Hey everyone! Welcome back to Beyond BMSC. Today, we'll be hearing from Zach, a student at Queen's Law! So let's skip the chitchat and hear from Zach himself!
To hear the audio version of the following conversation, please visit us on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/55QxpEniXCjF5OHLa2pEt2
Pam: Hello! And welcome to Beyond BMSc, where we interview past Medical Sciences students who are pursuing graduate programs, to answer your questions for post-BMSc pathways. My name is Pam, and today we’re joined by Zach Gordan. So, let’s begin by telling me a little bit about yourself, including your current program, your module from BMSc, and anything else interesting you would like to share.
Zach: Sure! Well, uh, first off, thanks for having me here Pam, I’m excited to be here. It’s nice to talk to somebody from Western; that was a very good experience for me. But a little bit about myself: I am currently doing my JD/MBA degree at Queen’s University. Um, so, I’m in my last year now of the Law/MBA dual degree, and when I was at Western, what I actually did was an Honours Specialization in Biochemistry, and a major in Pharmacology in the BMSc program, before I went on to do my master’s in biochemistry in the CARIS lab. Aside from that—aside from my academic background, a little bit about me is that I really like—just as a fun fact about me is that I really like to cook. I find that my science background has actually helped me learn a little bit about cooking, and I think that cooking really is a science, so, yeah, that’s just a little bit about me.
Pam: Okay! Thank you for sharing. And I know that you have quite an interesting academic pathway, um, as you just mentioned. So, can you tell me a bit about what led you to finally pursue law school?
Zach: Yeah, so I was always interested in law school; it was really my guidance counsellor in high school that really pushed me towards going into science—because I was really good at science. She told me I was really good at science, and I was very good at science, and her argument was, that science is like building blocks, you know? You could always get into business or law later, but you can’t always leave and get back into science so if there was anything interesting, any skills I wanted to learn [from science], that I should pursue it now, and maybe do something later. And, she was right, and I loved it. I thought it was a tremendous experience, and I learned so much; it really prepared me for sort of my future trajectory. I really credit my science training for a lot of my success in law, and in business so far. It’s really sort of like a way of thinking; it teaches you very methodical, very logical, very structured [ways to think]. And I thought it was a very interesting experience, but towards the end of it, I realized that I didn’t really see a career in science. It wasn’t really for me; maybe perhaps in the future I’ll come back to it from sort of a different aspect, maybe more of a business aspect I’m interested in. But, yeah, I sort of stayed true to what I was really going for, which was going into law and business, and so I did eventually apply to Queen’s, and here I am.
Pam: Great, I really liked that analogy with the building blocks; I’ve never heard that before but I think it makes a lot of sense. And going off of that, how are you liking law school at the moment and what’s your overall experience there in terms of the workload or difficulty?
Zach: I love law school. I personally think the hardest part of law school is getting into law school, but a lot of my colleagues would disagree with me on that. It really sort of depends on how you approach studying, and what your habits are. For me, it’s interesting—law school is quite different from my experience at Western. They have pretty much 100% exams in most courses, so for many people, that’s really stressful, but for others, it makes it a little bit easier to manage your workload throughout the year because you really just need to work hard and study really hard right before the exam, as, you know, many people would do in undergrad anyway without having to do all of the assignments along the way. So, it is very different, but for people that are more afraid of exams or heavily waited exams, it’s definitely daunting for some. But other than that, I mean, I think the experience has been great; I really liked all the people that I’ve met there, I really like what I’ve learned there so far, and it really was a very enriching experience for me, in addition to my undergrad at Western.
Pam: Mhm, and on top of that, other than what you just mentioned, do you think there’s anything you wish you knew before joining law school?
Zach: Wow… I mean there’s definitely a lot of things that I wish I knew before joining law school because everybody made me so afraid that I was going to fail in law school. Because law students, they like to panic—they like to think of the world as ending; and I learned that pretty quickly, and I’m actually a tutor to some of the first-year students, and that’s sort of the first thing that I tell them. And for anybody that’s in science who’s interested in law school, just relax. Like everyone’s in the same boat together. It’s really not designed to make you fail. It might be hard to get an A, but most people get a B and that’s okay. It’s not really like any experience where you would’ve been used to: being a gunner in a Western undergrad BMSc program, or being a member of BMSA, but yeah, you know, life is meant to fun, as well as hard-working, and you know there are those support systems there to help you, but you shouldn’t get so caught up in worrying about failing every moment and worrying about the worst thing that could happen. Doing that is just going to make you miserable, and would eventually manifest the failure anyways.
Zach: So that’s one the things I learned was to sort of slow down, relax, reach out to people if you need help, and, you know, try to have an optimistic attitude.
Pam: Yeah, so would you say that you took more of a chill approach to law school?
