Starting Law School During a Pandemic
Allard School of Law Student (1L)
Jan 11, 2021
Before law school, I had many anticipations and none of them involved a global pandemic or online learning. I expected busy hallways, long hours at the law library with classmates, in-person events, in-person classes, in-person orientation – I expected in-person everything. I thought I would be in class physically alongside my peers and my professors. I thought I would create friendships and be celebrating the end of the first semester with these friends in-person. However, things did not exactly play out this way.
Even though my first year of law school is quite different than I anticipated, it has exceeded my expectations, but for different reasons than I anticipated.
The hallways at Allard are vacant, other than a handful of 1L’s and faculty in masks. The long hours at the law library are non-existent and instead, it is long hours in my apartment studying. In-person anything and everything has been replaced by a virtual world unless it can be socially distanced or “masked-up”. I am not physically learning (on a full-time basis) alongside my peers or in the presence of my professors. However, even with everything transitioning to a virtual world and the struggles that follow, I have still been able to have a rich 1L experience.
The hallways may be quiet, I may be unable to take a peek at the law library, and most classes may be attended online, but my experience has still been great, just a different kind of great. It has been the kind of great that I will get to explain to others in the future – what it was like starting law school during a pandemic. It is a kind of great that shows just how resilient my cohort of peers are, as we trek through the unknowns of law school and do so during a global pandemic and all the struggles that come along with that.
During first semester, 1Ls had the opportunity to attend class on a rotational basis, every three weeks. For second semester, we are attending class on a biweekly basis. Some professors are only teaching classes virtually and others have decided to go to Allard to teach in the classrooms. Everything, of course, is socially distanced and in the common areas we are required to wear masks, however, I am grateful for the opportunity for in-person instruction.
Yes, it is still hard, and yes, I wish my first year of law school was not during a global pandemic; however, I am doing my best to make the most of it and take care of myself.
It has been a different experience for my incoming cohort and I. We are not all located in Vancouver. There are some students studying from a few hours ahead in other provinces, and others who are studying fifteen hours ahead, where their school day begins at midnight and ends at 6 am. This makes it difficult to connect with one another for various reasons. I never thought that meeting people during law school would be a concern. With these added barriers, us 1Ls have done our best to stay connected through social media and social networking. We have also had many socially distanced meetups and Zoom calls get to know each other. For those of us who go to Allard for in-person classes we are able to do this at a distance. This added obstacle has not stopped the 1Ls from connecting, but rather, just changed the way we do.
Even though my first year of law school is quite different than I anticipated, it has exceeded my expectations, but for different reasons than I anticipated. The professors and the tech support team have gone above and beyond to ensure that online learning at Allard is beyond adequate. The compassion and empathy of my professors during this time is appreciated and necessary. The collegiality of my classmates and our attempts to connect, even though we have to be physically apart is admirable. The effort put into ensuring that our 1L experience is as good as it can be in a virtual world does not go unnoticed. Yes, it is still hard, and yes, I wish my first year of law school was not during a global pandemic; however, I am doing my best to make the most of it and take care of myself.
There are still many highlights to this unique “Zoom school of law” experience. Some of these highlights are attending in-person classes on a rotational basis, the collegiality of my classmates, the orientation boxes that all the 1Ls received before school commenced, and that we can still attend law school during a pandemic. However, these highlights still come with some lowlights. Online learning is not the same. My retention of material, even when I am mentally present and engaged does not compare to my retention when I am physically in the classroom. It is unfortunate that faculty and students cannot be at Allard full time and it is unfortunate to not be surrounded by classmates who are going through the same struggles as you. Law school is not easy, and law school during a pandemic is difficult.
Even though we cannot gather in large groups, there are many individuals who have worked hard to ensure that the extracurricular activities are still operating. Similarly, to school, everything is virtual. Events with law firms are online where there is mingling and activities – like scavenger hunts or trivia nights (who would have thought?!). Clubs are still proceeding, LSLAP is still helping its clients, LEO is still presenting to high school students, and many other activities are still taking place all through the use of Zoom.
When we can safely meet in-person again and the pandemic is hopefully a thing of the past, I look forward to getting to meet my classmates, professors, and the upper year students in person, using the law library and other facilities at Allard, getting the full experience of law school, and physically embracing my friends.
I must acknowledge that the experience that I have described is just one individual’s (my own) and that many other 1L or upper-year law students may have very different experiences. I cannot undermine the fact that even though starting law school during a pandemic has exceeded my expectations, that does not mean that it has not been hard. Law school comes with many hurdles and to add a pandemic onto the already prevalent struggles does not make learning any easier. However, I do want to thank everyone who has done their best to make it easier – my colleagues, the upper years, my professors, the individuals helping with technical support, and the staff and faculty at Allard.
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