Today, I received a letter from my university’s law school. This letter reminded me of how much I enjoyed my law school experience. Most of my lecturers were pretty helpful. The prescribed readings were long, but at least they were interesting. Strangely enough, I even miss studying for exams, as during those stressful times, my friends and I would stay up late, joke around, and possibly commence revision.
However, I realise that I have one regret regarding law school.
During my law degree, I gave very little thought to whether my studies were pleasing to God and how I could serve Him in the context of law school. Much of this was due to my own apathy and neglect. However, there were two external factors which exacerbated the problem:
First, the law school’s environment; and
Second, a lack of instruction and guidance.
A law school’s environment
After completing an undergraduate degree in media studies, I decided to study a Juris Doctor – on in other words, a postgraduate law degree.
To be honest, I thought that I was well prepared for the law school experience. After all, wasn’t this just ‘university’ all over again?
Oh boy, was I wrong!
I read more pages of prescribed readings in one week of postgraduate law school than I did for an entire semester of undergraduate study. Further, I spent many weeks learning a completely new language – the language of the law. Foreign phrases, such as ‘prima facie’, ‘ratio decidendi’ and ‘obiter dicta’, were quickly added to my vocabulary.
During my law school experience, I can safely say that I spent most of my waking hours reading textbooks, lecture slides, or caselaw.
Further, it quickly became apparent that law school was extremely competitive. Most law schools assess students on a ‘bell-curve’. This means that after an exam, all students are ranked and only a designated percentage of students are awarded ‘distinctions’ or ‘high-distinctions’. All other students are awarded ‘credits’, ‘passes’ or ‘fails’.
It was common knowledge that high-paying legal employers and prestigious law firms were only looking for ‘distinction’ or ‘high-distinction’ students. Therefore, law school created in most students a competitive and crisis-management mindset.
Overall, I found the constant busyness, the workload, and the culture of law school, all consuming.
The competitive culture made loving your classmates difficult. Being ‘tired’, or too busy, became a constant excuse for not serving others. At times, it was difficult to feel the joy derived from a Christian’s eternal hope when you knew that the weekend would consist of reading textbooks.
Finding someone to talk to
At times, I felt there was no one to seek guidance from. I could not find another self-professing Christian in my cohort and my schedule did not allow time for attending the university’s Christian group.
Similarly, while my church has a solid doctrine regarding vocation and studies, it could not provide positive theological guidance on a lawyer’s calling or dealing with the law school’s environment.
Eventually, in the last year of my degree, I met some Christian lawyers. Hearing their experiences of law school, and their calling into the legal profession, was really encouraging.
As noted in the beginning of this article, I really did enjoy my law school experience. I made some lifelong friends and learnt heaps. However, I do regret not actively considering how my studies, and the substance of my studies, glorified God.
In his spare time, Jia Pan Xiao watches American sports, drinks coffee and devours chocolate mud-cake. He attends GracePoint Chinese Presbyterian Church and will commence working as a lawyer in early 2017.
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