Thorns in roses: Struggles of a first year law student


By Nasra Omar

Looking back at my early teens, I cannot help but reminisce about when I would find happiness in the simplest of things. Just sitting on a rooftop could give me immense joy and peace. I would let the airy breeze caress my little soul, and sweep away all my problems, as if I had any. I liked to fantasise about my future. This little writer living rent free inside my head, liked to scribble on paper. I was fascinated by rhyming words. However, as I grew older, things changed and I suddenly loved going to the laboratory. I wanted to dissect specimen and put on white coats. There were days when I just wanted to be good at math, and days where I wanted to be a code programmer. With so many dreams, I was about to lose touch with words, and I adored words. Amidst all the confusion, I always felt that I was meant to be great, but never in my 18 years of living, did I think I would pursue law.

As I was being admitted into Kabarak University School of Law on a particular Wednesday morning, I was still in denial, that I was about to be a wakili. I am yet to believe that it is true. I like to hope that I am not the only one who believes in fate, that everything I do on planet earth has already been written in indelible ink, that, no amount of plans and worrying can change the future, that it is my destiny to be a lawyer and I cannot flee from it.

My first class, was probably one of the most overwhelming experiences in my university life. I recall, a video was played, displaying the swearing in of the president of Kenya and his deputy. Despite choosing to practice law, I was a politically apathetic. That evening, was probably my first time watching an inauguration ceremony. Our constitutional law lecturer had not given the best of impression for a first class. He seemed too well collected and cool for a teacher. He naturally talked without a fuss, and tried to be funny but apparently most of us were not moved by his sense humour. I do not clearly remember what he taught, but he certainly said something about how, "law school is not for villagers…'"Though I understood it as a metaphor, his facial expressions somehow messed up my mind and I felt like one of the villagers he was criticising. "If your motive is money this is not the course for you'", he said. Honestly, though this might be true, it is a little absurd since money is a pretty dominant reason why I agreed to pursue the legal profession in the first place; not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that I want a comfortable life and being an advocate is a lucrative opportunity. And yes, I was there for the money and maybe, just maybe law was not meant for me.

The next class was not any better. For some known reason, legal practitioners are known to wear suits and formal attire. However, this particular lecturer was different. He put on a multi-coloured kitenge and stormed in casually. He was a fluffy-haired light skinned man with narrowed eyes. His stare gave the impression that he was suspicious of us all. Nonetheless, he possessed a good sense of humour and maintained a comfortable environment. However, the words he uttered were just as confusing as his bushy hair. He kept on blaming the education system, for bringing up students who lack creativity and reasoning. He constantly repeated the statement 'think critically' as he constantly scratched his bearded chin. Little did he know, that I was critically thinking on how to think critically.

Politics was the least of my worries, but to my surprise my fellow classmates were well versed. They used unnecessarily big words that nobody understood and bended every conversation into politics. During the first week, several individuals raised arguments on emergent national issues. A few had already grasped a handful of landmark cases and laws. Some even seemed like they wrote the Constitution. I did not even know that the Kenyan Constitution had a section called 'Schedule'. Neither was I familiar with the prominent persons of the State nor did I have knowledge on significant events that occurred in my own country.

Whoever invented formal garments must be a God-sent angel to lawyers. 'official clothing pressure' is real in the legal profession. On a random Tuesday, you would see students walking in a tuxedo and a briefcase. Ideally, a white shirt with a neutral tie beneath their black, grey or navy suit should be found in any lawyer's wardrobe. No wonder people get shocked at the discovery that lawyers don't have as much money as they appear to have. I did not even own a single blazer, and during such days I would wonder whether the career was my cup of tea. As most course mates were trying to fit into the culture, I was quarrelling with my inner voice to stop whispering any self-doubt.

Before joining law school, I used to think highly of lawyers. They are known to be a little wiser than an average citizen. They have earned the respect of many in the society, this is probably the major reason why my mother insisted I join the advocacy path. However now that I am becoming one, I somehow do not feel as respected as I thought I would. I thought my intellectual discipline would improve and I would be more committed to my studies. Unfortunately, I still waste time scrolling through social media and watching Korean dramas.

I love reading and I thought I would be a champion in this. I mean law is not algebra, it is just reading laws in English, until I came to realise legal books are so hectic. The books are literally nightmares, filled with complex words that need critical analysis. Reading a thousand cases, writing down a hundred briefs, and a whole package of no movies, no parties, no friends and no relationships. Feeling unsure of my potential, and the people around me expecting me to help them solve legal problems just makes me go silent. I like silence but now everyone looks forward to an argument or a debate. Latin words, I hardly know any, the last time I checked, 'prima facie' was a skincare product. Some days I'm exhausted and drained and I wonder if this degree wants to kill me. Trying to stay positive, hoping it will all be worth it is a constant everyday battle.

There is famous saying which says, 'life is unfair to everyone, that is why it is fair'. The rest of my university life may be long and whether I like or not it is shaped right now. I can choose to blame my circumstances on fate, bad luck or bad choices, or I can choose to fight back. Things are not always going to be fair but for the most part, I will get what I give. The rest of my life is being shaped right now by deciding who I want to be. The rest of my life starts right now. 

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