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Inside the 2L Year with Zoe Speas ’25L What can the melancholy Jaques from Shakespeare's "As You Like It" teach us about law school?

zoe2l-800x533 Inside the 2L Year with Zoe Speas '25LZoe Speas ’25L

Zoe Speas is a member of the Class of 2025 at the Washington and Lee University School of Law. Prior to law school, she traveled the country as a Shakespearean actor and musician, and she continues to participate in the theater community as a playwright and adapter of classical texts. Zoe is an Executive Editor of the Washington and Lee Law Review, a Legal Writing Burks Scholar, a W&L Law Ambassador, and a faculty Research Assistant in various topics including Tax and Property Law. In 2023, Zoe served as a judicial intern in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, and she looks forward to joining Jones Day for their 2024 Summer Associate Program in Washington, D.C. In her free time, Zoe enjoys NYTimes crossword puzzles, lap swimming, and the antics of her corgi‑at‑law, Bertie Woofster.

One of the most famous soliloquies in Shakespeare’s Canon occurs in Act II of “As You Like It.” It is delivered by the melancholy exiled lord, Jaques, as a reflection on the various phases of the human experience from cradle to death. You might be most familiar with its opening line: “All the world’s a stage.”

Jaques splits up life into seven acts. It begins with a “puking” infant and “whining school-boy . . . creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school.” Then comes the lover, writing ballads about a beloved’s eyebrow. Next, the rash and brazen soldier takes the stage before retirement as a “justice . . . Full of wise saws and modern instances.” Finally, after withering into the “shrunk[en] shank” of old age, comes “second childishness and mere oblivion,/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Cheerful, right? Well, that’s Jaques. You want sunshine and optimism, see Touchstone.

There’s a bit of a “Seven Ages of Man” element to law school.  In the fall of 1L, I learned how to be a baby again. I learned to read and write as though for the first time because of how different it was from what I’d previously known of reading and writing. In the spring, I began to crawl, and I tottered through Property Law and Constitutional Law on wobbly legs. Maybe there was a touch of the “whining school-boy” as I stared down the barrel of an appellate brief deadline. With my “satchel/And shining morning face,” I commuted to the federal judicial internship in which I participated that summer, often leaving for the day more baffled than I was when I got there. It’s a big, scary thing, realizing how much there is to learn and how little of the world you understand even in your thirties.

2L falls somewhere between the school-boy and the soldier. Let’s call it law student adolescence, zits and all. 1L follows a set curriculum for both fall and spring, but, for the most part, 2L is yours to do with and customize as you like [it]. Your 1L cohort will always be your 1L cohort, but with each choice of 2L class or extracurricular, you begin to form a new community that reflects your developing interests. For me, the first development was acceptance onto Law Review. Next, with quite a bit of overlap with Law Review, was joining the W&L Law Ambassadors team, which serves prospective and admitted students in the admissions process. By 2L spring semester, I started to encounter familiar faces in the classes I chose—students who were drawn to similar subjects and study as me. If 1L teaches you how to be a law student, then 2L challenges you to discover what kind of law student you are and perhaps offers a glimpse of the lawyer you want to become.

I suspect the goal of law school is to deposit us at graduation in the full flush of the fourth stage of Jaques’s acts: as soldier-scholars, “[f]ull of strange oaths” (shout out to my loved ones for enduring holiday dinners with me sounding off about Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code) and well-equipped to contribute to the practice of law. Though I’ll still be wobbling about on baby lawyer legs when I join the legal profession, it will be my time at W&L Law that will give me the courage to fail, the grace to learn from my mistakes, and the eagerness to strive again for success. I look forward to repeating that cycle throughout all (seven?) stages of my career and life. Unlike Jaques’s school-boy, though, I am in no hurry. I love law school. I am already mourning my departure from this haven of exploration, scholarship, and support. In 3L, I look forward to encouraging the incoming classes of 1Ls and 2Ls as they begin this journey. More than anything, this institution’s legacy of service makes me proudest to graduate next spring as a member of the Class of 2025.