What Is The Point of 3L?

1L was great. Meeting a whole new slew of classmates was fun, the novelty of studying the law was exciting, and attempting to adopt a new way of thinking challenged and engaged me. Even the cold calls weren’t completely terrible, as they added some welcome suspense and drama to the experience.

2L wasn’t so bad either. I enjoyed feeling as though 1L had taught me a few things. I appreciated knowing that I was no longer a rank amateur with respect to the law and I liked knowing what to expect come exam time. The EIP interviewing process made me eager to get my summer job underway, but I transitioned easily back into school mode and before long I had immersed again in the law school experience and was enjoying my day-to-day routine.

I cannot, however, say that I have a similar level of affection for my 3L year, nascent as it is. Much has been written about whether three years are really necessary for a legal education to be adequate. I tend to think not, but I don’t wish to engage in this debate other than to say that the third year certainly seems pointless to me a few weeks into the final year. I don’t remember feeling this way in college. In fact, I recall looking at my impending graduation with dread, already feeling nostalgic for my college days, while I was still experiencing them. But I don’t think I will find it difficult to say goodbye to HLS come May. I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I’m sure I’ll be ready to go.

Part of my feeling of readiness to leave HLS no doubt comes from the fact that I, like most 3Ls, just spent the summer at the firm where I’ll be working after graduation. 3L now strikes me as an unnecessary hiatus from the real world, an unwelcome interruption to my career. Having spent ten weeks performing work that is substantially similar to what I’ll be doing as a first-year associate, it seems exceedingly unlikely that any courses I take this year are going to provide much in the way of help when it comes to actually doing my job.

What adds to my sense of 3L as a largely pointless exercise is the fact that many law school classes do not build to any significant extent on the foundations of earlier ones. Rather, many courses are essentially introductions to a relatively self-contained area of law. Courses like Trusts and Estates, Employment Law, and Bankruptcy, which are taken by large numbers of 3Ls may be interesting, but they could just as well be taken by 1Ls. There are some things you have to learn before you take these courses, but they in no way serve as a culmination of the law school experience. The lack of any real sense of progression of the law school curriculum makes the experience seem monotonous, and after four semesters, I feel as though I’ve had my fill.

I am well aware that when I am an associate at a law firm, I will look back at my life now with envy. I’m sure I will miss all the great aspects of being a student, like the copious amounts of free time and the ability to control my own schedule, when I am entrenched in the daily grind of working life. But appreciating the benefits of being a student is difficult when you feel as though you are ready to move on to the next phase of life.

Perhaps my feelings of readiness speak highly of HLS and the education I’ve received. HLS has certainly inspired in me confidence that I am prepared to take on the challenges I will encounter in my career. Paradoxically it seems, Harvard has done such a great job, that I can’t wait to leave.

One Foot Out the Door is a column written by an anonymous Harvard Law 3L. The column runs every other Thursday.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.

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