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jungkook

Is it normal to hate law school

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Sorry for the difficult to answer and possibly irritating question. This forum seems to have a lot of helpful people who are willing to talk things out with foolish law students so I figured I'd give it a shot. 

Basically I'm a 1L and am really not enjoying it. My intrinsic motivation level is zero. I've managed to more-or-less keep up with coursework through sheer force of will. But the idea of doing extracurriculars, going to networking events, connecting with legal clinics etc makes me want to vomit, so I've only been doing coursework. 

I was never really interested in the law qua the law, but I always liked things like analytic philosophy and politics, and the LSAT was the kind of logical thinking that I enjoy. So I figured that once I got into law school I'd find the course material at least somewhat interesting, but I just... don't. 

I keep getting caught between "yeah, it's school, it's not supposed to be fun" on one hand, and "if you hate it so much, maybe you shouldn't be a lawyer" on the other. Obviously you can't judge everybody's mental state from looking at the way the gunners behave in class, but I can't help but get the feeling that everybody actually wants to be here and really has their heart in it, except for me.

There's also the fact that school is online this year, so I've been stuck in my apartment with practically no social contact. Obviously this is bad for one's mental state which may be clouding things.

So yeah, I don't really know what kind of answer I'm expecting, but does anyone have any thoughts? Did anybody hate law school but like practicing the law? Did anybody initially hate law school but get into the groove it? Or at what point do I just cut my losses and stop going deeper into debt for something I don't like?

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I didn't like school at all but enjoy practice. I don't think disliking law school by itself is cause for concern with respect to potentially having a legal career you enjoy. However, the fact that you're also not interested in clinics or networking gives me pause and might warrant some consideration of whether this is a worthwhile pursuit for you.

 

Anecdotally I found 1L the least enjoyable and got much more out of the upper years when I could select my own classes.

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4 hours ago, jungkook said:

There's also the fact that school is online this year, so I've been stuck in my apartment with practically no social contact. Obviously this is bad for one's mental state which may be clouding things.

This is a huge factor. I'm in 3L and dread each and every moment of work in virtual law school. It's isolating and depressing. Sorry you have to start off your law school journey this way. But know that you're not alone.

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4 hours ago, jungkook said:

But the idea of doing extracurriculars, going to networking events, connecting with legal clinics etc makes me want to vomit, so I've only been doing coursework.

Can you elaborate on why you don't like clinics? This is usually a law student's first foray into legal work. If you dislike it this much, you may want to think about the type of work you see yourself doing in the future.

That said, clinics (especially poverty law) is not necessarily representative of all legal work. And being new to "practice" can be stressful. There's other factors as well, like the people you work with, expectations of the clinic itself and so on. The fact that things are remote makes legal work a little weird, and very frustrating. The simplest, no brainer things are just so much more difficult. 

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Do you think you might be more interesting in pursuing law as an academic career? There an assumption that everyone is going to be and wants to be a lawyer, but the legal profession also has an academic "arm." A lot of your profs are probably academics who either didn't or did very little work as a typical lawyer.

I personally loved law school, but I also avoided the networking, clinics, and extracurriculars. That stuff was noise to me. There's nothing wrong with realizing law school isn't for you and quitting before you waste too much time and money. You're only in first year, and a weird first year at that, so you haven't really experienced it fully yet. As others said, second and third year are fun because you can choose topics that really interest you.

I think the prudent course would be to look at upper year offerings and see if they pique your interest and, if you think you might be interested in the academic option, reach out to some profs and chat to them about it. You could also reach out to real lawyers and figure out if the actual practice of law is more up your alley. Lots of lawyers hated law school. Basically take some time to fully consider all your options and figure out why it's not clicking.

 

Edited by BattyWhack
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29 minutes ago, Psychometronic said:

Can you elaborate on why you don't like clinics? 

Never been to one. Just not interested enough in the law to spend any more time studying/working on it than is required by my classes.

As you can see law school for me was more of a calculated career move than me following my dreams.

12 minutes ago, BattyWhack said:

You're only in first year, and a weird first year at that, so you haven't really experienced it fully yet. As others said, second and third year are fun because you can choose topics that really interest you.

I think the prudent course would be to look at upper year offerings and see if they pique your interest and, if you think you might be interested in the academic option, reach out to some profs and chat to them about it. You could also reach out to real lawyers and figure out if the actual practice of law is more up your alley. Lots of lawyers hated law school. Basically take some time to fully consider all your options and figure out why it's not clicking.

 

As a matter of fact there are a couple upper year courses at my school that I'm interested in. I'm glad the consensus is that 2L/3L are more fun. 

