It was scary watching the numbers go down each day. One moment the chair in the room is occupied, and after a few months there will be more chairs than people in a section.
This is the reality that is law school. How ironic given the huge number of people taking the law qualifying exams each year in the top law schools only to give up so easily when they enter it. I don’t blame them—law school is scary yet the majority of those entering it do not know what hit them until they have already stumbled to the ground. Many are used to seeing this kind of profession with rose-tinted glasses precisely because of how society portrayed it: the promise of having a high paying job, the thrill of showing off your legal expertise, and of course the prestige that comes with having the word “Atty.” at the start of your name.
Like most people, I wanted it all at the beginning but a few weeks into law school, my rose-colored glasses were broken and I found myself constantly checking my sanity. In my experience, I cannot recall how many times I’ve felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest because of how loud it was pounding. Or how many times I’ve been terrified that I’d be called for recitation at the precise moment I do not know the answer.
My path to law school was a long and winding journey. To be honest, it was not a childhood dream. I wanted to become a Journalist and I was on track of becoming one when I entered College years ago. However, life has a way of surprising all of us and I’ve been led to a path which I didn’t think I was going to be in but turned out that I was happy in it, too.
After graduation, though, I got confused as to what I was going to do next. I wasn’t ready for the real world. My peers were so sure of what they’ve wanted to become and I thought that was a good head start for them. Before graduating, I, like many others, had a grand vision for my future self. Admittedly, as we are our own worst critics, we berate ourselves when it does not turn out the way we wanted it. Bidding some time, I sought the comforts of the academe even just for a while, thus, the journey to law school began.
If the only qualifier for entering law school is the degree to which you really want it, my guess is that I wouldn’t even be here. I used to think that the people who really wanted it, the people whose dream is becoming a lawyer, have the edge. At least they know what they want so they must enjoy what they are doing. Turns out it isn’t the case most of the time. Life can surprise you like that. When you have a dream and you do everything to get it, but for some reason it isn’t what you thought it would be, there is a tendency to be disillusioned. This is the point where the numbers start dropping.
When I entered law school, the very first question my professors asked the class is:
“Why do you want to become a lawyer?”
Thank goodness I wasn’t called to answer that because I do not have an inspiring or witty answer to it. I would probably just stare at my professor and nonchalantly say: I don’t know—which I think isn’t a very nice thing to do when you want to impress them.
But I am being honest. I have an idea of what lawyers do. I know the number of hours they put into their work, the volume of paperwork they have to read and understand. Being a lawyer is not the easiest and most creative job in the world.
Which gets me into thinking: Are we really supposed to have a ready answer for questions like, ‘why are you in law school?’ or ‘why don’t you just find a job?’ These are not million dollar questions. Are we not allowed to not have answers? Because truth to be told, we are also still trying to figure how life works. I do not go about my day carrying a concrete blueprint of my life. Circumstances, coincidences, happenstance—sometimes these are the elements that lead us to where we are at certain points. I have goals but I believe life has bigger plans and I’ll just let it surprise me. And challenge me.
This is not me saying that I entered law school because I am bored. Law school means hard work and discipline and motivation. Studying the law is just like being in military school. For someone like me who is used to freedom and open discussions with professors and classmates, being in law school is a big adjustment. It is where you will start to feel like a grown-up because of the environment only to relegate into being a child again after crying to your parents and telling them the hardships of law school. (Both of which I have already experienced)
Law school is not for everyone and leaving it is not the end of the world. Good for them for realizing early on. But I guess when you leave it, at least put on a good fight. At least try. So when you look back, you can honestly tell yourself that you tried everything but it really isn’t for you. Because if not, you might be filled with regret knowing you could’ve done it but chose not to just because of one moment of weakness.
I think the real million dollar question is: “Are you happy with how things are going on with your life?”
And if you can answer this with all honesty and still be happy, then you are in the right track. Having graduated college from the premiere university in the country, a lot of people assume that I have the answer for everything, that I have it all figured out. What they fail to see is that I’m just like most 20-somethings—someone who’s still trying to find her way. Sometimes, it takes one to be lost in order to find oneself.
In those moments when I wanted to give up because I cannot read one more chapter or one more case, I thought about my parents and friends and the motivation I get is what kept me going. The more someone puts you down, the more determined you are to prove the naysayers wrong. There are many valid reasons why one shouldn’t go to law school but there are reasons too why you should.
There are good things about this profession. The fact that you get to be familiar and interpret statutes and seeing how it can change lives, and how you can extend legal assistance to the masses, or how you can start championing certain rights and to actually have an authority to do so is empowering. My professors might hate me for answering vaguely but there is also one truth overlooked: I am young. I am fresh out of college. I do not know nor am I entitled to know everything and at this point all I can do is try. And try I will do.
I am the least credible person to ask for advice about law school because I am on a leave of absence. Personal reasons led me to where I am now: out of law school and trying to survive in the ‘real world’. Looking back, I have absolutely zero regrets about my law school experience. A dear mentor once told me that there are no good or bad experiences, per se. It is how we choose to see it which gives those definitions. There were moments of struggle, but nothing beats the exhilaration of the small triumphs: a grade of “uno” in recitation, hearing your professor quip “very good” after your argument, passing a difficult subject, earning the respect of your peers… the list goes on.
This does not mean I gave up trying. I didn’t. I just stopped chasing a dream I no longer believed in, not because it was impossible, but because I knew deep within my soul that it is not the dream I wanted now.
It was a big sacrifice, leaving a path I carved for myself, choosing another road, closing one door and opening another. It was a heartbreaking moment when I got that moment of clarity: I do not want to become a lawyer anymore. I felt like I was betraying my family and friends—shattering their hopes and dreams, breaking promises of “we’re in this together.” But if I stayed, I would be betraying the person who mattered the most: myself.
It takes a lot of courage to start all over again, and I hope those who find themselves in the same position as I’m in find the strength to do just that. You will feel all sorts of things: fear, sadness, uneasiness, anger, but you will also feel relief. The moment you acknowledge the things that are making you unhappy, you will find that it is easier to be happy. You will become excited with the infinite number of possibilities right in front of you.
A fresh start—sometimes that notion is enough to keep us going, whether in law school or in life.
I may not be so sure as to my path right now but this is not to say that this isn’t a good path. I may be feeling lost but I know eventually that I’ll find my footing. I plan on enjoying this ride. I may still be running but maybe this time, not running from but running towards something—not a bad plan for someone lost in transition.
Words: Frances Damazo