Exceptions Expected: My First Year of Law School

I have never been known to do things the normal way. Ever since I was born 7 weeks premature, I have been defying what people expect from me. In my Boy Scout troop I took on some of the most senior leadership positions while I was in middle school and I helped transform how the troop functions in the process.  In high school I bounced around in different realms as my involvement in certain groups, teams, and classes changed. Even though my family’s academic interests generally fell around math and science, mine fell in the social sciences and at this point I am the only one of my family to study a social science in college. Once I got to college, I accelerated my curriculum to be able to finish in three years instead of the typical four years. I have always thrived on being the exception and exceeding expectations and law school has continued this trend.

For those who don’t know, I am enrolled in the part-time Evening Program at Temple Law and my semester just finished up this past week. The evening students only account for approximately 17 percent of the first year enrollment at Temple and the vast majority of law schools do not even offer any sort of part-time program. The Evening Program opens up the opportunity for students to work during the day and take classes at night, which would then stretch the JD curriculum from three years to four years.

I knew very soon after I started undergrad that I wanted to go to law school and once I heard about part-time programs, I thought it was the perfect fit for me. I have always found myself happiest when I am managing multiple tasks or multiple activities, so I thought that the Evening Program would be ideal so that I could split my time between my job and my schooling. What actually transpired was much more rigorous than I could have imagined. I want to lay out my typical schedule just so you get a sense of what each part of my typical law school weekday was like:

I would usually get up at 5:45am to give myself enough time to shower, eat breakfast, and pack my lunch and fill my backpack with my brick-like textbooks before I left for work. I would leave around 6:25-6:30am to catch the 6:45am train to Radnor so that I could get to the office around 7:45am. I would work from 7:45am-4:30pm, usually using my lunch break to finalize my class notes for that day. I would catch the 4:45 train back to Philadelphia to make it to class by 6:00pm, often either reviewing my notes or taking a quick nap during the train ride. Early on in the semester, we would have class from 6:00pm to around 9:30pm, but as the semester went on, that would typically shorten to ending around 8:00pm. Once class let out, I would go back to my apartment and make myself dinner before reading for class the next day. I would usually finish reading and go to bed around 12:30am. Now, I don’t say all of this to brag, this is simply a demonstration in how difficult it is to balance life as an evening student.

Evening students have to balance law school with doing well at their job, spending time with friends and family, taking care of family and pets, and whatever other hobbies they have. These factors make it more difficult to take part in extracurricular activities, participate in job training, and attend networking events that day students could do. Even though these obstacles present many different challenges for evening students, the culture around the evening program is incredibly supportive and encouraging. We defy the stereotype of the competitive law student by being generous and building up our classmates instead of tearing them down. My first year of law school would not have been nearly as rewarding if I hadn’t been surrounded by a great group of people to spend my weekday evenings.

Academically, law school is a much different beast than anything else I have done. Along with the copious amounts of reading and writing, law school requires you to think about things differently than what comes intuitively. Instead of dismissing weak arguments, you have to consider them and weigh the reasons why they were used and why they are weak. In place of using your personal opinion to analyze the questions at hand, you have to use the facts of the case and the relevant law to justify the outcome. Law school has taught me to be more analytical and more critical of the arguments I come across and to be more aware of the way people present factual situations in everyday situations.

Because I graduated college early and started law school right after I graduated, I was likely the youngest person in the law school this year. Since a lot of my classmates were working professionals who started law school to either change careers or to move up in their current careers, they were often surprised when I told them how young I was. I enjoy being the youngest in the school because it means that I have untapped potential and ample time to prove myself.

I have no doubt that I made the right choice doing the Evening Program at Temple. Through the long nights and the busy days, I have grown a lot this year as I learned to adapt to the new situations I confront. I am more confident now than when I started that law school is the right place for me and that I know I will find success there and in my career afterwards. With the support of my family, my friends, my classmates, and everyone else in my life, I am optimistic about my future and excited for the next challenges law school brings, though I will definitely appreciate the break this summer.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

What do you want to see me talk about next? If you have any ideas for a topic you want to discuss or have any questions you want me to answer, you can reach out to me on social media or email me at generallyspeakingke@gmail.com. If you want these posts to come directly to your email, enter your email into the box at the bottom of the page and click “Follow”. I would appreciate it if you leave a comment to let me know what you think. Also, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @evinkellis for all of the thought provoking content I post on there. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you back here soon.

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