• Claire

Confessions of an Awkward Law Student


I began my Juris Doctor feeling awkward. Our introduction day featured plenty of free finger food and back patting in the shiny law building, before we were instructed to 'mingle' with the other students. Already the social groups had begun to form. There were the popular kids, who already seemed to know one another and smiled easily. The mature-mature agers besotted themselves with lectures and began in depth conversations about what they'd already studied.

I'd made a few mistakes in my attire: I wore a sparkly, golden, vintage jumper with sequinned flowers that showed a few of my bad tattoos and I'd showered before riding my bike to school, resulting in a lion-like beehive atop my overwhelmed head. Everyone else seemed to be in neat casual. I fumbled with a few woeful conversation starters, shoved a sandwich in my mouth and hid in the toilets. At 23, it felt like high school all over again.

More than halfway through I'd like to say the awkward has passed, but it hasn't. Although my grades are good, my attendance is terrible. This semester I've been to the bottle shop around the corner more than I've been in to university. I've never been to a single function. I've accumulated more large, regrettable tattoos, and quite a few more bad sparkly jumpers. I've made a couple of wonderful friends, but by and large I'm a law-school outer – rarely there, rarely engaged, and regrettably out of touch.

I love studying law, and I hate it. I've wished a few times to begin from the beginning, get involved in the social side of things, maybe even participate in the LSS/law camp/a ball or two. I haven't because it seems at odds with myself. This makes me worry that when it comes to job hunt, I'll be a woeful lawyer, or worse, unemployable.

I do a lot outside of university – I volunteer, write for magazines, work in a café and terrorise my boyfriend/cat. But I am secretly writing a teen fantasy novel (here's another awkward bit: I took a year off before postgrad to write my first novel, which was universally regarded as dreadful) and in my lowest law moments I hope that before degree's end a publisher will pick it up, hand me a six-figure cheque to write more, and I can eschew this law thing.

My feelings toward people who are immersed in the law-school world used to seesaw between envy and resentment. I've since realised they're just different people who are better suited to that environment. They will go on to do remarkable things with their careers, and they deserve it. Now I admire the commitment of my law-loving peers.

I feel there is hope for me, and law students like me. We're employable in a different way – maybe not in the law, but somewhere where our combination of skills (and hopefully, ability to get decent marks despite rarely attending lectures) and experience will make us valuable. I have no idea where I'll end up, but it probably won’t be in the law. That doesn't mean my degree won't be worth it – I have learned an enormous amount, and a lot more about myself.

Last year I spoke to a lawyer who was horrified by the tennis ball-sized lotus flowers stamped to each of my wrists. She asked if laser surgery was an option, and when I told her it was way out of my financial means, she said I'd need to invest in some long sleeved shirts and hope no one ever saw them. At the time I was distraught, but now I want to work somewhere where they're not regrettable but demonstrative of all the different, silly, wonderful experiences I've had.

Law school is awkward for some of us, but that doesn't mean we can't come out the other end: well educated, employable, badly tattooed and happy with our decisions. It's taken a while, but at 25 I'm finally happy with mine.

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