Now all I need is a hot pot to keep in my locker

September 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

In law school, they don’t give you personal coffee mugs–they give you personal coffee pots.

This was a gift I received today at the HLS “Love Your Library Fest”, which basically consists of 1Ls running around the library scrounging up as much candy and free swag as they can carry (highlighters, pocket editions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, mini-flags, and your own personal coffee pot), with no regard for those who are actually trying to study. The funny thing is that the people who seem the least concerned with being quiet while walking through the library seem to be the library staff.

In other news, my head is about to explode with trying to decide between all of the student activities, practice organizations, and journals. 1Ls are basically slave labor to these groups, and I have a feeling that many, if not most, law students drop many of their organizations once they make it over the 2L hump. Here is a good analogy: Harvard hosts multiple (think 10-20) special events, talks, panels, information sessions, etc. each day, many with free food and most of which seem to be aimed at 1Ls. Harvard is a very large school, full of eager beavers. The eager beavers pack into these events, grab up the free food and chairs in a this very Hobbesian-state of nature dash and grab , listen intently for 10-15 minutes, and then leave in droves once they’ve decided they’ve gotten all they need. I have attended at least 5 different events in which literally half of the other attendees packed up their stuff and walked out less than halfway through.

So my guess is that 1L is very similar: everyone rushes to sign up for activities, journals, organizations, update their resumes and attend a few meetings, maybe spend a weekend subciting, and then quickly begin to dropout when they realize that they have overstretched themselves and need to focus more on their classes and job search. This is just my guess, but I have a feeling it explains why all of the groups are so desperate to recruit 1Ls.

Despite my cynicism, I too am being easily lured in by all the fancy activities with their tasty treats and nice spokespeople. Journal of Law & Gender? I have a gender–sign me up! Free Indian food AND books at the Human Rights Journal Information Session? I do love naan and I’m sure I’ll have time to read a book about school choice in South Africa! Harvard Couples Association? I’m in a couple! (Not to mention, they had the best home-baked nom noms at their booth). So right now I’m very full and haven’t spent my own money on food in days, have more swag than I know what to do with, and am contemplating at least 10 different student organizations. Ultimately, I know I’ll whittle it down to 2-3 (4?), but right now I can’t even think straight. On top of that, I’ve read so many hundreds of pages in the last 4 weeks that I think my brain has reached its saturation point–now, when I read anything that I won’t be cold-called on to explain, my eyes just sort of skim over the words and my brain absorbs maybe 10% of the information. One of the only things keeping me sane right now is the fact that everyone I talk to is in the exact same mental state. The most common response to the typical “How are you?” question is “Ughhhh.” Not really a word…just a noise.

The freedom to pee when I want: priceless.

September 5, 2009 § 1 Comment

So Confused in Crimson, a section mate of mine, wrote a wonderful summary with opinions of our first week of classes that I just don’t see the need to duplicate. His thoughts mirror my own, with a few exceptions, and I especially recommend that 0Ls read his post to get an idea of how the classroom experience of law school is different than anything you have experienced before.

Some of my own thoughts about this first week of law school:

-My classmates are brilliant. They think on their feet and analyze deeply and richly. They ask insightful questions. I am going to learn so much for them.

-I fear my Torts class the least and my Legislation and Regulation class the most. In legreg (as we call it), the professor summarizes the facts of the case himself and then immediately calls on people to argue for the defendant and plaintiff. He then leads us through a richer analysis of the possibilities of statutory interpretation than the judicial opinion even hints at. Maybe it’s because I see the practical applications of torts most clearly, but that class is interesting yet safe.

-My civpro professor is intimidating. He is so articulate that I would love to record the class and then just sit there and soak up everything he says. He does not allow laptops, so I can’t transcribe his genius (I can’t write fast enough by hand). But I love how he makes what can be a very dry subject fascinating by forcing us to see the way skilled lawyers can learn the system and use it to further their deeper goals of ensuring outcomes underpinned by justice and morality (or, as with the counter-resistance during the civil rights movement that took advantage of civil procedure to block social progress, goals not so just and moral).

-Legal Research & Writing inspired my first panic attack of 1L, because I attended assuming that the class would teach me the tools I need to succeed in my other courses in a relaxed, safe atmosphere; instead, I left the classroom feeling more vulnerable and clueless than I had all week. I hope it gets better, because legal research & writing is a foreign language that I must become fluent in to succeed in the law, but if it doesn’t I will have to teach myself.

-My property professor (the one who used to be an ambassador to the Vatican), is a fascinating woman; her approach to teaching property is highly theoretical however, which means that class discussion is intellectually rigorous but not so practical. She has lots of prior exams online, however, and it seems like she requires a weaving of theory, policy, and blackletter law, which means that I will have to take a much more holistic approach to studying for this course.

Finally, the workload: it is tremendous. Everyone does the work, though, so working hard is not enough. One must also work smart, in terms of how they take notes independently and in class, revise and synthesize these notes, apply the law to hypotheticals, and outline weekly to create a toolbox that can be used on exams. There are so many parts that must come together cohesively. That said, on Friday afternoon, after the final class of the week, I felt relieved that the weekend had come, yet not nearly as emotionally and physically drained as after a week of teaching. Law school is difficult and tiring, but I feel this odd sense of freedom. I know I have a lot of work to do, but I also have a lot of time in which to do it. And, most importantly, I can pee when I want to. All my teachers out there know how priceless that is!

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