The Mirror of Erised (SS12)

Hey everyone! So this week’s blog post has been one of my favorites to write thus far. It’s not necessarily just about law school, but about a topic that we discuss regularly in law school. It’s not an easy topic to tackle, and truly not just a law school related or Harry Potter topic, but one that is plaguing the nation we live in. All I ask of you while reading this post is to keep an open mind. I am not asking anyone to agree or disagree with the topic, but to simply hear me out.

(And, if you haven’t checked out the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Texts” please do. Usually I don’t listen to the podcast of the chapter I am writing about until after that chapter is blogged, but this week I was too intrigued to not listen first.)
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Here’s the recap of this week’s chapter:

It’s Christmas time at Hogwarts, and boy is everyone excited. On Christmas Day Harry wakes up and finds gifts for the first time in his life. These gifts include a Weasley sweater and a invisibility cloak. They enjoy a nice Christmas and Christmas Feast. As Christmas passes Harry goes on a mission to find out who Nicholas Flamel is by using his new clock to sneak into the restricted section of the library. Harry finds himself running away from Flitch who figures out a student is out of bed sneaking around the library. Harry seeks refuge in a random room of the castle finding the Mirror of Erised. Curious, he walks over to the mirror and sees his family (which he doesn’t recognize at first) looking back at him. Confused he looks around the room thinking they are behind him, but finds himself alone. He then leaves, and brings Ron back the next night. Harry thinks Ron will see all of the Weasleys but is disappointed to hear that Ron sees himself a Head boy, and Quidditch Cup winner. Harry returns the next night to stare into the mirror and see his family, when he is interrupted by Dumbledore who explains that the mirror reflects the heart’s deepest desire and that men waste away sitting in front of the mirror. Dumbledore tells Harry the mirror will be moved and that he should not go looking for it again.

This week’s theme: Privilege.

‘Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you,’ said Dumbledore.

One of the common topics of law school is that of the Reasonable Prudent Person standard. For all those non-law scholars out there this standard is meant to be a baseline in which we judge the actions (civil or criminal) of others; it’s our societal idea of the perfect person who acts appropriately in all situation. A common discussion we have on this standard is whether it needs to be changed. The law was created in a time when white protestant landowning males made the rules and morals of the world. Which means  the Reasonable Prudent Person was created by these same law makers and held to the standards they felt necessary in the world.  So this pretty much if you were of any race or gender you were and still held to standards not in align with the norms of your gender and race. a971e5c332b304a59cdb4aa4b47867447ca078a2bb31f2605efe95d81dd92af7

The reason we talk about changing it is to take into account different social backgrounds. Women and men for example don’t commit crimes in the same way or for the same reasons. People with varying educational opportunities or backgrounds act differently in situations or understand crime differently. People with mental health issues are charged in crimes or torts under the same mental capacity of a person without the same mental health issue. While changing it could revolutionize the way we understand people and how they interact with the law, the arguments on the other side say that changing this objective standard will give people more excuses to not be charged with crimes and won’t help us reach our social utopia that the legal works to create. It’s a slippery slope and a fine line to toe… and better yet every discussion ends with people on both sides upset.
And here lies the problem, we are blinded by privilege on either side. When looking into the law school’s equivalent of the Mirror of Erised (class discussions) we see the desires of each student. People for an objective standard (and this is subjective to my experiences in class) are typically people for whom the justice system has been in favor of for most of history… white men. Having some of your privilege questioned (not even necessarily taken away) causes an immediate reaction of anger because your very being is threatened. Not all white males asked for the system to be tipped in their favor and certainly not all white males are privileged, but history tells us otherwise. When you feel your rights and privileges are being stripped from you or that you are being made a villain it can cloud your judgment. You suddenly feel a need to defend yourself and nearsighted in achieving that goal (and keeping your privileges). It becomes a strong desire to keep the scales where they are, blinding them from seeing how minority groups are being suppressed by the world they desperately want to keep.

