Law School | First-Year Confessions
Updated: Jun 10
"You have an answer for everything." I glared at my parents and told them, "No, I don't!" My parents often joked about how I was so argumentative that I might as well become a lawyer. I was only eight and unaware of the Workers Compensation Law in the U.K. Still, I probably would have taken them up on it if a boutique firm paid me with Haribo lollies and an unlimited supply of miniature ponies. My parents could have drafted that into a legally binding contract. Right? In all seriousness, I would like to thank my parents for not kicking me out during Christmas and selling me to this imagined law firm circus where there are ponies but also my favourite treats.
Initially, I felt rather proud that I could answer most questions. When you're young, it imbues a sense of confidence. Even though you're about as tall as an exceptionally long baguette, your brain is spongelike and ready to tell anyone about your coming of age universe. I can't guarantee you'll say anything exciting other than why flamingoes are pink and your conspiracy that Santa is a fraud. How is he not being sued for trespass again? Growing up, the confidence I felt when I was seldomly corrected also mirrored the eagerness and desire to be as intelligent as Hermoine Granger.
One of the traits that I found so admirable about Hermoine wasn't how undeniably smart she was but how she always got the answer correct. It seemed to perpetuate this idea that you're not allowed to get the answer wrong and be intelligent. It cemented this understanding that you could only be perceived as such if you always got the answer right. In my first year of law, I didn't expect that my desire always to have the correct answer would be one of the biggest obstacles in my academic career. If this is also you- yes, you've been exposed.
You might think that this desire always to have the correct answer isn't a problem. Getting the right answer feels good, and most of the time, it shows that you've organised your time effectively. You've found the time to do the assigned readings, and you know what the 'golden rule' is when your tutor is talking about statutory interpretation. But traits such as courage and vulnerability aren't praised often enough to pursue knowledge and increase your understanding.
If you think you're the only one in your Tort Law class unsure what the test for negligence is and which cases reflect that ruling, you should have gone to Specsavers. (Just kidding). But I hope it's of great comfort to you that you're not the only one who has no idea what the answer is, and you've got a few more years ahead of not knowing because you're learning. I want you to know that it's okay to preface your questions with "this might be a silly question" or "I'm a bit nervous to ask this, but I'm curious about [insert your query here]."
From what I have witnessed, it's often really gratifying for your law professors to see that you're trying to engage with the material. They expect that you might do so a bit clumsily now and then. But your misgivings and desire to seek more clarification about the law will help you become a better student and lawyer. If you're starting your journey in the first year, I'm so proud of your courage and curiosity. You're going to be a fantastic lawyer one day.