The sage Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Life for the average law student is nothing but forks.
What type of job do I want? Should I go to this interview or that one? What area of law excites me? Do I even want to practice law? What am I doing here?
It can be overwhelming. But it can also be empowering, says one who has been there:
“[Y]ou never know where life is going to take you,” writes Karen Munoz in this blogpost. “Use every day as an opportunity to challenge yourself, to explore who you think you are. To challenge what others think you are and have told you your entire life.”
If you’ve sat through even a single lecture in Torts 101 you get her point that life is full of surprises. But her article goes beyond urging you to embrace your fears and step outside your comfort zones.
She describes what law school was like for her – and in doing so you might see parts of yourself as well.
Type A Doesn’t Mean You Can Do It All
For instance, Munoz says she is Type A – typical of lawyers – but that she has been terrified of public speaking her entire life.
“[M]y fear of public speaking has haunted me for as long as I can remember. If anyone had told me back then that I would be in a courtroom one day, I would have said you cannot pay me enough to open my mouth and have words come out that make sense in front of people. I can remember plotting to get out of going to school when I had book reports due in the third grade. The anticipation, sweating, and heart racing just at the thought of having to speak was overwhelming.”
After college she considered pursuing a master’s in psychology because she thought it was more about listening than talking. Instead, she found herself at John Marshall Law School.
“I wish I could tell you I knew what I was doing, but I can’t. I have been practicing for almost eight years now, and I have had to confront my phobia. Kind of like every day. There is no substitute or amount of therapy that would have prepared me for doing it than actually forcing myself to do it. And, no, I have most definitely not become an amazing speaker, I talk too fast, and with my hands, I am soft-spoken and try to limit my words. I have learned to accept that is who I am. But I am constantly striving to improve just a little any way I can, and I would have never been able to get to this place had I not stepped outside of my plan, outside of my self-imposed limitations, had I not accepted the path to law school.”
The lesson: don’t run away from what you perceive as personal limitations. Instead, keep going and smash through them.
Tear up Your Road Map
Don’t become so attached to your Master Plan for Attaining Law Greatness that you miss out on the grand buffet of life. Take a class you think you’ll hate. Volunteer at an organization chosen at random. Join the flag football team. Get a goldfish.
Munoz cheerfully admits that her professional life has not unfolded according to plan. But whose does? There are pitfalls, potholes and detours along the way.
She keeps her courage up because she decided to be open to whatever comes her way.
“Fear keeps us rooted and small,” she says.
So what are you afraid of? Make a list of your perceived weaknesses and dive in. Do something off the wall, education-wise. Practice accepting – rather than resisting – the unanticipated turns our journeys always take.
You never know what opportunities will arise. And you will become a better lawyer as a result.
Source: American Bar Association http://abaforlawstudents.com/2015/11/30/karen-munoz-facing-your-fears/
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He is a former Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.