One of the best things about blogging is that you enter a realm of other bloggers. You read a little here and a little there an before you know it, you have a cadre of internet soul-mates. You share your life with these women, telling your stories to them every day and reading theirs with the same intensity with which you share your own. They become a part of the fabric of your day and you look forward to your interactions with them.
I’ve found several women like that since I began this bloggy adventure of mine. My intention is to strike it rich any minute now (how I get rich is yet to be determined) so that I can buy a private island and move my bloggy friends there so that we don’t have to rely on Twitter to share up-to-the-minute commentary.
One of the most wonderful women I’ve met is Law Momma. Her blog, Spilled Milk (and other atrocities) is the blog I wold have wanted to have written if I had been capable of writing a coherent sentence during the first year of C.’s life. Instead, I read her smart, funny, and generally awesome blog everyday and nod my little head, saying “Yup. That’s just how I felt after shaking poop off my hand and onto a wall. Only Law Momma makes it sound much cooler than I ever could.”
In addition to envying Law Momma’s way with words and occasionally considering kidnapping her adorable son for an afternoon so that I can nibble on his squishy, pudgy, fabulous little cheeks, I envy the fact that she went to law school. I took a law class as a fun elective in grad school (What? Copyright law was fun! Stop judging me. And don’t call me a nerd! Ok, I’m a nerd.) and seriously considered going on to get my JD after I finished my masters. Then I decided that I probably didn’t want to work as hard as law students work so I took my MA and ran with it. But I’ve had twinges of regret about bypassing law school ever since. So I did the obvious thing: I asked Law Momma to tell me all about her law school experience. And, as I suspected, she did law school much cooler than I ever could have,
P.S. Please disregard anything she says about me. I think my mother paid her to say that.
When Rebekah asked me to guest blog, I understandably panicked. You read her blog, so you know she’s funny and witty and has a way with words. I, on the other hand, have an obsession with incorrect punctuation and pretty much only make myself laugh. Also? I want to be Rebekah so our blogging “relationship” takes on a lot of added Single White Female undertones. And then she tells me “Write on law school. I would love to know what that was like.” Awesome. It’s a topic, but it’s a tough one. See, law school was three years of my life. Three whole years. And post-baby, those years seem a lifetime away. But I loved law school and I love Rebekah, so I’m going to do my best to paint a picture of what law school was really like. I’m sure there are those out there with different experiences, but this is mine:
The first thing you should know about law school is that it’s full of smart people. I don’t say this to toot my own horn or to state the obvious. I say this because until you are in the situation, you don’t realize what it means to be in a school full of smart people. Let me paint you a picture… all your life you get good grades. You are little Miss or Mister Perfection… Daddy and Mommy’s pride and joy. Getting good grades is basically second nature to you; you don’t know anything else. And then one day you end up in law school with hundreds of other Miss and Mister Perfection. Everyone is used to being the best, only now? Everyone can’t be the best.
And would you like to throw in another wrench? Okay. You will no longer be graded on your performance. Instead, you will be graded on how your performance stacks up against all your peers. So even if you know everything possible, if everyone else knows it, too… you all get C’s. If you know everything that Susie Perfection knows, but Susie Perfection writes a better introduction to her exam? You get a B and Susie Perfection gets the A. And just so you know, all your peers are ridiculously competitive before they are told they have to beat you in order to stay perfect.
Can you see it now? My class consisted of 125 ultra competitive, ultra smart, ultra OCD people who I would have to compete against to secure my class grades, my class rank, and oh yeah, ultimately, my job. Yeah. Because the “simple” idea of law school isn’t stressful enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved law school. For the most part, my class got along. We didn’t play a lot of the games that other classes played. And as I’ve said, I met some of the best friends of my life there. When I first started at Mercer, I told my mother it was as though I’d been in Oz for years and all of a sudden I was back in Kansas and everything made sense for the first time in my life. I was surrounded by people who thought like me… people who wanted to talk about both sides of an issue and explore every possible angle before answering a question or solving a puzzle. It was exhilarating.
The classes were… sometimes boring. There were certainly times when I felt like my brain would explode from sheer annoyance at one professor or another. And then there were the “special” professors… the ones no one wanted to have but everyone did. The ones like the Scotsman who, during my first class of my first day of law school, pointed to me, peered down over his glasses and bellowed out:
“YOU! Green Person. Take yer wee cough syrup before you come in my class!”
He was also the only professor I had who made us stand up to brief a case. Torture. It’s hard enough to be called on out of the blue to answer questions about stuff you don’t really understand. It’s even worse to do that while wondering if the person sitting behind you is getting an eye full of your ass and if because your skirt is stuck to the back of your legs or you, God forbid, you have a wedgie. Not to mention that if you’re me, your knees are knocking together like canastas. The Scotsman once got so annoyed with one of my classmates during a case brief that he stomped his foot and said “NO! Bad dog. SIT DOWN.”
I could tell a million other stories along the same vein. But the most important thing I wanted to share about law school isn’t the classes or the fear or even the competition. Because the thing we all learned somewhere along the way, was that it didn’t matter if you knew the material best. It didn’t matter if you could recite the Rule Against Perpetuity until your face turned blue. What mattered in the end, was learning how to process questions and learning how to “think like a lawyer.” And for me? Learning to “think like a lawyer” involved learning how to admit when I didn’t know the answer and having the wisdom to ask someone who did.
Being in law school, no more than that… being a lawyer, means having people think you know things you might not know. It means having people automatically believe that your opinion carries more weight than someone else’s. And that’s a heavy burden. I don’t know much more than anyone else, I just have a ton of debt and a piece of paper that lets me talk to a judge. So I learned really quickly that if I don’t know the answer, I better not hedge about it.
Law school was, quite simply, the best time of my life. I enjoyed every second of it… even the moments where my knees shook and I stuttered out answers to questions. Even the moment when a certain professor pointed a wrinkly finger at me and ordered me to pack up my stuff and move to the back row of the classroom as punishment for a wrong answer. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love nothing more than to throw a bottle of cough syrup at the Scotsman and punch the lights out of the professor who embarrassed me with the “back of the room” punishment. But in the end? Every moment during those three years sculpted me into the woman, the mother, the wife, and (of course) the lawyer that I am today. So I guess I can’t be too pissed off.