as a mentor, i don’t consider myself particularly wise or accomplished enough to impart any meaningful words of guidance. i have been thinking for awhile about what to tell those seeking guidance, and the kind of advice that i would have wanted to hear when i was beginning from stage zero a year ago.
this is a letter to you first-years:
first — this is going to be a pretty difficult year. it might be one of the worst years of your life, quite honestly. you will be challenged in every way imaginable. if you move to a new city, you will have to learn to manage a new identity in this foreign place while balancing simultaneously the incredible stress of law school. if you just graduated from college, you’ll be plunged into an environment with other students who have somehow learned how to adult more efficiently. shit WILL happen. one friend’s boyfriend ended up in the emergency room right before she walked into the classroom to take our torts final, and another friend’s aunt got into a serious car accident during her oral argument before a judge. people break up, others start dating, and many lose touch with their non-law-school friends and family. it’s a tumultuous and challenging period on the personal and academic fronts.
second — the job search process is going to suck. you’ll get an amazing job, but the journey in securing that job is a nerve-wracking experience. doubts will pervade your mind constantly. your mental and physical stamina will be stretched to the limits throughout the marathon of interviews and callbacks. your sense of self-worth will be directly tied to your rejections and job offers. you’ll tread the fine line of listening to the opinions of others on prestige and following your gut in what you believe is right for you.
third — you’ll feel alone at times. some of your experiences may seem alienating: receiving a mediocre grade, getting another job rejection, blowing a cold call in class in front of 89 other students. quite frankly, almost everyone will experience those very same experiences.
fourth — you might cry. a lot. and if you don’t, you might encounter a heightened level of anxiety. this is something i want to be brutally candid about, because i have seen classmates weather the year with such strength and grace. i have also seen the same classmates break down — during finals, the on-campus recruiting season, and throughout the year. people who seemed like they had it all together had anxiety etched into the lines of their faces. i had insomnia during the year and particularly towards the end of spring semester. i cried frequently during both semesters — out of homesickness or pure envy at my non-law-school friends’ vacations or existential questioning about my decision to go to law school. and when i started to get callbacks, i cried. when i started to get job offers, i cried. i even cried for an hour after i got an offer from a place i thought i never would get into, for various reasons. i can’t emphasize enough how EVERYONE i know in law school went through some kind of personal crisis and extreme anxiety to get to where they wanted to get to, even amidst seeming like they were completely on top of their shit. one friend went batshit crazy right before recruiting season. he morphed into this unfathomable type A monster obsessed with maximizing his network because the fear of striking out shook him to the core. he ended up getting offers from almost all the top firms in new york and california. so, yes, you’re absolutely going to be okay. but you’ll also go through a lot of anxiety in the process, and that’s completely normal.
fifth — take care. seriously, guard your well-being and mental health. go to the gym, treat yourself to croissants, grab a beer with your section-mate after you finish that memo, watch that Netflix show for an hour. the little things do matter, and do whatever gives you even a bit of calm and peace that leaves you content for that day.
sixth — you’re going to make amazing friends. you will meet brilliant, passionate, and diverse individuals who are brimming with drive and empathy. their work ethic will put yours to shame. their sharp minds will test your own. you’ll pick at each other’s words even in ordinary conversations and unabashedly bring up obscure law jokes that no one can equally appreciate. when your forehead is covered in copious beads of sweat from running in high heels up 14 flights of stairs to your eighth interview of the day and your throat is running dry from all those interviews, your comrade-in-yet-another-ridiculously-traumatizing-experience-of-law-school will pass you cough drops in the narrow hallway of the hotel.
seventh — you’re going to meet a few incredible people during this year. inside the law school, outside the law school. let it happen. follow your instinct. even if this proves to be a fleeting encounter, they may instill something raw and beautiful into your life. let them breathe fresh air into your daily routine. you’ll be truly happy at times, and they may be the keys to you unlocking the revitalization of purpose and joy.
Really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.
Generally speaking, these meetings occur when we reach a limit, when we need to die and be reborn emotionally… if we have nothing to lose, or if we are full of enthusiasm for life, then the unknown reveals itself, and our universe changes direction.
— paulo coehlo
eighth — you’re going to grow. so, so much. into a more intelligent, even more ambitious (as if that were possible), and far, far, far more passionate person. you will grow jaded and cynical. you will grow humble. you will grow in self-discovery, beyond what you could have ever imagined. you will learn distinctly about the kinds of people, the types of environments, and the nature of work that makes you happy or unhappy. you will learn what happiness means to you. you will grow in love — a fluttering breeze that momentarily captures your heart, a cascading wave in a stronghold of passion. you are going to grow from the havoc wreaked onto a past shell of your self, from which you will be emotionally and intellectually reborn.
and once you are reborn, i promise that you will find beauty in your life again.