Dating and Relationships in Law School
Law students are driven and passionate with lives that extend far beyond the walls of Chancellor Day (or Gelber). Having been involved in many passionate, funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking chats with the women of the faculty, we have compiled the honest accounts of 12 students. While they run the gamut of dating experiences, many are united by a desire to connect with others, a recognition of inherent challenges, and a rejection of frivolous and sexist exchanges.
With special thanks to Rachel, JF, and Vicky for the idea.
Dating as a trans law student has been... interesting, to say the least. Mind you, I'm in a committed relationship. In this relationship, the amount of work involved in law school made it difficult to spend much time together without working at the same time, which perhaps made it a bit awkward when I was studying and they weren’t - an awkwardness that dissipated when they began studying too
Our relationship has been open for a long time, and I was also single for a while. My experience therefore was twofold. Firstly, it's hard to make time to go on dates, so dating apps and sites are very appealing as they allow you to save time by extensively vetting people beforehand. Secondly, it never fails to surprise men that I am in law school: apparently, being attractive and a woman (or perhaps just the latter?) precludes being academically successful and or intelligent. Of course, that may be also partially due to the fact that cis het men tend to oversexualise trans women, and thus anything unrelated to being a sex object is a surprise. But that's speculation on my part. Interestingly, none of this has been much of an issue when talking with women and non-binary people. There's an interesting gendered dynamic there.
I presume there would have been more negative reactions to my being a law student had I not been myself very critical of law as a field.
As a law student who does not fit normal beauty standards, dating is next to impossible because law students and lawyers can be quite judgemental. I've been told to reduce my weight, wear make up, dye my hair, look more girly, etc. On the flip side, when dating non-legal people, I get made fun of for being in law, told corny and not-funny lawyer jokes and of course the worst one, being asked to be a sugar mama. Dating before was simple as I was in more progressive spaces. My degree and looks weren’t the main reason for dating me.
The worst is when a guy responds to my law student status in saying "you must be really smart". Why can't my intelligence stand alone? Why does it need to be justified by my acceptance into law school? What assumption was made about my intelligence before they found out I was a law student?
I once had a guy tell me that he could help me pitch myself to firms, as I'd be an easy sell. He thought he was being supportive, while I took it to be patronizing. I can pitch myself, thank you very much.
Dating is not easy as a law student. First, you have the whole scheduling issue. The few times where I've tried to put myself out there on an online dating site, I always felt overwhelmed because I didn't have the time to take dating seriously. Law school and all of my other commitments are so time consuming. Second, linked with the scheduling issue is the fact that student life is not ideal to build relationships. I started seeing someone right before the end of the winter semester, but then I was spending my summer away from Montreal. Dating cannot lead to a relationship if you keep leaving! The third problem that I have encountered is men's reactions when I tell them I am a law student on an online dating site. Some are impressed, like "Wow, you must be hard-working". But then, some are dead silent and never reply after I tell them. I can't help but think that being a smart and ambitious law student is threatening to some men and that's why the conversation stops after they find out what I study. And finally, there's the general disrespect that you experience as a woman on dating sites. When your first line is "can you sit on my face?" or "do you give good blow jobs?" that shows me that you have no respect for me as a person: unmatch.
There's something about being a female law student: we seem to stand a little taller, we seem to speak a little sharper. To do so with the idea of charm in mind isn't contradictory. I don't think that's where the difficulty lies. However, compound that with a schedule punctuated with only brief reprieves from the faculty and an épuisement of emotional energy from the heaviness of the 'legal future'...then the idea of becoming vulnerable to someone new starts feeling like an unattractive prospect itself. If there's anything I've learnt about dating, it is that timing matters. Sometimes feeling ready at the right time feels just a little too much given the weight of the expectations and doubt cast by us and around us, within and outside the faculty. How can I feel at ease when I'm constantly having to prove myself (sometimes just to myself)? That's one extreme. For the other, the story is much better told by Destiny's Child: "can you keep up"?
