Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Oh God, you richies are so smart, that's exactly why I'm not heavy into activities.

Foreword: This post seriously got away from me. I feel like I should provide you with a Table of Contents or something. First few paragraphs = feeling like it's pointless to participate in certain activities because everyone keeps telling me my lack of superstar grades and law review have *already* seriously constrained my future opportunities. Middle-ish/End-ish paragraphs = one of our profs acting totally crazy during a debate with a prominent prof from another school. Last couple of paragraphs = I'm not happy with the way the blog is going lately but am not sure what to do about it.
Today in Admin Law our prof commented that yesterday there was a clerkship panel with judges, one in particular who is an alum and very prominent in our state, and barely any students showed up. He told us he really thought it was embarrassing that people here in this school are so unsupportive of events that the school holds, not only because we are missing opportunities to meet influential and interesting people and learn about opportunities, but because these bigwig people are going to go back and tell their bigwig friends about the low turnout and low enthusiasm of students at our school.

Without commenting on the quarter system and how insane most of our lives are, since I think you've heard quite enough of that from me, and without pointing out that (I heard...this is not fact), the panel was held not during lunch but during classtime and directly preceding the deadline for turn-in of appellate ad competition briefs for 2 and 3L's, I think he's right that our student body is, for the most part, not engaged with these panels and presentations and stuff the school sets up.

What can I say? I'm not *uninterested* and often I think something sounds good only to feel like I have so many other things to do that I just can't make the time. Running between three or four classes a day plus all the requisite reading and stuff just doesn't leave a lot of time for leisurely taking in a lunchtime panel.

But, I think it goes deeper than that. The school and, maybe I'm projecting here, but in my opinion, the greater legal community, have kind of made the normal, "average" law student (or at least me personally) feel like "well, why should I bother?"

Why bother going to a panel on clerkships when all my professors, Career Services, and every legal publication I have ever read have already told me that I'll never get one because my grades aren't good enough and I'm not on law review?

Why bother going to a "career" panel staffed only by BIGLAW attorneys when I've already been told that, once again, average grades and no law review is equivalent to "don't bother"?

Why bother going to all the Career Services special little lunchtime events on "finding yourself" when they all seem to be structured for people who have never had a job before, which is clearly not the case for the vast majority of people at this school?

Why bother going to the resume writing workshop when the last two I've been to the person has been unable to address my unique career background in any significant way?

I know this is kind of self-serving, and probably not applicable in any generalized way, but really I have said before that I feel very disengaged from the law school "process."

Last quarter one of my profs told our class that he thought "law school is a lot like the military because it breaks you down in order to build you back up in a new way."

I just can't overstate how categorically wrong I think that statement is. The military breaks you down, that much is true. But then they build you up. They train you and give you opportunities to have small victories, and then bigger ones. You have written feedback and performance evaluations on a regular basis. You work hard and play hard with your peers. There is camaraderie.

Law school breaks you down, and then, in the case of my school at least, leaves you hanging for the most part. The feedback is mainly in the form of grades, which seem to be largely arbitrary and stigmatizing for the "bottom" 90%. Professors, like bosses, are hit or miss in terms of getting feedback and mentoring, so that's perhaps the same everywhere -- you have to seek out good mentoring no matter where you find yourself. But, so far in law school there have been few victories. The training, if you can analogize moot court and law review to "training", is apparently only useful to about 10 of the 192 people in my class...I guess the rest of us are shit out of luck since "training" is based on a competition.

I won't even get into how totally useless my 1L writing class was...we were part of an "educational experiment" and in a lot of ways got totally shafted, but that experience is probably not the same as what other people have experienced in LRW since it was really out of the mainstream. I have made some awesome friends, but most of the time we are all too busy for the "play hard" part of the equation above...there is always too much to do as we frantically move through the quarter...barely starting a class only to be confronted with outlining and exams.

So, what I'm saying is that I don't begrudge the many people who love law school and think it's great experience and a wonderful place to be and manage to get great grades and be the Editor in Chief of Law Review their happiness and joy. More power to them, they probably work a lot harder than me or are just inherently smarter or something.

But, from the very first day I got here I have just felt kind of like an outsider. When I like my classes, I really enjoy the law school experience. I enjoy researching, I enjoy advocacy, I enjoy the interactions I have in class when they are intelligent and not blindly dogmatic.

I guess I don't have an answer for why people don't participate more. I get pissed when I can't even get the members of the organization I'm president of to show up for our meetings, so I totally empathize...and God knows that what I have to say is totally useless, unlike a prominent judge who has all kinds of great advice. But, whenever I think about it I just think..."why bother?"

I know apathy is never the answer, so maybe I need to make a bigger effort to not get sucked into my own feelings of disenchantment and take the position that there is a lot out there that IS for me, and I won't know about it unless I take a closer look at what's going on around me and what the school is at least *attempting* to offer.
As a side matter, it's interesting that during the one recent event that had a pretty good turnout, a debate between one of our profs and a prominent professor from a law school that is located in a very windy city, if you know what I mean, our prof generally acted like he was insane. He belittled the other prof, called him names, made accusations about the guest prof's personal and professional beliefs, alluded to his lack of "deep understanding" of the subject, and announced that he was no longer using this prof's book for his 1L class because the guest prof had added just a couple of sentences in order to "extort" students and law professors who had to buy the new edition.

No one in the Administration seems the least bit concerned about this incident. The Dean (once again, I heard this second hand), supposedly told a couple of people he didn't think there was any problem, that essentially it was just a spirited debate. But let me assure you, it was far more embarrassing for our school than low turnout at a clerkship panel...if this guest prof goes back to his school and tells people about his experience, or tells his professional colleagues about what happened, the embarrassment will be a lot more than a local issue between students, administration, and alumni.

Anyway, as usual this post started out with a point and then just got away from me. I apologize.
I am kind of unhappy lately with the direction I've been going with this little blog experiment, but I'm not sure if I want to go back to just links to news stories and a little blurb about it in a "trying to be funny" manner, or if I'm just sick of bitching about law school but too tired and socially isolated to have anything else meaningful to talk about. If anyone has suggestions, I would be happy to hear them.

Tomorrow may be a "no blogging" day since the Ninth Circuit will be arguing four cases at the school in the morning and through lunchtime, and then M. will be here. I'm sure you'll miss me.
This blog is sponsored by The Reeves Law Group at 515 South Flower Street, 36th Floor. Los Angeles CA 90071. (213) 271-9318