Entering the world of law seems a daunting task for us mere mortals just making our start in the industry. Television shows, books, and movies memorialize the law field and the powerhouses that fill it. We see men and women command courtrooms with gravitas and the right amount of drama. Last-minute strokes of genius inspire newbie associates to find the hidden clause in a contract and bring the client victory. A lost witness comes forward at the close of a trial to win over the jury and seal the guilty verdict. While these images are awe-inspiring, they tend to make setting foot in the actual field seem an insurmountable goal and the giants that have already “made it” cast shadows over the hopes of first-year students.
As a soon-to-be graduate and newly minted lawyer myself, I have felt the trepidation that walks hand-in-hand with striking out on a specific career path. Nothing compares to the bewildering newness and overwhelming deluge of information packed onto your plate in those early days. It seems like the start of every class is actually the middle of the semester and everyone knows what is happening except for you. Reading lists are distributed a week before classes start and you should be five chapters into every book before day one even dawns. Oh, and you should have at least an intermediate level understanding of Latin and finding cases in the stratosphere of law databases. All in a single day’s work, right?
I fell into that trap myself, thinking I should have it all figured out while I whipped through assignments at warp speed. But standing on the precipice that is the end of school and the beginning of everything that comes next, I can see what law school was really meant to be. Law school is a boot camp not just for the mind but for your character. The pace and volume of material, while torturous at the time, was not meant to drill into my head that I was inadequate, it was a reminder that lawyers are responsible for the burdens of clients.
What those courtroom dramas and glamorized shows got right was the importance of the job. People turn to lawyers to find someone who will stand up for them when they cannot fight on their own. Law students are not given a break because the world does not take a break. There will always be something new to address, some new wrong to be righted. The three years spent in libraries, classrooms, and intern cubicles are transformative. Stripped away is the fear of failure because of all that is still unknown. What remains is the drive and determination to armor ourselves with knowledge and the skills necessary to bring justice to any situation. Because that is what learning the law is truly about. Not the admiration of juries or awards adorning walls, it is the license to stand in the gap for people and be their advocate.
Alexa Wallace is currently a third-year law student at Samford’s Cumberland School of Law, where she is the Research and Writing Editor of the American Journal of Trial Advocacy and Associate Justice of the Henry Upson Sims Moot Court Board. Wallace holds a master’s degree in applied cognition and neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lee University. None of this would have been accomplished without the existence of croissants.