Will vs The Juris Doctor

This is the very first installment of The Law Student vs. Series. I figure that if I want other people to take part then I should at least start the ball rolling.

It would be great if you would consider taking part. Check out this page for the background info.

So, here we go.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I moved cities after high school and completed an undergraduate degree in a different field. I worked for 4 or 5 years before I went back to uni and studied for a JD. I was a much better student the second time round – I don’t think I could have finished a law degree straight out of high school.

Outside law, I like gardening (and yes I know that’s boring), don’t go to see enough live music, hate public transport, would love to get a dog but don’t have enough time, have an amazing wife and try to write things for a blog around the edges of the day. I would love to start a business at some stage of my life.

What made you decide to study law?

I worked in a different industry for a few years, and overall, I enjoyed it. The work was interesting, my colleagues were all very smart and driven people – I made some great friends there.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t passionate enough about the work, and it was the kind of industry where only passionate people could survive. After a year or two of thinking about it, I applied to study law.

I chose law because of the big picture reasons – law affects every single part of our society. I liked the idea that we have created this framework which everyone has to abide by. Laws are there in almost every single interaction we have every single day.

For example, I walk from uni to the pub, and I know that cars will stop at red lights (usually – criminal law) so that I can safely fetch a beer. I buy a beer from the bartender (contract law) and go meet my friends. The barkeep is presumably employed by someone (employment law) and that someone is likely to be a company (corporations law). The shareholders of the company would have structured the arrangement in a way to limit their liability in case I fall on the way out and sue them (negligence). And it goes on – did the company buy the property, or is it leased (property law)? What kind of insurance does it have, and are its liquor licences up to date?

Amazing!

Are you still happy you decided to study law? What was the most enjoyable part?

Absolutely, and finishing my degree and being able to practice has been the most enjoyable part.

We all hate something about law school! What didn’t you like about it?

This could turn into a pretty long list, but I’ll do my best… The thing that I hated the most was the hard work coupled with the uncertainty of employment at the end. Law wasn’t conceptually difficult, like I imagine philosophy or some theoretical mathematical courses would be – but it was just relentless. It was always there. In the morning when I woke up, when I had a coffee break, almost every moment of the day. No matter how hard I worked, I was always behind in my readings and I always had essays to write.

And all I heard from anyone is how hard it was to get a job, so I just had to work on the hope that things would work out. That’s really hard to do for three years straight.

What was your normal study routine?

On the days I didn’t work, I would spend most of the day at lectures and studying. That would be 2 or 3 days a week – I tried to treat it like a full time job. I tried not to study too much when I got back home on these days unless I had something like an essay due.

On the days I did work, I got to work at 7am and studied until 9am. If I had an essay or exams due, I would finish work, go home, eat dinner and watch a tv show, and then put a few more hours in at night. If I got to bed before 12am I would have been celebrating.

I tried to keep the weekends free to relax and refresh, but I’d put in a few hours in during the morning if I really needed to.

It always seemed like I was studying a lot, but then I think I’m much slower than most people!

What else did you do doing during university?

I worked 2 or 3 days a week, volunteered a day a week at a community legal centre during my second year, joined a few committees for networking reasons, did a bit of mentoring for new law students, lined up a few two week volunteer stints at firms (to test things out and also for networking), and studied.

Where did you want to work when you were studying, and what are you doing now?

When I started I had absolutely no idea. I just knew that I liked the idea of law. It wasn’t until half way through my degree that I realised that I wanted to work in a corporate law firm, which is where I am now.

If you had one piece of advice for current students, what would it be?

I can’t remember who told me this, or if I read it somewhere, but I heard a story ages ago which has always stuck in my mind, and which current students might find encouraging,

There were two people, and one of them had it all; they had risen to a respected position in their industry, had a beautiful house, nice car, and managed to have all those small unique things that the second person always wanted (and in my mind the person was really humble, despite their obvious consumerist tendencies).

Anyway, they were talking (they didn’t have a particularly close relationship, but were generally friendly), and the second person said “wow, you’re really lucky to be where you are”. The first person smiled and nodded, and said, “you know, I’ve always found that the harder I’ve worked, the luckier I’ve been”.

I think that kind of optimism that hard work will pay off is what got me through law school.

Any final words?

Just work hard, and keep your mind open to different opportunities. Always be kind to everyone – the legal industry is pretty small. If you haven’t figured it out already, lawyers are really nice, so reach out and ask someone if they have time for a coffee. I promise that you will be surprised with how many people say yes (all lawyers always have time for coffee)!

And finally, no one is going to ask or do anything to get you to where you want to be – you have to do that yourself.

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