There are some events that everyone can agree constitute crises. For instance, having the fate of Middle Earth attached to your finger is a crisis.
In law school, crises, barring the unforeseen, should seldom occur. Yet, every year anxiety and stress unfailingly permeate Queen’s Law, culminating in crisis-like panics making law school feel like a protracted endeavor to Mordor. If intramurals and Smokers are the valleys of law school stress, then blurry-eyed, nauseous moments are its peaks. I have experienced and witnessed the terror, the nerves, and the freak-outs that engross students who wonder, “for what?” Good grades? A prestigious job? Any job? Not exactly.
While the inherent pressure of academia inevitably makes students edgy, there is an unnatural amount of anxiety in law school. We let the stress of the program and all of its manifestations—first-year exams, On-Campus Interviews (OCIs), articling interviews, the Bar—overwhelm us solely because of the hype. This hype comes from two mistakenly held value systems used by students to measure our “success.”
Our first mistake is equating value with grades. First-years, listen. While we all strive to be perfect students, the hero-for-some-and-foe-for-others-curve prevents all of us from finishing law school with straight As. I, as a B keeper, can assure you that a B will serve you well. By the way, I know a guy, who knows a girl, who knows this other splendid person who found a wonderful job with merely average grades.
Law firms love good grades—it is true—but they also prize other attributes. They love the hardworking, the altruistic, the diverse, the fun, the qualified, the personable, the focused, the specialist, the generalist, the foodie, the philosopher, etc. An impressive transcript may get you past certain application thresholds, but it ultimately falls upon your experiences, interests and capabilities to court (no pun intended) the law firm of your choice.
Our second mistake is to use second-year summer jobs as a way to gauge our accomplishment in school. There is tendency to equate job acquisition with success. Many students find true success only in working on Bay Street or for other firms present on OCI day. While I am not knocking these law firms or those hired by them, they represent only a specific area of the legal world and are disproportionately revered as the be-all and end-all.
The dichotomy of the OCI job-or-bust mentality is misconceived and its stress is unwarranted; success at law school can manifest in a number of different ways. As one who approached OCIs less intensely than others—ultimately ending the process unemployed—I can tell you that more jobs with greater variety exist beyond November. So, take on your second-year job search open-minded, optimistic, and without the fate of Middle Earth weighing on your conscience.
In sum, while Frodo had to traverse the depths of Moria, flee hordes of Uruk Hai, and cope with the babblings of Samwise Gamgee, we law students have undertaken a much less stressful venture. Undoubtedly, the hype that surrounds law school will inflate faster than Drake’s ego, and before you know it, you will be overcome by worry and anxiety. In those moments, I suggest you try to relax, don’t let the improper binary of success or failure startle you, and I ask you to proceed calmly and confidently, with an Oreo Blizzard in hand.