Life outside of law (by Stephanie McHugh)

Stephanie McHugh is entering her third year of studying the Juris Doctor at Melbourne University. 

Over the past few days, I haven’t felt quite at ease. For a while, I could not put my finger on what had me perturbed. However, I think I know now what has unsettled me. The start of the academic semester is fast approaching.

Over this summer, I traveled to Asia, and it was a delight. For the main reason that in those blissful few weeks, I forgot I was a law student.

Although I was aware that choosing to study law would be a huge undertaking, I do not think I was prepared for the way in which it would alter how I perceived myself. Everything in a law student’s life fits around law. Law becomes priority #1. Your family knows your (hectic) schedule. They miss you, because you simply don’t have the time anymore to be around. Of course, any rational person would argue that being a law student, or legal professional, does not have to be your primary characteristic. And that you are more than your chosen career. That’s easy to forget, however, when you spend your days preparing for classes, your nights pouring over cases and your weekends in the library.

All of a sudden – law is all we talk about. But while I was away, something peculiar occurred. I didn’t talk about law.

Travelers in hostels would ask: where are you from? Australia. Oh, what do you do? I study law. Cool – Want to go out? They didn’t care. It was glorious. They could not care less about the latest High Court appeal, my marks from last semester, or if I was going to apply for clerkships this year.

I was initially thrown off course. How do I interact with non-law people? When did I become so boring? Actually, I can almost pinpoint it to the beginning of my law degree. I traveled with a girlfriend who studies with me. Towards the end of our trip, she turned to me and lamented the fact we had to return to our lives soon, and that the new year of law was fast approaching. Oh law! I replied. I actually forgot we did law. Let’s get another G&T. Ah holidays …

In the post-holiday period, my family got their daughter and sister back. I could finally go to family gatherings, and not have to excuse myself for the thousandth time on account of a paper with a looming due date. I could have my family over to my new place and cook them all an elaborate meal. I could explore my other interests (and ones I never thought I’d be interested in). I actually rode a bicycle (for the first time in about seven years). I went rock climbing.

So. Back to law, back to the “grind”. But this time around, I won’t dive in fully. I want to maintain my interests and explore new ones outside of law. That’s something I completely lost sight of last year. Because I’m not Stephanie: Law Student. I’m Stephanie: friend, daughter, girlfriend, housemate, yoga enthusiast, novice bike rider, traveler, chef. Oh and yes, I simply happen to study law in this short period of my life.

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