Law Faculty are Funny People, and Other Things I Didn’t See Coming

I didn’t necessarily think law school would be boring. I swear I didn’t. But then, I didn’t necessarily think it would be funny either. 

One of the natural barriers surely standing in the way of a law professor’s mission is what I have experienced as ‘the 1L jitters.’ Personally, I was very nervous about the start of law school, a new and defining chapter in my life. I was so nervous that I didn’t get much sleep for the first couple of days. Speaking with my fellow students, it’s pretty clear that I wasn’t the only one. 

Now, you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to know that getting at least a couple hours of sleep per night might be important for the learning process, so there was going to be a problem if we didn’t all release some of that 1L jitter-tension quickly. And that’s what laughter is, right? Releasing tension. I’ve found the class content lends itself to humor surprisingly well, and it’s where the professors can excel. 

It’s true: some of our professors are funny. I’m not trying to brown-nose here – though I’ll take all the help I can get – I’m just calling a spade a spade. In the classroom, when their jokes hit, the laughter removes some of the nerves standing in the way of us hitting the ground running and really learning and internalizing legal doctrine.

I’m sure that some of the professors have told these same jokes over and over, semester after semester. They have practiced their routines. But clearly, introductory legal doctrine is an otherwise untapped reservoir of comedic content – Jerry Seinfeld and the like don’t know what they’re missing. 

Of course, not every professor is (or even should be) funny. We are here to learn about the law, not just to tell jokes. Either way, there is a clear effort from all the teaching faculty here to create a welcoming academic environment, and I am sure my peers would agree with me in saying that it is much appreciated. Future 1Ls reading this blog in order to get a sense of what they are getting themselves into should rest easy knowing that they aren’t entering that hostile classroom they’ve seen in movies and on television. My experience has been that there is a concerted effort from the top down to integrate students smoothly and in a way they will quickly come to enjoy, and it all facilitates a better learning experience.

The levity doesn’t stop with the faculty either. One of the first points that our professors have stressed to us is that all this legal theory doesn’t exist in a vacuum: the cases we read and the topics we cover are real. They are things that actually happened to actual people. As we all know, sometimes the things that happen in real life to real people are really ridiculous. Some of the things plaintiffs and defendants argue over as described in our Property casebooks, or the bizarre agreements people come to as described in our Contracts casebooks, or the strategic shenanigans lawyers try to pull off as described in our Civil Procedure casebooks, are just unbelievable. You couldn’t make it up, so you just have to laugh about it. 

So what does this all mean? As we work through cases and tracking judges’ logical reasoning through a dense mire of sometimes mundane and sometimes bizarre facts and allegations, we are also reasoning our way to some sort of conclusive and elusive truth. What’s the rule here? What theories apply? Where’s the case precedent? Was the judge drunk when he wrote this? Eventually, you discover that truth, and sometimes that’s what it takes to be funny: the revelation of a surprising and incisive truth that defies your expectations. That discovery has been a day-to-day experience here in my first month at law school, and it makes me confident that I made the right decision when I chose to become a lawyer, and to become one at BC Law. 


Dan Riley is a first-year student at BC Law and a new Impact blogger. He loves to hear from readers: email him at rileydh@bc.edu.

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