Embrace Your Weirdness

My 1L professors consisted of a person who could hold a handstand longer than most of the United States Olympic Gymnastics Team, a cat enthusiast (three cats for one person is just too many), Pooh Bear, and the most endearing, sweater-vest-wearing, criminal prosecutor you’ve ever seen. And I haven’t even mentioned the students yet.

Needless to say, people at HLS can be pretty eccentric. But that is the whole point. You are here because beyond killer LSAT scores, great academics and exceptional recommendations, you are unique and probably a little eccentric. I am here to tell you to embrace it and then learn how to make your eccentricities mesh with others.

Coming into HLS, I braced myself to be the only Samoan. I believed that explaining exactly where that “tiny island in the Pacific” was what I would be practicing the most in law school. Instead, I found myself welcomed into the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). A group of students who were proud of their cultural heritage and shared a historical relationship to our country and its legal structures similar to my own. I was still unique, but I came to understand how my eccentricities fit within the HLS system, how I could transfer knowledge about federal Indian law to my own indigenous legal practice and identify ways in which the system worked differently for me.

This translation between my individual understandings and my classmates has developed into one of the most fulfilling aspects of my law school career and promises a fascinating legal practice in the future. It was what propelled me through the darker days in December and excites me about returning for the new school year this fall.

Often, entering law school you are advised to continue to do the things outside of school that you love. That is an important piece of advice, but I want to challenge you to not only continue to do things you love but to share those things with your classmates. Incorporate what makes you unique or eccentric into your law school experience, because it will often make your time here richer and help give you the perspective you will need as you devote yourself to the challenge of 1L.

Ultimately, law school is intended to teach you a system, how to transfer logic and identify inconsistencies. Luckily, the most important system in that equation is yourself. Learning how you operate within the world and then situating yourself to work well with others is a lesson that will serve you perpetually as you move through this endeavor. And we are fortunate that this school has a club for pretty much anything, so let those sonnet-composing, material-science-Ph.D., Guinness-record-holder-for-most hot-dogs-eaten, freak flags fly!

Leilani Doktor

Leilani Doktor is a 3L. She is the co-president of Harvard Law School Student Government.

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