As far as reaching out to lawyers - I actually know a few, and they're all super passionate about the law qua law. As you can imagine, that actually makes me feel worse, lol. 

 

Anyway thanks for the replies so far guys 

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law school was one of the best time of my life. 

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I too find the upper years of law school way more enjoyable than 1L. I think the 1L curriculum is something that you just have to treat as something necessary to get through before you can qualify for more hands-on, practical experiences. 

Quote

I can't help but get the feeling that everybody actually wants to be here and really has their heart in it, except for me.

Also this is quite common in 1L in my experience, partly because many 1Ls are insecure and would rather not talk about the less rosy aspects of law school even if they are actually feeling a similar dislike towards or lack of enjoyment of law school, partly because the uniform curriculum means that you might see the same people all the time and sometimes the people you see all the time (again, due to a curriculum you could not customize) are just not the type you'd likely to become close friends with. I'm a self-identified grump and whenever I had a choice, I always distanced myself from people who emanated "toxic positivity" vibes. I made most of my close friends at law school in 2L, simply because I felt like being more social: my classes were more tailored to my interests and I had more control over how I used my time.

As for extracurriculars, if you don't feel like doing anything, don't force yourself. It's harder during the pandemic but if you can find opportunities outside school, either a part-time job or a volunteering position that doesn't necessarily have to be the "law qua law", it wouldn't hurt to get involved and try it out. There is no single "correct" way to cultivate passion and facilitate growth in law school and spend these 3 years in a meaningful way.

I think it's very easy to feel discouraged in 1L because you don't think you fit the single mold that you see everyone else being eager and comfortable to fit into, but don't forget that there are ways to customize your experience for you. It just takes more time, effort and thought to go off the beaten path. Good luck!

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5 hours ago, jungkook said:

Sorry for the difficult to answer and possibly irritating question. This forum seems to have a lot of helpful people who are willing to talk things out with foolish law students so I figured I'd give it a shot. 

Basically I'm a 1L and am really not enjoying it. My intrinsic motivation level is zero. I've managed to more-or-less keep up with coursework through sheer force of will. But the idea of doing extracurriculars, going to networking events, connecting with legal clinics etc makes me want to vomit, so I've only been doing coursework. 

I was never really interested in the law qua the law, but I always liked things like analytic philosophy and politics, and the LSAT was the kind of logical thinking that I enjoy. So I figured that once I got into law school I'd find the course material at least somewhat interesting, but I just... don't. 

I keep getting caught between "yeah, it's school, it's not supposed to be fun" on one hand, and "if you hate it so much, maybe you shouldn't be a lawyer" on the other. Obviously you can't judge everybody's mental state from looking at the way the gunners behave in class, but I can't help but get the feeling that everybody actually wants to be here and really has their heart in it, except for me.

There's also the fact that school is online this year, so I've been stuck in my apartment with practically no social contact. Obviously this is bad for one's mental state which may be clouding things.

So yeah, I don't really know what kind of answer I'm expecting, but does anyone have any thoughts? Did anybody hate law school but like practicing the law? Did anybody initially hate law school but get into the groove it? Or at what point do I just cut my losses and stop going deeper into debt for something I don't like?

Quit when you can still do it...

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2 hours ago, chaboywb said:

This is a huge factor. I'm in 3L and dread each and every moment of work in virtual law school. It's isolating and depressing. Sorry you have to start off your law school journey this way. But know that you're not alone.

I really echo this sentiment. I'm a 2L and find my motivation much lower this year than in 1L. Being cooped up in your apartment and doing law school remotely is not fun at all.

OP, I would take the online platform into consideration, but I also get the sense that your concerns stem from a deeper issue with the study of law itself. I think quitting when you realize you don't want to do this is a really smart decision. However, I would maybe wait for a few more months, at least until you've finished your first term. I enjoyed second term much more than first as classes delved deeper into case law and you find your bearings on how to read cases/statutes and apply them to a set of facts (which I think has a logical element to it that's reminiscent of the LSAT).

 

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I’m in 3L and have hated law school since the beginning, although I didn’t admit it to myself until around midway through 2L. I also didn’t have a strong interest in the law beforehand; I pretty much only applied because I figured I was suited to logical thinking and could do well on the LSAT. That being said, I was still motivated enough to volunteer for a clinic in 1L (although I hated every second), so my situation might not be the same as yours.