Je suis une 1L, alors j'ai l'impression de ne pas m'être encore complètement adaptée à mon statut d'étudiante en droit. J'équilibre encore difficilement mes études, mes autres projets et ma vie sociale. Je n'ai pas encore pris d'habitudes saines et j'ai l'impression d'être toujours occupée... So my dating life is a mess. As a polyamourous person, I am open to exploring multiple relationships, but that kind of dating pattern is harder to manage. Now that I am a law student, I feel like I just cannot deal and I'm slowly distancing myself from all my existing relationships. Deux de ces relations ont implosé à la fin de ma première session, ce qui fut pour moi une expérience plutôt déstabilisante et déprimante... et qui ne m'a pas aidée en période d'examen. I don't have time to create new relationships either so I fear I might eventually just stop dating altogether. Also, I feel like I missed some opportunities. I've been asked out and said no a few times already because I could not find time in my schedule for a date. Sometimes, after a day of studying, I feel like going out or just spending time with someone, but I don't have that kind of relationship with anyone where I can just go "hey we haven't talked in 4 months but are you available right this second? If not I'll reach out again in 4 months." That's something I could maybe develop with someone but again, I don't have time to get there. J'ai aussi souvent l'impression que mes études en droit me nuisent au niveau relationnel. Je proviens du milieu théâtral et les gens qui m'entourent sont surtout des artistes. Plusieurs de ces personnes ne comprennent pas pourquoi j'ai entrepris des études en droit et je me sens souvent jugée négativement par mon entourage. J'ai l'impression de m'être coupée de certaines éventuelles relations pour cette raison. Je pourrais peut-être m'essayer avec des gens en droit, à la place? That has yet to happen!
Being told that it was strange to be on a date with me since apparently everyone at faculty thinks I am a lesbian.
"Where do you study?" "At Oxford University/Cambridge University/McGill University" "Woahhhh you must be so clever. That's like so amazing, you are amazing. Wow, just wow (some kind of creepy wink or exhale of breath or lip licking). I like women I can have an intellectual conversation with." Then he proceeds to making dull and vapid conversation that involves showering me with so many compliments dripping with condescension because they are still in awe that a woman could be "so intelligent, wow, you're just, so smart, wow, and beautiful, that's a woman I want, an intelligent and beautiful one." Well, mate, you may want an intelligent woman, (not gonna ask me what I want?? No, ok, cool) but your exceedingly witty patter has driven me to look elsewhere. Oh, and stop winking at me and saying "I'll know who to call if I get into trouble then". Yes, please, call me from prison, I will tell you all about administrative law and trusts. We can have all the intellectual discussions you would not let me have with you on our date because all you wanted to do was tell me how brilliant I am, but not actually listen to anything I am saying. I'm sure it will be really helpful.
This has happened so many times, I can't actually keep track. It's so boring. I put a lot of time and effort into my academic achievements, and to have them belittled to a "wow" and a wink by a person who met me 5 minutes ago, as a way of getting into my pants, is just...sexist.
At first there was invisible pressure. Parent's friends began asking me on labour day weekend of 1L whether there were any cute boys at law school. I went into 1L having been single for nearly 2 years and finally feeling like I was close to ready to try again after a really nasty heartbreak. After a revelation and some pressure from friends I tried online dating for a brief stint around winter break of 1L. I was, to my surprise, inundated with messages. My phone buzzed so often I silenced it completely. I was very surprised that I got zero dick pics and barely any rude messages. What I did find though was fascination with my studying law and was surprised to find the reaction to it was really similar. On multiple occasions men said "so you're in law school, that means you like to argue right?". How does one even answer that question, it starts an argument either way. I was never impressed by "oh, we should commit a crime together". How about no.
Then I met a 2L. A year later, we're still together and it is abundantly clear that we are not unique for dating within the faculty. It’s convenient because scheduling conflicts are reduced and there's an understanding that we can have of each other's experience that others cannot. We can also help each other out with work and bounce ideas for classes because unlike dating someone in another field, we actually know what the heck the other person is talking about.
There are drawbacks though. People from out of province are transient, and committed to leaving after they are done with their degrees. That's hard for a native Montrealer who is committed to a solid year and a half - two years more at this institution. When the degrees are culminating in writing a bar, it is an added source of pressure when your partner gets to make that choice before you do.