For people on the other side they are nearsighted in a different way. When the scales of justice and privilege have been tipped out of your favor you feel a strong desire to right these wrongs. It’s the side I find myself on more often than not. While I am white, I am still considered a minority in gender and it wasn’t until getting to law school that I found out just how sexist the world can be and is actually. Now, I am expected to have some privilege in my background because I am white (though if you put my upbringing on paper with a friend of mine who is from a minority race and you left out the color of our skin you would find out just how little privilege I grew up with), but the scales are still tipped out of my favor in many cases. Minorities want a voice, they want the scales tipped a little more in their favor and want the same privileges as people on the other side of the justice system have. However, in their pursuit they too become nearsighted in their desire for privilege and forget to see the effect of their placing blame on white males as a whole.

7d348bad38f49a697d1c448c6a4fe732All of this to say is that sometimes we forget to look out across the lines we draw by our desires and see how they affect the people we’ve segregated. Females blames males, males blame females, whites blame blacks, blacks blame whites… all we do is keep on making the line we’ve drawn between us thicker and thicker, not wanting to move away from an objective standpoint and really understand how other people work, relate and contribute to the world. Putting our desire to keep or grab ahold of privilege away and just starting to understand each’s worlds can change the world we live in. Creating a legal system that helps give voices to all communities and groups of people is far better than continuing to create these huge divides between them.

Sure, we don’t know what problems will be created by changing the Reasonable Prudent Person standard to be more subjective, but I think our approach to conversations around this topic need to change to be more understand and less nearsighted on both sides. We can no longer let minorities be invisible and we cannot allow white men to be pushed out of the conversation (which would make them invisible). We have to start making baby steps to creating a better society that gives everyone an equal voice in the conversation (which means the louder voices will be quieted a bit while the quiet voices will be turned up a bit more). Unfair privileges will be lost and not all sought privileges will be given, but everyone will one day have an equal say and equal privilege. It just takes us looking into the Mirror of Erised and facing our deepest desires and making the decision to help or hinder the changes needed in the world.

Until Next Time,

Mischief Managed

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Quidditch (SS11)

Hey hey hey! It’s another Sunday which means another Warding World of Law School post!  This week we finally enter into the realm of quidditch! There’s so much that can be said about quidditch and law school. I mean half of my time here I feel like a Seeker (the one player looking for the golden snitch to end the game). I can rarely see the snitch (damn little gold flying ball) but I know I need to find it first while dodging bludgers that are trying to kill me and cheering on my team! There’s so much anxiety, so much anticipation, so much competitiveness… and all I want is to find the snitch and end the game! 4562689

With all that said… that’s not what this week’s post is about. We will start with our brief recap and then jump right in with the theme of: Self-control. 

Recap: Harry is gearing up for his first and debut quidditch match! He is full of nerves, but with Ron and Hermione (who has been breaking the rules more and more lately) by his side he is ready to go. The trio continue to pursue information about Snape and the Three-headed dog they encountered during the midnight duel chapter. Game day comes and Harry is thrown into his first match! Things are going well, until all of a sudden Harry loses control of his broomstick! Hermione spots Snape muttering an incantation and rushes to set fire to his cloak to distract him. Harry gets control of his broom again and sets off after the snitch. The crowd watches in anticipation as harry almost swallows the snitch, winning the game for Gryffindors. The trio celebrates with Hagrid after the game and Hagrid lets out major clues in their hunt for answers regarding the dog and item that is hidden in the castle.

We see a lot of  control issues in this chapter. First is with Hermione. At the beginning of the book we meet a different Hermione, the know-it-all who follows every rule and works to show off how smart and good she is to her teachers and fellow students, than we now see. Ever since the troll incident Hermione is noted as taking a lot more risks  and chances when it comes to breaking the rules. It’s like she is taking control of her life and actually living rather than being terrified of what will happen if she breaks a rule. She’s taking her life by the reigns and learning to be herself, and not what the authorities in her life tell her to be.

Next and the biggest character dealing with control issues is Harry. He is nervous from the start when it comes to his first quidditch match. His one way of relaxing before the match is reading Quidditch Through the Ages which is taken form him by Snape, and when he seeks to get it back, as to control his nerves, he stumbles into trouble. Then in the match he loses control of his broom and his life is in danger. Luckily when he is able to regain the control he wins the game for his house.

