“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”
“Jesus, Fenno,” her perturbed roommate said, “can you lighten up on the lame clichés a little? Don’t you have a laborious classically-inspired metaphor to attend to?”
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” said Fenno. “Dammit! It’s already 3 a.m. and I don’t even have an intro, a cutting barb, or the slightest bit of an idea.”
“In that case you must be finished,” her roommate cut in. Bring the laptop over and I’ll read it. . . .”
“Very cute,” Fenno snapped.
“You told me you always wanted honest criticism,” the roommate explained.
“Fine. Whatever. In any case, HLS is dead this week. I could sit here for hours and still come up empty,” Fenno lamented.
“But Fenno,” her roommate replied, eyes glued to the late-night rerun of Joe Millionaire, “that’s not true. There are a thousand things going on here every day. RAP has a panel on the future of the music industry on Thursday. The BLSA conference is this weekend. The Forum actually has a speaker for once! And I’m sure that at least one affinity group is angry about something. Don’t you read The RECORD?”
One RECORD, under God…, Fenno thought to herself. “No, I don’t. Who does?” she said aloud.
“Well, if you did, you’d see that there are people at HLS who spend an awful lot of their day doing something besides whining. There are people fighting for human rights in Nicaragua, women trying to stop domestic violence, students trying to help indigent prisoners. Hell, even Greg Lipper is representing clients in Roxbury. I heard him telling Amanda Gregory just the other day that he was one-and-oh in the housing court.”
“You mean there are people at HLS who actually care about law?” Fenno asked, stupefied by this bolt out of the blue. And a little upset at having an image of Lipper slicing through her gauzy, sleep-deprived mental image bank.
“Yes, Fenno, yes, a thousand times, YES!” the roommate replied. “Don’t you see? All the while you were preparing a vortex of apathy into which you’ve long since hurled yourself headlong, your fellow students have been leading student organizations and working on journals and saving kittens at the pound.”
Geeks, Fenno thought. I hate kittens. “Journals about what?” she asked.
“Oh, um….” It was a critical plot point in Jose Millionario. It was the show’s third finale, and our erstwhile heir had rather obviously used the wrong sorbet spoon. Was his secret to be revealed? “Well, um,” the roommate continued, unconsciously and manically tapping her foot in anticipation of what was to transpire on the screen, “you know, about negotiation, the environment, women’s rights, international law, that kind of thing.”
“That’s a whole lot of geeking for so few people,” mused Fenno to herself. “I thought people only did that to boost their resumes,” she said a voce.
“No, no, Fenno,” replied her roommate, rolling her eyes and moving her condescending hands condescendingly. “Didn’t we just go over this? Some people actually come to law school because they enjoy law. Because they like reading cases and briefing and researching and figuring out answers to problems nobody else cares about. Some of us see the world around us — the one outside HLS — and don’t like the picture. They see a world full of war and fear. A world where the sole empire stands helpless even though astride the globe. They see this world and feel compelled not to ignore it, because they know they are lucky enough to be able to do something about it.”
Having heard this unexpected monologue, Fenno felt a little guilty, if also a little dyspeptic. She didn’t know anyone at HLS like this. Even her “public interest” friends were by now buried up to their necks in corporate housing applications or NYU sublet agreements, the better to start their careers at Skadden with. Yeah, Skadden. What about all those people?
“All my friends are in corporate law,” said Fenno.
“Well, did it ever occur to you that somebody might enjoy that, too?” said the roommate. “Why else would anyone spend 4 hours a week being berated by Liz Warren? Or wear a visor to class on an overcast morning?”
“What does the visor have to do with it?”
“Fenno,” she said patiently, “nobody but a corporate law junkie would make that much of an ass of himself.”
“What about a 1L?”
“Oh, that could have an independent explanation.”
The on-screen melodrama wore on. Fenno thought it looked like a repeat of that unnecessarily sonically graphic slurping scene from three weeks ago. Then she realized her roommate had switched the channel to Skinemax.
“Ummm…. Why are you watching porn?!” Fenno shouted.
“Don’t worry, Fenno,” the roommate said. “This isn’t for me. I want to record this when it gets to the lesbian bit and put the tape in Lee Strang’s Hark box. Then we’ll see what he really thinks of ‘disordered use of bodies and uncontrolled desires.'”
“But he’ll never watch it,” Fenno warned. “He seems very much the Christian man.”
“So I’ll label it ‘Barney goes to Sunday school,'” her roommate answered. “And, sure, he’s a Christian man, but remember, he’s also a red-blooded American man.”
“But he’s also an LL.M.” Fenno checked her.
“Right,” her roommate responded resignedly. “Maybe this won’t work after all. Oh well. This does kind of suck.” She changed the channel.
“So what happens to Joe Millionaire?” Fenno asked, impatient.
Her roommate was obviously frustrated by all the interruptions. “The meathead ends up winning in the end anyway. After he tricks all these unsuspecting women by luring them into caring about him and breaking their hearts with news of his pecuniary shortcomings, Evan gets a ridiculous payoff from Fox, a half-dozen cable TV movie acting deals, and an underwear contract.”
“Pecuniary is kind of a big word for you,” said Fenno.
“Poor Fenno. You really ought to read The RECORD,” the roommate replied. “Anyway, I guess it’s not so bad. Evan scams a bunch of people who were just using him anyway. Then he goes out and gets rich by way of mediocre acting aimed at an inconsequential audience.”
“I wish I could act,” said Fenno. “Then I wouldn’t have to be a lawyer.”
“But Fenno,” she replied, “if you’re so down on law school and the law, how did you convince the Admissions Committee to let you into HLS in the first place?”
“The LSAT, stupid,” Fenno replied. “Besides, they don’t give a rat’s ass about me anyway. What do they care if I told them I wanted to dedicate my life to writing cert petitions for Native American death row inmates?”
“I guess you’re right, Fenno,” the roomie said. “You’ll still get rich in the end, won’t you?”
Feeling increasingly guilty, and grasping for some last shred of credibility, Fenno tried one last time. “Are you sure all these student organization leaders and law reviewers and do-gooders really care about law or about anything but themselves? Last time I checked, they were spending all their time rehearsing for the Parody.”
“Well, Fenno,” her roommate said, clicking to Nick At Nite’s epic Seinfeld-Frasier-Taxi-Cheers marathon, “I’ve heard the rumors. Sounds like they’re getting you pretty good. So if you really need a cliché to start this week’s piece: People who live in glass houses….”