The first stage of the U of T course selection process ended yesterday morning (hopefully if you go to U of T you are aware of this already), and the passing of the deadline has reminded me that the summer, for better or worse, will soon be over. School brightens (or blights?) the near horizon. At this time I can’t help but consider the differences between the student lifestyle and the firm lifestyle.
I think a good way to sum it up is this: scale. There are many skills familiar to both the student-at-law and the student proper. Research, analysis, writing, communication – all are relevant. However, the student-at-law works in an environment where everything is bigger (or at least it seems that way). The stakes are higher. The learning curve is curvier. Deadlines seem deadlier.
It’s important to point out that this can be both good and bad. The intellectual payoff to really committing to a big assignment at work – ie, the amount you actually take away in the end – is huge compared to what you get when you strategically ignore your Torts paper until the night before and hand in ill-researched dross. Being forced by the big-firm environment to delve right in can be extremely rewarding.
But it can also be overwhelming. The virtues of firm life are easily lost on the summer student surrounded by deadlines. These are the times when the easy ways of student-hood seem irresistible, and the prospect of their return brings some comfort.
In the end, however, I think the step into the firm environment is a step worth taking. There are challenges, but the rewards and the sense of progression are enough to convince us all to keep at it. So if you intend to pursue a job at a firm (CBB, or anywhere) and are feeling unsure, keep in mind that it’s all just a matter of scale.