Both of these character’s struggle with control are struggles the first year student also struggles with through the first semester of the year. Many times this semester alone I have felt a need to loosen up and be a little more relaxed when it comes to following rules, social structures and societal expectations as to regain control of my life (much like Hermione). While at the same time feeling out of control when it comes to taking midterms, writing papers for class or even participating in study groups to prepare for finals. Law school is the broom trying to buck me off and I am Harry trying to hang on for dear life.

d4c6f8f3c5f3b767390223f7847ce586992ecfd4017e9d5107e7e56c77002439It’s all about knowing when to let go of control, when to hang on and when to regain. Self-control over your time, your decisions and your social engagements are key to survival in law school. You can’t do everything, you can’t follow every rule and you can’t hang out with every person. You have to make time for your studies, your self-care and your sanity. You can’t spend every hour you have for two weeks stressing over a paper while neglecting friends and other classes, but you also can’t put off working on your paper. It’s all about time management, self-control and drive to make things work.

Self-control is pivotal from the beginning, but it’s something many of us are learning as we go this semester and hoping that we’ve created enough good habits to get us into through semester. And hopefully just like Harry we will catch the snitch and win the game, surviving and crushing our first year at law school.

 

Until Next Time,

Mischief Managed

Halloween (SS10)

Harry Potter blog fans, have no worries I’m still here! I missed the Sunday post, only because I spent my weekend watching all of the Harry Potter movies in theaters, which was amazing! Not only was it great to see all of the movies againharry-potter-memes-draco-dungeon in the comforts of a movie theater, it was even better to take a break from law school. Here we are though, a special Wednesday post! And not only am I going to post this one, but I will also be posting a second post later today! Lucky you!

We return to Hogwarts just in time for Halloween! This chapter includes one of my favorite movies scenes (TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!) and one of my favorite book quotes! Here we find that Hogwarts students are much like students everywhere: judgmental. Ron and Harry are becoming the best of friends, while starting to loathe hermione and her know-it-all tendencies. When they get to charms class and Ron is paired with Hermione (the great Levi-O-sa not Levi-o-SA scene), Ron is less than pleased. After class he is overheard by Hermione saying some really mean things about her. As they head to the halloween feast, Ron and Harry find out that Hermione has been crying all day in the girls’ lavatory and is absent from the feast. As all the students enjoy their feast, it is suddenly interrupted by Prof. Quirrell informing Dumbledore of a troll int eh dungeon. The students are escorted back to their houses, and in the midst of returning to Gryffindor tower, Ron and Harry realize Hermione doesn’t know about the troll and could be in danger. They rush off to find her, accidentally lock the troll in the bathroom with her, and then end up fighting the troll and saving Hermione.

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

This week’s theme: Seeking Help.
I’m truly blessed at law school, even if at sometimes I want to say goodbye to this madness, or doubt that I can do it. I have an amazing support group (friends near and far)! This past week though has been one of those weeks where you realize that the universe is trying to keep you motivated to keep going, even when you really want to quit. On Sunday not only did I watch the 2nd part of the HP marathon, I also ran my first 10k, something that I would never have imagined doing. The support of people before and after the race was amazing and made me so inspired to keep running the race of law school. Then Monday came and all hell broke loose and I wanted to throw in the towel once again (yay LP class madness), but then I met with my Professional Mentor and he put things back into perspective for me again. While I didn’t have any sort of mental breakdown on Tuesday, I still felt even more inspired from a meeting with my peer mentor and then from hearing amazing speeches of some great judges being honored by the Colorado Judicial Institute (I even met the current Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice).

14642174_10154005699941538_1179886525521279273_nThe thing is, being in a new city, going through the stresses of law school, and missing family and friends can be difficult, but the key is to ask and look for people who can help you. Look for moments to be inspired, find people to help you defeat the 12-foot mountain trolls that pop up every week. Talk with mentors (better yet, find mentors), get coffee with friends, go to award dinners, listen to speeches, etc.  The key is to find things that help remind you of why you decided to go through the law school experience. If you are struggling to remember why you came, don’t be too proud to seek help. If Hermione would have tried to tackle the troll on her own, if Harry and Ron didn’t go after her to warn or save her, Hermione wouldn’t have walked away from the girls’ lavatory. She panicked and hid in the moment, and when Ron and Harry intervened to save her, she set her pride (since they had hurt her feelings earlier in the day) and walked Ron through the spells he struggled with, defeating the troll.

