Darren Ang is a third-year law student, creator of the “What Is Law Even” series of law cartoons, and an absolute nerd over copyright in online environments.
To a first-year me:
You think you’re really good at law. You may not say it aloud, but you know your heart—you think you’ve put in more work than anyone else, and you expect your efforts to be rewarded. Your friends can probably tell.
But you’re wrong. And you will be humbled. In fact, every coming semester will humble you in a different way: you will first be broken by your grades, after which you will reach the lowest point in your life by something you thought you were invincible against. Even after that, you will see how the effort you put in does not match up to the results you get.
So swallow your pride. Stop trying to complete the reading lists every week, because you will end up missing the clearest issues during the exams. Don’t waste your words trying to flex the academic literature, because when you do that, you will never answer the question. Maybe, stop tuning out when seniors try to give advice, even if you think they’re self-serving. Because you’re not much better.
You are, really, just like any other law student. You are not one of those geniuses who just “gets it”. For that matter, you can’t even bring yourself to sit down and look at words for long periods of time—you’re just not that great at law. So please, give up your pride. It’s not worth anything.
But keep the enthusiasm. By pure divine mercy, it turns out that you enjoy this subject. In class, you enjoy asking stupid questions and taking stabs at stupid answers; once class is over, you enjoy explaining the law to your friends. In fact, remember how you never liked to read in your life? Your enthusiasm for the subject will power through that. Towards the end of your third year, you will be researching the very topic which you came to law school for, and you will read for hours and hours on end—a stark improvement from your initial attention span of three minutes.
You will also realise that not being great at law was a blessing in disguise. Because you will take some unique shortcuts to make the law work for you—and you will find fulfilment in that. You will begin by breaking everything down into diagrams, but at some point you will buy a drawing tablet on a whim to draw law cartoons, and by your third year, you will have made a series of law videos for the school.
And you will receive so much more. You will be changed forever by, among other things, your legal theory class—the moment will hit you at your lowest point and raise you up in glory. You will forge the deepest friendships you have ever forged. And yes, you will get attached to a law student. She will be your favourite person for a good time to come, and you will see yourself maturing like never before as you get to know her.
In the midst of this, you will learn what it truly means to be “gifted”. It has nothing to do with talent, or even with the rightful rewards of hard work. Instead, you will realise that being “gifted” means exactly what the natural meaning of “gift” suggests: being an undeserving recipient of good things.
So, to properly receive all that is coming for you—humble up. Don’t hold on to your immature pride any longer, because you’re only making a fool out of yourself by doing so. See yourself as who you really are; you’re not that great at law, and for that matter, you’re not that great at a lot of other things. It will make things much easier for you.
Above all: take care of your health, make time to cultivate meaningful relationships, and break off all of the unrealistic expectations you have set for yourself. Because at the end of the day, nothing else matters.
Don’t forget that you, and all those around you, are infinitely valuable. Hold on to this truth, and your law school journey will most certainly be an amazing one.