First, and foremost, I have been on the Lin Manuel bandwagon since 2010. It’s on record, people. So I saw his tweet today and was like aha! his work ethic is a great example of how to succeed in your educational pursuits.
You will have to say no to things to say yes to your work.
I mean, I know he’s an artist, but he was basically describing the path to a J.D.
It’s not a newsflash to current law students or attorneys that getting to (and through) law school requires sacrificing many things in order to succeed. But in the midst of that sacrifice it can feel hopeless and your goal can feel a little hazy. Moreover, if you’re still in college and feel like law school is a far-fetched goal, the idea of sacrificing to make it happen may seem illogical because the idea of actually being an attorney feels so elusive.
However, if you are truly invested in earning a J.D. the main way to overcome the hopelessness, the feelings of impossible, is to keep working towards your goal. Sounds easy enough, except that for most of us, that means sacrificing many things–saying no to things like time, fun, family, money etc. etc. in order to achieve your goal.
Of course, everyone who goes to law school sacrifices time and peace of mind–that’s the nature of law school, but Latinas in law school/prelaw students often have a different experience.
For example, in regards to finances we often experiences things far greater than being a “broke college or grad student.” I remember scrambling to find a part-time job during my 1L semester to make sure I could cover my rent because I hadn’t taken out enough loans. I just had no idea of the time of what I needed, financially, and after paying for books and cover rent I knew I would be in a bind come December if I didn’t get a job. So I found some part-time work and it was difficult to manage my commute & studying along with my shifts. I have a distinct memory of walking home from a closing shift–it was almost midnight, feet in so much pain, worried that I hadn’t been able to read everything for my class in the morning. But if I wanted a J.D., I needed to have a place to live in the city and that meant striving for a balance, regardless of how stressful it made me feel.
Another thing we often give up is fun. I don’t mean that we have no fun at all, but there comes a time when we have to make big choices regarding our social life to ensure we meet our goal. I know many people who opted to not attend weddings & other life events during the summer they studied for the Bar. In hindsight, those things may look like blips in our life, but during that time–it can hurt and it can impact relationships. It can hurt to miss a best friend’s wedding, a baby shower, a family vacation. All those things that make life special can sometimes be upended in order to make sure we are working towards are license.
And the major thing we have to come to terms with sacrificing–which can be the most difficult to do, is giving up on some family obligations. This is a big thing because we are so family-focused, right? We are expected to all pitch in and do our fair share (sometimes more than fair share). It’s a sad truth that even though education is encouraged in our communities, sometimes the nitty-gritty of what it takes to get that education isn’t as appreciated (or understood). That can be a real struggle and if you’re serious about pursuing your goals then you have to come to terms with setting boundaries and maintaining appropriate expectations with family. I was at a panel recently where a speaker mentioned that as a law student, she was a young mother and during her 1L year she essentially asked her family for help caring for her child. She then told her child that for this time in their life she wasn’t going to be her mom because her focus had to be completely on her studies.
That’s major–it’s a huge ask of your family and child and it’s a huge gamble that the outcome will be worth it. But when we talk about the sacrifices to get your J.D. that’s the kind of serious issues many in our community face because for most of us the path to law school isn’t just applying and enrollment–it means making serious decisions about our finances & family that mainstream students don’t have to encounter.
But in the end, it’s worth it. Having a J.D. changes your life. You just have to go into this endeavor with awareness of the difficulty and go in with a plan. Knowing you have a long term goal will also keep you on track and help alleviate the sting of that sacrifice.
So say yes to the work that comes with earning a J.D.—you may not reach LMM-level of success, but the outcome will be worth it for our community, your family, & yourself!