• Wenee Yap

Welcome to Law School, Class of 2012!


So it’s the first day of the new university year (for most of us, anyway). For some, you’ll be taking your first steps not only in law school, but university. For others, this year marks the realisation of a personal ambition – perhaps thwarted by unusual circumstance, delayed by another degree and career, just life, really – to study law. For all of you, this is quintessentially the first day of the rest of your life. Why? Because law changes the way you view the world, and, should you wish it, law changes you too.

Law school will be one of the toughest, loneliest yet most exhilarating experiences you may ever encounter. Nights will drag into dawns and days of reading and research, essays and exams. You will find sleep overrated. You will find coffee and energy drinks essential. You will wonder what happened to your social life. You will miss so much. You will question whether it’s all worth it – for the promise of millions or justice or steady career or prestige or truth or changing the whole damn world… or whatever it was that drove you to enrol in law. You will persevere, endure and triumph, or you won’t.

It is against the severity of such an experience that Survive Law was founded four years ago, in 2008. It’s a hub to share nerdy study strategies, find career advice, seek procrastination distraction and enjoy the geeky eccentricity of your fellow law students and lawyers. In a pursuit that is so typically lone wolf by nature, this is an online escape to make the whole experience a little less lonely.

Aristotle quite famously said (and anyone who is an Elle Woods fan will recognise): “Law is reason free from passion.”

With all respect to one of Greek’s philosophy greats, I disagree. Law may be driven by reason, but it is ruled by very human passions. This is quite evident in crimes committed when all reason is lost; but I would argue this point further. Passion – raging, inspiring, breathtaking passion – is most evident in lawyers themselves as they work to exonerate the innocent, expose the guilty or simply dig meticulously deeper into the tangle of our human lives and irrational conflict to find – that which is most precious of all – truth, justice, fairness.

So I leave you with what one of our modern day judicial greats, Michael Kirby, had to say to Survive Law in 2008 – about law, lawyers and why we do what we do:

“Law school taught me the importance of asking the big questions. Where did this law come from and when? Is it just? Law is a constant struggle of ideas. The fact that the law can change and improve itself is inspiring. As is the fact that lawyers can play a part in this. An uncritical lawyer is a contradiction in terms. Australian law has changed a lot since I was at law school. After all, in those days we still had horrible laws against Aboriginals, Asian Australians, gays, women and just about everyone else, except white, straight men. I have moved with the change. Not everyone has. Your generation needs to ask: What are the injustices we do not see today that we will be lamenting at the end of our careers?”

Words to live by. Welcome to law school.

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