Goodbye, 2021! With the fall semester done and gone and as we say our farewells to the remainder of the year I can’t help but look back on 2021. To the 1Ls completing their first semester, the 2Ls facing their first in-person classes and finals, and the 3Ls just trying to make it through these final few months, it has certainly been a year to remember.
Here are a few highlights our favorite 2021 Impact blog posts:
Before starting my first semester of law school, some of the most repeated advice I heard from those who had taken this journey before me was “don’t make law school your personality.” This sentiment was echoed in personal conversations with current students and in sessions hosted by student reps during orientation, and each time I heard it, I laughed it off.
It felt like such a strange thing to be saying over and over! It was too specific to be coincidentally repeated, but I didn’t really get what it meant. I understood the more general advice to take time off from school every once in a while, but what did that have to do with law school becoming your personality? I started to think this was some weird joke I wasn’t in on.
But then, classes started. It turns out what I wasn’t “in on” was law school, because once I was in on that, I saw what all those 2Ls and 3Ls were talking about.
Here is a list of elevated activities to fill your free time this winter break.
Decorate gingerbread courthouses and gingerbread judges. Gingerbread houses are for children and laymen. Get a bakery treat that matches your professional degree.
Debate whether Santa Claus is a trespasser or an invitee when he comes down your chimney. Is Santa acting like a reasonable person when he enters through your chimney? Why can’t he just walk through the door?
You can watch the snow fall and think about how many personal injury claims are going to be filed the next day. Shovel those sidewalks!
Explain to your family how Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer had a discrimination claim against Santa. Rudolph was outcasted for his red nose, which ended up being an advantage . . . There’s some employment discrimination going on at the North Pole. . .
Analyze the lyrics “Jack Frost nipping at your toes,” and ponder whether the “one bite rule” would apply. For purposes of this debate, I am assuming that Jack Frost is the songwriter’s dog.
Try to network with Santa’s lawyer, who got him acquitted for vehicular manslaughter when Grandma got run over by a reindeer. I don’t know how they pulled that one off.
Melissa Gaglia is a second-year student at BC Law. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All that remains of the Heart Mountain concentration camp, where the United States imprisoned over 14,000 Americans of Japanese descent between 1942 and 1945, is the camp’s hospital building. Over the course of a few months in 1942, the federal government transformed hundreds of acres in remote northwest Wyoming—near Yellowstone National Park—into the state’s third most populous city. The valley plain beneath Heart Mountain became one of ten “Relocation Centers,” the Orwellian name given to the World War II era camps in which over 100,000 people were imprisoned on the basis of their Japanese heritage. Back then, Heart Mountain was a bustling camp consisting of barracks, mess halls, toilet and laundry facilities, recreation spaces, workshops, schools, the hospital, a courthouse, administration buildings, nine guard towers, and a barbed-wire perimeter fence. This October, when I scanned the horizon for some sense of place or history, all I could make out was the original hospital building and snow-covered fields.
In 1941, a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral was walking with his dog in the Alps. As both he and his dog brushed up against the surrounding vegetation, George began to wonder why burdock seeds were sticking to his wool socks and his coat, as well as to his dog. Out of curiosity, he decided to look at the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered tiny “hooks” in their surface that stuck them to fabrics and furs. Mestral, after experimenting with a variety of textiles, found he could manufacture a material with the same tiny hooks—out of nylon, that had the ability to stick to other fibers in a similar way. This invention, known as Velcro, proved to be a new, efficient, and reliable way of fastening things together, and is one of history’s greatest serendipitous discoveries.
Since what may as well be the beginning of time, students have gone to school and had their performance and knowledge of material assessed by some form of examination. In law school, the “final exam” brings to mind timeless and harrowing images of students shut away in large wooden rooms straining over pen and paper, toggling between some existential worry over the exam itself, and a broader heartache over the neurosis of law firms’ sordid infatuation with first year grades.
Other than the advent of the Scantron, and students over time writing their exam answers on computers instead of by hand, the setting, schedule, and convocation of final exams has hardly ever changed.
(What does this have to do with Velcro, you ask? Read on.)
Headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and feelings of exhaustion. I’m not talking about Covid; these are all negative side effects of stress. As law students, we are likely familiar with managing stress, especially during finals season. In the midst of the madness, there are a few consequences of stress that actually benefit us:
When you’re about to hit that begin test button on Examplify and a knot forms in the pit of your stomach, it can actually be helpful. This is because moderate stress strengthens the neural connections in your brain which enhances memory and attention span, and increases productivity.
In a UC Berkeley study, researchers found intermittent stressful events caused stem cells in rat brains to proliferate into new nerve cells that improved the rats’ mental performance.
“You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not… Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
That explains why as a chronic procrastinator, the stress of an impending deadline is sometimes the only thing that can kick start getting my work done.
As I entered into the thick of finals, I found myself in the usual funk of the season. Whether it be the long hours studying, the unfortunate act of flipping through class notes only to find illegible scribbles, or the jealousy rising in me as I see people pass my window enjoying their afternoons–I cannot help but feel a bit grumpy about what I (and all other law students) are going through at the moment.
On top of the usual irritability, I am painfully aware that this is my fifth time heading into finals. As a 3L, I have found myself dragging my feet more this time around. I have admittedly become a bit more impatient with tough concepts, lackluster in my study habits, and generous with my study breaks.
Beyond chuckling at the images of Prof. Bloom and the class showing off their goofy sweaters, I felt a rush of nostalgia. I had completely forgotten about my own section’s Ugly Sweater Contest two years ago. Cooped up in a Civil Procedure review session, I remember laughing at both the fashion choices of my classmates and Professor Bloom’s zany commentary along the way. It was such a pleasant (and needed) break from stressing over what would be my first ever law school exam–a lighter moment to share with the people that had filled my life over the semester and who were going through the same taxing time.
Almost there. These are the last few weeks, the final stretch, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, it’s a red, angry light – not the warm, golden glow you were hoping for – but that’s show business. Papers are due, and exams are right around the corner. This was never going to be the fun part of the semester.
Still, when you’re done, you’ll be done. For at least a little while, there will be no impending assignments to complete or grade-points to score (and if you don’t move, the summer job application deadlines can’t see you). Winter break will be a time for seeing family, celebrating whatever holidays you observe, and most decidedly NOT reading court cases about the axioms of contract interpretation.
The 2Ls and 3Ls have run this race before. For the 1Ls, Travis pulled together a great compilation of helpful final exam advice, so I’ll not bore readers with too much more of my own. Instead, I thought I’d just offer a few quick thoughts about wrapping up the semester, and the break that follows: