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September 25, 2008: Yawp of a Setter
September 25, 2008
Yawp of a Setter
The hall is a long length of all-purpose gray carpeting, a color dotted with a multitude of various tones, designed to disguise any lingering stains or worn areas that escape the careful eye of the cleaning staff. The walls are an equally neutral beige, broken only in measured increments by the doors, portals to the individual escape pods, or if you would rather, habitation domes. Still, individuality lingers in traces on these wooden gates in the form of pictures, cut outs, and marker boards. "No unwanted knocks," reads one. "Sleeping and homework," reads another. And then there is one that lets the reader know immediately where she is; "While reading Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, I ironically eat my textbook out of hunger." No doubt about it now. We are in a law school residence hall.
I will refrain from explaining the humor of the marker board quote. You either get it or you don't, and chances are if you do, you are a law student. Suffice to say, law students have a particular kind of humor that is understood by few, and appreciated by less, a hybrid of dark sarcasm and begrudged knowledge. Verbal playground spares evolve in terrifying ways ("Well your momma's so fat, I had to use a prescriptive easement to get around her."). Horrifying, I know.
Yet beyond the humor, a new student might actually be surprised by how similar these three years are to what she's already experienced. Certainly there are those who will disagree; for goodness sake, we are young attorneys, lawyer larva, and if we didn't debate everything from mens rea to the importance of being earnest, we would wither faster than Vanilla Ice's career. Still, the similarities are striking. More than ever before, students are descending upon this degree path with hardly a moment's breath between matriculation and orientation week. In Dannat Hall, the habitation dome I lovingly mock above, we even have a few students under twenty-one. Whether this influx of young enterprisers reflects an actual increase in the interest in law, or is simply the bi-product of the depreciating worth of the average BA or BS is hard to determine. What is easier to notice are the ways that law school has now become an extension of college, whereas only thirty years ago such degrees were a rarer breed.
Today the similarities are striking. Clubs become law societies, student council becomes the SBA, the student paper remains, and first year required courses in subjects one may never touch again stay the norm. Even at Pace, the ever-present decision of what to "major in" looms. Why is this important? It isn't, really. Law school is what you make it, and for every student who agrees with me that it is more of the same, several more will call me a fool. Why write this? Because for me, comparing law school to undergrad is a positive process. It is September, and for 1Ls and 3Ls alike, it is very easy to slip into nostalgia of rollicking football games, late night parties, and other distractions that are not available, and that one cannot afford here. But if law school is just an extension of undergrad, that means there is still time for self-discovery, time to screw up and restart, time to, above all else, laugh. Law school is not a means to an end, nor is it an end itself. It simply is, and as soon as one sits back, learns to enjoy it, and dispel the mystique of danger and legal dragons, the world stands unmasked and glorious.
It's either that or be reduced to poor jokes ("What's your favorite vodka?" "Fee simple absolute."), and personally I would rather extend the journey.