A 1L Reality Check: Tips to Make First Year of Law School Better

By Zaynab Al-Waadh, 2L at uOttawa Law

For many of us, being admitted into law school carried with it the relief that all those long nights, extra curriculars, and go-getter attitudes during undergrad paid off. Law school was the dream and the admittance letter only stands proof of our intellectual prowess over everyone else.

However, if there is anything that 1L has taught me, it is that our high-achieving attitudes are in for a reality check. Being admitted to law school is only the beginning to a complete overhaul of your expectations.

Going to law school is that exhausting (but incredibly rewarding) transition where you relearn the art of note-taking, exam-writing, and critical thinking. To say that 1L was difficult is an understatement. Your readings are archaic and dense, the workload is intense, and the lack of accountability can make even the most diligent of go-getters waver amid the uncertainties.

I won’t lie to you and say that if you follow “xyz” steps you will never experience a low point in your 1L career; however, I will say this: when it comes, embrace the challenge. Stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult, and sometimes even isolating, but I can guarantee that having come this far, you will always come out more independent and self-sufficient than you were before.

1L is no joy ride—however, with every adversity, there lies an opportunity and 1L is an opportunity to re-discover and reaffirm your strengths. I know it’s easier said than done, so here are a few tips that may help you along the way:

  1. Surround yourself with people who motivate you to be a better version of yourself. And if making new friends isn’t your forte, learn to take comfort in your own company. Whether through club affiliations or in class, you are bound to come across the right people for you.
  2. Study smarter, not longer. Develop a weekly strategy to tackle your readings and make sure to set one or two days aside each week as ‘catch-up’ days. You don’t need to read every last word in your textbook—some days you simply won’t have time to even read your textbook and that is okay. There are plenty of resources and case briefs online to give you a general idea of what’s going on, supplemented with your class notes, trust me, you will be fine.
  3. Take charge of managing your time. Sometimes your family wants you to visit, your friends want to hangout, and washing dishes becomes your new favourite pastime but there are only 24 hours in a day and 5-8 hours are spent in REM. You spend another 2-6 hours in class and another 1-3 hours commuting, eating, or doing whatever other task in your day. Do the math and realistically confront the hours you have to devote to actual studying. Schedule and take ownership of your time based on your own realistic habits and work from there.
  4. Learn to balance work and down-time. The truth is, most people like to project that they are busier than they actually are. In fact, our society rewards the notion of working day and night at the expense of your personal life and well-being. This martyr image is all too known and aspired to—we probably even know one or two people in our lives who claim to manifest this image. But the reality is, you simply cannot give something your absolute 100% if your cup is half empty. Self-care is a fairly new buzz-word but what it truly means is blocking out some time during your day or week to do some activities you actually enjoy. Do you like cooking? Do you like watching Netflix? Do you enjoy colouring? You’re working hard at school, so carve out some time to do whatever it is that makes you happy—you owe it to yourself.

Still Confused About Mansplaining?

Mansplaining is more than a buzzword. The word is descriptive and explains itself. The primary purpose behind mansplaining is to silence a person.

Maybe you’re doubting the reality or frequency of mansplaining, or you’re wondering if there’s any science to back up this phenomena. If so, then check out this video produced by Upworthy showing not only some of the various mansplaining techniques, but also the frequency in which women are silenced from classroom spaces, to office spaces, to traditional media and social media and onwards.

Next time you receive some mansplaining, you may want to consider explaining to them how disrespectful it is to all people.

#LawNeedsFeminismBecause… #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar…

If you haven’t checked out the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s latest photo campaign #LawNeedsFeminismBecause / #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar, then you really should.

Sajeda-#LawNeedsFeminismBecause project
Sajeda,Feminist Collective at McGill Law project

In 2014, the Feminist Collective of McGill Law held its first photo campaign focusing on why people self identify as feminist, which was featured in the HuffingtonPost.

This year’s photo campaign explores feminism at McGill Law school by looking at why law needs feminism. According to the project website, “over 30 participants finished the sentence ‘law needs feminism because / le droit a besoin du feminisme car’ and lined up one by one for their portrait to be taken by professional photographer, Whitney Lewis-Smith.”

We think this is a great project and we hope that all lawyers, law students and feminists help spread the awareness of why the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause /#LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar .

Click here to check out the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause / #LeDroitABesoinDuFéminismeCar project.

Great CBA International Initiatives Opportunity for Young Lawyers

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has a great internship opportunities for newly minted lawyers through their International Initiatives program.

What’s the CBA’s Young Lawyers International Program? Check out the video below.

Deadline date for internship applications for the internship period of September 2016 through to March 2017 is May 16, 2016.

For more on the opportunities, click here.

International Women’s Day — A Time to Celebrate Women You Know

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a day where we can celebrate how far we’ve come and also thank those women who inspire us to keep going.

There is a lot to celebrate. Canadian women are considered persons thanks to Edwards v Canada (Attorney General), [1930] AC 124 , 1929 UKPC 86. More women enrolled in post secondary institutions. Canada’s federal government leadership reflects the diversity of Canada.

But it’s also important to remember how far we still have to go. Women are still paid less in Canada. Globally the chore gap is not narrowing fast enough and women still suffer disproportionately merely because they are women.

The Canadian Criminal Lawyers Association released its report on the retention of women in criminal practice. The news isn’t good. It’s true that the legal profession has a long way to go to ensuring female lawyers are treated respectfully, paid equally and systemic barriers barring women from continuing to practice are removed.

Change is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. It means working collectively to overcome the barriers that are holding women back.

With so much work still to do it’s equally important to celebrate those women who continue to inspire you. If you have just 3 minutes today, then consider thanking a woman who inspires you.

Tag a woman or women you know on social media who inspires you. Spread the word about how great they are by using the hashtag #IWD2016

Happy International Women’s Day to all the WLMP Participants, legal mentors and supporters. You inspire us every day. Thank you!