Dinner in the library

BY JEREMY BLACHMAN

It doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly as long as it has since I walked into Austin Hall and started to take a look at the faces of the people I’d share my 1L experience with; since I sat under a tent on Jarvis Field and met my BSA group; since I got called on for the very first time; since I read my very first case; since I wasn’t a law student. It goes really quickly. Not each class, not each day, not always each semester, but taken together, it feels like it’s just flown by.

I’m falling right into the trap here. This is perhaps part of why Dean Kagan’s been hosting dinners for each 1L section this month. Channeling our energies toward wistfulness is probably better than making us remember what the on-campus interviewing process was like. Or FYL. My section’s was this past Monday. In the library.

I’d never eaten dinner in the library before. The cocktail hour was in the Lemann Lounge; dinner was scheduled to take place in the computer lab. The second part of that sentence is a lie. But the first part isn’t. As we slowly trickled in, they set up a table with wine and beer, and people began talking in small groups. The students studying remained at their tables. The conversation got louder; more people arrived; Dean Kagan joined us. And the students studying remained at their tables. Not that they should have necessarily been forced to leave, but wouldn’t you? There are people talking all around you, why would you stay? Some people are just that dedicated.

It’s interesting to have a reception in the library. Someone asked where the empty glasses go. I suggested perhaps the book return. Conversation drifting to a topic you’d rather not discuss? Check your e-mail at the nearest terminal. Really bored? Join the students who remained, studying, at their tables.

One thing I noticed was that in three years, if anything, we’ve grown more conformist. The invitation suggested business casual attire. I am as guilty as the rest, but apparently this means blue shirts and khaki pants for the guys. Blue with a pattern is okay. Barely. Just make sure it’s mostly blue. I felt like I was at a law firm reception. I suppose that makes sense, actually.

After about 45 minutes we proceeded to dinner in the 4th floor Casperson Room. The walk was slowed by everyone needing to swipe their ID cards in the turnstiles. Another slightly bizarre necessitude of dinner in the library. The dinner was good. Salmon (“The Only Choice When There Is No Choice” (TM)) was the main course. Salad, bread, and a dessert were waiting at each table setting when we arrived, to speed up service I imagine. They came around very frequently and renewed – er, refilled – our water glasses. Sorry. Library jokes. I know it’s lame. In fact, let me just get rid of the other one now, and be done with it. …By the time the coffee came, it was well overdue. Terrible, I know. My apologies for subjecting you to that.

At the end of the meal, Dean Kagan said a few words and introduced Prof. Elizabeth Warren, who we’d had for contracts 1L year. She gave a short speech. Socratically. (I’m not kidding.) (No, really, I’m not kidding.)

And it was her speech that got me thinking kind of wistfully. She asked us what surprised us the most about law school. What we were proudest of. What life lessons we’d learned. Most of the answers were predictable. People surprised at how talented and smart their classmates were. Proud of how much they’d been able to learn and process and accomplish. Learned that you can argue both sides of everything. Learned that not everything has an easy answer. Learned how to use Westlaw.

And she told (reminded?) us that law school has changed us, and we don’t see things the same way as before we came here, and we can’t go back. And even if I honestly don’t know if law school has changed me, I can accept that maybe it has in ways I haven’t noticed. Although maybe not. I don’t know. But that isn’t the point. Change is scary. It’s been three years here. And it’s very quickly coming to an end. So it’s a little wistful. She reminded us to do good with the degrees we’re leaving with. I mean, it’s kind of our obligation to the world to do good, I think.

It’s gone quickly. Everything seems to, when it ends. Life’s weird that way.

Jeremy Blachman is a 3L. Read more at http://jeremyblachman.blogspot.com.

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