It’s just law school

BY JEREMY BLACHMAN

You’re not allowed to use the bathrooms in the tunnels. They’re for 2Ls and 3Ls only. I’m kidding. If anyone tells you that, they’re just being mean to you. You’ll get used to it. I got a lot of advice from 2Ls and 3Ls my first few days, weeks, and months at law school last year. Much of it was contradictory. Most of it was lousy. But a lot of it, I just plain didn’t understand. People used words like “gunner,” and “subcite,” which made about as much sense to me as the reading I had to do for my first class. So I thought it might be useful to provide a brief 1L dictionary, with definitions of some of these words you’ll hear around campus. Hopefully you’ll find this useful, or at least marginally amusing:

1. A “gunner,” to be polite, is a student who’s a bit overeager to speak in class. If you hear somebody asking a question that starts with, “just to clarify…” or “not to belabor the point…” or “only so I can hear myself speak once more…,” he or she is probably a gunner. The term comes from the desire of every other student in the room to take out a gun and shoot the offending classmate. You’ll recognize gunners by their familiar pose: one hand – or sometimes two – raised high in the air while someone else is speaking, often waving around as if creating a windstorm around one’s seat is the most effective way to get the professor to call on you. Please don’t be a gunner. No one will sit with you at lunch.

2. Your “harkbox” is your mailbox in the student center that will magically fill itself each day with solicitations for bar review classes, order forms for yearbooks and class rings, advertisements for law firm receptions, coupons to the House of Blues, announcements about lectures and panel discussions that sound so horrendously boring (“learn about life as a tax assessor from three elderly women with unintelligible foreign accents – today from seven in the morning until nine at night; space is limited”) but for about the first three weeks you will feel obligated to attend because you’re a law student and this is what law students ought to find interesting, meeting announcements from the target shooting club (“learn to shoot the gunners with greater accuracy!”), booklets about fire safety, pamphlets on mental health services at the law school (“learn to shoot the gunners with greater accuracy!”), and so on. The sheer amount of material you will receive is astonishing. Go two days without checking and you’ll need a wheelbarrow. Wheelbarrows, incidentally, are available for loan at the mailroom in the basement of Holmes Hall.

3. To “subcite” is to check the footnotes in a journal article – for style, for substance, and for hours and hours without food. Contrary to what the editors of each journal will tell you in what will seem like identical speeches, this isn’t any more fun than it sounds. But it does eventually get you moved up in the ranks of your favorite journal, and everyone does it, so it’s really no use complaining. You’ll use “The Bluebook” when you subcite. I’ve seen people with bluebooks so worn and frayed they needed to replace them. That, I trust you can recognize even now, is really sad.

4. An “outline” is a summary of a class, usually put together in preparation for the final exam. 2Ls and 3Ls are usually willing to share their old ones. Make sure they didn’t get a C in the class before you use it. Also make sure they didn’t go through and change stuff just to trick you. The penalty for misdemeanor shoplifting is not, as your outline might insist, “execution by poison dart.” That is, however, the penalty for subciting incorrectly.

You’ll encounter more words I’m sure, but, for now, I’m out of words. Hope this was helpful. And let me be the four-hundred-and-seventy-third person to welcome you to law school – relax; it’s just law school.

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