The Homestretch of Our Online Law School Experience

By Chauntae De Gannes

February is well underway, which marks six months of online law school learning during a pandemic. As a 1L student, I am impressed with how both students and faculty have handled the new environment. Collectively, we are accustomed to Zoom etiquette, and hopefully, everyone can find the “raise hand function” on the latest update of the platform. My experiences so far reflect the law school community’s willingness to adapt and overcome the challenges we face this year.

For me, a typical day in the life of an online law student includes exchanging jokes in our small group’s Messenger chat, pet appearances on Zoom and the potential of a professor’s kid being a surprise guest. Among these occurrences, an average day also involves trying to find things on Brightspace, wi-fi connectivity dropping, and asking if someone has the link to join the next class. The shared experiences I described are not what I imagined law school entailing this year. Quite frankly, I had few expectations and likely shared many of the concerns other first-years expressed over the summer.

I may not have everything law-school-related figured out yet, but there is a silver lining to the virtual classroom lifestyle thus far. For example, some of my peers relish the freedom of wearing sweats clothes to class each day and the ability to make a bagel mid-lecture if they are starting to get hungry. Additionally, writing exams from your bedroom’s comfort without the intensity of traditional testing conditions provide solace during the current circumstances.

However, now that we are so far along in the school year, the embrace of online learning is starting to wear off. It is not uncommon to hear classmates mention zoom fatigue or feelings of burnout. For example, learning virtually can be hard for those in different time zones or those navigating additional home responsibilities. Among others not listed, these factors are often compounded with the challenge of connecting with classmates in the absence of informal social opportunities. Moreover, the optimism of seeing one another in person soon is also dwindling as we collectively face ongoing adversity during COVID-19. Together, the described hurdles make for the perfect storm of exhaustion at this point in the year.

Needless to say, I encourage you to think about what resilience means to you while we endeavour to complete a full year of law school online. Being in the homestretch has evoked mixed emotions, knowing that March interviews and April exams are around the corner. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment for making it this far when it feels like the only easy day was yesterday. Meanwhile, in contrast, doubts remain about the endurance it takes to finish the year off strong.

As we continue to be both law students and humans during this whirlwind of a year, I hope you find a silver lining to whatever it is you are currently going through. For starters, this moment in time will make for great stories into the future to share with the next generation of law students. I hope my reflections remind you that it is okay to feel what you feel. You have made it this far in the year, which I commend. Be proud of yourself for the past few months of work, and don’t be afraid of cutting yourself some well-deserved slack.

Published by Chauntae

Chauntae De Gannes is a law student at the University of Ottawa. Chauntae is passionate about technology and higher education.

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