Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Called out

Whenever people talk to me about law school, they almost always jokingly (I hope) ask, "Is it like Legally Blonde?" I have not seen the movie in quite some time, so I don't remember much of the details, but there is one scene that has stuck with me through the years. It is the scene in which the main character Elle Woods is called on during the first day of school to brief a case for the class. She tells the professor that she wasn't aware that there was an assignment that she had to prepare for and is then promptly asked to leave the classroom by the professor.

In this respect, yes, law school is like Legally Blonde. One of the biggest reasons why students like myself stress out over law school is because of the fear of being called on in class to brief a case (give the facts, holdings, relative legal doctrine, etc. of a case) or answer any questions (usually confusingly worded or very complex) by the professor, and if you are deemed unprepared, you WILL be kicked out of class. How you manage to keep yourself from peeing your pants in utter fear or looking like a complete Neanderthal in front of your peers depends directly on your class prep every night. Now, one may think, "Okay, so do the readings and you're good to go." This is dumb and naive undergrad-type thinking and this sort of thinking will only get you embarrassed.

The cases and case notes that we are forced to read are difficult to decipher, let alone grasp a comprehensive enough understanding to be able to recite in front of an entire classroom. All I can say is that it's a whole different ball-game when you are forced to talk about something that you THOUGHT you understood while trying to sound "lawyerly" at the same time. On top of everything, professors will bombard you with questions like, "And what EXACTLY does in rem jurisdiction mean? How is that different from quasi-in-rem jurisdiction? If so-and-so did THIS instead of THAT, how would that change the outcome? What all was in Justice Brennan's concurrence on this case?" And it goes on, and achingly on. You have no choice but to answer until you are genuinely stumped. At which point you begin to pray silently, "someone please raise their goddamned hand so this mofo will leave me the hell alone!"

So, you don't JUST read; You read critically, desperately analyzing every little sentence until you can't take it anymore and then you read some mo'. The incentive to avoid the suffocation of classroom dead-air brought on by half-assed class prep is VERY strong. If the saying that a lawyer's most valuable asset is her reputation is true, then it is probably best we try not to cultivate a "Omg, what kind of dumbass comes to class unprepared"-type persona this early on in the game.

This whole Socratic method used by all law professors is more troublesome for me than most others. This is so because believe it or not, I get called on in EVERY class since day one. As a matter of fact, I was called on today right after I said to my friend at the beginning of class, "There's no way he's calling on me a fourth time. Nuh-uh, not gonna happen." I think this is largely due to the fact that I am the ONLY Asian female in the class (I think there are a total of 9 Asian students that make up the ENTIRE student body). My theory is that it makes it easier to put the name to the face, creating a sort of natural inclination for professors to call on me, mid-lecturing or right at the start of class.

As a result, I am constantly poring over my reading assignments to ensure that I know every case inside and out (I am still always left unsure about my thoroughness) and coming to class with an almost paralyzing feeling of trepidation. Even my other classmates have noticed that I am always "picked on" by my professors. Although they tease me about it, I can tell that it makes them nervous as they realize it won't be long before their faces are put to their names and they too will have to endure the same torture in the upcoming weeks. Essentially, during every class, I feel like throwing up, and after every class, I stress out about the next class.

However, as often as I am called on I haven't completely struck out yet. Due to my constant apprehension of the certainty of being called on, I am constantly staying on top of my work (I printed out cases to read while on MARTA going to the first GSU football game and while waiting on friends to arrive last Thursday with me and Max's tickets) and therefore am always prepared for class. I guess this is a good thing, but I just hope I don't have a heart attack before all of this is over.

Oh, and I can't lie, I still vividly remember the "bend and snap" scene from Legally Blonde as well. "Is it like Legally Blonde" ... what a bunch of jackasses.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very proud of you! You show those racist professors you know yo junk.