One L

The classic memoir about law school is Scott Turow's One L, first published in 1977. The basic structure of schooling is the same but the feel is much different (less dramatic) than Turow describes. Before his first exam he describes drinking wine, taking sleeping pills, and taking valium all in an effort to cool his nerves and get to sleep. He finally flails at his mattress before passing out. I did none of those things, though who can't use a good mattress flail every now and then.

I think there are two basic reasons for the difference in drama. First, the professors have lost their hard edge. Rather than humiliate you for missing an answer to a question they will say, "that's one way to interpret it." And the Socratic method is nothing more than a class discussion, except rather than seeking volunteers the teacher will refer to his giant poster board with each of our pictures pasted over our assigned seat (I couldn't make this up) and call on someone at random. Second, to write an entire book about law school you have to be a bit of a dramatic person. Law school is hard work but it is a kind of sustained steady drudgery that doesn't readily produce a great plot.

But in looking over the book recently there was one excerpt that rang true and it was his description of how he felt after his first round of tests. I looked forward to the end of finals but when that time finally arrived I just felt a bit sick and robbed. I worked too hard all semester for it to just end in a flash. Here's how Turow described his feelings:

In the aftermath of exams, I felt bitter and cheated...I felt insulted by them--there's no other way to put it. Finals were regarded with an institutional earnestness which had left my classmates and me believing for months that the tests would offer some consummate evaluation, not simply of how well we'd learned, but--almost mystically--of the depths of our capacity in the law. Exams were something to point to, a proving ground for all the hard and sincere labor. And instead they had been intellectual quick-draw contests, frantic exercises that seemed to place no premium on sustained insight and imagination which I most admired in others, and when they occurred, felt proudest of in myself.

Maybe (probably) he is overstating himself but not by too much.

1 Comment:

  1. bg said...
    Congratulations on the good grades. Go celebrate.

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