Law Student Chronicles: Doing Time as a 1L

deana alfred

 

Editor’s note: We asked four 1L law students—two from Colorado Law and two from Denver Law—to submit articles for our new column, “Law Student Chronicles,” twice per year for five years. We will follow them through their educational journey, as well as join them as they venture out into the legal field.

The overused adage says “time flies when you’re having fun!” Well, that sounds lovely, but what does time do when you’re terrified, inspired, exhilarated, and challenged by your peers and superiors on a daily basis? In my opinion, it’s then that time seems to travel at the speed of light.

I began law school as a 21-year-old Southern Californian fresh out of the cozy confines of college, convinced that taking a year off was not for me. I was on the fast track to success and no way did I want to pull over and refuel for gas. I read every book and article published in the English language about law school and how to prevail in what was often described as a wasteland of casebooks, peers who laugh maniacally at your failure, and ridiculously high rates of alcoholism and depression. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the party of the millennium to me!

Orientation started as most law school orientations do: a lot of talking, a lot of listening, a lot of not-so-subtle references to the almost reverent importance of networking, and how it would be the bane of our existence but the breath of life that would give our currently non-existent legal careers some kind of meaning. No pressure, right? No, of course not.

As the smell of stress, sweat and slight fear began to waft throughout the Wittemeyer courtroom all 180 1Ls were held in, regret began to invade my psyche and attack every confident thought I had about law school.

 

I was an English major who was fabled back home for having a way with words, sitting in between an accountant who had worked for one of the Big 5 accounting firms for a decade and a mother of two who had vast experience as a paralegal in an extremely successful firm. Needless to say, I felt very much out of my element as I listened intently to their discussions about cases we hadn’t even been assigned yet, nodding my head fervently as if I had a clue what an International Shoe even was.

I have made it a personal goal to never compare the notorious movie “Legally Blonde” to anything that happens in the real world (where people don’t get a 179 after studying for a week in their sorority house), but it was at the end of orientation when I felt as though I may have made an extremely expensive mistake and wondered if, like the always perky Elle Woods, I had come here for the right reasons and whether I could handle everything that was about to be heavily dished out to me. I felt the negativity of the anti-law school naysayers who had warned me of the soul-sucking dark rabbit hole I was about to willingly walk into on the first day of classes. It was when I was wandering the halls, however, in search of my locker when I happened across an enrollment sheet with our mailbox numbers attached. My name was second to the top. I’m not going to say this was my ‘come-to-Jesus-moment’ that signified a sign (mainly because my last name starts with an A; I’m supposed to be at the top); but at that moment, I knew that regardless of the work, the fear, and the people who already knew about personal jurisdiction—I, Deanna Alfred, was supposed to be here. This was my choice and I alone made the decision to rise above it. Only time, not fear nor intimidation, could tell what was to follow.

Five months later, I’m finished with my first semester at CU Law and just beginning my second. That awkward day at orientation turned into a brighter tomorrow, which turned into weeks of realizing that no matter how I tried to fight it, coffee was vital to survival. It led to trying to find casebooks that didn’t cost more than my rent; discovering that having a positive attitude can actually make reading 25-page cases a lot more interesting; realizing being cold called is a little less cold each time it happens; and finding humility in the fact that although I was a skilled English major in college, I am by no means God’s gift to legal writing in law school. Also, I am now a valid expert in finding the lunch meetings that will be serving Jimmy Johns or Noodles, and have recognized that people here don’t actually laugh maniacally at the failure of others, but will volunteer to serve as your co-counsel instead. Time has moved at the speed of light. Although there have been some harrowing moments (with more to follow, I’m sure); there have been comical, inspirational, and epiphanic ones too. The naysayers who believe law school is an “expensive mistake” will undoubtedly always be around to fabricate this conception, but similar to my good friend Judge Scalia, I respectfully dissent.

 

By Deanna Alfred, a 1L at the University of Colorado Law School. Alfred is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she grew up, with a degree in English, emphasis in creative writing.

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