Law School: Year Two, Semester One

It seems silly that I’m posted a semester update before recapping my entire 1L year, but here we are. Life has once again gotten a little crazy. I feel like I just finished my first final, my first year, and my first internship and here I am starting all over. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So far, life has been a steady stream of chaos. This, as odd as it sounds, is somewhat peaceful. Yes I’m still running around like a chicken with my head cut off, but at least there is some normalcy within the pandemic we’re (still) facing. I know what classes are online and when, I’ve gotten used to seeing only half of everyone’s face, and I’m really enjoying the six foot social distancing rule because I get to spread my textbooks all over the desk in front of me rather than being elbow to elbow with my classmates.

Still, Corona has made life pretty scary. My alma mater, UGA, has shut down, as well as my father’s alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill. Mercer is continuing to have open doors, but students are still getting sick. I’m lucky that most of my classmates are taking things seriously. Only a handful of my peers have gotten sick with the virus. I haven’t caught it, but I’ve had some close calls. While I enjoy the “new normal” we’ve found ourselves in, I know that being complacent in it will not return us to the old normal.

As a former event director at a big university, I miss being surrounded by happy faces, free food, and matching t-shirts. I really miss seeing my friends smiling as they walk down the halls. I’d give anything to have an event on school grounds where I can see everyones’ faces and run up to people and hug them to thank them for coming. Life is weird without hugs and smiles, but we’re getting there.

As for school, Mercer Law is doing a “hybrid” program. My classes are partially online and partially in person. Each student has the ability to ask to be fully online for the semester, especially if they have a medical reason to do so. Right now I’m in person Monday through Thursday, and all my classes Friday are online. Some professors are doing all online, some all in person, some half and half. It’s…confusing. I’m used to it solely because I’ve been doing it since August!

This semester I’m taking Evidence, Torts II, Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, and Legal Writing 2. I also had an Introduction to Client Counseling course I had to complete before the semester really kicked off. And I had a Title IX training (doesn’t count for class credit but is required as part of my degree at Mercer!). Come to me for all your legal needs!! Just kidding, please don’t do that.

I am so excited to see what this semester holds and what challenges I’m getting ready to face. Almost halfway done with law school!

This semester brought to you by: Starbucks, red wine, and my indestructible planner (get yours @ passionplanner.com)

First Day of 2L Classes

Today marks the first day of my second year of law school. I’m more nervous to start this year than last, for a few reasons:

One, the only GPA I have is from my very first semester at law school, and while it’s “good” it’s not “great” (and I’m a perfectionist with a very competitive mindset so I hate to see myself doing worse than my best). This means that I need to do very well this semester to boost my GPA up to the top third of the class, which is generally the academic marker the government looks for when selecting interns for the summer.

Two, a lot of my friends transferred schools, so I’m probably going to develop an entirely new friend group this year. That’s a little scary for me as an introvert.

Lastly, Corona. Everything is changing. I can’t hang out with my friends the same way. Classes are different. I worry for my health, and the health of those around me. Schedules for school continue to change. There is no consistency. As someone that thrives off of schedules and plans and to do lists, this semester is going to be tough. Everyone is flying by the seat of their pants in academia. I hate doing that. But, as my dad says, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. This semester (if not the entire school year) is going to be an elephant, and I’m going to have to take it one step at a time.

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. 

Law School Room Tour

Now that my first week of classes is done, I’ve officially settled into my new home in Macon. My little house is super cute, and I’m excited that my room has a little more “depth” to it than just four plain white walls.

Most of my decorations are little things that I’ve collected over the years. Whether it’s art from friends, post cards, or treasures from around the world, it all reminds me of all the people I love (and miss).

I’ve been very into Christmas lights recently (maybe it’s because I binged Stranger Things over summer break…or maybe it’s because I get all my decor ideas off Pinterest). One thing I really appreciate about twinkle lights is their ability to create soft light. As someone that frequently gets headaches, I’ve found that soft lighting is essential when having to power through a night’s worth of homework if you’re already feeling like your head is splitting open. My friends with “big girl jobs” use Christmas lights in their offices, too! Soft lighting for the win!

