had done more fun activities because I lived the first year in terror, trying to study in a noisy residence. My insomnia that started in law school lasted about 15 years; it ended, believe it or not, with the birth of my daughter. Most moms say they never sleep with a baby. I slept better!
    It’s nice when you get to pick your favourite courses. Don’t pick something you think you need – ie, if you know you’re never going to go into sports law or mergers and acquisitions, why waste your time on them? I took criminal classes and had a blast. I loved Canadian politics and government and planned a career in it, but failed 1st year Federalism – whaaat? First thing I ever failed in my life. The prof and I disagreed, enough said. My biggest advice to you: though we all think we go to law school to change the world, you will do best if you learn to play the game – write what they want you to write. One thinks that law school is the place for openness and debate, but I found while the school was open to discussion on homosexuality and native claims, for example, they were not so open to religion.
    Almost everyone will get articles, but you might have to work for it. If you pass PLTC, you will get a job. The bar exams were the most stressful thing in my life to that point. Then came single parenthood, no comparison, haha! Even more stressful than cancer.
    Law school only prepares you for work in that you will still have to do research. I still use QL, even as a 15 yr call. Law school teaches you how to read really, really fast! You will get to looking at a page and in one second can pick the important facts and gist. Workload is ok. PLTC was harder.
    Definitely cultivate a few friends. One of my best friends, brilliant lawyer, mentor and drinking buddy is from my small group. I did a Law Revue dance performance in 3rd year and had the best time, a Trike Race or two, a few Bzzr nights.
    Law is still interesting to me, and it will affect you the rest of your life. People will always ask you legal questions.
    Take all this with a grain of salt – your experience may, probably will, be totally different. Times have changed, everyone using laptops now! How weird. I still get things done much faster with a pen.
    I almost left law at one point. When my fiance died of cancer, I re-evaluated. Did I want to work in such a demanding job, downtown, too many hours? But what else would I do? I monitored a school and thought about teaching. But, in the end, I couldn’t throw away 19 years of school to take a pay cut. Law will pay you better than just about anything else (except medicine). When diagnosed with my own cancer, there was no question to stay in the profession. I am now in a great job, good people, fairly easy and flexible part-time hours so I can be an active parent. I don’t always respect the practice of law because it is unfair to those who can’t pay for lawyers, that’s a fact. The best lawyers are the ones who know how to bill, bill, bill. But, there are many good people out there, and generally, lawyers are a pretty friendly bunch.
    You have to put your time in, and you will work long hours for say, 10-12 years. You have earned a chance to go for glory, money, fame, philanthropy, whatever floats your boat. I recommend crown counsel criminal work early on. You will learn the court system, the rules of evidence, and to never be afraid to speak in court, you will know the judges and the Bar and how to prep a trial in minutes.
    Being a lawyer is a ticket to a lot of things; people may fear you and not like you, but they respect you and it opens doors.
    Do some kind of sport to stay healthy, eat right, don’t smoke, and try to be nice.
    Best wishes to you all, newbies!


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