Then there are the lame bits that could be interpreted as both cute and icky. I remember saying to myself early on that at least we are not weird and will keep "shop talk" out of the bedroom. We make really lame law jokes all the time. The response to a semi-sexy picture I sent recently resulted in a "flirtatious" bit of messaging joking about misrepresentation and detrimental reliance *vomit*.
So, I think all dating involves a lot of risk and given that it’s unavoidable, might as well go all in and invest even more of one's emotional well-being into the faculty where problems of isolation and mental health are already constantly on our minds. Lots could go wrong, but a lot has gone right, and I couldn't have fought this situation if I tried. Take love where/when it appears, it is too costly in this world not to.
I can't tell you how many times I've been in a conversation about dating with my fellow law students where the discussion has turned to how great the women in the faculty are. My many straight-identified friends bemoan this fact, while I, a queer woman, nod and smile. The women in this faculty are great, and I have the good fortune to be seeing one of them.
Dating in law school is this unique thing, and dating a fellow law student only compounds that. You are getting to know someone within this unique context of learning and self-discovery at a demanding pace where nothing is ever fully satisfying and you are constantly in competition with yourself and others. Finding space within this context to be intimate and vulnerable is not necessarily easy.
Being a female law student dating another female law student has often been about trying to convince her to see herself through my eyes, and learning to see myself through hers. It has been about stripping away the personas and the walls that we have put up to protect ourselves within this experience, and revealing our true fears and ambitions.
That intimacy is intoxicating and sometimes overwhelming, but it is also intensely rewarding. It is incredible to be with someone who is as smart as you are, and who so clearly sees you and where you're at, and wants to take care of you no matter where that is.
Ultimately, though, it's just nice to have someone who thinks you're sexy when you're doing the thing you love. Someone who gets why you wake up every morning to come to this place where success is elusive and perfectly acceptable performances feels like failures. Being with this incredible person, who understand all of this and support you within it, and is simultaneously going through it too, makes law school so much better. And the sex helps too. ;)
For me, dating non-law students while in law school has not been a good idea – although dating a student is better than dating a non-student, because at least as students we are both okay with not seeing each other during exam time. I suspect dating another law student might work, but regretfully I didn't get that chance. My recent ex was a student who got good grades and cared about his schoolwork, but he was not a law or med student, and to me, our workloads and the academic expectations we faced were apples and oranges. Perfect example: last semester he started his honours, which basically consists of doing research and writing what us law students call our term paper. He had an entire academic year committed solely to writing the same size paper that I had to write, in half the time, on top of my other classes and a clerkship. However, I try really hard not to play the “my work is harder than yours” card – being a student is hard, no matter what you study. However, my ex would constantly dismiss my stress – like, I’m a law student, so obviously I’ll be fine and I should stop complaining, whereas he doesn’t stand a chance, he would whine, expecting me to stop everything so I could comfort him. Little did he know that his stress was triggering my own stress! Therefore, don’t date non-students, as they won’t get it, and don’t date other students, because they can’t relate and in some cases won’t let you relate. Dating just takes up too much time and energy. If you’re in a committed relationship when you get accepted to law school, end it. If you’re meant to be, you will reconnect in three years’ time. If you don’t, and it ends during law school, surviving that will be brutal. I know, because I ended a 5 year relationship at the end of 2L: hello worst grades I have ever gotten which permanently screwed up my GPA, goodbye dean’s list and top selection of articles!
[ - ] AbellaIsBae 11 points 1 year ago
What caveat_temptor said. And also, I want to highlight that I’ve had a good experience dating someone not in law school. It’s refreshing to chat with someone who couldn’t care less about privity of contracts. I just want to go home and get my mind off school most days!
[ - ] lheureux_duYAY 64 points 1 year ago
I second that. Although I also think it’s important to take the opportunity to embrace singlehood.
I personally really enjoy being single. It’s a chance to explore my ideas and goals without external interference. I have more time and flexibility to commit to big projects and connect with like-minded peers. I just tend to get more done without a romantic partner.
In today’s world, I actually don’t see why we need to be in a romantic relationship at all. Lots more people are choosing to be intentionally single or to create platonic, domestic partnerships. Being in a relationship is a highly individual choice!
You do you, OP.
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