Zach: I mean, I think that that’s a good question. [In a] sense, yes, but in a sense, no; I mean, I was trying to convince myself not to panic like other people did, and from that sense, definitely more chill than people panicking and being horribly afraid of not being able to do every reading—certainly not everybody does that, by the way. I mean, a lot of people do catch on pretty quickly; early on in law school in law school, it is something that people tend to do: they get very, very stressed [because] they can’t do every reading, but I mean, it’s similar to undergrad, and it’s been like that throughout my whole experience that it’s not always possible to do absolutely everything. And to a certain extent, you need to compromise and find a happy medium, and find positive ways to be able to fill the gaps without panicking. So, that might be reviewing notes, or talking to your professor, or talking to your friends, or reviewing lecture slides, to try to fill those gaps, because at the end of the day, doing every single granular detail is gonna help you a lot less than understanding it better [overall]. And I think that’s sort of the approach I’ve taken in law school and in undergrad, and it’s really helped me succeed in pretty much every program I’ve had so far.
Pam: So do you think that you have a better work-life balance than some of your peers? Or do you think, generally, a lot of people take that approach in law school?
Zach: I think that most people get there, right? I mean, a lot of people do have a work-life balance, certainly towards the end of law school, people have jobs. A lot of people tend to be less concerned, and they definitely sort of cool off a bit. There are a few people, I think, who throughout law school, that just obsess over getting every reading done, and you know, that’s just them, and for them it works, for them, and maybe really helps them—it’s just not for me. But I do think that, at least for most of my friends, they do start to cool off and realize that, maybe it’s not really possible or necessary, and that just—making sure that you understand the material, show up to class, you know, ask questions if you don’t understand something, and try to get a good grasp on the material—is more important and it does help with the work-life balance. And I think that, for sure, if I had obsessed over every one of those things, I would’ve had a miserable law school experience, and I don’t think I would’ve done it any better.
Zach: So, yeah, I do think that absolutely having that approach, which many people have also adopted, is a more realistic approach. I think that that’s also one of the points of law school for you to get, is that being able to work efficiently is important. I think that they know you can’t do all the readings. Reading hundreds of pages a day sometimes is just not feasible; and some of it is dense stuff, you know? So sometimes, you’re assigned 120 pages of really really dense stuff that’s really hard to read, after you’ve had six hours of class. So that’s not going to be sustainable in the long run.
Zach: So, I think that that’s partly by design, and to get there is really important for your success in law school and personally.
Pam: Yeah, for sure. And what did you find most beneficial about your undergraduate career that you think helped get you to where you are now? So, like any connections you made, or like, key takeaways from your courses, or skills?
Zach: Uh yeah, I think that some of it—interestingly enough, I was horribly afraid of writing before I went to Western. And that’s also part of the reason that did push me toward science. It was a good argument; maybe I don’t have to write. Maybe I’ll just do math and science, and there won’t be a lot of writing involved. But I learned pretty quickly towards the end of my undergrad, and certainly my master’s that there is a lot of writing involved.
Pam: Mhm [in assent]
Zach: And I actually learnt to write a little bit through that; there were some writing courses that we had to take, particularly towards the end and in my master’s, there was a particularly useful writing course that helped me quite a bit. And that really prepared me, actually, for law school. And it was a combination between those skills and the sort of way of thinking that I got, that sort of learning how to understand complexity and rearrange things to create complex solutions to complex problems, which is a lot of the things we did in biochemistry particularly; genetic engineering courses particularly, which was really cool. But it’s applicable to some complex areas of law as well, particularly corporate law, when it comes to structuring. There’s a lot of moving elements, and a lot of complexity in structuring—you draw it down on paper and it’s almost analogous to drawing genetic sets. So I thought that was kind of interesting, you know, there were these different pieces that all have different functions, and they can work together. And that way of thinking, I thought, really came into my law school experience and some of the other things that I’ve done since Western.
Pam: Yeah, and finally, is there any tips or words of wisdom that you have for BMSc students that are listening right now that might be interested in doing what you’re doing?
Zach: Yeah, I mean, I would say that if there’s something that you want to do in life, if you have an end goal, or a place that you want to be, try to set up strategically how you can get there. And that’s sort of what I’ve done. And some people just go through life blindly following the next step because they feel like they should, but if you don’t see yourself in a certain position, or you don’t see where you’re going right now, then try to figure out a way where you can get yourself to where you want to be. Instead of blindly going through the motions and getting a degree because to a certain extent, these skills will help you, but you need to use them in a way that’s comfortable to you. So I think that that’s probably the best advice that I could give from my experience that would apply to that.
Pam: Okay. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, and sharing your wisdom. And this was BMSA’s podcast for the law program at Queen’s University with Zach Gordon. And check back on our website and social media platforms for episodes for other programs, with new students each week! Thank you for listening, and we hope this has been helpful.