Hello good people.
Sitting at the library studying. I just finished my first writing project (first grade of law school–people are subtly FREAKING out with stress). So, I’m feeling pretty good about having that done. However, I have about 200 pages to read and brief. So, I’m feeling less good about that.
I was elected (by narrowest of margins) to the executive board of SBA (Student Bar Association). That means I’ll be taking regular meetings with the President, VP, Parlimentarian, and Secretary. Read: Even MORE busy than I am now. Why would I want this responsibility? I am someone that focuses better when I have to manage a good deal of information or responsibility. But … Let’s just say at this point my focus resembles that of a laser.
On the SBA I currently chair the Building and Grounds committee, and the initiative I am pushing is getting our analog clocks that don’t tell the right time and no one ever resets replaced with radio-controlled clocks. This seems to be a popular initiative with the students. Also, our SBA put on the first school-wide activity of the year. It’s called a buddy mixer where the first-year law students (1Ls) are paired up with 2 and 3Ls from any advocacy groups that the 1L shows interest in. For example, since I am both in SBA and the Minority Student Program (MSP), I had two buddies.
Some problems with setting up the event were that the meeting to plan it (Buddy mixer happened Thursday the 20th) happened to fall on Rosh Hashanah (sp?) and Ramadan, so it had to be cancelled. Which meant that all the upfront money we used to pay for the event (around 1500) was not first voted and verified by the SBA body until one day before the event. This may have bad repercussions down the line, but for the moment everything is fine. We had about 400 people in attendance and spent about that on alcohol.
I was in charge of decorating and facilitating name tags. By that, I mean I told people to hang lights and also told them I was WAY too cool to hang them myself. The nametags numbered 600, so instead of giving myself carpel tunel for life, I invested 2 hours in reserching how to use Word’s data merge function.
Everyone had a tremendously good time, I made a lot of valuable upper classmen contacts who furnish me outlines (the holy grail and sum accumulation of a semester of a particular law class), and we saw a few of the more studious (non-drinking) members of our class get trashed and throw up on everything.
That sounds sort of juvenile … Here is a tip for anyone that has never looked into law school: Law School is juvenile. There is more he said/she said drama than in high school. I have whipped up some theories of why this is:
1) The Feedback Dilemma
You may not know that one reason people purport law school to be so difficult is that from the first day you get there to the day you take your final you receive very little to no feedback. This is ironic in that the type of person that is drawn to law school is the type that thrives on feedback. On balance, members of this group have perfected the manner in which they take their temperature regarding success. They have made an art out of reading the air around them for signs that they need to work harder in one area, that they are spending too much time on another, that their time management is proving effective, or that they have a good enough grasp on the material to move onto something else.
Law school denies this temperature-taking by providing a curriculum that only suggests questions and expansions rather than answers and limits. While we take on faith the proposition that this routine will make us “think like lawyers,” the gross effect is that we lose all ability to calculate how well “for certain” we are doing.
In turn, this makes appealing methods that, in undergraduate, were previously considered completely ineffective:
A) We like to ask what other people are doing and compare what we are doing. And then conjecture about what we think we ought to be doing. And then compare this with the success rate of people we think did the things we hope might be the things we think we should do.
We like to do this incessantly.
There are a few glaring problems with this method. First, in an enforced B curve (such as the one we have at law school), the stellar performers will be, by mathematical necessity, in the minority. So, it makes no sense to make sure you are doing at least and at most what everyone else is doing, because that is the key to shooting for the B. Which supposedly, no one but me thinks is good enough grade. Second, it is the blind leading the blind. This is a problem when a method that is actually less valuable for instruction is taken up by enough people (afraid that this method MAY be valuable and therefore they should use it) and gains a critical mass that hampers everyone’s ability to learn because of the inferiority of the method. An example, for my law school compatriots is book briefing vs. briefing cases on the blank page. Third, it breeds stress. It’s a Gordian knot that we resolve to untangle. Time better spent in books is used trying to figure out the best way to do something that, by its construction, allows for no best way. This accounts for a good deal of the stress people are under. But not all of it.
2) You control what you can control, and when that is very little, you strangle it with control.
The feedback dilemma promotes this sense of lost competency. And these people that feel this loss of competency are, by and large, people that have been forever told that the magnitude of their general competency rivals the sun’s brightness. So, quite figuratively, most of us feel that our entire world no longer makes sense.
So, to regain that sense and that control you figure out what you can control, and it’s an appallingly small list. You can’t control the times you eat, your law books control that. You can’t control how you dress, the sleep you got the night before controls that. You can’t control your command of the material, TBA what controls that. What you can control (granting and ignoring the argument that all control is illusory), is how people see you. The image you present. (Spoiler alert: this is something you definitely don’t control, but only looks like you do because the only evidence you ever have of your own image is the reflection, not the surface off of which it is reflected… Unless you can see past your image in which case you belong on a mountain top somewhere and NOT in law school).
In maintaining an image, you start believing that public visibility is the only time where you can be seen, so if you can present a steady, calm public face, then you can cry yourself to sleep in private (assuming you have tear ducts) and still maintain this false sense of control. This makes it seem even MORE dangerous to show any vulnerability to your classmates. Which has a lot of cool byproducts such as it LOOKS like everyone else is having an easy time with law school and you find yourself feeling more alienated and isolated. This is turn makes you more fevered to find out how you are REALLY doing and incites you to return to the cycle of asking everyone how they are doing in the hopes they just bust out sobbing and the two of you agree to move to Albuquerque and open a tequila distillery. That rarely happens… But if anyone has a corner on the agave market, I really do well in a dry climate. Just sayin’.
3) This new life does not resemble your old life.
I seem to remember when I was younger I managed a team of 250 people at some point. Now I have an RA that is 18. What happened? Everyone at law school has had at least a taste, and most likely consistent three course meals, of what its like to be in the CEO boardroom. We all wore suits and occasionally strapped on some suspenders, and now we role out of bed, throw on jeans and sandals, and shove a pop tart in our mouth. WHAT??!!
Because this new life of supposedly such brilliant people are feeling so ridiculously inept in no way resembles the poise and command you exhibited in a former (now ghostly) life, it seems entirely plausible that you have been reborn and are resuffering you childhood all over again.
You know how people always say, “Man, If I could go back to high school and do it all over again …”
Well guess what? If you want high school all over again, come to law school. You learn that all that cumulative knowledge you thought you possessed in NO WAY keeps you from making all the stupid decisions and ill-planned outbursts that you made in high school. You still get a perverse thrill out of talking about people behind their backs, still get too drunk and embarrass yourself by nosing in the affairs of other in a similar manner to how dogs nose each other in the ass. You still make really not thought through exclamations of how competent you have become, only to have that theory dashed into pieces by fee simple defeasible. And on and on and on.
So what are the solutions? What are the answers? Well, the answer is, “Law school is no place for answers, go study math.”