And yet as I watched his exit, something inside me was also exhilarated. The intellectual horsepower and intensity in that room made me very proud to just be there. Some of the best and brightest college students in the country sat all around me. And the professor was certainly one of the most articulate and intelligent people I had encountered in recent memory. The student, although beaten, had clearly survived it and appeared to have shaken most of the trauma off.
And that, in a nutshell, is the dichotomy that is law school. On the one hand, you may suspect that you may actually not be the smartest person in the room. But on the other hand, the intellectual challenge, and in particular, your first glimpse into what the practice of law is all about, will often enthuse and excite you in a way that you have never been before.
Law school will, if you let it, teach you an entirely new way of thinking. Unlike many other disciplines, lawyers must think and reason analytically and logically, communicate clearly with assertions always factually supported, and do all of this in an efficient and effective manner. The practice of law may very well be one of the most challenging and yet rewarding careers.
But in law school, the professor can make feel stupid. Smart people who feel stupid are usually more willing to learn. And for the first time in your academic career, things may not come so easily to you. You have to work through dense passages of indecipherable reading material. You take notes and even your own notes don't make sense. The ever-present threat of exams looms in the not-to-distant future. Coupled with the headlines about lawyer layoffs and law student debt, you may find yourself discouraged and questioning your own capabilities.
My message to you, the new 1L is this: don't be discouraged. Instead, enjoy the experience. Think of law school the way you think of any other necessary but painful development activity; for example, exercise and/or training for a competition. The pain is worth the gain. In law school, I assure you that you will learn more than at any other time in your life. You are only a few short years away from a law license and a legal career and the ability to have a hugely positive effect on people and our society as a whole.
You may be asking yourself, "But how do I deal with the immediate threat- the Socratic method, exams, and the like." If you have read my blog before or followed me on Twitter, chances are, you know that I unabashedly recommend my book to help you deal with that threat and traverse the Law School Labyrinth. The book will give you a solid study methodology, which will help you reduce the "flailing about" that many 1Ls do, and often well into their second year. Read the book. Adopt the methodology, or adapt it to your own style. But have a plan of attack for law school. It will ultimately enable you to enjoy the law school experience that much more.
But the bottom line is this- law school is difficult, but you will survive it. If you stick with it, you will graduate and obtain your license to practice law. You will become a lawyer. You just will.