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3Ls Reading their Personal Statements – Feature 4: Meredith Nelson

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This is the fourth installment of the series “3Ls Reading their Personal Statements featuring The Class of 2017”. Feature #1 and the introduction to this series can be found at this link. Feature 2 with Madeline Ritchie is here. Feature 3 with James Omran can be found here.

FEATURE 4: MEREDITH NELSON

Academic/Career Goals at the Time the Personal Statement was Written:

When I read my personal statement, I felt relieved. Everything I wrote still rings true. If anything, it affirmed for me that I have (for the most part) stayed true to myself through law school. Specifically, through the OCI and articling processes.

For example, I remember writing this next paragraph to let law schools know that, while my background is in business, that’s not what I want to do:

“While I gained great experience in the corporate side of law at TD, it piqued my interest in other areas of law, leading me to recognize that I also hold a deep passion for human rights law. One way I am already working towards enhancing my knowledge in this area is through my enrolment in a Law Clinic class at Ryerson, where I work with lawyers to complete tasks for clients on a pro bono basis. Through this course, I have gained valuable insight into the need for law students to learn not only the law, but also how the law can and should be used as a tool to create social change and provide justice to everyone, regardless of social status. I seek to help people in this way in the future, and I am thrilled at the prospect of attending law school and gaining a unique body of knowledge which will assist me with this goal.”

I actually wrote something similar in my cover letters for OCIs because I wanted government offices to know that they weren’t my back-up if I didn’t get a big firm (even though I didn’t apply to any big firms because I didn’t want business law).

My personal statement accurately reflects my academic and career goals at the time I wrote it. I wasn’t just writing what I thought schools wanted to hear. I think my statement accurately reflects my transition through undergrad which led me to apply to law school. It accurately reflects that I genuinely wanted to learn the law (academic) and that I wanted to use that to one day help people in some way (career).

Academic/Career Goals Right Now:

I don’t want an all-consuming job. I want reasonable work hours. I want the ability to leave work on no notice to pick up my sick child from school. I don’t want over-the-top stress levels. I want a job I like that challenges me but isn’t a constant battle. People think I’m unreasonable in my goals but I think if I continue to stay true to what I want my life to look like in 15 years, I will get there.

That being said, I don’t know what I “want to do”. That hasn’t changed from OCIs to now. I’m articling in criminal law, and after that, I feel pretty open to where life will take me. Whether that’s being a lawyer, working tangentially with the law, or something entirely different. But I like this stage of not knowing.

I think my goals now compared to when I wrote my personal statement are the same but different. I want to help people, I want to do something on a personal level to some extent. But, I’m articling at CLO-Criminal. Criminal law is about people for sure, but is it what I want to do long-term? I don’t know yet. I don’t think personal-statement-Meredith would be upset by me going into criminal law though. I loved it in high school and it’s not outside the realm of what I thought of doing back in undergrad. But at the same time, undergrad-Meredith was a bit optimistic and oblivious. I wanted to help people for free basically and tried to envision a way I could do that. Law school has bummed me out in the access to justice front and I feel like it’s too big of a problem for me to fix. I don’t necessarily see myself doing the good deeds on the ground and making $0 on the job anymore. I’m not sure that job would fulfill me now.

The Impact of OCIs on Academic/Career Goals:

I believed OCIs were the right thing for my career because they seemed like the right thing. Get a job. Try out a line of work.

However, I brutally researched a lot of firms, convinced myself it would be too “business-y”, and didn’t apply. It’s 100% what undergrad-Meredith would have wanted. I actually think I did a better job than undergrad-Meredith would have done – she probably would have applied to a few bigger firms just in case. But I also had professors in my ear in undergrad telling me that everyone has to experience the firm life at least once. But post-1L-Meredith thought fuck that – I don’t have to experience anything. This benefited me greatly in the long run.

Changes in Law School:

I have changed as a person but I don’t know how related that is to law school. I think 3L was a very different year for me. I was single for the first time in my adult life, I made more friends, and I was way more social. I am also more positive than I was in 1L and possibly 2L. I just go where life takes me.

Academically, I do like learning the law and I find many aspects of it fascinating. But in 3L I have been doing zero work so I feel like I’m not learning much. That being said, by the time I’ve studied for exams and written my papers for this term, I will be reminded that the law is fascinating and that I have enjoyed learning it for 3 years. But I do have perpetual guilt that I haven’t learned as much as I should have in law school. I don’t read cases, I don’t read articles and genuinely feel like a lazy loser.

Self-Reflection in Law School:

During OCIs and articling, I was able to do a lot of self-reflection. I asked myself what I want in life during law school and I am usually good at reminding myself that the world won’t end if one thing doesn’t go my way. That being said, there are times in law school where it’s just go-go-go and there were some dark periods in 1L, mostly January, where I felt lost.

What I Would Tell My Pre-Law Self:

I’d say thank you! Thank you for knowing, 4 years ago, what you thought you might want to be doing in 4 years. Thank you for staying true to yourself in writing what you want so that 4 years later I could look back and be proud and feel warm that I kind of got undergrad-Meredith what she wanted.

I would also tell her to not give up the gym and to stay active because you can’t eat whatever you want for forever, but that’s okay.

Meredith Nelson (3L) is a contributor to Juris Diction. Harshi Mann (3L) is Opinions Editor for Juris Diction.

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