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Friday, November 20, 2009

Once and Future Adult

I had heard that law school was a lot like junior high.  The rumors of what law school is like were along the lines of people constantly gossiping about who's sleeping with whom. There's not a whole lot of that at my school. In fact, as far as my grapevine goes, I don't think anybody's sleeping with anybody that they weren't already sleeping with before coming to law school. Or at least they aren't making it apparent.

But law school is like junior high, in that my class has broken up into little cliques that silently war with one another. I actually think the problem lies in my pod rather than with the whole class. Our class is broken up into "pods" which are groups of about 40 people with whom you have most of your classes. My pod is the "red" pod. Some large classes are composed of several pods combined -- red, yellow, blue -- so there is a bit of an opportunity to get to know people outside the colored lines.

Even people from outside the red pod have noticed that our pod has all the gunners. I'll give you the definition of "gunner" from the Urban Dictionary:

A person who is competitive, overly-ambitious and substantially exceeds minimum requirements. A gunner will compromise his/her peer relationships and/or reputation among peers in order to obtain recognition and praise from his/her superiors.
I would change overly-ambitious to overly-confident. There's nothing wrong with ambition, in my mind. We are all in law school because we have ambition. Well, ok, some of us just want to make money. But others, like myself, want to get into a career that will bring a lifetime of challenge and learning. Nothing wrong with wanting personal growth.

But, my god, the confidence. It drips from the gunners' lips as they make their quota of class time comments. Ha ha, I am so smart. I am so special. Look at what I have thought about.

Sometimes I can't decide if I'm annoyed by them because their style is so different from mine, or if they are really just annoying in general. I'm a silent processor. I like the take things in, let them mingle around in my mind, and then let them sort themselves out into things that make sense and things that I need to either do further study on, or, always as a last resort, consult a professor about. That's just my way. So maybe I'm annoyed by gunners who can't keep their hands out of the air in every class because they are disrupting the flow of information into my brain from the class lecture. Tangents everywhere. Personal opinions.

I understand that some people learn best by thinking and processing out loud, and classroom discussion is a great way to facilitate that learning. But, somehow, there's a difference between the people driving toward their own understanding in class and the people who have already thought about and understood the materials, but like to argue for the sake of argument or to seek favor in the professor's eyes or to show off just how smart they are. It bothers me. We all got into the same school. We are all comparably smart.

My pod has split into two main factions: what I call the "In-crowd", and everybody else.  The gunners that comprise the In-crowd hold lunchtime and dinnertime discussions and debates about class and readings. Talk is all law school, all the time, no commercial interruption. There's nothing worse than watching somebody flex his look-what-I-know muscles in front of you while you're trying to eat your lunch. How 'bout you wash that peanut gunner and knowing smile sandwich down with a glass of STFU? That's what I think.

On the other end of the table, I think the In-crowd looks at us and wonders why we want to talk about something besides law school during break times. We must not be dedicated enough. Obviously we aren't going to pull the A's in the class, because we don't spew constant talk of law school.

Well, I for one look forward to when grades come out next semester. Maybe some of us who exhibit an excessive level of confidence might come back down to earth a little bit when most of us pull B's.

And maybe in the future, I will rejoin adulthood.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mock Me

Early in the semester, I volunteered to be a jury member for the law school's mock trial competition. I thought it would be a fun experience, and give me a little insight into what mock trial might be like, in case I decide to take the class in the future. Today was the competition, and it was fun, and it did give me insight, and I think I might take the class since I think it would give me valuable skills if I want to become a litigator. But I had to be at the courthouse downtown at 9:AM today, which means I had to board the bus at 8:40, and wake up at 8:00, and snooze my alarm since 7:30. On a Saturday, no less. That may not sound like a big deal to some of you morning dove types, but as a night owl, I struggle with any sort of consciousness before 10:AM, and even then it's not a happy consciousness.

I thought the case I heard today was the best example of an open and shut case I've seen in law school so far, which I think is exactly what you wouldn't want for a mock trial competition. You would think you would want each team to have a fair shake at getting a jury verdict in their favor, but this scenario seemed heavily weighted in favor of the defense from the get-go.

It was a criminal case for murder. The standard for rendering a guilty verdict in a criminal case is, as you probably know, "beyond a reasonable doubt." (If you were curious, the standard for finding liability in civil cases is "preponderance of the evidence.") So our case was one in which, not only was the cause of death uncertain -- either blunt force trauma to the back of the head by way of bludgeoning with a trophy, or sudden drop in blood pressure due to overdose of Viagra -- but the evidence proving the murder suspect's involvement was by no means certain -- his fingerprint appeared on the trophy, along with a fingerprint of another person who was not conclusively ruled out as a suspect. That's a scenario chalk full of reasonable doubt, if you ask me.

Well, it was still fun getting a chance to sit in the jury box of an actual courtroom. Now that I'm going to become an attorney myself, the likelihood that I will ever be selected to sit on an actual jury is not particularly good.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Well hello, you handsome Bunsnippers!

Pardon my recent reticence. Things have gotten real over here in Law School Land (just around the corner from Lah-Lah Land). The beginning of November marked the beginning of the nervous countdown to the end of my first semester. Only one month left to synthesize all the legal gobbledygook that's been flowing into my brain at the pace of 200 (rather dense) pages per week.

I've been feeling alternating bouts of "I can so make this thing my bitch!" and "Help me, Obiwan Kinobi, you're my only hope!" and "Oh my god, we're all gonna die!"

It's all gonna be fine, though. Really.

Honestly, I kind of expected that by this point in the semester I might be huddled in a corner rocking myself gently while singing incomprehensibly about jurisdiction, res ipsa loquitur, and the statute of frauds, but so far I've managed to keep the crazy to a moderate level.

Still, I can't help thinking about the refrain of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate: "I'm worried about my future!" It would be nice if I could just allow myself to enjoy the academicness of this experience for its own sake, but I've been in the real world, and I know that everything I do here is primarily for the purpose of getting a job offer - preferably before I even graduate. And so with that comes the pressure, of course, to do really well on the exams. But there is a mandatory curve set at 3.0, so most people will get Bs on the exams. That's ok, I'm willing to accept that. I will naturally strive to do the best I can. But, goddammit, I'm worried about my future!

I am really looking forward to the end of this semester, even while I try to slow the hands of time to allow me to adequately prepare for exams. I am getting tired of the sameness of a lot of things. Some classmates are starting to get to me, I feel a strong personality clash with a certain instructor of mine, and I am just looking forward to something new. I'm still enjoying the experience as a whole, though. Have met a handful of people whom I genuinely enjoy, and found a really good beer at my neighborhood pub that tasted like espresso. Ok, that last bit has nothing to do with law school. Except for maybe a remedy to my pain and suffering. Ha!

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