To the Incoming 1L,
Whether you prep or not, you will be bitter about grades at some point. The bitterness might only come after you've waited over a month for your grades and you still don't have them. Or the bitterness might flow from the fact that no matter how smart you are, how much you study, or how much you truly feel that you know about the law the fact remains that you are ultimately graded based on how well you do compared to the person sitting next to you. You are right when you say that it is nothing like undergrad. It isn’t. In undergrad if you knew the material and tested well, you got an A. In law school, you can know the material and test well, but most profs will only give 4 or 5 A's, so you better know it better then EVERYONE else. And you better figure out what exactly the prof is looking for early on.
As far as I know none of us prepped: two of us are in the top of our class and everyone else is ranked above the average. The bitterness doesn't stem so much from being identified by your rank and valued solely by your GPA. The bitterness sets in when you realize that you've scarified so much by just being in law school. The bitterness settles as you realize just what exactly those A's and resume builders cost you. Get used to being away from your family and friends. Adjust to the idea that no matter how great your marriage is, you will have problems over the next year. In order to get those grades sacrifices need to be made – and for most it means sacrificing the things that are most important to you right now.
On orientation day you’ll be told to: "look at the person on your left and took look at the person on your right. By the end of the year one or both of those people will no longer be there." It’s told not because at the time it seems funny, but because it is true. People get to law school and some find that perhaps the material is too hard for them to grasp, but most people that don’t “hack it” are the ones that find they aren’t willing to or just can’t sacrifice their family, social lives and hobbies. It is no wonder that job dissatisfaction is higher among lawyers then any other profession. There is a reason for that: it takes a lot of sacrifice. Not to say that there aren’t good aspects of being a lawyer, but the point is that not everyone experiences them or is willing to wait for them.
Perhaps you might be thinking, well not everyone has to sacrifice so much to be in law school, otherwise fewer people would become lawyers. The truth of the matter is that once they are here, some people find that they aren’t willing to sacrifice their families, friends and other comforts in their lives. So instead they sacrifice their grades. It becomes a battle of quality of life versus quality of GPA. Which do you choose? Sure, you can balance them to an extent, but I know of no one who has been able to be top 10%, law review, moot court, student government, [insert resume builder here] and maintain their relationships with friends, family, and spouses at the same level. Believe me, I tried and I’m still trying: student government executive board, wrote on for law review competition, dean’s list, worked 15 hours a week at a corporate job, served on another student organization’s executive board, and taught law in a volunteer position at a downtown high school. My friends understood that I was busy and got used to only seeing me during school breaks. My husband understood that I was busy and tried to adjust accordingly – but it is not easy trying to maintain a house, pay the bills, and be the best at everything. Stress is placed on even the strongest areas of your life. Sacrifices have to be made. It will be up to you to determine how to make them.
Please understand that while we all know that we are bitches, and we may seem cruel, we just really don't want to see you – or any other anxious incoming law student – wrapped up in law school by prepping before you even get there. Three years is enough time to have your life turned upside down. Don’t torture yourself by starting early. Once you get there, you will find something that works for you. By all means, if you find some way that you can have it ALL please let us – and every single law student know your secret.