The key to law school is to build an inspiring network of peers and mentors. The key is ask for help in defeating those troll moments and to keep moving forward. I know I’m thankful for my network of Troll Moment Warriors and Moments, because we know I couldn’t do it without them.

Until Next Time,

Mischief Managed

The Midnight Duel (SS9)

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Week 8, so great… did that sound sarcastic? I meant it to. This week I’ve learned we are entering what is called the “October Slump” or “Deep Semester”. It’s that part of the semester where panic sets in, and you are so far into the semester that you can’t go back, but you are in so deep that you can’t see the end just yet. To top it off, assignments are being graded and handed back, and slowly we are starting to see where we are amongst our peers in terms of grades. For everyone not in law school, there is this lovely thing they like to do with grades. Each assignment is, of course, graded separately and blindly (so the teachers don’t know which student is turning in what work), but then once all the grades are made, they have to curve the class. So pretty much, if you are above the class median you are an A/A- student, and that’s right if you are below the class median you are a C student. With that in mind, we turn to this week’s chapter of Harry Potter: “The Midnight Duel.”

Recap: Classes have started at Hogwarts, and with that, Harry has found someone he hates more than Dudley, Draco Malfoy.  One of the classes they have to take as first years (which harry is most excited about) is Flying Lessons with Madam Hooch. Before class, Neville gets a Rememberall, all the students share stories about their experiences on broomsticks at home and Hermione (bless her heart) tries to give a mini lecture about flying a broomstick. They get to class, Neville has a mishap and ends up needing to go the Hospital Wing. While Hooch is gone, Draco takes the Rememberball to hide in a tree from Neville and Harry (breaking the rules) gets on his broom going after it, in which he catches it, impresses McGonagall and ends up being the only first year on a House Quidditch team. Draco not wanting to be shown up, challenges harry to a duel at midnight in the trophy room (which breaks so many rules it’s not even funny). When time comes to go and duel, Hermione tries to talk harry and Ron out of going, and ends up getting shut out of the dormitories (thank you Fat Lady) and going with them (along with Neville, of course who couldn’t get into the dorms since he forgot the password ). As they walk Hermione lectures them about losing House points and breaking the rules. They find out that Draco tricked them, didn’t show up and end up running from Filtch and hiding in a secret room with a three headed dog, before running and getting back into the dormitories before being found.

Whew, that was a lot to recap.

So what’s this week’s theme? Well it the Duality of Dueling.

Before they even end up at Flying Lessons we see each student already has something they want to prove to all the other students. Seamus, Draco and Ron tell  stories of their amazing experiences on brooms, puffing up their chests and shamelessly bragging with smug faces (as I assume). Harry nervously makes a comment to Ron about looking like a fool on a broomstick in front of Draco. Hermione, oh dear Hermione, attempts to show her smarts off to everyone by putting on a  small lecture of what she read in a book about flying and Quidditch. Each student wants to prove themselves to their peers masking their true feelings of nervousness and anticipation. They are each scared of not being the best, looking like a fool or failing.

Sounds a lot like law school. It makes sense that law school should be competitive. There are high paying jobs at stake, there are huge responsibilities in front of lawyers, judges, politicians, etc., and everyone needs to be on their A-game all the time. I want to start this  little blurp off by stating that I do not by any means think that competition should be taken out of law school or society. I am not someone who believes in the give everyone a trophy mentality. This post is just about an idea as to why we see a constant shift in people in law school.

In a conversation we had a few weeks ago with a professor, one of my classes was told that the school sees a lot of their top public interest driven, full-ride scholarship students go and hang their hats at private, top-paying, corporate firms after graduation, no longer with that public service drive in them. A lot of people go to law school thinking: “I’m going to change the world, make it a better place.” And I can tell you, I’ve already started to see a shift in mentality in some people. The looming financial situation after school ends in three years changes the minds of people. The constant talks of how the legal field traditionally functions and how changing it is harder than you think (and almost impossible) changes the minds of people. The need to not fall below the class median in a class of 16 students who are all brilliant changes the minds of people.

The last one is the one I know that this past week I have fought myself on. On one hand, being below the median of the class (mind you I got an 84% on the essay, which in undergrad would have not even really crossed my mind as much as it has this week) I felt this need to start fighting for my life in school. That survivor mentality kicking in, the need to impress and start showing off my smarts like Hermione plaguing my mind or as I like to call it “playing the Law Student Hunger Games.” I didn’t want to congratulate my peers who did better than I did, forget the playing nice and smiling game, they have become my targets. (Harry and Draco anyone?)