The wall above is still a work in progress, but I like where I’m at so far. I’m planning on adding postcards and letters from friends around the cork board. My favorite piece of art in my room right now is the painted chicken above my desk. I got it outside of the Met while I was in NYC a few weeks ago!

I am excited to see where week two of law school takes me, and if my room ever actually gets “completed.” Hopefully I will still be able to spend downtime here once midterms get started.

What I Did to Prepare for Law School

Hello from Mercer Law! Today is my ~official~ first day of orientation and I am hyped to get myself orientated! I am also scared out of my mind. Seriously. I never thought I’d go to law school, let alone get a full ride. I’m a Woodruff Scholar, and that sort of freaks me out. Part of me is like “how in the heck did I get here?!” and the other part of me is saying “can I even live up to this title?” and then there’s a tiny voice inside that’s chanting “you earned this, so you can do it.” Truthfully, I will always compare myself to my peers and wonder how I ended up in the same room as some of the most brilliant, amazing people I’m sitting next to. I think that’s my twenty-year-old default setting. But preparing for law school, I gave myself a pep talk in perspective.

There’s not much you can do when prepping for law school. Sure you can get advice from everyone you know that’s even gone, but the best thing to do is to understand that to get into law school you had to be smart. Now you’re in a room full of equally qualified people, all as smart or smarter than you. You’re all going to feel not smart enough at some point your first year. Just take that fact in and let it sit with you. Knowing that all those amazing people you think are so much better than you at 1L are just as lost as you are will be comforting. You are not alone.

That’s probably the most depressing pep talk of all pep talks, but I like to know I’m not alone. Figuring that out is so much better than someone half heartedly saying “you got this!” when I have absolutely no idea what in the world I’m doing, let alone how to get to my 8am classroom. I will definitely not “have this” around 75% of the time, and then things will click at the end of the year and I’ll have an “aha!” moment. This much I’ve gathered from 2L’s and recent grads.

Another big thing is to get used to reading. Law school is almost all reading and writing. I’ve read a variety of different things, but mostly things I enjoy. There’s a study that I read that said you need to prep your eyeballs for the amount of reading you’re about to endure, so reading novels back to back through the summer before your 1L year will prep those muscles for their marathon case brief extravaganza. You can check out what I’ve been reading recently in this post, but I’ll have another one up about my summer reads ASAP!

Calm down. Just chill out. I’m so type A that me not doing anything stresses me out until I spend so much time doing nothing that I get used to it. I’m weird like that, I know, but if that’s how you can totally destress then do it. If you spend time with friends, do face masks, play with puppies, volunteer, whatever it is that you do to make yourself feel good and comfortable with life, do it! This might be your last chance until Thanksgiving break.

I set a few goals for myself. Most of them were about self care (like cooking at home at least once a week), but a few were about my studies. When I set goals, I have different tiers. The lowest tier is stuff I know I’m going to accomplish, and I set those goals because checking the “I did it!” box makes me feel good. The next level up is stuff that I want to strive for but can be flexible with, such as getting an internship for next summer that fits with that I want to do long term or being in the top 50% of my class. The top tier is what I really have to push myself for. Those are things like being at the top of my class, exercising regularly, and finishing the novel I’ve been working on forever.

I find that having five goals, with at least one in the top tier, helps me set my own tone for the semester or year (whether it’s for law school, undergrad, a job, what have you). There are things that your professors or your boss is going to expect from you, but there are also things you need to expect from yourself. Holding yourself to a high standard not only helps you reach higher goals, but also teaches you about your self worth. I find that when I get to know my self worth (i.e. how much do I value myself? How much do I respect myself?) I do better overall.

My last little tidbit is to find joy and bring it with you. I did this by saving up notes from friends, usually complements or congratulations, to hang above my desk.

Keep in mind that this is only my very first day ever of law school (and classes technically haven’t even started yet) so I’m not too sure if any of this will actually work, but it’s what I did this summer in preparation. Let me know if you guys want a “halfway” post reflecting back on this advice to see if it actually worked.