The Law School Graduation that was not

 

My classmates graduated and I was fortunate to cheer them as a guest.  The evening section that began its journey in 2012 finished at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Ca.  It is bittersweet because I would have loved to walk with them as we did that first day of class; but my bi-frontal craniotomy December 2015 derailed that plan and added a semester.  If all goes well I will be graduating in December of 2016.

I have been on the law school path a very long time.  I started law school but my life (as well as the stock market) fell apart and continuing was impossible.  It took me almost 2 years to come back.

I ran into medical issues, academic issues, and personal issues but was fortunate enough to be surrounded by open hearts who understood that law is a team effort.  The toll on family and friends is too much to bear for some.  Several good friends, including one who I thought would be the best man at my wedding, were casualties of the demand of time and my perennial unavailability.

After surgery I silently decided not to attend any graduation.  I did not want to walk with a bunch of strangers and without the group I relied on to get me through the dark days as a  1L. I also figured amount of student loan debt in the room would crush me before I received my diploma.

But, the fact is that they are not strangers.  Southwestern Law school creates bonds that grades do not shatter.  I read a lot of posts about the “cut-throat” environment of law and how law school is often compared to a den of wolves.  Students are out for themselves and will do anything to be on the good side of the curve.  I never felt that at Southwestern Law School.

SW law creates community and that community is not limited by graduation year, program, gender, race or religion.  We all know how difficult law school can be and how rewarding that struggle is.  Family and friends know the silent work we put in at odd hours and weekends.  They know the amount of birthdays and special events we miss because we are Shepardizing or outlining.

It is very difficult for anyone on the periphery to understand.  Very few individuals (read as: none, ever) are excited about the prospect of your final grade being based on one curved test.  The curve means that many of the people who you saw in the bookstore day one will become a distant memory.

The weeks before finals most of us go into overdrive.  Depending on our study methods we work alone or with a few friends.  We discuss and pray that the hypotheticals, charts, and lists will be enough to make it onto the good side of the curve.  Many, like me, fall short and/or because of other circumstances they leave.

A few of us fight to come back and are given a chance.  Administrators, Deans and staff, although unseen by most students are the ones that see something more than a grade in us.  They see people who want to succeed and are willing to work to figure it out and create the environment for us to do so.  I know that my law school experience has been anything but traditional and I have the administration, faculty, staff and classmates to thank for it.

So, am I sad about not walking with my friends?  Yes.  Am I disappointed I did not catch that darn softball?  Yes.  Did the softball teach me more about myself and the people who are there with me through thick and thin?  Heck yes.  So, I hope to walk May of 2017 with the graduates of Southwestern, all of them. The class of 2016 will be off practicing law and earning their stripes as attorneys  but will no doubt be with me as much as I am with them.  I applaud my classmates for getting through it and will continue to cheer you all on as you undergo preparation for the California Bar Exam.

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