Things I’ve Learnt from (Nearly) 3 Years of Law School: Ayu Maylinda

It’s been nearly 3 years since I shed my small-girl shoes and put on my big-girl pants and enrolled in the Juris Doctor course. Of course, when I first entered the Law Building on 185 Pelham Street I had the equally obnoxious and ubiquitous sense of self-importance. I was better than the lad who just walked past me on the way to uni, the barista down the road and every other plebeian undergraduate student within a 10km radius.

Fortunately, by the end of the first semester I felt that seemingly earned sense of triumph dissipate into the gutter via stress tears (they taste a bit salty if you’re wondering), abrupt and unprompted fits of laughter that transform into stress tears within 5 minutes, and the sweat of running to 9AM class at 9:15AM.

Today I am both jaded and cleverer for it… I guess? For instance, I have grown sick of various parties throwing around the word ‘diversity’ like it means something more than a marketing strategy (more on that below), but my bullshit radar has also been sharpened beyond belief. After nearly three months of attempting to gain purchase of the notion that I will finally be graduating from Law School, I have compiled a list of things that I have learnt throughout my time in 185 Pelham Street.

  1. Average may just be that – good enough. By all accounts, I am painfully average on paper. While others wince at a 79, I jump for joy at a 65; in essence, my transcript evidences all the times I have failed to apply myself either due to chronic procrastination or just not being “good enough”. I even wrote a De Minimis article about the time I had to re-sit an 8 hour exam (hi Consti, hope you’re treating others better girl). However, to everyone’s surprise (including my own mother’s), yours truly has somehow gotten herself a grad job. I’m not going to preach about how unimportant grades are (because they’re kind of important if, say, you’re interested in a career in academia or becoming a Judge’s Associate); I’m simply saying that the world works in mysterious ways. How I got this job is between my recruiters, my God and me, I guess. I’m still waiting for Him to communicate the truth.
  2. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you want to join in. Us law students are rarely being dramatic when we say that we should not be provoked during SWOTVAC. That 7-day window is a precious time which can either make or break our academic records for the semester, depending on how much reading you actually did during the semester (I usually leave the requisite panicking till this 7-day window too – procrastination doesn’t just apply to studying). During this 7-day window, the tension in the air on Levels 3 and 6 is usually best described as “controlled panic”, and this atmosphere, assuming it doesn’t kill you, will make you want to pick up your books and wholeheartedly embrace every single word in the books as if it is Gospel. If, like me, you are sorely lacking in motivation on the academic front, not to worry – just chuck yourself on Level 3 long enough and you will experience what it is like to have others feel the stress for you… and soon enough that stress will fire up every single synapse in your brain to do the right thing.
  3. Don’t be afraid to change. During our former Dean Carolyn Evans’ Orientation address, we first-years were told to write down the reason we came to law school. For the purpose of journalistic completeness, I scoured my entire apartment to find the notebook in which I wrote my so-called purpose… and I think I might have chucked it in the bin. Whoops.However, I think some of my peers may be able to fill in the blank for me. After all, I have always represented myself as a future human rights advocate of sorts and believed for the longest time that I would work for the UN in some capacity or other.The end of this potentially tenuous story is that I will not be working for the UN.The short explanation for that ending is that life works in mysterious ways; and by mysterious ways I mean the subconscious submission to the forces that push you towards a career in corporate law. An even shorter explanation is that I have come to realise that I enjoy corporate law.

    Shock horror ensues as the former Equality and Social Justice Director of the LSS embraces the evil of capitalism.

    During my clerkship, I realised how naïve I was in dismissing an entire career path solely on the basis that I would not succumb to the career trajectory so heavily peddled at Melbourne Law School. Rebellion may be cute at 15, but it is not necessarily wise at 25. I will happily laugh with you at the fact that I may have sold my soul Faustian-style, but at least I have now learnt the importance of exploring your options thoroughly before deciding whether you want to do something, and giving things (and people) a fair shot.

  1. Diversity is a marketing strategy that you should not buy into. Whether it is the Faculty or the LSS campaigners keen to get their fellow students on their side, one thing is clear – they want you to know how diverse they want their world to be. People of colour emblazon the Ground floor corridor like Boy Scout badges. It is not enough that people of colour exist within the walls of 185 Pelham Street – everyone wants you to know that they love it and embrace it like a member of their family.As a person of colour, it is exhausting when even law firms get into the contest of having the best diversity creds, because it is not only insulting but also utterly dehumanising. After years of witnessing the Law School recruit more and more international students without at least informing them that their chances of gaining employment in Australia are actually abysmal, for instance, you come to realise that the best way of gauging whether an institution truly roots for people like you is to look around with a healthy dose of scepticism and observe how people like you are being treated by its members. Look deeper and you will find deep ideological issues that have only been rectified in the last 2 years, with said institution then claiming the consequent diversity cred from student-led activism. Look even deeper and you will find the most entrenched form of institutional apathy, to the point of ossification.That is all.
  2. The law school bubble is real. I believe this sentiment is best encapsulated by the great Kourtney Kardashian, who once said and I quote, “Kim, there’s people that are dying.”Just like Kim Kardashian cried for her lost diamond earring, the good bloke Ptolemy once thought that every heavenly body revolved around the Earth.Believe it or not, there are people who actually do not care that we are students at Australia’s No. 1 Law School. Don’t get it twisted, and, more importantly, don’t forget that the real world exists.
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