Scaling the wall

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 20, 2010 in The 2L Life | Subscribe

I suspect most of us would agree with the proposition that law school centers around a quasi-caste system.

The 3Ls, only a few classes and a Bar exam away from becoming The Anointed, are at the top. They know the professors, they’ve taken the classes, they run the student organizations. 2Ls seek them out for advice and mentorship; 1Ls hang on their every word.

At the bottom of the law school hierarchy are the 1Ls, still fresh and doe-eyed and excited about everything that lies ahead of them. They’re the serfs of the system, providing volunteer labor or dues $$ (or both) to the groups they join, along with an endless stream of amusing stories and questions for their more-experienced law school colleagues :beatup:

Then in the middle are the 2Ls. They hold leadership positions throughout the school, but usually in lower roles like Vice Presidents or Secretaries or Treasurers. They still have questions for their 3L mentors, but now they provide answers to their 1L mentees — unless a 3L is around for the 1L to get a second opinion. They’re basically sowing the ground preparing for the next year’s harvest.

That system seems fairly stable and pervasive… but my (admittedly limited and unscientific) observation suggests that social wall separating the classes seems to disappear when we’re all in an academic setting together ;)

Tonight was my first elective class at NCCU Law, titled “Race and the Law”. I’ll get into the course details and why I’m taking it in another entry, but the thing that struck me was the balanced mix of freshly-minted 2Ls and 3Ls in the course. The balanced demographics also yielded balanced participation, with the attendant (but balanced!) cluelessness and even sparring between opposing viewpoints.

It’s like those [#]L divisions just melted away for a few hours and we were all the same lump of proto-attorneys analyzing American jurisprudence. Not sure if this is a common occurrence in other electives or other law schools, but I thought it was pretty cool… and a reminder that we’re all getting professional training in a professional institution to become fellow professionals, not mere schooling in a university to become college graduates.

Looking forward to what this class will be like over the next 5 weeks :)

Oh and Lobbying for Lawyers is 40% done! :D Heading to bed now so I can get up early for Day 3 — good night y’all!

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May 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM

I actually think the sharpest line is 1L on one side and 2L/3L on the other. I thought there was a clear 3L-2L-1L hierarchy as a 1L too, but I think it is a 1L assumption more than anything. In my experience, people tend to begin to develop specialties (“environmental clinic guy”, “oral advocacy girl”, “innocence project chair”, “academia guy”) in 2L year, so it’s pretty easy to become the “go-to” person for advice on a particular field or to at least gain the respect of your peers for your work even as a 2L. In class, there’s rarely any distinction (especially in seminars). Journals and some organizations preserve the 3L/2L hierarchy, of course, and some 3Ls will roll their eyes at a know-it-all 2L who has never interviewed passing out OCI advice, etc., but as long as 2Ls don’t “overreach” beyond their experience, it isn’t difficult to get your peers to take you seriously.

New Kid on the Hallway
May 21, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Interestingly, where I am it’s 2Ls who dominate all the student organization leadership positions (except SBA president/VP), because the 3Ls are sort of checked out – more worried about getting jobs than campus stuff (or, if they’re one of the lucky ones, *not* worried about getting jobs!), and therefore busy with off-campus stuff. Also because once you’ve run an organization for a year, you’re happy to hand off to someone else and just “advise”! (At least, a lot of people I know seem to feel that way.)

May 23, 2010 at 8:46 PM

@Va – I think you may be right. As I sit back and kind of observe more, I’m starting to pick up on the specialization talk. Didn’t really notice it until you mentioned it, now I’m seeing it past FB convos and such

@NKotH – Very interesting, definitely not like that here. I wonder if maybe it’s a historical thing? Like if a law school had a bunch of activist 2Ls early on in a given org, it stayed that way and gave the 3Ls more room to mentally check out? Here big-time 2L participation seems sparse. Like in my case, of all the 1Ls who ran for office I was the only one who got elected (and even then it’s only to a Treasurer slot, not something fancy)


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