Facing Imposter Syndrome in Law School

Going into my first week of law school, a friend told me that I would feel like I didn’t belong for pretty much the entire first semester I was at Mercer Law. I brushed it off. I went from a small North Carolina high school to the University of Georgia knowing practically no one. I was the punk rock tomboy that decided to rush and joined Delta Gamma. I had been so far in over my head those first few weeks of undergrad that I didn’t think I’d ever make it back out. I’d practically written the book on not fitting in, so why should law school be any different. 

Flash forward to my fifth week here, and I understand what she means. I don’t belong here. I’m the science kid that always wanted to work with brains where everyone else studied political science. I can write, but I don’t know how to argue. I have a leg up because my father is an attorney, but I still feel lost. Everyone around me is so much smarter. So much more qualified. There’s always one person that gets those tough questions right, and it’s not always me. 

I didn’t think I would be the star student. In fact, I knew I wouldn’t be the star student. I hadn’t practiced critical thinking in so long. My undergrad experience focused on getting the right numbers and memorizing facts. I can regurgitate as flawlessly as a mother bird feeding her nestlings, but catching the prey myself? Forget it. 

I listen to all of the qualifications my classmates bring to the table. They think I’m brilliant because of my science background. I think they’re brilliant because they’re talking about the highlights of their undergraduate experiences or their early careers. There are mothers, some with three or more children, balancing school and home. I think they are superheroes. There’s a guy that has already held a job with the most prestigious law firm in Atlanta, and we all know he’s going to be the only 1L to get their internship. The people that have wanted this dream, wanted to be a lawyer, since their childhoods impress me always. I feel like a fluke compared to them. I am here because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I like reading and writing, and I want to do that more, so I decided to take the LSAT the summer before my senior year of college and hurridly prepare all the applications. I planned on seeing what happened. I got in. I got a full ride. It felt like God was pushing me towards this career. It was like all the stars aligned and suddenly I had this path illuminated before me. And here I am, feeling like I don’t belong. 

This is what’s called “imposter syndrome.” I felt imposter syndrome before, during undergrad, but walking myself through all the work I put into achieving that dream or that role helped me unthink it. Here, I changed my entire life’s course in a sudden decision junior year of college. I studied hard in all of my classes. I took the LSAT twice to get the score I needed. I wrote for weeks to perfect my personal statement. But somehow that doesn’t feel enough. I don’t have a passion for law like my classmates do. Everyone around me knows that they want to work with the law, and they’ve known that for a long time. For some, they’ve known most of their lives. I know that I’m good at reading and writing. I know that I want more reading and writing in my life. I am also passionate about protecting and helping those that need it. So here I am. 

I’ve heard many parents and older friends say that to get through professional school you need to really be passionate about it. You have to really want it. I’m not saying I’m apathetic about my future. I don’t have a fire burning inside me. I don’t have an intangible force compelling me forward and into this career. I am here. I love my courses, genuinely. I understand what’s going on in class. I’m not the smartest, but I’m not the stupidest. I’m not the most driven. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been the most driven individual in the room. 

I feel like you either have to have a dream, a passion, or a drive to belong in law school. I don’t think what I want out of my future (simply because I don’t know for sure what I want out of my future) counts as either of those three things. I’m the odd one out; I don’t belong. Scratch that, I do belong here, I simply feel like I don’t. That’s why imposter syndrome is the worst thing to let get inside your head when getting a professional or a graduate degree.  

People say each person goes through their own vague imposter syndrome moment in law school. Usually, by the end of midterms, or finals, it goes away. I don’t know who I am right now, or what I stand for, but I’m 22 years old and what 22 year old really knows what their life’s purpose is going to be. I don’t know who Law School Bailey is yet, or what she’s passionate about, and I’m going to have to learn to be okay with that. Hopefully I’ll figure it out sooner, rather than later, but I know I’ll make a damn good lawyer one day and that’s what’s helping me put one foot in front of the other right now. 

One thought on “Facing Imposter Syndrome in Law School

  1. Kudos for recognizing it for what it is. The trick is recognizing that any competitive process like law school weeds out all the truly unqualified candidates. You are there because you have shown you can do it.

    Like

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