Lately, I have been thinking a lot about time and the lack of it. Last semester, I thought maybe I just hadn’t planned well enough, so I decided my lack of time was an organizational problem. I worked on time management. I divided my workstreams. I even cleaned out my email inbox. But at the end of it all, I still didn’t have enough time. Only now, I didn’t have time in a nice, organized sort of way.
I began to notice that it wasn’t just me. No one had enough time. Even though we all get the same amount – that good ole 24/7 – and even though it’s renewable on condition (on condition that you aren’t dead) there is somehow just not enough of it to go around. Ever. It’s as though we’re being shortchanged by the universe one day at a time.
When I was applying, I brought my wife to Admitted Students’ Day. It was a Big Deal. We both dressed up. She sat with me through the mock class. We had lunch together in the cafeteria. She came to the panels, went on the tour, and generally learned as much about law school as I did. It was a good day. A really good day. And though I learned a great deal, I still wanted to know: what’s law school really like? How do people dress for class? Is cold-calling really as bad as it seems? Will I make friends? Are the professors like Kingston in The Paper Chase? That kind of thing.
I think what I was looking for was the law school equivalent of those really detailed product reviews on Amazon that you just kinda trust. You know the type. The reviewer always sounds like they really want to like the product, but they’re just not sure. They go over the results of their research. They compare models. And they’re always weirdly specific about little things: “yeah, I ran the Samurai Slicer on full speed. Noticed a slight wobble, but that’s pretty standard on models like this one that use a polymer base instead of steel.” It sounds authentic. It sounds real.
Where was that for BC Law? Not the HR presentation, not the Tour Talk, but the weirdly specific Amazon review. Well, guess what? It’s right here. So after you unsubscribe from the r/lawschooladmissions subreddit and join r/lawschool, take a moment to yourself, crack open a Success Beer, and read on to find out what BC Law is really like…
Along with every other 1L, I am applying for a summer job. I’ve been to networking events, workshops, panels, and how-tos. My notebook overflows with well-meaning advice and guidance. The problem is that none of it applies to me. I don’t have a resumé; I’ve never had one.
I’m what people call a “non-traditional” law student. I came late to law school after building a career as a professor. I did have a distinguished undergraduate career, filled with awards, accolades and accomplishments. But I can’t put those things on my resumé. That was twenty some years ago. It would look weird, my notebook says. Out of place (underlined). They were important things. Bright, big things. They mattered then, and they matter now. But it won’t help me land a summer job. Employers don’t want to see that, quotes the notebook. So, /select/highlight/delete, and just like that, parts of my life are cut away. Besides, I need that space so I can focus on my strengths (circled; exclamation point). Because the resumé manuals tell me I have to…wait, where is it…oh, right. Lead with my core competencies (question mark). And above all, circled and twice underlined and given arrows all around it, the number-one-most-important-thing-to-remember-is…just be yourself!
But the problem with being yourself is that it’s hard to know who that is.
The forty-something having fun at law school in this meme is supposed to be me, I imagine. But the cigar-smoking golfer is John Daly. Hard-driving, hard-drinking, ‘Long John’ Daly. He’s played golf most of his life. He still plays golf. Through alcoholism, failed marriages, and personal turmoil, John Daly keeps playing golf. And he’s 56.
Funny thing, golf. Even the best player in the world is going to lose. A lot. And they’re going to lose for one very simple, very human reason. They just weren’t good enough. Maybe the greens were faster than they like, or their short game was off. I don’t know; I don’t play golf. But whatever the multitude of reasons, there’s only one that matters. On that day, in those conditions, someone else did it better. For whatever reason.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit as we’ve plummeted towards final exams, and as I’ve watched the sick realization of competition take hold and threaten to distort friendship into rivalry. I’ve thought about losing, and law school, and what I can learn from John Daly. And what I’ve decided is…
I’m in East Wing 115, the very first room I sat in as a brand-new BC Law student. It’s the room that looks so much like a Greek amphitheater and feels like one, too, when the questioning begins. The lights aren’t even on because it’s 8am, a full half-hour before Contracts, and dammit. I’m not even the first one here. Walking to my seat, I shake my head. Who gets up early for Contracts at 8:30 in the morning?! It’s a ridiculous question, of course, because the answer is Me. I get up early for Contracts. It’s just that…I didn’t think anyone else would. And it’s not just one else, either. There are a good half-dozen elses, chatting softly together in the gently lit dark. I shake my head again. Madness.
By eight-fifteen, the classroom is full. Section 2 is present and accounted for. Hillinger could walk in and start her interrogation critical questioning, and no one would bat an eye. Everyone is ready, anyway. Somebody tapped the lights on the way in, and now the classroom blazes with life and energy and conversation.
I grew up in Techwood, a housing project of inner-city Atlanta. Until it was razed in preparation for the ’96 Summer Olympics, Techwood was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous projects of any city in the country. Bodies in gutters and on gurneys, overdoses, gang violence, drive-bys. I saw it all. I still do, from time to time. So I escaped. Left it all behind. And I didn’t need a Wardrobe or a Tardis or a tricked-out DeLorean. All I had to do was press the ‘walk’ button, wait for the light to change, and walk across the street. It was just that easy. And when I stepped on the far sidewalk, as if by magic, the world changed from the pitted, blood-stained sidewalks of Techwood to the manicured lawns of Georgia Tech. That was my Narnia, my middle-Earth, my galaxy far far away. Use whatever metaphors and similes you can find. But the campus of Georgia Tech was as magical and mystical as any of those fantasy lands, except that this one was real. And it was mine.