I'VE BEEN WEARING THE SAME NAIL POLISH SINCE LAW BALL AND OTHER THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST SEMESTER OF THE JD
Volume 10, Issue 2
I wore this great crimson coloured nail polish to law ball. I realise it is slightly insane to pay $50 for someone to scrub your feet and paint your toes, but in the wake of our first round of assessments, having painted toe nails was a small reminder that I once had a life outside of the law library. For about a week or so looking at my feet made me oddly happy, but soon my nails started to grow and the paint began to chip. Taking the polish off was something I told myself I’d get around to when I had the time. The semester marched on, SWOT Vac arrived and personal grooming went out the window. By the end of exams, I’m pretty sure my feet looked liked hobbit feet. God help me during the November exam period when it’s sandal weather!
Early on in the semester a wise friend in second year told me to visualize my life in a cup. You have your family obligations, work and your social life, and with all of these things your cup is pretty full. The thing is, she said, law school is its own cup and when you pour the contents of the law school cup into your life cup you don't have much room for anything else.
For me, pretty soon into the semester the weeks started feeling like waves that I just needed to duck under to get through. Just as I was coming up for air, another wave came rolling in carrying assessment deadlines and competition obligations with it.
I had been warned that the bell curve was tough and that H1s weren’t as easy to come by, but I wasn't prepared for law school to consume my life the way that it did. I wasn't prepared for showing up to class not having done the readings, not because I hadn't tried to get them done, but because I felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. Gone were the days of rocking up to Uni for an hour or two for a couple of tutes, I seemed to be at 185 Pelham street 9am-9pm five days a week. I didn’t have time to perfect my work, I just had to get it done and keep moving - this was no easy thing to accept.
Some days I walked into the law building feeling like I was all over it. Other days, someone might drop a reference to a case from way back in week 3 that I had completely forgotten (was that the one about the tenure scheme?!?). I’d be convinced that everyone else must have cracked the code to this whole law school thing and I was in the back still trying to figure it out.
The thing I noticed was that law school can breed a kind of toxic culture. You can ask someone how they are coping in the hope that they too feel like they are moving through the semester as blindly as you are. Instead, so often you get the “I’m fine” response. Suddenly you realise you’ve entered into a guarded conversation and neither one of you wants to call the other’s bluff.
But then a friend would admit that they were struggling and I’d realise that even for the most seemingly together student, law school is really hard. Acknowledging this doesn’t make you any less capable, it’s just the nature of this crazy, 3+ year commitment we’ve all signed up for.
And yes, because it’s hard it can get competitive, the sight of the law student study area can
be anxiety-inducing and people can get really, really weird about sharing notes. But it also means you are forced to stick together. And if I wasn’t at this law school, I’d probably miss being a part of a community where people actually notice if you’re not in class and friends surprise you with coffee and chocolate when you are having an off day. It’s these little things that stand out and make the thought of coming back for Semester 2 that little bit easier.
Tess McPhail is a first-year JD student
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