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,