Well, here I am sitting at home on my First Nation and I am just thinking about my next journey in life. I am heading off to law school this fall and I am quite excited. I am also nervous but the excitement really overshadows the nerves/anxiety.
I wanted to write this post as a follow up to all the other posts about I’ve written so far about my new journey. I have written about it here, here and here. The one post I talked about how expensive it is just to apply to law school. I am not even talking about paying for actual law school here folks. I am talking about just applying: paying to take the LSAT, attempting to attend any information sessions that potential schools are hosting (like the Canadian Law School Forum hosted in Toronto once a year), then paying to apply to the law schools you are interested in attending.
I was accepted on a conditional acceptance where you have to fulfill certain conditions in order to have a full acceptance. The conditions for me were to attend a pre-law program geared toward Indigenous law students. I am not mad for having these conditions. I am very thankful actually. Attending this program would have only been accomplished if it had been a condition. That’s a different story.
But this also means that I couldn’t work during the summer. Well, it meant I couldn’t work the job that I wanted to work at, which is this summer program working in Alberta as a youth mentor in Indigenous communities. I worked in this program in 2013 and I had a blast! I will be aiming to applying in 2014 if another opportunity doesn’t present itself (that’s how awesome this program is). I am moving to Ottawa in about two days. Moving is fuckin expensive. I’ve moved many times. This time I actually have a place to live and move to. When I first moved to London ON, I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know where I was living (I also wasn’t going for school).
Now that I am on my way to law school in Ottawa, I thought to follow up with all these pre-law posts.
I will still emphasize that it is hard work and that it is still a shitty thing that there are barriers in just applying to law school that exist. It is frustrating because my school has a social justice focus but there are no scholarships for Indigenous students. It is also frustrating because for my virtual orientation the dean of the school said, “Law school is for everyone.” Sure, only everyone who is anyone that can afford to apply in the first place.
For me, I could only apply to two law schools because that’s all I could afford. Fortunately, one of them was my top choice. It wasn’t exactly the end of the world. I also couldn’t just apply to more law schools, which was some of the advice that I received. Useless. I was broke after just applying to two schools. It was frustrating to receive this advice and then it was also frustrating with having to deal with questions from my peers, “Oh your band isn’t paying for it?” I have to pay for it first. If I couldn’t pay for it first, then I couldn’t apply at all. I just wanted to scream at this advice and these questions.
Then when I attended the Canadian Law School Forum in Toronto, the only reason I could attend that was because it was two hours away. I had some questions that I wanted answered that were not really being answered anywhere else. Can I apply to law school and should I apply to law school if I have a criminal record (no convictions though)? The short answer was yes, I can and I should. So, I did. But this question wasn’t really being answered anywhere else by anyone else who could answer it truthfully. Many people offered the advice, “Well maybe you should try to get a pardon now” and this advice came in my second year when I actually started to think about life after undergrad. That was also not very helpful advice as the cost to apply for a pardon was the same amount as my rent at the time. So my decisions boiled down to two choices: rent or pardon.
Following this, one of the individuals at the Forum was wondering why more Aboriginal students didn’t attend the event. Well, since there is only one forum held in Canada for all of Canada which is hosted in Toronto, that creates some major barriers to getting to the event. I only could afford attending because the bus ticket cost less than $60 and I had a place to stay at no cost. Not everyone is in my position though.
What I am beginning to understand and see is that there are some major issues with understanding accessibility from many perspectives and not just while in law school.
In the end, being accepted to law school has been quite a learning experience. I cried. I laughed. I grew frustrated many, many times. Now that I am officially going, I wish I started working on this in first year or at the latest, in second year. In first year, I still had no idea what I was doing.
I am thankful for all the lessons learned, the people I’ve met, including the ones who realize these barriers exist. But I also want to highlight that barriers exist even before one is accepted to law school. Writing the LSAT wasn’t cheap and if you don’t have the extra funds to fork over, you have to ensure that you write well on the first try (obviously you should aim high and work hard even on your first try but you know sometimes we don’t always do good on the first try).
My only advice to people thinking about law school is this, start early. If you know you want to attend law school early, start researching the process now and begin looking at prep books (if you can’t afford the $600-1000 LSAT prep classes). I know the prep books are also kind of expensive but there are a lot of practice exams online. Check out LSAT prep accounts on social media too. Sometimes people will advertise they can give away their prep books (I gave mine to the Indigenous services at my university). Check out other blogs written by and for potential law students. If you are unsure, talk to someone who you look up for some guidance or who is in law school. Reach out for help! There are tons of people who want to help others succeed. Just don’t feel like as if you are alone in this process. It can be alienating and isolating but don’t let it get to you by isolating yourself further. Ask for help and reach out to others.
And always remember, you are worth it!