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Losing Faith in Law

Ted Buckland

As I near exam period each semester I begin to not only fret and drink a lot of iced tea, but I simultaneously decide that I’m going to either a) defer next semester or b) drop law altogether. It’s not uncommon for me to call my parents and blubber on about the changes I am going to implement in my life, namely, taking my law degree off the agenda.

I have a love/hate relationship with my law degree that I’ve learnt to harness into a weird, spiteful and motivational energy over the years. Dropping out of law school is something that I have considered on countless occasions and consulted university careers counsellors and faculty heads about. However, instead of using my reassuring maxims that “Paul Simon dropped law and became a musical superstar” and “Harper Lee wrote one of the greatest novels in the world and she dropped out of law school”, I decided to continue what I began, much to the dismay of my social life and physical fitness.

A while ago I received a bunch of emails from some fresh-faced first years at my university seeking advice about studying law and whether they should keep doing it. My immediate response is yes, except on a bad day when you’ll find me screaming “GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!”

To be completely honest, this year my passion for the law has dropped two-fold and I’m finding it hard to motivate myself. Half of this could be due to clerkship rejections or dry subjects, but right now I need to remind myself of the things I’ve learnt on my “dropout circuit”.

The “dropout circuit” happens once a year. I decide that I am going to permanently or temporarily leave law school (depending on my mood at the time) and being the indecisive lass that I am, I seek not only advice from my nearest and dearest but professionals who specialise in helping to determine the future of confused students. Here are some key lessons I’ve learnt:

Law school is different from legal practice

Law school involves a lot of reading and even more self doubt, but have you ever considered work experience? Actually working in the legal field can up your spirits as well as help you gain some perspective about why you’re actually studying. Also, there’s a lot of free coffee and nicely tailored suits – what’s not to love?

Remember why you’re doing law

Money? Glory? Attractive Don Draper (Mad Men) type relationship prospects? If you answered yes to any of these and find no interest in any other aspect of the legal profession, maybe you’re studying law for the wrong reasons and putting your true passions on the backburner.

What would you be doing if you weren’t studying law?

If you can immediately think of something more exciting or rewarding than what you’re currently doing, you should reevaluate your plans. There’s no point in doing something you hate.

You’ve gotten this far!

You’ve worked incredibly hard and your marks aren’t looking so bad – maybe it’s worth sticking it out to reap the rewards for all of your pain and suffering?

You’ve wanted to do this your entire life

Most people finished high school with high hopes and ambitions for their legal education but have been disheartened by the mounds of work and high expectations. If the law is your passion you’ll find a way to make it work no matter what the obstacle.

Seek out other options and don’t do it half-heartedly

A really helpful guidance counsellor gave me a list of tasks to complete before considering the “dropout”:

  • A pros and cons list of why you should/shouldn’t stick it out.

  • Research alternative careers by visiting helpful career websites that detail the ins and outs of various industries.

  • Research the legal profession. Just because you’re studying law doesn’t mean you have to be a lawyer.

  • Talk to people who are working within your industry that you trust and respect and get their opinions.

  • Partake in work experience to get a “feel” for prospective career paths.

Good luck my pretties!

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