BY TAYLOR DASHER
Sitting in a sea of Red Sox caps on the airplane, I thought about how I had figured Scott Turow never wrote 2L because he had everything straightened out after his first year. And maybe that is how it worked for Scott Turow, but it sure isn’t the way it worked for me.
In my first year of law school, I had a net loss of knowledge. I had picked up a few things about playing solitaire, making the most of open bars, downloading outlines from HL Central, and contracting consumption from Gropius, but there wasn’t much else. It wasn’t much in comparison with the things that I had forgotten. Things like what had possessed me to go to law school, how to carry on a normal conversation, how to come to any conclusion, and the meanings of words and phrases like “reasonable,” “right and wrong,” “sophistry,” and “anal waste of time.” I’m glad law school is only three years. If there were a fourth, I’d be leaving without my marginal skills at feeding and dressing myself.
But perhaps I’m not being fair about what I learned. I say “perhaps” because I no longer have any idea what the word “fair” means. I think it has something to do with spending stupid amounts of money to attempt ridiculously impossible acts in order to win cheap stuffed animals and riding contraptions that spin you around really fast until you want to expel the fried dough you just ate. Or maybe it has something to do with subterranean tariffs on artichokes. I forget.
Anyway, there are other things I learned. It took me all of last year, but I finally realized there are no answers. Those questions in your casebook? Don’t worry about them. Most of those have no answers either. And if you walk into class thinking you have anything more than the most basic answers to what you read, the professor will only be too happy to prove you wrong in front of everyone. I think this is why the legal profession has a high rate of alcoholism. Sure, we all know the bottle is not the answer, but so what? Alcohol is just like everything else except for the way it gives you the ability to sing karaoke and dance like a non-androgynous Justin Timberlake.
If you like questions that have no answers and occupying your mind with things that can be argued multiple ways endlessly, then you will really, really enjoy law school. You’ll also probably like trying to teach your goldfish calculus and other exercises in futility. Here’s a good test to figure out whether you should invest in a golden nameplate that says “Law Student Superstar” or a laptop big enough to hide behind. First, ask yourself “How many angels can dance on the end of the pin?” If you respond by debating whether “dance” involves intricate leg movements or if the definition is satisfied by arrhythmic butt wiggles then you are destined to do very well in law school and very poorly on dates – but the latter trait won’t distinguish you from the rest of your classmates. If, however, you respond by saying, “How the —- should I know?” then it’s time to make a mini-bar you can fit in your backpack. It may also be time to look around to see if you said that within earshot of any small children with angry mothers preparing to instruct you on proper use of the English language.
The fact is that in law school you won’t find the right answer – you’ll just find arguments. In this way, it’s like interactions with the opposite sex – you never hear “Yes, I’ll do bad, bad things to you, you naughty thing,” but always find “Why can’t you just be a little less… less like you?” Personally, I like occupying my time with questions I can answer. Questions like, “Will that cute undergrad go out with me?” Generally, I don’t like the answer, but nonetheless it’s nice having some concrete fact at the end of the day, even if that fact is that I am destined to never score.
I suppose the lack of definite answers is inherent in the nature of the Socratic method. The validity of every answer hinges on your ability to answer the inevitable next question. Of course, the man who invented the method was sentenced to death and committed suicide, which sort of makes you wonder if practicing it is such a great idea. Those of you beginning your first year should probably dispose of any hemlock you might have laying around.
Your first year will be a little tricky. I was worried for most of last year that I had no clue what I was supposed to be learning. As a seasoned second year, I still have absolutely no idea, but I no longer worry. As you first years take torts and contracts, try not to get too wrapped up in all the questions and remember that you do have the answers to some things. Not necessarily answers to anything asked in class, but you will know the important stuff like who’s good-looking and single in your section, where the nearest restroom is, and where you placed your bottle opener. And if someone asks you if you’d rather go to a bar on Saturday night or spend the night studying civil procedure, you better know that question has a right answer that does not involve lawsuits. Not unless it was a really good night anyway.
Taylor Dasher is a 2L destined never to score with goldfish who know calculus.