Law School: Expectations v. Reality
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Taking the LSAT
Expectation: The LSAT is a magical test. It is essentially the closest we'll ever get to a real-life Sorting Hat. When you take the 3 hour and 30 minute examination, it consists of only one question. "Do you have any idea of what you want to do with your life?" If you are looking at the question dumbstruck, going "of course, I do! I want to be ... a baker! I've always wanted to be a baker! This is your dream, Dad, not MINE!", you get to get up and leave in triumphant joy.
If you give a little chuckle and whisper "you got me, you sonofabitch. You know I don't!", congratulations, you passed the LSAT and get to move on to the next step!
Reality: I witnessed a burgeoning hate crime at my LSAT. Yup, this is a true story. I was an idiot 20 year old who studied off of library/Goodwill LSAT for Dummies practice books and desperately did not want to go to law school. I just wanted to get paid for writing pedestrian critiques of SNL sketches but was left without a back-up plan when Lorne Michaels didn't respond to my emails. I showed up to IU Bloomington to take the test, got stopped by the admin because my "license wasn't horizontal" and she had to look up if someone under 21 can take the test (they can), and then I waited for the proctor to show up as about 50 anxious people huddled like zombies outside the room.
One old white man (I can now confidently call him a MAGA troll who was before his time) huffed into the waiting area and started to yell at two Sikh men. "IF I CAN'T WEAR MY DAMN HAT WITH AN AMERICAN FLAG ON IT THEN WHY CAN YOU WEAR YOUR TURBANS?!" he sputtered, literally turning red. The two men kinda laughed him off and said to look at the by-lines for religious exemptions. "THAT'S RIDICULOUS! DISREPECTFUL! YOU COULD HAVE THE ANSWERS IN YOUR TURBANS! I'M GONNA SAY SOMETHIN'" he revved up. The man kept trying to get closer to them and weirdly, no one said anything. It was like the shittiest episode of What Would You Do. And it turns out, I was a shitty person too because I copped out reasoning that I was a 20 year old girl and this asshole probably wouldn't respect anything I had to say anyway.
Well guess what? Karma (or rather John Quinoñes) got me in the end because I was then seated RIGHT NEXT TO THE OLD MAN. The old man got told off by the proctor because he yelled at her because he didn't know how to do the Scantron bubbles. Then he mouth-breathed for the whole 3 1/2 hours and literally sprayed droplets from his mouth. The actual test was a blur. I think I did some writing and did a lot of logic games WHICH GUESS WHAT ARE NOT ACTUAL FUN AND GAMES!!! Whatever, I passed. On we go.
Getting Accepted Into Law School
Expectation: Instead of an owl delivering your letter, Bruiser, the iconic Chihuahua from Legally Blonde, personally brings you your acceptance packet. When you open it, a bunch of confetti shoots out and a recording of Tina Turner's "Simply The Best" begins to play. The welcome packet is so upfront and clear about finances, books, and resources that you're never confused again! You also are gifted a perfect 1980s hyper pink business suit à la Working Girl just to get you into the right *vibe*. Included is a detailed list as to why your law school chose you over so many other applicants so you can embroider it onto a pillow and dream sweet dreams now that your Imposter's Syndrome is completely cured!
Reality: (This is from my Round Two of the law school process after I famously didn't go the first time so I could Follow My Dreams!™ ((aka move to DC and have my soul crushed during a pandemic #justgirlythings)))
After interviewing for a job in an industry you hate that you're pretty sure you're going to have to take (because again, global pandemic), you check your Junk folder in case you missed anything. Buried in it is The E-mail. It might as well read "I'm Gonna Change Your Life, And You Are Not Ready, and Put Down That Bag of Puffed Cheetos For the Love of God" in the memo line. It's from the law school back in your home state (ahh, yes the very one you've famously bad-talked around the world and swore you'd never go back to). Like Don Corleone, it's made an offer you can't refuse. And amidst the swirling chaos that is your life, it suddenly narrows into a rigid, straight path. Get your affairs in order, kid. You're going to law school.
Expectation: You main-character walk into a huge lecture hall à la How to Get Away With Murder with poise and grace. You're wearing a pair of cat-eyed glasses and your hair is in a perfect Power Ponytail™ so the cool, smart girls know that you are also a cool, smart girl. Your blazer is fashionable but professional and your kitten heels aren't giving you blisters at all. You don't look like a scared child who is the last one standing when teams are picked in gym class at all. You're so confident, like of course, you're totally meant to be in this room. Oh, and who's that? A young Rafael Barba (aka the super fine Assistant District Attorney from Law & Order: SVU) makes eye contact with you from across the room. But you don't even notice. You're too busy preparing for your Academic Success™.
Reality: You reach the second floor, coated in sweat, and thankfully mopping up your makeup with your mask. That's right, the mask that you're wearing because you're in a global pandemic. The law school cuts your section from 3 to 5 so you'll be with the same 50 people for the year, and you'll only be on campus half the time and designated to an assigned seat 6ish feet apart.
