The random thoughts of an architect-turned- lawyer from the deep south living in Washington, DC...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fighting demon Law-Rah

One of my students asked me last week "if there was one thing that you could have known going into your 1L exams that you didn't know already what would it be?" With ease and confidence I answered "that law school exams are a crap shoot." I got some puzzled looks. I hated to sound so pessimistic and harsh, but for me personally, I would have liked to have come to terms with that a long time ago.

The Law-Rah that entered law school over two years ago thought she had it all figured out. For years, if she wanted something bad enough, all she had to do was work hard and she could achieve it. Easy right? As for law school, her entire life had been leading up to this. She wanted it really bad and was willing to put aside the rest of her life, so surely she would excel.

Then came the harsh reality that is the law school exam.

The hardest part for a control freak like myself has been a lack of control in the outcome. I can know the material forwards and backwards. I can have the most comprehensive outline. I can meet with the professor to discuss minute details I may be overlooking. I can walk out of the exam with confidence and a smirk of a top-10%-er. And I can still get a B on that test. In the beginning, it crushed me. It was very hard to grasp my hard work not "paying off." I even got angry when I got an A on an exam that I didn't even finish. Normally, one would be happy with an A. But for me, the problem is more along the lines of there being no correlation whatsoever between my understanding of the subject matter and my grade in the class. Man oh man is that a hard thing to deal with.

This is amplified because I am my own worst enemy. No matter how many semesters of this I go through, I still cannot seem to get it into my thick head that I have no control over what goes down during those three hours of frantic typing that will end with a letter grade on my transcript. For some reason, I still stress myself out. I still work myself into the ground aiming for the best. Here I am, a 3L with a job lined up. Everyone says that a person in my position is supposed to breeze through this year without a care. Instead, I spent 13 hours straight yesterday stressing/prepping and just plain freaking out about my two tests this week. Despite knowing that working harder and putting more time in will not necessarily get me the A, I am still working myself into the ground. Why is that?

Because that's what I do. I throw myself into everything full force. I work really hard and I accomplish things. (Ignoring little voice that says "but you just said that working hard does not necessarily pay off in law school.") Normally, I like being this person. The hard-working, get things done at all costs, gal. This person is who got me into law school in the first place and who got me a damn good job that I (will) love. Yesterday, though, I wanted to tie her up and throw her in a closet because she was freaking me out. She seems to want to stand in the way of me being calm and collected as I go into exams.

I woke up this morning and a calm had come over me. I seem to have realized something downright ingenious: I have done the work...the rest is a crapshoot. And that, my friends, wraps up my struggle to take my own advice that I so confidently offered to my students last week.