Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fall in the Burg

Fall has been extraordinarily beautiful in Williamsburg. The temperature has hovered in the 60s and 70s until yesterday, when it dropped to legitimate sweatshirt weather. At right is a tree near the law school, just before dusk.

Admittedly, I've been lax in keeping up with this blog the last few weeks. A few highlights:

• At a fund-raiser for the Public Service Fund, which raises money for law students pursuing public interest summer jobs, I sang a duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," with a 1L friend of mine. The whole night was a blast.

• My friend Tori invited me to her parents' home, in Dumfries, Va., (near Washington) for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to have a place to go, and nice to take a break from studying.

• There are two weeks of classes left before finals, which start for me on Dec. 12. My exam schedule looks like this: Wed., Dec. 12 — Torts; Sat., Dec. 15 — Criminal Law; and Wed., Dec. 19 — Civil Procedure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Of competitiveness and law school

As final exams loom ever closer, the need to study has completely engulfed the 1L class at W&M. Study groups are rampant. I've never heard or seen the word "outline" so much in my entire life. One of my friends posted this away message on Instant Messenger today: "Outlining ... ugh." That about sums it up.

Yet a surprising number of my classmates are hungry to do exceptionally well on these exams. It's as if we all truly believe that we are bound to be in that Top 10%. Of course, by the time we're done, we'll be in some Top 10% — as in, perhaps, the Top 10% of most educated people in the United States, or maybe the Top 10% of wage-earning potential, or some other ridiculous statistic that doesn't really mean anything. But of course — and this is what seems so impossible now — 90% of us won't be in the Top 10% of our class!

I had a good little chat tonight on this subject with a female classmate of mine who, like me, took several years off from school before deciding to embark on the law school journey. We compared the difference between those of us who came here straight out of college and those of us who worked for a while. I said that while one would think that we older folk would have a competitive advantage, the opposite seems to be true: the younger ones are still in school mode, and they're thriving. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out how to study 10 hours a day. So far, no luck.

But my friend made an excellent point, which I need to do a better job of remembering. She said that while those of us who came here straight out of college may make for better students, the rest of us know who we are as people. We have perspective on all of this. A lot of people are going to get wrapped up in this competition, they're going to obsess about grades and pushing to the top. Yet, when it's all over, will they be that much better off than those of us who got B's? Maybe, but I tend to think not.

Of course that's no reason for me not to study. After all, I'm bound to make it into that Top 10% — just like everyone else.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writing I like

Seems that I only get to blog on Thursdays lately. That is, after all, when all my classes for the week are finished and I actually have time to step back and breathe. At least for a few minutes, then it's back to catching up.

Excuses aside, I did actually do some other writing this week, so I'll use that as my post. The American Constitution Society is a national organization that is focused on preserving civil liberties like privacy and free speech. (This is not the same as the Institute of Bill of Rights Law, which is unique to William & Mary.) The local ACS chapter hosts a lot of great speakers throughout the year, and I've been able to hear many of them. The W&M ACS also has a blog. I wrote the Nov. 7 entry, which is about an upcoming speaker who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court on the issue of race and higher education.

But I've gotten a lot more attention this week for a letter to the editors that I wrote for the Advocate (the W&M law school newspaper). Here's a link where you can download the Nov. 7 paper on PDF. I also wrote the front-page story, but of the dozen or so people who've talked to me about this week's paper, 11 of them mentioned only the letter. Read it, and you'll probably understand why. The most common remark has been, "He had it coming."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Higher education

Law school is really quite unlike any other experience. It's certainly unlike anything I've ever done.

One can naturally draw comparisons to high school and college. First, take college. Where I went to college, people were paid to babysit me. Sure, they were called "Residence Life" staff, but they were basically babysitters. I should know, I was an RA for two years. If you screwed up, or if life wasn't treating you well, at least a dozen people who weren't necessarily your friends knew about it, almost instantly. Not only did they know about it, but they had to talk about it with their superiors — it became an issue for the whole building. In law school, you are most certainly an adult, and you're treated like one. If you have a problem, you go to the counseling center. (Advantage—law school.)

In the college classroom, at least at my small liberal arts school, professors knew everyone's names within the first week. If you didn't say something in class, people noticed. Here, it's when you do say something that you get noticed — and not necessarily in a good way. The more you talk in class, generally, the less people like you. There is no bonus for class participation. If you're talking, there's a good chance you're holding up the rest of the class. (Advantage—college.)

In high school, people gossiped about each other and made special friendships that lasted for a semester or maybe even a year. In college, people got drunk and hooked up on the weekends and people laughed about it. (Hmm, these two are actually the same as law school.)

In high school and college, there were popularity contests called student government elections, and the prettiest people won. In law school, they're still popularity contests but at least smart people win. (Advantage—law school.)

In law school, the professors have really, really big houses and invite you over for drinks and good food. In college, the professors live down the street in modest houses and invite you over if they like you a whole lot. In high school, you egg your teachers' houses. (Unless, of course, your dad is a teacher. Advantage—law school.)

In high school, you wonder why some people even bother coming because all they do is copy other people's homework. In college, you wonder why some people bother coming because all they do is get drunk or high or skip class everyday. In law school, everyone is incredibly motivated and people rarely miss class. There is money to be made. There is a world to change. Let's face it — if you've made it to law school, you actually enjoy homework. There's just no way around it.