Ultimately, I still regret not going to grad school in my undergraduate field and I hope to make a career change once I’m in a financial position to do so. However, I’m glad that I stuck it out and didn’t drop out from law school once I started; a partially-finished law degree and the accompanying debt would have been much worse for me than no degree at all. I’ve been able to make the best of a bad situation and have an articling job that I’m reasonably excited about lined up.

I really feel for 1Ls this year; I think I only got through law school because of the friendships I was able to form with my classmates. For what it’s worth, I think all of my close friends have expressed struggles with depression/anxiety—even before COVID—so you’re definitely not alone.

Only you can make the decision about whether to continue, but I think you should look into the supports your school offers, such as counselling, an upper-year “buddy” system, etc. I particularly regret not speaking to my school’s career office in 1L—I think having some guidance in planning my future would have alleviated some of the despair I was feeling.

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Yeah, I loved law school, and especially first year. But I most definitely would not have loved doing it remotely from my apartment, especially first year. 

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I hated law school. And by "hate", I mean despised it so much I took a one-year leave of absence, went part-time for the rest of my JD to keep some sanity, and finished in 5 years instead of the usual 3. I spent as little time at the faculty as possible, didn't make any law school friends I'm still in contact with today, and honestly if you asked my classmates about me they'd probably give you a confused look and ask "Who?"

 

I knew I hated law school within my first month of 1L. It was so bad I seriously considered quitting and doing something else. I felt like a fish out of water that whole first year, and it was so bad for my mental health I checked out as much as possible for the rest of law school while still graduating, out of sheer self-preservation. Heck, I nearly failed to graduate- I failed a course, and if you do that at U of T, you either get permission to retake the course from the admin (not guaranteed), or fail out of law school. Remembering those days of extreme anxiety and uncertainty while I waited for the admin's decision makes me shudder. It took me a full month after finally graduating to stop having nightmares where I found out I actually failed a class or forgot about an assignment and couldn't graduate after all. Law school gave me some pretty unpleasant anxiety I still live with today.

 

But I always knew I wanted to practice law. I always loved practicing when I got the chance to do it. I now have my dream law job, make a good living, and am truly happy. But that's the key, OP: wanting to practice law. Do you? Or at least, do you want to do one of the many things you can do with a law degree? If not, then what's the point? But if so, then I would say stick it out and get to that end goal. I'm glad I did.

 

Good luck.

Edited by DavisFromCornerGas
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As a very general reply, I didn't particularly like law school very much, though I also didn't hate it. I would have a lot of good advice to give to someone in your situation except you've already excluded that good advice by expressing an additional dislike, and that's got me worried you do have a real problem.

For me, the issue is that the study of law is far less interesting than the practice of law. The only thing that kept me going in law school was clinic work. Based on the way I arranged things, actually, with other courses, credits for clinics, etc. I probably graduated with almost the lowest number of in-class credits it was possible to graduate with. But I got through it and I do like my career and my practice. So as a generic answer, there's plenty of hope and opportunity for someone who doesn't like law school. The problem is, that isn't the issue you're having.

Broadly speaking, there are people who like studying law and there are people who like doing law. Ideally, you like both. But you can easily get by with primarily one or the other. Eggheads who read case law for fun can end up very successful in large firms that are structured around packaging and selling the egghead expertise they've developed. They still have to work with clients and actually "do" law, but those skills can come later and really, he greater the expertise the more the marketplace will tolerate, and even appreciate, legal geekiness. On more my end of the spectrum, I appreciate the results that law can produce for my clients and I like getting those results. That's why working with actual clients is what keeps me motivated. But it also motivates me enough to buckle down and learn what I need to learn when it matters. Lots of lawyers in more "retail" legal practice (crim, family, immigration, etc.) are like that.

Your problem is that you don't seem to like either. You report being good at problem solving, and that's more in the direction of geekiness, but if you can't even motivate yourself to study the law in the abstract then yeah, you have a serious problem. I don't know how to respond to that because there may not be a solution. But I don't want to minimize it.

All I can say is that different people do find motivation in different aspects of legal work. Maybe the dichotomy I imagine above is too simplistic and there are other avenues I'm discounting. All I can suggest is that you expose yourself to as many different kinds of legal work and study possible, as soon as possible, and either find something that motivates you or else get the hell out now while you still can. The solution may be out there for you. But it would definitely be a mistake to imagine that time alone will solve the problem for you.

In all events, good luck.

 

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Thanks everybody. You all came at this from different angles, all of which were helpful. 
I do plan on sticking it out at least until 2L, and I’ll come back to look at this thread when I get discouraged.