But then humanity sets in, I hate tearing people down, targeting them, setting in my mind that I would beat them and leave them in my dust as I clawed my way up to the top. No, these are my peers, we are all running this marathon together, these are people I care about and respect, not people whom I want to take down. That’s the duel I think as law students we find ourselves in. We have the outside duel of us against other students (who can get theist job, the best grades, the best networks of people) but the biggest duel is the one inside each of us: our Humanity vs. Law Student. This duality sits inside each of us, and one side takes over here and there. When the law student comes out, no one can blame us, we want to be the best, we are encouraged to be the best, to compete and come out on top, but then, we have to deal with the consequences of humanity later.

I don’t have an answer as to how to reconcile this Duel of Duality going on in each of us. What I know I’ve thought about the most is figuring out which side is most important to you in the moment and going with it. It feels like a lame  answer to the problem, but it’s all I have. We each have different paths we want to take, some can overlook their humanity longer than others and some don’t want to play the law student to the extent others do. At the end of the day, we all just have to remember that what we do in the future will impact the world we live in, and we just need to keep fighting for the world we want to see.

And with that thought in mind I’ll end this here.

Until Next Time,

Mischief Managed.

The Potions Master (SS8)

This past week has been an amazing week in law school. It seems like every night this week  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people in the Denver Law community. I have met civil rights lawyers, Colo. Supreme Court Justices and great Alumni lawyers. It’s been great hearing from people who graduated from DU Law and to listening to them talk about the teachers they remember having (some which we have now) and how they survived in our shoes.

This week’s Harry Potter chapter really fits that same type of conversation. This week, Harry starts classes. He not only learns that magic is more than just waving a wand and saying weird words, but there is a lot to learn! He meets his teachers and boy are they all different from each other. We see Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall (who is different from all the other times we’ve met her),  Professor Quirrell (again), Professor Binns and then a series favorite Professor Snape. Each teacher not only teaches a different subject, but they all teach in very different styles. Harry notes that Professor Binns (the History of Magic prof. who is quite literally a ghost) is boring, Professor McGonagall (Transfiguration prof) is strict and clever, and Professor Snape (Potions prof.) hates Harry. Harry doesn’t quite understand why Snape hates him, but he is certain that Snape does.

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Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort.

It’s an interesting dynamic that leads us to our theme of the week: Diverse Teaching.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Law School so far it’s that you have to adjust in every class to what the teacher likes best. It can be a little challenging trying to figure out what each teacher likes, but going into week 8 it is truly getting easier to do. In undergrad I would have never thought to actually go to the office hours of a professor once. I never thought it was important to talk to a professor, to try and understand how to get a better grade in their class or how to even improve personally. Now, I try to go to office hours even if I don’t necessarily have a question about class itself, but want to pick a professor’s brain on a topic. I love talking with professors and hearing their stories or views on the world. What I love most is that they all bring some different way of thinking to the law.

One of my favorite teachers is very much like Professor McGonagall. She is strict and clever, and from what I’ve heard she has an amazing story to be told. I was talking about this with a past student of hers last night at an event. It amazes me to find out fun facts about people who seem so intimidating in the classroom. It makes them a little more human at the end of the day. Having such a diverse set of instructors with such diverse backgrounds is important. Getting to know these instructors is even more important.

We are lucky to have professors with such high level of intelligence in fields all over the legal profession. They not only teach us what’s important about the subjects they teach, but when you get to know them and hear their stories, you realize they too have a passion for the law and different parts of it. It’s our job though to go and collect those stories, to really get to know each professor and understand why they think the way they do. At the end of it all it’s not necessarily about talking to professors to just get a great recommendation letter or having another wonderful human to put into your networking circle, it’s about challenging what you think and why you think about things that way.

So, the take away this week is to go and talk to professors. Go and ask your professors this week questions about class, about the way they think, about their passions or how they became successful in their fields. We’ve been given an amazing chance to pick the brains of some of the brightest people in the legal field… don’t miss out on a chance to pick their minds a little more.

Until Next Time,

Mischief Managed