Milk and Honey Magazine describes how to keep the Christian faith and focus on Jesus in law school.

Faith in Law School

Jessica Freitas

(an encouragement to law students from J. Freitas, above)

I am entering into my third and final year of law school in Malibu, California. Law school requires a few disclaimers–I can’t speak for other graduate degrees, but in my experience law school is uniquely focused on competition, comparison, and branding yourself in your interactions with peers and colleagues. As a Christian, it is a constant struggle to avoid comparing grades, job opportunities, oral advocacy team memberships, industry contacts . . . you get the idea. The difficulty increases when the legal field at large is judging you by these various indicators to determine your candidacy potential for a job. As jobs out of law school become more difficult to achieve, these factors become more important to the average law student. 

The average Christian in law school, however, should be striving for God’s purpose and resting daily in the assurance that God has a plan, which no errant grades or lack of contacts could prevent. 

Keeping those promises from God front and center were the goal of my law school experience. However, they began to fade as I, who expected success and did not expect to need to rely on God to give me opportunities, began struggling across the spectrum of law school. After finishing my second (or “2L”) year of law school, I realized this struggle was not as apparent to others as it was to me. As God slowly revealed to me where I was going wrong and how to grow closer to Him, I decided to share with my peers my real law school story via the traditionally least honest reflection of ourselves: social media. 

Milk and Honey Magazine describes how to keep the Christian faith and focus on Jesus in law school.

A week after finals, I published this for everyone I knew:

“I just posted the last of the photos from my 2L year, and I wanted to give you all the real story. The one "not pictured here." I recently heard a speaker that said Christians often want to come off as put together and heroic so we can show that the gospel "works" and is something everyone else could want. But in that we do ourselves and Jesus a disservice - He bled and everybody saw it, we should be real too. I don't feel like I actively hide things, but what I post on Facebook doesn't quite capture my life.

So! 2L - not just hikes, museums, parties, and concerts. I have actually described it to friends as the hardest year of my life–which, as I discovered, was mostly due to my choices. I finished 1L and felt like it wasn't the huge trial everyone was describing, so with only one emotional breakdown over grades in the summer I came in to 2L believing that I had stacked my plate high but I could handle it– I had handled everything before!

Nope. In no particular order, in the Fall I had to quit an activity and let people down, received feedback that my work product was below expectations in my three most important commitments, and didn't feel like getting out of bed pretty much every morning. I got a little depressed, had a few more emotional breakdowns, and as manically as I tried to be everywhere for everyone, people still slipped through the cracks and I felt terrible about it. Don't get me wrong– I met some amazing friends, often had a wonderful time. But you know that part– those are the things I took pictures of and posted.

I recuperated over winter break, and came back confident in the Spring that I could fix the mess I got myself in–after all, other than that last semester I had done it before! (Are you sensing a pattern?) Change of scenery, no change in the struggle. Running back and forth from an internship downtown to school threw off my focus, and I felt like a zombie in most classes. I was back among friends, but still managed to feel terribly alone. I went after positions I wasn't meant for and felt like I failed. I got bitter about grades, I got my heart broken. I was so inwardly focused on my emotions during finals that it was the longest two weeks ever.

So after the year finally ended, I was crying out to God – WHY? Wasn't I praying, going to church? Why did I feel the same as I had felt for the past three, four, five months?

It was then I did something different (finally). I listened. On a road trip to San Luis Obispo and back I listen to sermons that told me that I was loved, that I had so many blessings, and that God could rename this year - maybe the subtitle of 2L wouldn’t be "The Worst."

I went to Vintage Church's retreat last weekend, and God illuminated my problem (which you may already have perceived): I was operating at human capacity. Mine. Which, contrary to my belief, is not infinite, and quite limited. I viewed salvation from God as an energy drink, a cup of coffee that I would bolt down while I ate breakfast and hope that it would get me through the day until I could collapse at 11pm. Salvation is not a cup of coffee. It is a whole freaking ocean. That weekend, I realized this whole year I had made goals and run after them as hard as I could, not asking if they were what was best and assuming I could predict God's plan for me. But it wasn't, so I hit many closed doors. 

But I didn’t have to keep living that way! God's capacity and plan for my life is much, much bigger. This realization was so freeing, and I've been experiencing God a whole new way - I'm taking time to listen. Not just praying/reciting my problems and asking for help with goals I've created, but listening. It takes longer. I have to get up a little earlier. But it is making a difference. I’m moving with a little more purpose, a little less frantic. It's peaceful.

So team, there you go. I bleed. I go through seasons of emotional turmoil and wonder why nothing changes. But that is not because salvation doesn't work - its because sometimes I forget how effective it is, and treat it like a tool for me to use rather than seeing myself as creation submitting to a God who loves me. And that is a pretty dramatic shift in perspective.

Today, I'm actually not feeling depressed. I'm feeling thankful.”

Law school will still be challenging when I go back in the Fall, and I will still be lacking in comparison to many of my peers under the conventional system. But - I pray the difference will be that I will not be looking around to compare–I will be looking up to praise.