Sunday, August 19, 2007

It’s Official: I’m Sick Of Law School Students

I may or may not continue a running diary of this, my 1L year in law school. That either means that you can expect more examples of intelligent buffoonery, or you’ll have to love this singular post as you love that one ex who broke your heart: that is, remember the good times but never forget the pain. No matter what, learn from the experience.

So yea, I’m already sick of law students. And the truly sad reality that I find myself in shows in that school hasn’t even started yet; I have only gone through orientation.

“Why,” one might ask, “are you sick of law students so early in the 1L experience?” The answer sounds simple but is actually fairly complicated: these folks are scared. Now I cannot, front: I share in most of their concerns. I too wonder how many hours a day I will be reading cases and briefing them. I too wonder how many sleepless nights per week will be spent doing research for my legal research and writing projects. I, having watched the classic law school movie, “Paperchase” worry about asshole professors, as many other students do (Paperchase is a must watch for everyone. However, here's a forewarning: if you plan on going to law school, watch the movie as if you are knowingly entering a haunted house at an amusement park. That way, you know it’s not real and you enjoy it for what it is. If you enter the film like one of those virginal teenage white girls in early 80's horror movies who enter a dark cabin at night because she is curious, it will scare you shitless and make you rethink your decision to enter law school. Trust me; I was that virginal teenage white girl who entered the dark cabin at night because I was curious). I say all of that to verbalize the fact that having a healthy amount of fear, worry and concern is a good thing. It keeps your head on straight and doesn’t allow for laziness.

But notice I said a healthy amount of fear, concern and worry. I tell you to notice that because apparently 87% of my orientation mates have yet to even conceptualize that aspect of thought, let alone allow it to enter into their day-to-day activity.

Whether it is fear, redemption, pride, or any other emotional driving force, they can all act as gifts and curses. They can all lead one to a great deal of success, but left unchecked, they can debilitate and paralyze the best of us. If I had to guess right now, I’d predict that 90% of all underperforming 1L’s will be so under a cloud of fear.

These folks here are flat-out scared. Like a poodle in front of a "rape stand" (which has to rank in the top 10 of the all-time scariest torture terms in the history of the English language...I still have shivers thinking about it) in Michael Vick’s basement scared. Here’s an example: A young woman (26 years of age, I believe) wanted to ask a question of one of the 2Ls concerning the required amount of preparation time needed per day. This question has come up often. I cringe when I hear it, because it presupposes that there is one way to do this, which is incorrect. No matter how many times anyone who has gone through the 1L experience tells us there is no singular path to success, people undoubtedly ask the same question (That bothers me a great deal). She began the question with a calm tone, but as her question progressed, the inflections in her voice became more and more anxious, the speed of her speech quickened, and by the end of this (what had to have been a 3-minute) soliloquy, she (I kid you not) began sweating. To top it all off, when she got to the point where she finally came to her conclusive question, I could actually hear the treble in her voice, as if she were about to cry.

Of course I (he who possesses a very expressive face) was at this point looking at her with a combined look of confusion and my own version of “what the F*** is wrong with you!” I point this out only to say that folks in the class began to giggle. While I thought folks were laughing at the woman (which I thought was a tad bit insensitive, only in practice though, not in the thoughts behind the laughter), I soon found that everyone was looking at me, laughing at what my face looked like. I felt bad for the woman (only a little) because it was clear that I had caused her even more uncertainty in her approach. Additionally, no one wants to be laughed at in class when one is attempting to make a serious comment or pose a fact-finding question.

Fear has never driven me to anything positive. It forces a timid approach, which leaves me with an uncertain feeling inside. Given that, maybe it is I who is being insensitive to those who fight fire with phobia. But I can’t work that way. So whenever there is a crowd of 1Ls sharing their feelings on prep time, professors and poor sleep, I stand far, far away. I do this because I do not want their fear to rub off on me.

This is usually the moment when someone from said crowd inevitably comes to me and calls me cocky, arrogant, or gives some type of comment that references a smirk on my face (it has been alluded to as the "I-just-stole-something smile." Whatever). Once upon a time I’d take that as an insult. Now, I take it as a compliment. It’s where I want to be.


solgenique said...

Don't most of us fight fire with phobia? 87% seems rather conservative. My guess would be around the same percentage as the germs Lysol kills.

You've admitted to being afraid, but unlike your fellow 1L's yours is (conveniently enough) a "healthy" fear. How do you reckon? They read the same:

You standing "far, far away" from your fellow 1L's sounds like you're using a "timid approach." And perhaps the sickness you're feeling towards law school students is the outward physical manifestation of an "uncertain feeling inside" you may be experiencing? Put 'em together and it sounds like you, sir, are having a phobic attack.

Some folks hide their fear by wearing their "sunday best", while others wear jeans, t-shirts, and baseball caps to fake a certain "cool, calm, and collected" air. Why the rush to judge who will and won't make it through law school?

Brother Spotless said...

I deem a healthy fear to be one where the challenges ahead are visible and they are cause for concern, yet they are not allowed to erase ones own self confidence.

I stand far away because most of the folks in the group are only speaking on variations of fear. That level of fear, being contagious, is not something I want to catch. How is that timid on my part? Why stand in the middle of something that I don't want to be a part of? I'd rather spend my time making sure that I am prepared for class, and preparation is how I maintain my cool and confidence. So there is no phobic attack occuring here, but rather only preparation for what is the actual reason I spent these thousands of dollars.

The group activity I am referring to is another way folks hide their fear, and that method seems to be the method of choice here. You are correct, Solgenique, in pointing out that there are many ways folks hide fear, and you are also correct in that you indirectly have shown that everyone battles their own fears. I too battle this, on an almost daily basis. Everytime the professor asks for someone to define a term I previously thought was too abstract to define, I thank God All Mighty that he/she didn't ask me. But does that mean I couldn't define it if I were on the spot? No. Does that mean I don't believe I could define the term? No. I know I can, if I'm prepared. And that's what I am finding 1L's are missing: not the ability, but rather the belief in their ability.

While the title of this post may seem harsh (I'll try to control that for future posts), I am not attempting to foretell the future of my classmates. I am, however, pointing to a behavior that I do not find progressive in any way.

It is quite possible that I have it all wrong. We shall see...