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On 10/17/2020 at 6:45 PM, DavisFromCornerGas said:

I hated law school. And by "hate", I mean despised it so much I took a one-year leave of absence, went part-time for the rest of my JD to keep some sanity, and finished in 5 years instead of the usual 3. I spent as little time at the faculty as possible, didn't make any law school friends I'm still in contact with today, and honestly if you asked my classmates about me they'd probably give you a confused look and ask "Who?"

 

I knew I hated law school within my first month of 1L. It was so bad I seriously considered quitting and doing something else. I felt like a fish out of water that whole first year, and it was so bad for my mental health I checked out as much as possible for the rest of law school while still graduating, out of sheer self-preservation. Heck, I nearly failed to graduate- I failed a course, and if you do that at U of T, you either get permission to retake the course from the admin (not guaranteed), or fail out of law school. Remembering those days of extreme anxiety and uncertainty while I waited for the admin's decision makes me shudder. It took me a full month after finally graduating to stop having nightmares where I found out I actually failed a class or forgot about an assignment and couldn't graduate after all. Law school gave me some pretty unpleasant anxiety I still live with today.

 

But I always knew I wanted to practice law. I always loved practicing when I got the chance to do it. I now have my dream law job, make a good living, and am truly happy. But that's the key, OP: wanting to practice law. Do you? Or at least, do you want to do one of the many things you can do with a law degree? If not, then what's the point? But if so, then I would say stick it out and get to that end goal. I'm glad I did.

 

Good luck.

If you don’t mind my asking, what type of law do you practice now? 

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I think I would hate law school if I was forced to go back to it today.  But I was a JK-JD.  It was just a further extension of school.  And that's really all it is.  

The most enjoyable part of law school were the lectures where the profs were clearly passionate about what they were teaching, and the issues were interesting.  I could have done without everything else. 

Reading law on its own is often objectively boring.  But that exact same law comes to life when you're representing a party where the issues matter to you.  

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I did not like undergrad before law school.

I did not like law school, but there are worse places to be.

I don't like practice all that much, but there are worse things to be doing. 

I am not seeing anything in OP's post about what they would do if they were to quit law school. If you are at all like me then your life will be a slow reveal of the uncomfortable truth that everything that pays is kind of boring or stupid and no, you are not going to end up ever working some fun dream job. Most days your mind will turn to a little nagging monster on the shoulder telling you to quit - ignoring this demon will be your lifelong burden. Get married. Have some babies. Find your purpose outside of work. You'll still need to work your boring lawyer job, but do your best to keep it to normal business hours. Make enough money to buy a house and pay your debts and feed your babies so they grow up nice and smart and you can tell them not to go to law school.

Also, it is a huge myth to think that most or all of your peers have their heart in it or know what they are doing. This is the Instragram fraud. Many/most of them are as confused as you. 

edit: During law school I broke things up with a good amount of for credit clinic stuff and intensives. These are available in 2L and 3L. It's not extra-curricular so you aren't biting off any more of what you are not enjoying but it helps diversify what you do so you don't get as thoroughly bored. 

Edited by BringBackCrunchBerries
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I loved law school for reasons that had nothing to do with law school.  I went out formed new friendships, got involved in some different organizations and hobbies than I had before, and looked at it as 3 more years of not being a complete grown-up yet.  I strongly suspect I would not have enjoyed doing law school online.

Yeah, I once had real passion to be a lawyer - it had been my career goal since I was 12 or so.  And some days I still feel that.  But a lot of days I'm much more interested in coaching the kids hockey on the weekend than I am about the practice of law.  It's okay to look a this as just a job and not a calling.

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I had a good time in law school precisely because of the social aspects so I deeply pity you students out there trying to launch your professional lives in front of a computer screen at a kitchen table. We need a level of enjoyment in anything to keep us engaged for the long haul and so much of the enjoyment of law school is denied to you. Not your fault, nothing you can do.

So my best advice is to take a very close look at whether a career in law is something that ticks enough boxes for you to put you through this short term pain. The practise of law can be engaging, challenging, terrifying and exhilarating. It puts your analytical and communication skills to the ultimate test. It gives you tremendous power and credibility with society in general. 

It is not a career where you can coast along anytime soon. There's a steep learning curve and only the work really teaches you how to do it. I have always found it was worth it for me - my other professional options were journalist or teacher, really, the background I had. Now I'm a long ways out and I love my job.

If classes could be in person next year you might find it's worth it. But it's a very personal choice. You shouldn't give up on your dreams - but you shouldn't shoulder your actual dreams aside either. Figure out what you want. If that means stepping back, do it. But first I would get in contact with a career coach or counsellor or whatever your school provides for. They can help you think this through.

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