Last week, a classmate asked me whether I was feeling nostalgic. After all, she pointed out, this would be my last week of law school class. In fact, it would be my last week of class ever. This is my third and final year of law school, and I’m spending my last semester doing a Semester in Practice at Greater Boston Legal Services, so I won’t have any classes.
When she asked if I was feeling nostalgic, it was all I could do to avoid snorting. Instead, I went with a slightly more “of course not.” I would much rather be a lawyer than a law student.
But now, sitting at my desk, surrounded by casebooks and colored pens and some printed notes, preparing for my last class ever – I’ll admit it, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic.
I remember my first class of law school. For that matter, I remember my first assignment I read for law school. My Civil Procedure casebook arrived first in the mail. I opened it up with an excitement that would be unmatched with every other casebook unwrapping, and the week or so before school started, I tried to do the reading assignment. In the first sentence or so of the reading, I read something about an interlocutory appeal and unconscionability. I remember reading this whole thing about an interlocutory appeal, and thinking, “Uh oh. This is not going to go well.” It had been quite a long time since I had reached for a dictionary (or, okay, my internet-enabled phone) because of a word I didn’t understand.
My first class was Contracts at 8:30 a.m. (the only law school class that is even scheduled at 8:30 a.m., I note) with Professor Walter Miller (whom we affectionately called Wally – though not in class, but I don’t think he’d mind). I remember being relatively pleased I had made it through the entire class without making an idiot of myself, and rapidly exchanging thoughts with new friends in the lounges afterwards – that wasn’t so terrible, was it? He seemed nice, didn’t he? And like a good teacher?
During my first year, I prepared for classes rather differently than I do now. In 1L, I read the casebooks with a pen and a highlighter, not entirely sure what was most important. But we were told during orientation it would be helpful to brief the cases. So, I would highlight as I went through the cases, and then write a quick brief, outlining the facts, procedural history, the question presented by the case, the holding, and the rationale for the holding. My notes are relatively personality-free, and I probably wrote down a little too much.
Now, I read my casebooks with just a pen (I’ve discovered not switching between a highlighter and a pen speeds the process up). I annotate the as I go, but I don’t brief the cases anymore, except in the casebook. As I have grown more confident in my ability to firmly grasp law, I’ve also grown more confident in my ability to have an opinion on the cases we read. A casual glance at a page in any of my casebooks would be enough to show you whether I agreed with the particular case on that page. When I agree with the case, my notes are relatively straightforward briefing of the case. When I disagree, they look more like the notes on the left there. When I really disagree, I practically stop taking actual notes and just scrawl angry disagreement. It’s my version of yelling at the TV during a game.
The page shown at left is from my Criminal Procedure casebook. On that page, I was mad at the Supreme Court for holding that it was perfectly constitutional for a state to require, as a condition of parole, for parolees to consent to any searches of themselves, their homes, their papers, and effects for the entire time they’re on parole by any law enforcement officer, with or without a warrant, with or without a reason. In other words, to get parole, the state said you had to allow an officer to search you and your stuff for any or no reason. Now, the 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches, and, I would have thought that a search for no reason is definitionally unreasonable, but evidently not.
Anyway. Criminal Procedure tomorrow at 9:15 a.m. (slightly better than 8:30 a.m.) with Professor Tracey Maclin (whom we most definitely do not call Tracey, in class or otherwise) will be my last law school class. I spent that first Contracts class anxious, hoping not to look like an idiot, and that I wouldn’t be terrible at this law school thing. I’ll spend this last Criminal Procedure class vociferously (and happily) disagreeing with the Supreme Court. And unlike the first day of class, which I greeted with a mix of anxiety, fear, and exhaustion, I’m sort of looking forward to it.