Vol 13 Issue 2
By Ian Khor
There’s an F word that’s shunned in the law school and it’s definitely not f***.
Try telling someone you failed in law school, and observe one of two situations that could play out. They are either genuinely surprised and supportive as you try to get back on your feet; or they mumble their grievances but, deep down inside, they are probably happy it was not them that got inflicted with the sordid ‘N’ grade on their statement of results.
I used to be a part of the latter. When I first started law school, almost two years ago now, never could I have imagined myself ever failing a subject. After all, I’d gone through three years of my bachelor’s degree, never once getting close to falling under the magical number ‘50’ that ensured at least a ‘P’ on your transcript. “I got through three years of commerce, what could possibly go wrong?”, I glibly thought to myself, never once contemplating the horror, hell and pain that awaited me for the next three years.
The day I got my failed mark in Contracts, I could literally feel the blood draining from my face. Although it was the middle of summer, it got really cold all of a sudden. In about an hour, I managed to get through all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Failing a uni subject for the first time left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, a sour pit in my stomach and a head full of angry thoughts that went to a dark place.
What happened? I asked myself. What went wrong? Whose fault is this?
Ultimately when the dust settled, I realised there was no one else to blame for this failure but myself.
The last part is the most important, acceptance. I knew there was no use in trying to rationalise what just happened, to reason it out and bend reality.
I failed. It’s time to suck it up.
This article is not meant to be me raging about my failure and how it’s the law school’s fault in the first place. It’s not, far from it. Instead, I wanted to pen this article to help inspire those that failed last semester and are probably dreading taking the same subject again. I also wanted to inform the new cohort what will await them and how they could possibly avoid it. I wanted to impart as much ‘wisdom’ as possible, gathered over my meagre two years in law school so far.
It’s all done and dusted. Reliving the past will not help with your future. Instead, you only burden yourself with what-ifs and what-nots. There’s no point in thinking about it, nothing will change even if you stress about it over the next few months. That’s not how the real world works. Your best option is to live and let go before moving on to point number two.
2. Learning from past mistakes.
It’s difficult to admit that you have flaws in the first place. I’m not making this statement as if I’ve been a first class student and model human being from start to finish. What I mean is, unless you’ve utterly failed in one way or another, many of us don’t really look inward and strive to be better than where we are, because we have an inflated sense of worth.Failure, however, should transform you into your own worst critic. I’m not saying you should anticipate failure when taking any sort of action. Instead, you should step back and objectively analyse whether what you’ve been doing was right all along. Look to your peers that scored better than you. Find out their methods, ask them to provide you guidance as to the best practice when it comes to tackling the law school’s study materials.
You’ll be surprised by how many are willing to help you get back on your feet again. In the face of failure, your best ‘trampoline’ to get you bouncing back is your fellow JD cohort and friends. If not for them, I would have quit law a long time ago. Let go of your past mistakes but, also, learn from them by learning from others.
3. Accepting it’s not the end of the world.
Finally, it’s important to note that failing one or two subjects in the law school is definitely not the end of the world. When doing your clerkship applications, you’ll find that most law firms actually almost expect that you fail the odd subject or two in law school. After all, it’s all a learning curve and, throughout this three-year journey, it is inevitable that there will be hiccups along the way. What’s important to the law firms is that, after each semester, you are progressively improving and getting better instead of just barely passing all of your subjects.
Outside of law firms, you’ll find that there is ample appetite for law students. JD candidates, especially from Melbourne Law School, are in high demand in places where you wouldn’t think they need a JD student. I’ve had mates that got jobs in big companies like L’Oreal, Canva or SEEK. Some joined consulting firms like PwC, BCG or KPMG and some even took a risk and founded their own start-ups which are now worth millions e.g. Liven.
Hence, don’t be discouraged by a few measly failures on your transcript. In the end, they don’t determine how awesome you will be in the future. That’s on you, your attitude and work ethic. In parting, stay strong, help others, work hard, party harder and embrace the F word.
As such, here's to a hundred more failures. And a thousand more successes for us all.
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