Law School Never Stops Being Awful


Little Timmy didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he started law school.

For those law students deluded enough to believe things will get better, there’s a better chance you’ll CALI your classes than find this to be true. Being a law student never stops being awful; it just starts being awful in different ways. If the old cliché is to be believed, 1L is awful because you’re terrified, 2L is awful because of the workload, and 3L is awful because of the tedium. I’m inclined to agree, sort of.

1L is awful because you know nothing. You have no idea what you’re doing, you probably don’t know anyone, and if you came straight from undergrad, it’s an abrupt and harsh adjustment. Everything is new and foreign; words take on a whole new meaning (e.g. gunner, Socratic method, curve). It’s a very anxious time. The homework seems overwhelming, especially when you don’t have the best handle on how to do the basics, like case brief or make that § symbol in Word.

Probably the most difficult part of 1L for some students is the recognition that you won’t do as well academically as you did in undergrad. Every 1L hears some version of that speech, and everyone thinks it won’t happen to them. But the forced curve means that mathematically speaking, someone has to do poorly. We can’t all be above average.

After making it through your whole first year, walking out of your last final as a 1L can leave you too shell-shocked to even celebrate right away.

2L is awful because it is so busy. You may have a handle on what you’re doing now, but you have a lot more to handle. On top of an increased workload, you’re trying to balance a host of extracurricular activities: journal, moot court, trial team, working, maybe even an attempt at a personal life. Your classes are heavy rule and reading courses: things like Constitutional Law, Evidence, possibly some more Civil Procedure depending on how your school does things.

2L typically also includes some kind of legal ethics or professionalism course, complete with awkward ethical anecdotes from the professor’s legal career. The class was probably intended to prepare you for the MPRE, which you’re probably going to want to take over the summer. Speaking of summer, you’re trying to find a job and applying for a senior law student license of some kind that will allow you to do some amount of legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney during said summer.

2L is an exhausting, never-ending rat race.

3L is awful because you’re still in law school, and anyone who told you it was boring is a liar. By 3L, your professors expect you to know what’s happening, and you probably have some kind of clinic or writing seminar (or both) you’re required to do. You’ve also got classmates who are trying to move up in the rank, no matter how futile that may seem at this point, so you can’t really afford to slack off either.

If you’re lucky enough to have a school that lets you take a lighter course load your second semester, that still sucks, because you know you need to be using that extra time to try to prepare for the real world (i.e., finding a job). Job applications and résumés and interviews can be so anxiety-laden you wish you didn’t have to deal with them at all, but you do, because you don’t really want to live in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life. That whole real world awful legal market thing isn’t something you’re exactly running toward with open arms, either. At this point you’ve probably considered applying for The Real World as a means of employment. That’s how well 3L is going. (Also, you probably don’t meet the Real World qualifications, since you have to appear to be under 24, and law school has probably left you a little haggard looking. Just consider it another thing law school ruined for you.)

And who could forget the bar exam? You don’t want to deal with the application process and reporting every single thing you’ve ever done, but if you let yourself procrastinate too long you’ll end up paying double in registration fees. You don’t even want to think about bar prep, but at the same time you can’t not think about bar prep- will a bar review course really be able to teach you all the stuff you never learned in the haze of 1L and the whirlwind of 2L? Don’t forget creating and sorting out graduation plans.

I don’t know about your 3L, but I’d welcome some boredom in mine.

The cliché isn’t horribly wrong. It’s just a little inaccurate. 1L is scary, in its own right. 2L is busy. But 3L might really be the one that scares you to death. At least during 1L you’re too dumb to know what’s up ahead. Unless you just read this blog post.

Post image courtesy of Shutterstock.

  • southern bitter

    3L is a freaking breeze. it’s the bar exam that sucks….and you know it’s coming….so drink up 3L’s, enjoy your last few $2 beers until August.

  • Daave

    Yeah…not my experience at all. I spent most of 3L staring at the ceiling and counting down the days.

    I personally couldnt wait for the bar exam – meant it would be over. Besides, its not like there’s much difference these days: If you dont pass, you’re unemployed as a non-lawyer; if you do pass, youre unemployed as a lawyer.