You realize two things as you survey your competition *cough cough*, sorry I meant classmates. The first is that NO ONE is talking to each other. You wonder if it's because everyone is nervous but maybe it has to do with the masks and the weird lean you'd have to do to hear them and honestly it's a total bummer as the speakers keep saying that they met their best friend/future maid of honor/future partner on orientation day. So far, it's been practically silent. You click with one girl about how much you both hate Zionsville. That's basically it.
The second thing that's abundantly clear is that you're so old. You're a 25 year old geezer. These are literal children. They're hungry and they've only been fed on Reddit, TikTok, and pure ambition. They've never seen the world and have never faced rejection, and God does their beautiful, poreless skin show it. You're so lucky that you're wearing a mask so they can't see your wrinkles, you hag. What are you playing at?? You haven't been in school for 5 YEARS! When you went to college, most professors banned laptops in the classroom for being a distraction. You deadass brought a notebook and pencil to write notes on. You might as well have brought your stone tablet and chisel.
Cold Calls During Class
Expectation: Ahhh, the Socratic Method. Like on every job interview, first date, or run-in with authority, you are perfectly able to articulate everything you want to say under pressure. So when the professor either picks your name off a roster at random or looks around the room and decides your avoidant gaze makes you easy prey, you eloquently are able to provide a coherent answer confidently addressing everything she didn't verbalize that she wanted you to say. Other students look at you, mouths agape (under their masks of course), as they take in your academic prowess. Keep an eye out for her, they silently think, she's a legal prodigy. Your professor gives you an approving nod, basically writing your future recommendation letter in her head. You're basically RBG in On The Basis of Sex. Rafael Barba falls in love with you but you won't know this until you study for the Bar together years later and he gives you his coveted Outlines as a token of his affection.
Reality: In between furiously writing everything down (because again, you use a stupid notebook because you never could manage to type your notes) and zoning out while staring at freedom outside the window, you vaguely hear The Pause. You snap to rapt attention. The Pause is when the professor surveys the class and uses her laser-like radar to pick the most unprepared student. She looks right over the sea of raised hands to you, who are now acting like you're so busy taking great notes.
She asks you for the facts and you give it your best, shakiest shot. You know you did well if she makes a little "hmm" noise and turns to someone else to "continue where you left off." But your class- no your day- NO YOUR WEEK- is ruined if she goes "hmmm, not quite."
NOT QUITE?! NOT QUITE?! It might as well be "DID YOU EVEN READ? CAN YOU EVEN SYNTHESIZE LARGE SWATHES OF INFORMATION INTO BULLET POINT KEY FACTS? Was it a clerical error that got you accepted into law school??" You are devastated.
You can only hope that some other student, who really didn't actually read, does worse so that she scathingly reprimands him for not taking it seriously. You all clamor over his shell of a body as you scrape your way remorselessly to the top.
Expectation: You wake up early in the morning. After a week of perfectly focused reviewing, you're ready to crush this final. You go for a light jog, just to ~refresh~. You brew a gorgeous cup of coffee, make a little quiche, and sit down for the exam. You pace yourself, give yourself frequent reminders of time limits, and have quiet classical music playing in the background. As you take the exam, you can hear your professor's voice in your head, clearly saying the answers. You're Cady in Mean Girls, as you proudly announce "the limit does not exist!" You're crushing this. You're a genius. When you submit it after four hours, the computer gives you a wink and says "you go, girl!" Seconds later, you get a call from...the Dean?! The final is already graded and she says that after talking with the professor, they want you to teach the class?! Haha, all in a day's work. You snap a flawless selfie for your #LawSchoolBetch instagram. Life is good.
Reality: In the weird three weeks-ish hell that the school gave you to study for finals, all you've managed to do was not wash your hair to the point you consider pulling a Sinéad O'Connor, stay in the same pair of sweatpants, fervently call your law school study buddy daily to screech "BUT WHAT IS EVERYONE ELSE DOING?!", and then develop a debilitating Facebook Marketplace addiction. You buy so much antique furniture that your only option is to open an Instagram business (@magpie_home_and_curios) and pretend that it was an intentional choice. Every time you realize that you're not 100% sure what a Tort even is, you put in a bid on an antique secretary desk. Maybe you'll make so much money that you can drop out and never have to be able to confidently explain a 12b motion!
You try to watch Barbri 1L intro videos every minute you're not actively studying but this creates a Pavlovian response where if you hear a white man's voice, you instantly fall asleep.
When you finally take the exams, you type so fast and aggressively that your hand cramps. When it's over in a blur of dry sobs and phone alarms, you emerge shellshocked and weirdly out of breath. What course exam did you even take? No, no looking back. Was it Property or Contracts? No, it was the past. We only look forward now.
I'm currently waiting for the rest of my grades to see if I can move on to next semester. If I do, look out for a new installment of my Law School Adventures™ but if I fail, get excited for many posts about which Taylor Swift album each character from the Queen's Gambit probably listens to when drunk and sad.
And if you happen to be from my law school, please remember that Maggie didn't write this. This is the ghost of Elle Woods. Maggie is off studying already for the next semester on her break. Wow, she's so smart and dedicated!