STUDENT LIFE / MAR. 18, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Don't Let Superachiever Stereotypes Stop You Studying Law

"Oh, so you're at university?" customers would ask as I worked my Sunday shift at a local restaurant. "What are you studying?" When I replied "Law," I always got the same reaction.

The surprise, the smiles and discussions of future careers- and, best of all, the generous tips. But did I deserve any of that more than people who study sociology, history or journalism? We seem to be cheerleaders for Law and Medicine students and at least give anyone studying a science their due, but assume all other subjects aren't as hard. And I've seen people act like studying Philosophy or Social work is easy when really it's not. 

In reality we all play to our strengths. There's no easy or hard degree. It would be harder for me to study Music at university than Law because I've no aptitude for it and no interest in it. I'd probably get worse grades than I did studying Law. Sure, some degrees- like Music- don't give you great career prospects, especially in this economy. But that doesn't mean Music students are "less smart" than Law students.

The reason that everyone is impressed when they know I'm a Law graduate is that they (often wrongly) believe they could never study Law. But if you've got the grades to be accepted into a Law course, why not go for it? One of my classmates was nervous about studying Law and believed it was a stupid dream and she'd never get accepted to Law school. Now she has a Law degree. Similarly, a friend of a friend asked me what studying Law is like and wanted advice about studying. I was able to give her links to our study materials. She asked me to keep her career plans a secret because, like my classmate, she thought she'd never make it and that people might laugh at her for ever thinking that she could.

And why shouldn't people be worried about the world of Law school? Films and TV portray Law students as studious superachievers who are far more likely to speak in Latin or ride around the family estate than have a friendly drink with you. Or even acknowledge your existence, because we're geeks- mean, snobby geeks. At the very least, we're manipulative and careerist, concerned only with getting ahead. In reality Law school is a welcoming place. There's plenty of bleached blonde hair, mascara and cleavage...even in Taxation Law lectures. Lawyers do party hard when they want to (and when our essay deadlines would allow). While I heard stories of loaded snobs, I never experienced any of that myself.

Yes, I geeked out- read sociology and history books for fun, really enjoyed doing my dissertation- but I was also getting ear piercings every other month, out having fun and I think my hair was every colour (and length) during my degree. And like most Law students I had interests outside of Law: bellydancing, student politics, art, writing poetry- I even got involved in a literary magazine that a group of English Literature students started. We are not stereotypes! Practically every Law student I know and have met has had to deal with these stereotypes and with the stunned reactions of family and friends when they announce they've decided to do Law. People seem to think that doing Law changes you as a person and you'll suddenly become a boring, no-fun genius. Actually far from feeling intelligent, doing Law makes you feel stupid. It does. You breezed effortlessly through high school wondering why everyone else described exams as "hard" and then you get to Law school and suddenly you're getting grades you're unhappy with. I was disappointed I wasn't getting As for every essay and my goal was to get A's in all my Honours exams. Similarly, a friend once rang me because she got a B when she'd wanted an A. And then there's finding you actually have to study to make this whole thing work.

So don't be put off doing Law because you think you're not smart enough, that it's really difficult, or because you won't fit in as you'll be the only one not taking your driving lessons in a Bentley. It really isn't like that. Law students don't even look like Law students- they cake on the make-up, wear muddy wellies and short skirts just like everyone else. You've probably rubbed shoulders with plenty in your local Tesco's without ever realising. Studying Law is not necessarily more difficult than studying any other degree...so go for it!

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