« on: April 28, 2013, 01:42:00 AM »
The idea of enrolling in law school struck me like a thunderbolt. It was an awakening that turned into a personal mission, a goal, and I committed myself to the challenge almost instantly. By committed, I mean that absolutely nothing short of some personal tragedy can stop me from achieving my goal. The J.D. that evening law students earn is as much a testimony to their endurance as it is an academic achievement. As an insurance underwriter, I have a rewarding career in a field that I love. It requires a lot more than 40 hours a week. The upshot is that tackling the rigors of even a part-time evening program (three nights a week, 6:30 - 9:15, and study all weekend) has been the most difficult thing I have done in life since my tour of duty in the Marine Corps. In certain ways, managing a career and part-time law school at the same time is harder than anything they threw at me in the USMC. It takes extraordinary courage, stamina, determination, commitment, passion, and focus to succeed. You need to have an insane, blinding desire to become an attorney. But the dean is correct: it can be done. I'm doing it. I'm a 3E currently preparing for my final exams, with just one more year to go. Then on to the bar. I still can't see the top of the mountain, but looking back, it's a hell of a long ways down. We keep climbing. But you have to accept that you will be holding down two full-time jobs for the next four years. Except during the breaks, your life will have only two prongs: the job and law school. There will be little time for anything else, so you need to steel yourself for total commitment. But it isn't just an exercise in misery. Honestly, law school is fun. Yes, it's challenging, but you'll start to get passionate about learning the law, and while you might lose a few loose friends during the journey, your true friends will still be there. And plus, you'll make a lot of new friends in class.
We lost some 50 percent of our class after the first year. People started falling out by the third week, which I thought was pathetic. The rigors of the program were just too difficult for a lot of otherwise nice people to handle. But poor grades on the first-year final exams also took out a substantial number of people. However, of the students in my class who survived the first year, I can think of only one who has fallen by the wayside over our second and third years. There's something to be said for that. The first-year survivers tend to go the distance.
There's also something to be said for the camaraderie of evening law school. I don't know how it is in regular law school, but in a CBE night program such as the one I attend, and probably CA Law Dean's at Monterey as well (correct me if I'm wrong, Dean) you go through the program with pretty much the exact same people from the beginning to the end. Other than summer school, there isn't the same picking and choosing of courses from an array of possibilities, as in college. Everyone takes the same program of courses and you tend to sit with your friends in every class. By the second year or earlier, you know everybody in class by first name, and everybody knows you. It's pretty cool. I'm proud of my classmates, because I know that they're all enduring the same hell that I am, juggling work, school, families, and mortgages. The people who succeed in night school have an astounding degree of determination and drive. But Livinglegend has a point. During the school year, and especially during that all-critical first year, you need to be "all in." You can't bluff your way through law school like you might in a college lit class. If you're prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in your social life in order to focus on the work demanded of you, you can make it.
Another thing I haven't mentioned, and it's as important as anything, is that you need support. You need the support and understanding of your spouse, your employer, your family and your friends. The grind takes a toll on relationships, which is why you may lose a few of your looser (I didn't say "loser") friends. You may also start to take inventory of your relationships after a couple of years of law school and decide to punt some of the losers (this time I mean "losers") the hell out of your life. You're surrounded by so many inspiring professors and go-getters, and your free time is so precious that wasting it on unambitious, uninspiring, unmotivated old friends will start to feel like putting on a pair of dirty old shoes that you lost in the garage five years ago. So you take them off and throw them away. It's not elitist: it's water seeking its own level.
Law school is a fantastic experience. And boy, is it eye-opening. After three years, I want it over with so badly I can taste it. But I'm getting closer and closer to my goal. No turning back. Set that goal, keep your eyes on it, prepare for success, and you, audacious climber, may reach the top of the mountain. Lots of us are doing it.