Law students are something of a different species. Though NYU Law students are a diverse bunch in many ways, there are traits and common understandings we come to share as we go through this journey together. As they say, above all, law school teaches students how to think like lawyers. It all develops very naturally, gradually, almost insidiously.
Then, the inevitable occurs: that moment when you realize that one of your loved ones on the outside just doesn’t get it.
You know the moment.
Maybe it was when your friend from college came into town for the weekend, clearly assuming you could go three days without doing a lick of work whatsoever.
Or when your significant other’s eyes glazed over when you discussed the fascinating world of the non-delegation doctrine.
Or when that family member *shudder* asked you for legal advice.
Recently, I wondered: if I could have given my loved ones a little pamphlet called “Knowing Your Law Student” before I began my 1L year, what would it have said?
The following aspires to be just such a primer, for anyone who has a law student in their life who they love enough to understand better. Students, feel free to send a link to this post to your loved ones (or print this page and mail it to those less tech-savvy loved ones).
1. Some things are going to be a lot different. You may not be able to watch “Law and Order” or “My Cousin Vinnie” again without your law student pointing out the inaccuracies, almost as a reflex. Legalese will find its way into your dinner conversations. You may gently mock your law student for this.
2. Take an interest in your law student’s life. At some point, your law student will enthusiastically tell you about something interesting she’s learned. Do not panic – it’s okay if you don’t understand! Law school is remarkably good at putting a bubble around students that convinces them that everyone must understand what they’re talking about. If you aren’t clear on what she’s talking about, just ask – she won’t mind. If you really want to bone up on the subject, by all means – but it’s certainly not required.
3. But don’t overdo talking shop. As much as they enjoy talking about all things legal, law students love talking about everything else, too. It reminds us that there’s still a whole other world outside law school, and that can be incredibly refreshing. Your law student has other law students to talk about that stuff with, anyway.
4. When the law student in your life says she’s busy, over and over again…she probably is. Be understanding – law school is time-consuming. It’s just the nature of the beast. Voice your needs when appropriate – and, if possible, not during final exams time. Which leads us to…
5. During finals time, be understanding. There may be a drop in your law student’s ability to tend to the non-law school parts of his life. Be supportive. Should any conflict arise during this time, address it in a calm manner at an appropriate time. During final exams, your law student may feel he’s under a lot of pressure. Much more could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.