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Advice for your law student self: crowdsourced -by Dr. Rebecca Jaremko

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger law student self?

Twenty years after graduating from law school, I found myself teaching first-year law students at Robson Hall. It is not without irony or ambivalence that, twenty years in, having traveled the roads of many legal jobs, I find myself welcoming and seeking to encourage new law students on the cusp of entering our profession.

Since I’m unsure of what to tell students as they enter lives as lawyers, I thought I would crowdsource some responses.

The confluence of events of my reunion – at which no one who showed up was where they thought they would be on graduation – this teaching role, the pandemic, and a dramatic rise in awareness of the mental health and workload struggles, and substance abuse problems, endemic to the legal profession, led me to question what we as a profession should say to new law students starting out.  So, I sent my students on a mission to interview lawyers, asking a series of questions that would differ depending upon the context, but invariably to ask a final question as follows.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger, law student, self?

The responses received seemed worth sharing.

The following list is a compilation of words of advice that the obliging and generous lawyers of the Manitoba Bar provided to my students. With gratitude to my students and to the practitioners who gave of their most precious resource - their time – to say these things, here it is:

· Set your priorities and stick to them; don’t waiver.

· Learn about vicarious trauma and protect yourself as best you can.

· Take it one file at a time. There will always be another. Just do your best on the one in front of you.

· Cut yourself some slack.

· Everyone lands on their feet.

· You are good enough. You are smart enough, and yes you do measure up to the smart people around you!

· Find a self-care routine.

· Become a doctor.

· Networking is a form of currency that will serve you for your entire career.

· Chill out.

· Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself.

· Don’t quit.

· Careful where you work. Stress spreads.

· Don’t close doors on things you might not be interested in right now.

· Be comfortable saying when you don’t know something. You don’t have to be everything to everyone.

· It’s fine to take a while to figure out what you are interested in.

· Law school trains you to think like a lawyer, not how to practice law.

· Don’t worry about finding the right job right away, just look for the good experiences you can get.

· Don’t stress so much.

· Take care of yourself. There is always time for work but never enough time for yourself.

· Don’t just think about what kind of law you are interested in. Think of how you want to live.

· There is no one single way to be a good lawyer.

· Never underestimate your own power.

· Always stay humble but realize you deserve to be here as much as anyone else. Have faith in your abilities.

About Dr. Jaremko

Based in Ottawa, Dr. Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich is Gowling WLG's national manager of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

Rebecca is passionate about EDI. In her varied legal career, she has worked as a lawyer in litigation and law reform, and taught and researched in academia. Through her professional, academic, and personal endeavours, she has always been committed to her vision of an inclusive, collegial, and diverse legal profession and culture. She brings this commitment to her work at Gowling WLG.

Prior to joining the Gowling WLG team, Rebecca was director of the Graduate Diploma Program in Conflict Resolution at Carleton University's Department of Law and Legal Studies.

Rebecca speaks English fluently and speaks French conversantly.


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