May is such a mixed bag for law students. First finals, packing, then graduation, then summer, all in a span of about 3 weeks. It’s a whirlwind of activity and emotion, and getting enough sleep is almost never an option. You’re studying for finals and taking breaks for anything, accepting all distractions. Probably packing for the summer when you feel like it—any non-study activity is allowed if it can be written off as productive in any way.
Law students are hearing 3Ls talk about graduation and the bar exam and getting a job while 1Ls and 2Ls talk about trying to get summer jobs, maybe taking summer classes. Then, faster than you leave the law school on a Friday afternoon, you’re right in the middle of a final. Finals always seem to sneak up on people, even though the whole semester is a steady march toward them. Then, as quickly as they snuck up, it’s suddenly all over, and you’re walking out of the exam room of your last final. The sweet relief of summer beckons—unless you’re taking summer classes.
No matter what, May is a time of reflection. A time of freaking out. A time of celebration. A time of asking “what next?” A time of looking back and laughing at previous versions of your law school self. Even after one semester your 1L year, you know things are different. You’re different.
If you’ve just finished 1L, you’re overcome with relief. Your first year of law school has finally ended. It was everything everyone told you it would be and yet somehow almost entirely unexpected. It was exciting and excruciating and memorable and monotonous and 1,000 other adjectives. The anxiety and stress of your second semester finals feel like they may have killed you. For most people, first semester grades weren’t what they had hoped for or expected, making second semester that much more critical. By the end of the second week of finals, you barely remember your name.
If you’ve just finished 2L, you’re more or less apathetic. It was just another semester of finals. They sucked just as much as ever, but by now you knew what to expect. You mocked your 1L self’s stress about finals while studying. Maybe you got a little nostalgic, thinking of how you’re going to miss your 3L friends. If you don’t have one lined up, you’re worried about finding an appropriate summer job. People ask how it feels to be done with 2L and you shrug—it’s one year closer to being over, but no one’s ever cheered or thrown a party for someone for being two-thirds done with something. You’re ready to move on and get this law school business over with.
If you’ve just finished 3L, you’re experiencing a weird combination of excitement and panic and asking yourself, “now what?” You’re finally completely done with law school, but being completely done with law school means you’ll now be released into the real world. And you’re wondering if your 2L-let’s-get-this-over-with attitude was such a good one. Being a student for the past 7 years had its advantages. The real world works every day—no escaping Friday classes anymore. No more breaks for no reason every Winter, Spring, and Summer. The thrill of graduation quickly lapsed into a weird “shouldn’t I be doing something?” feeling, and that transitioned into the stress of studying for the bar exam, then the bigger stress of actually taking it. And of course, then the agonizingly long wait for the results. Soon, you’ll be in the real world, licensed to practice or not: your perpetual student status has finally come to an end.
It’s a weird time, and a mix of emotions. So whether you’re celebrating surviving 1L, having 66.66 (repeating) percent of your law degree completed, or never starting another semester of law school, raise a glass. A toast to you.
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