Saturday, October 27, 2012

10 Things I Wish I Had Known

Yesterday was a win for the Dew house.  We found out yesterday that Daniel PASSED THE OHIO BAR EXAM!  Meaning.... he is a lawyer!  Like he could go and defend someone in court.  Wow.  I cannot believe this day is here, and we made it!  3 years ago it felt like law school would never end, school would never be over... but here we are.  And I have learned SOOOO much about myself, Daniel, our relationship, and how to be a supportive wife.... If only I had known about some of the struggles and triumphs sooner..... Sounds like a good idea for a blog post!

(apologizing in advance, this is REALLY LONG!)

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My Husband Started Law School:

1.  Law School is a Team Sport  Daniel and I got married when we were both still attending Utah State as undergrads.  He graduated about 2 years after we were married... so prior to law school, we were used to being married students.  And basically, he did his thing and I did my thing.  He studied and did well in his classes, and I studied and did well in my classes.  I can only think of a handful of times when we ever helped each other study or do anything school related together.  It just wasn't necessary.  We were fine on our own.  So when law school started, I figured it would be the same thing.  I was also starting school for my Master's Degree, and so I thought life wouldn't change much from when we were both in school before.  Man, was I wrong!  Law school requires so much time and so much energy, it really took 2 people.  Just the support he needed alone was sometimes overwhelming and exhausting.  Not to mention the flash cards.  Oh the flash cards.  If I ever see a flash card again it will be too soon!  But all kidding aside, he really needed me.  And not to brag or take anything away from my brilliant, wonderful, hardworking husband, but I truly believe he may not have made it without me.

2.  The First Year SUCKS!!!  The first year of law school there is a weeding out process.  Especially at the school Daniel attended.  The school offers admission and scholarships to more students than it can sustain, to lure them into coming there.  So the first year is really survival of the fittest.  Even worse, you don't get to pick your classes, or your professors.  Basically, you are stuck with whatever the school assigns you.  And you're stuck with them ALL YEAR!  And you can't switch.  Daniel was (un)fortunate enough to end up in the toughest group his first year, which had a lower average grade point average than any other group.  Basically his professors were horrible (more on this later).  Here's the first year in a nutshell:  You're stuck with classes you didn't pick, professors you don't like, a new teaching style (The Socratic Method), new friends who are now your competition, and a new school who only gave you money with the sole intention of stealing more money from you later-- all working in cahoots to try and get you to drop out and slink back in a hole a couple (ten) thousand dollars in debt.  It sucks, and there's just no getting around that.  As a spouse, be prepared for MANY days (and sleepless nights) of convincing your husband not to drop out, he's not stupid, this won't be a waste, and life is worth living.  And be prepared to not see a lot of them.  Because it is very time consuming and very stressful.  Just be there when they need you, and don't harp on them for not being around when they don't need you.  Marital vows should be changed to say "In sickness and in health, In good times, and during the first year of law school".  Yes, it will be THAT bad.

3.  The First Year Doesn't Last Forever  Thankfully, if you can make it out of the first year, it does get easier.  From then on out you get to pick your classes and professors, and the grading curve gets less steep.  "Friends" are now genuine friends- partly because you feel a camaraderie with them for surviving 1L, but also because now, more A's can be earned, so the need to compete is less.  You can start taking classes you actually have an interest in, and opportunities for internships begin to unfold.  Entering the second year of law school is almost like emerging from the rubble of an earthquake.  You're a little dazed and confused- not sure what just happened... But you are able to dust yourself off, smell the fresh air, and move on.  You think to yourself, if I can survive that, I can do anything.  And when it comes to law school, you're probably right.  If you can survive the first year, you can most likely make it to graduation.  After the first year, it was nice to get a piece of my husband back.  He lightened up a little bit.  He had a little free time again.  He wasn't ALWAYS studying.  So you can have a normal, happy, fulfilling family life during law school, but it just probably won't happen until year 2.

4.  Professors Can Do Whatever They Want  Daniel likes to tell this joke:  "What's the difference between God and a law school professor?  God doesn't think he's a law school professor" Meaning they think they are gods.  And in terms of what they can and cannot do... they are basically right.  Once a law school professor is tenured, there is little to no accountability.  Daniel straight up had one of his professors tell the class:  "You can read the outside material, but it won't help you.  The test is going to be about what I think the law is, if the law is actually different it doesn't matter."  Various other professors had varying degrees of awfulness... But guess what happens to these people... Nothing.  And guess who suffers...The Students.  Very rarely, a professor comes along that is really there to help the students learn, become great lawyers, and help them in their upcoming careers.  Daniel was lucky enough to have a professor that really made all the difference in his education, and even helped him get his job here in Washington DC.  But sadly, these types of professors are hard to find.  Again, after the first year it does get better, because you can pick your teachers. But just be aware that professors are often times not fair, not honest, and not on your side.

