Law school Q

By Scott Green

I knew almost nothing about law school when I was an undergraduate. As a second-year law student (called a “2L” or “soulless worker drone”) I thought this would be a nice chance to teach a college crowd about the mysterious institution that produced such magnificent American specimens as Clarence Darrow, Johnnie Cochran, Lionel Hutz, Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong and Ally McBeal. I also wrote this because “educational” columns count toward my community service. (Stupid mailbox, why did you have to be on a public street when I peed on you?)

Q. How long does law school take?

A. Three years. The first year is spent on basic law topics like contracts, criminal procedure, ambulance chasing and yelling “Objection!” really dramatically. After that, students pick their own curriculum. This semester, for example, I am taking Copyright Law, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Reasonable Bribe Amounts, and one other – I think it’s called Professional Ethics, but I’m not sure because I never go and have someone else sign the attendance sheet for me.

Q. Isn’t law school a lot of work?

A. This is a common misconception. Law students’ schedules aren’t really that bad. On average, we spend about 15 hours in the classroom each week, 50 hours reading and studying, six on a law journal, four on moot court, seven reading forwarded e-mails from classmates, professors and administrators, 12 at interviews and callbacks for summer work and post-school jobs, five for Tae Bo and Pilates, and 25 undermining each other’s confidence under the pretense of friendship. This leaves 44 whole hours a week we have to ourselves for whatever we want: sleeping, eating, napping, sleeping and napping.

Q. Is it true that they cut off your hand if you break a rule?

A. I think you are thinking of 12th century Persia. That’s not the same thing as law school.

Q. So what does happen if you break a rule?

A. You have to disclose it to the dean, it goes in your permanent record and an e-mail is sent to the entire student body with a vague description of your offense. Your name is omitted.

Q. So nobody knows who it was?

A. If there’s one thing law students do more than undermining each other’s confidence, it’s gossiping while undermining each other’s confidence. Also, the more embarrassing the violation, the quicker the offender’s identity spreads.

Q. How do grades work?

A. A+ is the best, A is next, then A-, B+, B, B- and so on, down to F.

Q. Very funny.

A. Thank you. In most classes there is just a final exam, and it counts for your entire semester grade. Scientific studies have shown this is the best way to make everybody really nervous and ruin Thanksgiving and spring breaks, because there’s no time for anything but studying. It is also very practical for us, career-wise, because most firms regularly give their attorneys four months to prepare for five open-book curved essay exams.

Q. What is this “Socratic method” thing I’ve heard about?

A. It’s the way most professors conduct classes. Instead of asking for volunteers, they randomly call on students to answer open-ended questions. So the professor explains a minor concept, rattles off a long hypothetical, asks a question and then picks someone to answer it.

This is particularly challenging because if, like most law students, you spent the last 20 minutes looking at your ex-girlfriend’s photos on Facebook, you did not hear the concept, the hypothetical, or the question. You ask the professor to “please rephrase a little,” which is code for “You are less interesting than the Internet.” After a couple of false starts by you, the professor says, “Did you mean” and then gives the answer he wanted, and you feel like Cameron Diaz’s character’s brother Warren from “There’s Something About Mary.” Congratulations, you have been publicly shamed.

Q. Did you just write this column so every girl on campus would know you are a law student?

A. OBJECTION! Irrelevant.

Q. Wow, that was very dramatic.

A. It should be. “Objections” was a four-credit class.