3Ls reflect on their Personal Statements Featuring: Steph McLoughlin
Academic/Career Goals at the Time the Personal Statement was Written:
Luckily, I’ve had the same computer since 2010 (please pray for me that it survives these last exams) so I still have my Personal Statement. Reading it over now several years later, I can definitely confirm that I am one of the many of us who sold her soul to the Bay Street Machine, although I’m very happy with where I’ve ended up for articling. I spent several summers before law school working for a charity, which I imagine inspired me to tell Queen’s Law that I wanted to work in government or for a not-for-profit organization. Instead, I will be articling at a large Management-side labour and employment firm in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District.
Other than how naïve I sound, a lot of my Personal Statement sounds like my OCI cover letters. I use a lot of the CDO’s favourite adjectives, and basically brand myself as a well-rounded former athlete with disciplined time management skills and solid leadership ability, which were my favourite buzz words during the job recruit. I don’t remember ever actually being as confident and self-assured at 21 as I sound in this essay.
Academic/Career Goals Right Now:
It’s hard for me to imagine anything beyond writing the bar exams and articling right now, but I can confidently say that I chose the practice area that is right for me, as opposed to what I thought I wanted in my Personal Statement. My goals at this point are therefore pretty broad. Simply, I want to practice in labour and employment in a challenging, but supportive work environment, and continue to develop my advocacy skills. I also want the ever elusive work-life balance, but that seems to be the first thing that goes out the window when you start your practice. Hopefully I can figure out how to find that balance. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.
The Impact of OCIs on Academic/Career Goals:
I had a pretty epic existential crisis on the Tuesday afternoon of In-Firms. I was fully sobbing on the phone with my dad for a good half hour because I had no idea what to do. I was choosing between a big full-service firm, and a boutique firm, and I couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but it was in that moment of complete meltdown that I finally figured out what type of law I want to practice. Maybe not the best timing, but I think in many ways I have the incredibly high-stress OCI and In-Firm process to thank for forcing me to reflect on what I wanted, instead of just following the path I thought I was supposed to take. Big corporate full-service firms are great if that’s actually what you want to do, but it’s okay to want to do something else.
My advice would be to take the time to really develop a clear idea of what you want and don’t want in a workplace, including the type of law that each firm practices, BEFORE In-Firms. Don’t just go through the motions. I thought I had done enough, but clearly I was not as critical of my options or honest with myself as I should have been.
Changes in Law School:
The last three years have seen a lot of changes in my life, not all of which are because of law school. Before Queen’s, I spent over a decade playing competitive tennis. My identity was very deeply linked to the sport that consumed every waking moment of my life, and then I graduated and that part of my identity was gone. I spent a year trying to figure out what to do with myself after undergrad, applied for law school and got in, and then experienced what can really only be called the most traumatic summer of my life, with the deaths of three family members, before being thrown into law school. In spite of that initial chaos, I think I’ve managed to stay true to myself, while also becoming more confident, compassionate, and also apparently a part-time event planner. While I probably would not recommend that the average person gets as involved as I’ve been at Queen’s Law (read: probably too involved), I’m really proud that I forced myself out of my comfort zone to join clubs, intramural teams, and attend events, because I know how easy it would have been for me to isolate myself when I arrived in 1L, still numb from the summer’s events.
Self-Reflection in Law School:
I wish I had given myself more time to slow down and self-reflect in 1L, and at the beginning of 2L, but now that I’m almost done school, I’ve tried to create more of those moments for myself. I’m usually pretty good at staying afloat and being positive, having found a lot of wonderfully supportive friends, and great outlets for my frustration, but I wish I had realized a lot earlier that it’s okay to not put on a happy face at all times, it’s okay to stand up for yourself if you’re upset, and it’s okay to cut yourself some slack.
What I Would Tell My Pre-Law Self:
Remember to breathe. Remember to relax. Remember to set the coffee maker the night before.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for these three years. It’s been an absolute privilege to get to know so many of my peers, and it’s these people and this community that has made my law school experience so special. Team Mom Steph will always answer a phone call or an email from a fellow Queen’s Law student, so please don’t hesitate to reach out in the future. Also, please invite me back for any alumni events with free food.
Steph McLoughlin, 3L, is a guest contributor.