5.  You Will Learn Too!  This was a shocker for me.  I really have very little interest in the law.  Sorry Daniel, but most of the things you learned in school were snoozeville to me.  So I was surprised at how much I picked up.  And actually some cases they study in law school are really interesting.  Like the lady that got lye thrown in her face by her future husband.  Or the guy that sued someone for having a golf club in their front yard.  Oh, and I learned all the details from the case where the lady sued McDonalds for spilling her coffee.  And remember the flash cards I loved so much?  Well Daniel wasn't the only one who learned a thing or two from them.  I think Daniel and I did so many criminal law flash cards together, I could have taken his final and passed.  I know that entering the dwelling of another at night with the intention to commit a felony therein is burglary, and I can tell you how it differs from robbery and larceny.  And actually knowing all these random facts about the law has made crime shows, lawyer dramas, and the nightly news more interesting. Plus I don't feel like such an idiot around Daniel's colleagues now.  So when your husband is going on and on about something law related, do yourself a favor and don't tune him out all together..... you might just learn something!

6.  Celebrate ALL Successes  Amidst the drudgery of law school, there can be very few high points.  So when you find one- celebrate like it's the best thing that has ever happened.  Even if it's something as stupid as "I got called on in class today, and I knew the answer!"  The first year of law school, this is totally an excuse to go out to dinner and even order dessert.  Remember, there are so many things working against your spouse, so it is your job to build his confidence.  When you get excited when something goes right, it will make him feel like he's accomplishing something and succeeding.  And this can really mean a lot.  If I could go back, I would spoil him more and just be more excited for him-even on his worst days find something to compliment.  The more you do this, the better he will do- guaranteed.  It's your job to be his cheerleader and biggest fan and that means lots and lots of celebrating the small stuff.  And when something REALLY great happens, like receiving the "High A" or landing an internship, really go all out.  I wish I would have celebrated these achievements more... because in law school land they mean everything.

7.  Anyone Who Hasn't Experienced Law School Will NOT Understand  I cannot tell you how many times we got asked to do something the weekend before finals, or the weekend before a paper was due, or just a weekend before a busy school week and we had to turn friends or family down.  And I cannot tell you how many times I heard, "But his test isn't until Tuesday!"  If you aren't living it, you don't get it.  Law school isn't like most school.  Your entire grade comes down to 1 test.  Just 1.  So the weekend before finals, in fact the 2 weeks before finals, all other activities are out of the question.  My job a lot of the time was to run interference for Daniel and try to explain to everyone else why he wasn't at the Ward Christmas party AGAIN this year.  Another thing people won't understand is the reading.  You'll hear people say things like "I never did the reading in school and I got all A's."  Well that's because you didn't go to law school.  If you don't do the reading in law school, you will fail.  End of story.  And this isn't like reading a good fiction novel.  The sentences drag on FOREVER and are worded funny (in lawyer terms).  It takes a good amount of concentration to just read the thing, let alone understand what you just read.  I have also heard, "I never had to study in school.  I think if you do the work during the year, you won't need to."  Again, you obviously didn't go to law school, and so you just don't get it.

8.  Graduation!  Done with Law School, Right?  Wrong!  Graduation is only the beginning!  Sure you get a fancy robe and a grand ceremony.  Heck, you even get a J.D. after your name.  But it basically means nothing.  You can't practice law with just a law school diploma.  And sadly the work isn't over either.  I was naive in thinking, "Hooray!  I finally get my husband back!  Law school is over!!!"  This was true for about 2 weeks, until bar prep began.  Law school really isn't over until the bar exam is over.  Speaking of bar prep....

9.  Bar Prep- Worse Than The First Year  3 months.  Law school graduates preparing to sit for the bar exam are encouraged to take off 3 months and do nothing but study.  10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.  That's 84 hours of studying a week.  They offer entire courses to help you study.  Daniel's stack of review books was about 2 feet high.  His stack of flash cards was almost as high.  We figured out that he had made and memorized between 900 and 1000 flash cards.  And you're not only trying to remember the courses you took during your 3 years of law school, but you're trying to learn everything about courses you never even took.  It is impossible to take a class about every different type of law during law school; but the bar exam tests your knowledge about every different type of law.  I can honestly say, I've never seen my husband so burnt out and just mentally exhausted as he was the weekend before he took the bar.  He was borderline loopy.  He told me to start calling him "LAWrence" because he knew the "LAW", and that he was going to go mow the "LAWn".  As the spouse of someone studying for the bar exam... just make sure they eat and sleep on occasion, that's really all you can do.

10.  It's Worth It!  (Maybe)  On days like today it is all worth it.  And for us, it is going to be worth it in the end.  My husband was able to find a great job, which will propel him to many other opportunities in the future he never would have had if he didn't go get his law degree.  Sure, we have $50,000 student loans and 3 years of our lives we'll never get back, but I am confident it was a good investment for us.  But I'm not sure it will be worth it for everyone that gets their law degree.  It's very hard for attorneys to find a job right now.  Sadly, not everyone does pass the bar exam.  Not everyone makes it through all 3 years of school.  But like I said, it can work out and it can be a great investment in your future.  One nice thing about getting a law degree... once you're a lawyer, you can always work for yourself.  You can control your future and your destiny.  And believe me, if you and your spouse can make it out alive, you will be stronger for it.  You will understand each other better and have better communication.  You will have a deeper appreciation for one another, and a love that has been tested, tried, and come off victorious.  And that alone, to me, is worth it.

1 comment:

  1. great blog Amanda! I really enjoyed reading it and you really covered all the bases! - Renée