August 2007

I’m now understanding why everyone says that law school is so difficult. It’s not that the subject matter is inherently difficult (different but manageable), but the work load is crazy. This past week alone, between my 6 classes, we were assigned about 250 pages of reading. And it’s not like the kind of reading we had in business school, where you read/skim the pages and then get into class and have the professor teach the same material to you. With law school, you are expected to read the material, take copious notes, and then demonstrate your knowledge of the material in the next class. You’ve got to perform. The only real teaching that happens is when you screw up, and the professor moves to another poor sap who picks up where you left off. I’ve never had a problem making an ass of myself in front of a bunch of strangers, but some of my classmates are having a difficult time with it.

What I am having a very hard time with is keeping up with the reading. The quantity is so great that not much of it is actually absorbing. When we get into one of these Socratic interrogations, I realize how little I actually remember from the readings. My classmates pick up on really great points that I have totally missed (points, in fact, that I don’t even remember reading, even though I’ve clearly highlighted these sections in my book), and I’m feeling like I’m wasting my time.

I haven’t found a rhythm, yet. The class schedule is irregular, most of the classes are very formal in nature (against my jump-up-and-shout nature), lugging those books around all day is giving me a backache, and I haven’t been able to get to my dance class all week. I’m getting frustrated and trying hard to keep some perspective. A 2nd year student told me recently that everyone in her class considered quitting at least once in the first three weeks. I keep wondering whether I’ve made a huge mistake, but I’m going to trust and wait a month before making any more big decisions. But so far, I can honestly say I am not having any fun.

On the plus side, I’m in a carpool 3 days a week with a 3rd year exchange student from Quebec, Canada and a recently-married transfer student who is commuting from Los Alamos. Very nice girls who have a lot more perspective than I do. I’m hoping some of it will rub off, soon.

I went to Orientation on Thursday and Friday, and I lived to tell about it. More importantly, those around me lived, as well.

Maybe it’s my inner Event Planner coming out, but these things should not be so hard. Everything was presented out of order; very important pieces of information were left out until a last minute “Oh yeah, …this is where you can find your assignments for Monday” as everyone was walking out on Friday afternoon; we got to hear all about the student associations, the student bar associations, and the alumni associations (never too early to start feeding us the “giving back” spiel after graduation in 3 years), but simple things like, oh, computer network registration, class registration, financial aid questions, where to buy books, the location of the copy center, were either rushed through in the interest of time, or completely lost altogether. Does anyone have a spare Comment Card handy? So frustrating.

I did learn a few things about law school, though, that will be helpful for me to remember in the coming months.

1. Almost everyone who works at the law school has a JD.

I’m not talking just about the professors and the Deans. I’m also talking about the Career Services people, the Student Services people, the computer techs – everyone. For them, this means that everyone at the law school can understand what we, as students, “are going through.” To me, it means that everyone has a “legal ego” (see #2).

2. People with JDs have huge egos.

I’m sure this is not the rule. I don’t know very many lawyers, and those that I do know are very nice people. But the people who have JDs and work for a law school seem a different breed.

Maybe it’s what draws them to academics – the idea of projecting their vast legal knowledge into the future – but the message I kept hearing over and over was how smart I was for choosing a legal career over some other career that made less of a difference. There’s an arrogance there that I have no interest in being a part of.

3. Law school is an indoctrination.

Wow. These people take this stuff seriously. Not the Law (which is important for everyone to take seriously), but the Pomp and Circumstance of law school. At the end of a very long first orientation day, they held a dinner and a “Pinning Ceremony.” In this Pinning Ceremony, new students were called one at a time, shook hands with professors, and were given a pin “in recognition of the start of your legal career.” What? Are you serous? Have I just pledged a frat? I don’t need a pin to remind me (A) that I am in law school or (B) why I’m here. That, plus the fact that they had nothing vegetarian for dinner, convinced me it was time to go. Brent and I skipped out of the Pinning Ceremony and went to dinner by ourselves. And I do not feel bad about it.

Yes, surviving Orientation was a big step and I got through it with very few scrapes.

Last week, I was listening to Hardball on MSNBC when they were talking about the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Throughout the hour, a bunch of pundits were on speculating about how this could have happened, when I heard this amusing exchange (between Ret. General Barry McCaffrey and guest host Mike Barnicle):

MCCAFFREY: Mike, there‘s also a human dimension to this, I might sort of add in.

In the last 25 years, there has been a 40 percent drop in the number of graduate—or undergraduate degrees in engineering. We need our brilliant young men and women in the eighth grade doing algebra, in the 10th grade doing calculus, and then studying civil engineering and architectural design, not just studying law and recreation management.

So, our future is wrapped up in…

BARNICLE: There is a whole other program.


BARNICLE: Drop the hedge funds and go to engineering school.

So let’s see here. Recreation management (check), law school (check), MBA (check check) – is someone trying to tell me something?