Unexpected 6th Semester in D.C. experience perfectly caps student’s law school journey
I never meant to spend my last semester of law school living and working in Washington, D.C. — seeing Abe Lincoln whenever I wanted to and doing the work I came to law school to do. In fact, throughout my entire law school experience, I have consistently felt like I tripped and fell into this place, only knowing that I wanted to save the honey bees and help the people and thinking that maybe being a lawyer would help me do that. Deciding to go to D.C. felt much the same way, especially as a joint-degree student, because I always thought there was no way I could finish everything and graduate on time by spending a total of four semesters physically in Green Hall. Joke’s on me!
Back in November, I found myself sitting in Professor Jennifer Schmidt’s office, talking about a paper, when she said her usual, “Have you thought about 6th Semester in D.C.?” I laughed out loud and said a quick, “Yeah, nope, that’s impossible.” A few weeks later, I was in D.C. about to begin interning for the litigation team at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental advocacy organization.
I spent this last semester researching everything from the Americans with Disabilities Act to the migration patterns of the Atlantic right whale, and learning more than I ever would have learned studying for my last round of finals the week before they started. I met people from all over the world who are working on incredible projects and making a meaningful difference advocating for the earth. I practiced all those skills you learn in Lawyering during 1L year that I promptly forgot: sending demand letters, drafting motions, writing memos. And, believe it or not, I got to help save the honey bees.
If I could say one thing to anyone who will listen to me talk about law school or read this blog, it’s this: Take the opportunities life presents to you — whether they come through KU Law or anywhere else. If you think it’s crazy to move out of your apartment, complete your bar application and decide to move to D.C. all in one week, it is. But it’ll be worth it. Just because you don’t have a plan doesn’t mean you won’t end up somehow doing exactly what you want and need to do, even if it feels like a strange and happy accident (which I will be sure to continue to remind myself of as I begin this adventure called “bar prep and becoming an employed adult”).
As I write this, I know that in less than 25 days I will graduate and be asked, “So, what’s next?” at least 1,000 times. The truth is I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing after graduation, but I hope to be somewhere in the mountains, working for a nonprofit, advocating for clean air and water and the laws that keep them that way. Sure, having no set plan is a little unsettling, but it is also what has allowed me to take advantage of opportunities like the 6th Semester in D.C. program.
I know it’s easy to feel like everyone around you in Green Hall has a plan and if you don’t, you’ve failed. But that’s not true. No one has it all figured out. If you think you do, you’re lucky. But if you know you don’t, I think you’re even luckier. Not having a plan means you can experience things you never even knew you wanted. It means you can take those chances. Take those risks. Lean into the discomfort and the fear and the challenge and learn about who you are and what you need. My 6th Semester in D.C. was a wonderful and unexpected adventure filled with monuments, comedy clubs, museums, concerts, marches, cherry blossoms, occasional legal research, and, while it wasn’t always easy, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
— Maslyn Locke is a 3L from Los Alamos, New Mexico.