This whole law school “competition” thing…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Feb 19, 2010 in Drama | Subscribe

…is a complete and total farce. jsyk.

Let me preface this entry by saying I’ve had a downright blissful experience at the N.C. Central University School of Law so far. For all the internet talk about gunners and Socratic nightmares and everything else that supposedly makes law school such a horrible experience, I haven’t really encountered it.

My less-than-stellar moments of Socratic hazing (notably in Contracts and in Torts) receded from my memory almost as quickly as they happened; I actually can’t remember either day at all except what I wrote here on the blog :beatup:

Even the personal drama that crops up at every school has been minimal. There were some childish inquiries about Madame Prosecutor a few weeks in, some unrelated ASG issues that same month, and only a pair of bona fide law-related gripes before and after midterms — both by the same people, all of whom have been notably silent since finals.

The general lack of drama can be seen by the category counts: in 154 posts over the past 6 months,1 only 4 of them went in the “Drama” listing.

So it’s a little grating when it seems like someone is going out of their way to be ridiculous.

Those of you who are regular readers here at law:/dev/null2 know I’m pretty much completely open about my grades, posting a class-by-class list of both the Fall ’09 midterm results along with my final exam grades and current GPA. My rationale for doing so is a blend of principle and pragmatism.

On the principle side, I just don’t see why grade secrecy is that big a deal so I feel no compulsion to invest energy in keeping mine secret.

On the pragmatism side, it’s a combination of 3 things:  (i) because grade info is an artificially constrained supply (by virtue of folks keeping grades secret), demand for grade info/gossip is high; (ii) I have a horrible poker face,3 so the first person to ask me for my grades would inevitably get either the truth or a poorly-concealed lie; and (iii) since someone could get the info in person without any trouble, putting it online for everyone to get without any trouble theoretically levels the playing field and destroys its social value as gossip, consequently reducing/eliminating the number of people talking about my grades (which ideally is the objective anyway).

Besides, if it bothers any of you that much you can always stop reading :)

Bearing that background in mind, I also don’t mind talking about grades when folks ask me. I had a candid conversation with Rico during our run on Tuesday. Co-Counsel4 hit me up on Gchat to ask about yesterday’s LRP quiz. And as I was leaving CrimLaw today I chatted with Rockstar about how crazy people can act sometimes in this environment.

It turned out to be a prophetic conversation.

When I got home I cut on a Law & Order rerun and started catching up on emails and Facebook messages. While I was working on the latter one of my classmates, clearly in a petulant mood, starts ranting at me over FBchat about my inquisitiveness during CrimLaw. Apparently I’m annoying… even though Professor CrimLaw has made it clear on numerous occasions that if the class doesn’t start speaking up he’ll forgo Q&A-style teaching in favor of the less-preferred lecturing from the podium. That and I plan on doing this professionally so I’d like an answer while the question and material are both fresh in my brain ;)

In general I didn’t respond to her diatribe beyond the occasional “gotcha” and “ok,” which apparently only pissed this chick off more. She closes with “if u spent half as much effort studying as u do asking questions maybe u’d have grades like mine.”

::cue scratching record sound effect::

Honestly I couldn’t even be mad about the remark, that’s how derisible it was. I just replied with a “lmao k” and that was the end of the conversation.

I noted all the way back in September that there’s far more to a lawyer than a GPA.5 We’ve all got different interests, we’ve all got different objectives, and in general we’re all going to end up at different places in life — professionally, temporally or geographically. As long as I’ve got my 2.5 required for most extracurricular orgs, I’m satisfied. You should be too.

I’ll put it another way:  I have no interest in law journal or becoming a corporate attorney. You have no interest in trial team or throwing criminals in prison. Almost by definition, we’re not in competition with each other. So do us both a favor and spare me your sanctimony :heart:

And if my questions are that irksome, convince your classmates that a lecture is less boring than a Q&A :*

To the rest of you, please forgive my ranting :oops:  I hope you all have a great night! :D

  1. Can you believe we’ve been in law school that long?! []
  2. THANK YOU!! :) []
  3. See my losses at poker night if you need an example :beatup: []
  4. Co-Counsel’s new to law:/dev/null, a 1L in a different section. You’ll probably read more about her later. []
  5. Though if this girl’s an example, tact apparently isn’t included. []

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Feb 20, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Wow. Some seriously snarky comments are being tossed your way.


New Kid on the Hallway
Feb 20, 2010 at 12:07 PM

You know, it’s funny, because yeah, I probably do notice if there’s someone in class who asks TONS of questions, and it might come up in conversation with someone else from the class, but ranting about it to the person over gchat? I just have way more important things to do with my time!

Feb 20, 2010 at 8:32 PM

That’s part of what had me scratching my head, the effort that went into it.

And outside of CrimLaw I pretty much never ask questions :beatup:

Feb 21, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Personally, I do like the system where nobody knows anyone’s grades. I don’t even know where my grades place me in the class, just where I am in relation to the median. And because you can grade on or write on to law review (or a combination of the two) at our school, law review membership is not even a great proxy for identifying the top of the class. It takes a lot of the stress off the table. And avoids snarky comparisons like you mentioned.

But I disagree that nobody’s competing. There are plenty of people with bad grades who want to be biglaw attorneys, and plenty of people with good grades who want to be prosecutors. And everyone wants a job. And very few people are hiring. So in this economy, you can’t blame someone for feeling as though everyone’s in competition for everything. You can blame them for being unprofessional about it.

Feb 21, 2010 at 8:34 PM

@3L: Point taken re grade secrecy, though I’m still skeptical at its effectiveness. I realize neither my school nor my section of 1Ls are representative samples, but I can tell with a pretty high degree of certainty who the “A” students are just based on subtle behavioral changes between last semester and this one — maybe not with certainty to wage my life on it, but certainly enough to risk a limb or two :) My suspicion is you could probably do the same (if you had any interest in doing so of course)

Re the competition comments: I’d argue that I certainly *can* blame someone for thinking it’s all a competition with everyone 24/7 :)

Sure small/finite subgroups of students will be competing in the same area for the same opportunities as others within a given subgroup. But so many opportunities come up based on individualized circumstances (the “who you know” cliché) that even potentially alienating folks in the name of scoring a job seems like a dicey proposition; better to take a “we’re all in this supporting each other” view IMO.

And there’s also a big chunk of students who just may not be competent for certain areas of the law, so they’ll never be competing for certain jobs. I’ll freely use myself as an example: I’m fairly comfortable in a courtroom, but if I were to give you an assessment today I’d be afraid for any client trying to retain me for something like contract work or doc review. Even if I aspired to BigLaw I’m not sure I’d ever be cut out for it.

Feb 22, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Competition is at its worst when everyone pretends it isn’t real. I appreciate your honesty…I immediately tracked back to your grades to see how we compare (our strengths are each other’s weaknesses). For me, the pecking part of pecking order is difficult sometimes here in the land of junior high (I mean law school). The practice of gmail assessments of every word spoken, the snotty comments like the one you got, the way so many people are acting like they are at war and the only weapon available is words…when I pictured livng the dream of law school, none of this figured in. Thanks for opening the window, so to speak.


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