Post authored by Tiffany Ward
“The hardest part about law school is getting in.” That’s the cliché said to people applying to law school. But, once you’re in, is that really true? Maybe the hardest part about law school is not drifting into a fear-induced coma every morning because you’re on call today, or because the midterm is a week away or, on top of all that, your friends want to have a heart-to-heart because you don’t talk anymore . . . because of law school.
Law school has undoubtedly been one of the most invigorating and fulfilling experiences of my life. However, the past three years have been challenging, to say the least. I admit that I am one of the few students who enjoy the work and challenges that are part and parcel of school. But, to be honest, most of us are here because we thrive under the pressure associated with the profession; the excitement is something we simply can’t get at a normal 9-to-5. But operating under this amount of pressure comes with a price: fear.
The looming cloud of becoming a complete and utter failure haunts you from the first day of orientation. From trying to beat the curve your first semester to landing a summer associate position your second year, there is an unspoken fear underlying all conversations of being the one person in the section who just couldn’t beat the curve.
What I’ve learned in my three years is that everyone in law school is afraid, just for different reasons. Some may be facing unspoken challenges at home; others in comprehending the material. Beyond the grades, the curve, networking events and the tear-stained textbooks is the opportunity to become the most well-rounded, determined, consistent and fearless individual you can be if you can push past the fear of failing.
Fear in law school develops the first year because we are taught to measure our success based on how well our classmates are doing. While a small dose of fear may help with motivation your first year, it should not paralyze you. As a first-generation law student, I was afraid the moment I submitted my application. Once I got to school, I focused on my grades above all else. When my colleagues tried out for trial teams and moot court competitions or successfully ran for student leadership positions, I cheered them on from the sidelines. I was afraid that if I gave anything else even an ounce of my attention, I would be the one who wouldn’t come back the next semester My solution to this conundrum was to do nothing and just focus on grades.
It finally clicked when I found the list of goals I wrote for myself before law school: 1. get good grades, 2. make the Dean’s List, 3. get on a Moot Court team, and 4. pass the bar exam. After reading that list, I felt relieved; I was on track to meet all of my goals. The only thing that could stand in my way at this point was me. So, I mustered up my courage to try out for Moot Court and win a position on the Student Bar Association, all while maintaining my grades.
In order to overcome fear in law school, you have to prioritize your thoughts, goals, and relationships in a way that works best for you. You can eliminate a substantial amount of fear and pressure by measuring your success on the goals you have set for yourself.
According to Tony Robbins, “[s]uccess is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.” In order to do that, you must give up running the race on someone else’s terms and find the courage to face your fears.
About the Author:
Tiffany Ward is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In 2015 she received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a Minor in Communication Studies. She currently attends The John Marshall Law School and will receive her Juris Doctor in May 2019.
During her time at The John Marshall Law School, she was a Regional Semi-finalist in The Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition, the Chicago Bar Association Representative for The John Marshall Law School Student Bar Association, the Secretary for the Real Estate Law Student Group, and the Black Women Lawyers Association Liaison for the Glenn T. Johnson Chapter of the Black Law Student Association.
Tiffany is dedicated to investing in the development of young professionals residing in urban communities . This is evidenced by her organization and facilitation of annual community activities in partnership with local faith groups. One such project is the annual Roseland Resource Fair. As facilitator, she coordinated donation efforts with local non-profits, and private organizations to ensure academic, mental/physical health, and housing resources were accessible to children and families residing in the Roseland community located on the south side of Chicago.
Tiffany is also a member of the Strategy Team Board for HEROH, a foundation dedicated to Chicago Youth with an interest in football. As a member of the Strategy Team, Tiffany develops initiatives to help Chicago youth solidify scholarships to universities, and connect with local NFL players to help forge their path to the National Football League.
Upon graduation from The John Marshall Law School, Tiffany plans to practice civil defense litigation and eventually implement Mental health and Academic Resource Clinics strategically located on the southside of Chicago.