When I was a little girl, I always thought that being a lawyer was boring. My dad was one, and he was always in an office, desk full of papers and it just seemed awful. So one day I told him: “don’t get your hopes up, I’m never going to be a lawyer”. But then, one day, the dad of one of my classmates, who happened to be a congressman, came to our class and gave us a talk on why kids and young adults should care about politics and get involved. He gave us a Constitution; the paragraphs were short and it had colorful pictures (we were in elementary school). That was the first time I payed attention to all that: why didn’t we have a death penalty but other countries did? Why did we all have the same rights and what were those rights? How did a judge decide for how long a criminal goes to prison? My dad was able to answer most of my questions, but because I was just too curious, with every answer I had new questions.
My dad taught me that reading was important. “That’s how you can educate yourself, because you should never be satisfied with what your teachers tell you in school. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means there’s always so many more things you can learn than what you are told at school”.
So, a few years later, while I was in high school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And now, four and a half years after I was admitted to the University of Guadalajara, I’m about to graduate. So did I learn anything besides how to interpret the law and the process of a trial? Let’s see…
- IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER, BUT YOUR ABILITIES.
When I first told people I wanted to be a lawyer, most of them said they didn’t think I had it in me. They thought I was too quiet, or too good of a person. And I must admit, law school did change me in that way. I’m not afraid to speak up anymore, and people think that I look cold and serious when they first meet me. This is good, in a way, because it can give you a little bit more respect from people inside the same profession, but it’s bad because that’s not who I really am. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re the goofiest person in the room or the most serious, as long as you have the abilities required to do your job.
2. LEARN TO READ INTO PEOPLE’S BEHAVIOUR, AND USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
I’ve always been good at reading into people, if that make any sense. I guess I’m just too observative. So, during this journey of becoming a lawyer, I learned that sometimes it’s a good thing to be the quiet person observing, building up your own arguments, instead of being the person that jumps into the discussion, thinking they’re going to win it just because they yelled the loudest. I believe that if you pay attention to a person, if you observe the way they react to certain circumstances, they way they speak or even if you notice their body language, you’ll have an advantage when presenting your own arguments. This helped me a lot in law school, not necessary because I was already a lawyer on a trial, it helped me when approaching different professors or when debating with my classmates about delicate subjects, like abortion or LGBT people’s rights.
3. DON’T TAKE YOUR EDUCATION FOR GRANTED
At first, I thought being in a University was a normal thing. Getting accepted, finishing a career; I thought those things were easy, so I took them for granted for a long time. It was until we had a new student come into our school; he was 80 years old. People were so impressed that he even got to do an interview for different news shows. He talked about how he had never got the chance to pursue a higher education when he was younger. He didn’t have the resources, and he had to work to sustain his family. So he spent his youth working on the fields, but now that his kids were grown up and had their own careers, and now that he had the time to do it, he had decided he wanted to be a lawyer. “What is it that you want to be in your life?, ask yourself how you’re going to do it. And when you take the decision, take that step that will lead you to either fail or succeed. It’s all up to you”, that was his message to all the young people that were about to start University.
4. WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER
I had to learn this the hard way. For four years and a half I had to deal with teachers that didn’t really like me. So they made my ride through university feel like hell. I had one professor in particular who liked to humiliate his students. He didn’t use constructive criticism, he just loved to make us feel inferior. And everyone complained behind his back but never dared to speak up. Until one day I decided to stand up for myself, and I questioned his capability to actually stand in front of the classroom and teach us something (he used to just sit in the back of the class, make us do research and he would let us give the class; on top of that he was always laughing at us). He didn’t like it, of course. He felt humiliated in front of the whole class, just like he had made us feel for four semesters. Should I have done that? Probably no. Did he take it out on my grade? Definitely. But being in a toxic environment like that, where your professors see you as their next competition and where they try to break you at every chance they have, I learned to be strong. You can go to your room crying everytime someone says something hurtful to you, or you can brush it off, keep your head held high and keep going.
5. A GOOD GRADE DOESN’T DEFINE YOU
If only I could tell you how many of my classmates cheated on exams and had really good grades, but don’t know a thing; most of them didn’t even show up to class in the entire semester. The first time I had a professor put me a bad grade just because they could or because they didn’t like me, even if I turned in all my homework and did well on exams, my dad told me to never let a grade discourage me. Of course it’s important to take school seriously and show discipline, but most of the time, a grade doesn’t really prove how smart you are. It doesn’t really show your work ethic, or your preparation. So, take my dad’s advice and never let a grade discourage you.
6. BE CAREFUL NOT TO TURN YOUR CONFIDENCE INTO ARROGANCE
I had classmates that tried to intimidate the rest of us from day one. Participating in class, using fancy words, but as time went by and real faces started to show, we realized that most of those guys that thought really highly of themselves weren’t actually that smart. Or at least that’s what we thought because they presented themselves as these geniuses, when in reality, we’re all only humans. We make mistakes, and we all have the same capability. We were all there for a reason. So ever since that first semester, I remind myself that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”. Stay humble, and instead of feeling intimidated by others, try and learn from them.
7. BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TRUST
I also learned this the hard way. There are exceptions to this, but most classes in my faculty are seriously divided. My class included. We spent four years and a half seeing each other every day and never got along. Everyone ended up stabbing someone else in the back. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we’re all too competitive, and we didn’t like seeing others doing better. On the last few semesters I got really tired of all that toxic environment, so I just disconnected from everyone. If they smiled at me, I’d smile back. If they made small talk, I’d talk. If they treated me like a stranger I couldn’t care less. And if that was going on in school, I can only imagine how it is out there. Honestly, I don’t think I’m never trusting another lawyer (except for my dad, maybe).
8. THE WORLD IS ONE GIANT BALL OF CORRUPTION
When I was on my first semester, teachers used to ask us why we had decided to be lawyers. Most of us would answer that we wanted to make justice and help people. I’m pretty sure most of our professors laughed at us. We laugh about it now. It’s not that we’re evil, but the system in my country, and in most countries, is so broken that is almost impossible to make justice. It either never happens or it takes years for someone to get it. I try not to be a pessimist, but once you burst the bubble you live in, and you’re thrown into the real world, it is a disappointment.
9. DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING SO PERSONAL
One of the things our professors told us from day one, was that once we were out of school, we would most likely end up facing at least one of our classmates in court. This didn’t mean we couldn’t be friendly outside of it. We would only be doing our job after all, right? This lesson apply to life in general too because, sometimes, we tend to take the words or actions of others too personal, and we really shouldn’t. Remember, if it’s not going to be important in five years from now, don’t spend another 5 minutes thinking about it. Let. It. Go.
10. YOU MIGHT NOT BE WHERE YOU WANT TO BE, BUT YOU ARE WHERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE
In my third semester I wanted to give up already. I liked my career but I didn’t like the people around me, I didn’t even like living here. But my parents never allowed me to give up, which I really thank them for. I made it, and now I can’t wait for what’s next. Just remember that everything is temporary, and you must learn to walk before you run. You might want to do huge, amazing things, but we all have to start somewhere. My journey through law school taught me to be patient, and to enjoy the ride rather than stress out about the future.
Did you go to law school? Comment below what was the biggest lesson you learned there (: