Knowing When to Say Yes

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

A few weeks ago, I wrote about when to say no to opportunities. It focused on the fact that sometimes, as law students we feel like we have to do everything, and sometimes we need to say no. But sometimes, we need to say “yes,” or at least throw our hat in the ring, even when the timing doesn’t seem great.

The week before Thanksgiving, I knew that I needed to be outlining. Or at least that was the plan from the beginning of the semester. But in October, I saw that Ms. JD was accepting applications to be a part of their Class of 2019 Leadership Academy. It was a competitive process, and they were accepting, at most, 30 law student applicants from across the country. It was also being hosted the weekend before Thanksgiving at Harvard Law School.

Bad timing, but an amazing opportunity. One that I knew that I had to say “yes” to by applying. I knew this opportunity was not something that I had planned for, but I also knew that if I did not apply, the answer was already “no.” I applied and was accepted into this prestigious program!

It was an amazing experience, and I was able to spend time with 29 other amazing up and rising 2 & 3L women students from across the country and a distinguished set of mentors and speakers.

As we head into finals, I want to share a few of the meaningful quotes and lessons I learned from my weekend.

“Great lawyers are grown, not born.”

~ Allison Turner

This quote came from the panel on women and men working together to improve diversity within the legal field. And while this quote applies well to diversity within law firms, it resonated with me as a great quote for law students. We all enter law school with different levels of knowledge, but if you look at each class, every networking opportunity, and view law school activities as an opportunity to grow, you give yourself the best opportunity to become a great lawyer. You are a collection of all of your experiences, choose ones that “feed your soul.”

“Sometimes you do things because that is where you have landed, and that can be fine… but ask yourself why you keep doing it.”

~Hazel-Ann Mayers

It can often be easy to take the path of least resistance in law school. It is rare that someone comes to law school knowing exactly what they want to do, and follows that exact path for the duration of their career. Sometimes you might want to be a public interest lawyer, but realize that you should accept that firm job you have been offered because of student loans. That can be fine, even smart. But ask yourself why you keep doing it once the loans are paid back. You owe yourself that. Do you do it because its what you love? Or because it is “safe” and what you know.  This can apply to many other career paths as well. Sometimes, when a door opens, it feels like it is the only opportunity, and we take it. It can be great, but check in with yourself throughout your legal career, and ask yourself why you keep doing it.

“Put yourself into safe places to make mistakes.”

~ Jodi Flynn

You do not learn how to drive a stick shift in a Lamborghini, and your first lesson is not on the freeway.  There is a reason why we learn to drive in a parking lot, and law school in many ways is our version of a parking lot. Now is the time to experiment, take a clinic, or take a class that might challenge your abilities. Take chances. I’ve seen people in school drop a class because they were worried about the grading curve, even though they believed the class would have been insanely valuable to them in their career. Wouldn’t you rather make mistakes in the safety of a clinic or the classroom than while working with your first client? I know law school might not feel like it, but it really is a safe place to make mistakes, take advantage of this.

Finally…

“Do not self-select out because you are trying too hard to be perfect.”

~ Debbie Epstein Henry

The search for perfection in Law School

We all have an idea of what we think is perfection, what we think is “great.” It is good to have a goal to strive for, but as another one of my favorite quotes says, “Do not let the fear of striking out, prevent you from playing the game.” If you are always comparing yourself to others, always thinking you need to improve before attempting to do something, you are never going to reach your goals. Did I think I was going to be accepted into this academy? No. Did I apply anyway? Yes.  Should you apply next year? Absolutely.

If you would like to learn more about my experiences at the Ms. JD NWLSO leadership academy, feel free to reach out to me, @The2LLife, on Instagram and Twitter.