People going into their first year of law school know that law school is going to be difficult. It may even be the toughest thing that they have ever had to face. Like ever. They prepare mentally. They read books, blogs and blawgs on the topic. They speak to people who have had experience in the area. They drop enjoyable but unproductive hobbies in favor of said research on law school. By the time first-year orientation rolls around, they are fired up and ready to go.

But in all their preparations for their big first day, they may have forgotten to consider that they are not the only ones going to law school, that they are only half of the equation. Because when they go, they take all the relationships they have –  and all the obligations they have to the people they are in those relationships with – with them. Romantic relationships included.

Being someone who is going into law school, but who has been on the other side as well, I would like to share some insight into what your significant other(s) (hereafter referred to as “SO”) might be feeling and might share with you, and what YOU can do to support them. Because, let’s face it, going to law school is a selfish thing, and being a grad student forces you to be selfish with your time. But when you’re through being scary-evil-time-hoarding hermit, you’re going to want the person you care about to still be around three years later.

  • “I won’t be able to see you in, like, forever.” If you plan on being a good student, and definitely if you want to make law review, you’re probably definitely going to spend a lot of time hitting the books and preparing for class.

What you can do: Help your SO understand why you’re going to law school and why your law school grades are important. Then, take out a calendar, write out your law school schedule, and make sure you schedule a day when the both of you can just hang out and do whatever it is you do as a couple. Make sure that day is a priority, and that SO knows it’s a priority.

Also, it’s healthy to make friends in law school, but it might not be a good idea to frequently substitute “going out” with SO and law buddies as that one day a week you spend together. He/she still needs to feel like they are an important part of your life, even though law school clearly is your No. 1 priority.

  • “You won’t have time for our relationship.” Yeah, this kinda relates to you hitting the books again.

What you can do: Don’t forget that there are other ways to connect with SO during the week. If you can’t see them, maybe schedule a certain time in the evening, every other day, whatever works for you, when you can give them a call and maybe catch up and share things about your day. If calling is too much (Really? If it is then I wouldn’t want you to be my boyfriend), then you can send an email, or get a Twitter account and touch base that way.

  • “We won’t be able to go out like we normally do.” You’re taking out huge student loans and have little or no income. You probably won’t be able to go to a fancy frou frou French restaurant, or even the not-so-fancy Red Lobster, like you did in your pre-law school days.

What you can do: Instead of going to the movies, rent a movie. Instead of going out to eat, maybe cook a meal at home. Maybe take a walk at the park, or go for a run by the beach or on some trails. The point is, when you’re out with SO, you have so little time that the venue or the activity sometimes isn’t very important. The reconnecting with each other and the enjoyment of each other’s company is.

  • “All you talk about is law school.” Stop it. No, really. Get a hobby or something.

What you can do: Yes, law school is tough and all-consuming. But you don’t have to talk about it to SO every single time, and at the expense of talking about more important things. Like feelings. Seriously though, the reason why it’s good to have someone you can speak with intimately is because they can help you get away from the stress that is law school sometimes. Why bring that burden onto an already time-burdened relationship.

  • “You’re really annoying to argue with.” Yes, you are.

What you can do: Don’t be an ass. Remember that some arguments are not meant to be won and that you have to LISTEN to what SO is saying. Sometimes they bring up a point not to convince or persuade you, but to share a point of interest. Don’t use lawyer speak. Communicate with SO, don’t preach or talk at them.

This list can go on forever, believe me. But as someone who has lived on the other half, there’s just one thing I hope all future 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls understand. Those of us on the other half just want to know that we still matter, that you respect our relationship and the sacrifices we have to make as well. If you do, we are more likely to take our half and meet your half somewhere in the middle. (Not meant to sound dirty, but if that’s how you take it I can do nothing to sanitize your dirty, dirty mind. Well, maybe, except this)

Photo: Ayumina / Flickr

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One Response to Law Students: How the other half lives

  1. […] enough to cover all the, ahem, ‘material’. Which is why it is all the more important to bank as much good will as you can by scheduling outings with your friends, family and significant other, or even going on a summer […]

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