We enter the fog, the spectacular confusion and anxiety of finals. They’re mere weeks away; 3Ls marvel at the sheer absurdity of it, the idea that they, they are expected to pass tests when there is so much more out there, pressing. Jobs, the bar, post-law school life. And yet they still must hack out an essay on IP law. How quaint. Cute, almost. A trip down nostalgia lane, 3Ls might call it, remembering how it was in years past when exams burned acid in their throats–heartburn, law school style; when they’d rank themselves in each of their classes weeks before finals started (“I’m more on top of the subject than about 40% of the class, so I’ll pull about a B); and when study groups seemed mandatory, and the most exclusive groups screened like L.A. clubs. Remembering years past when they were actually prepared. Cute, definitely.
2Ls have that same sense, but they keep running, circling inside the glass cage, eyes on the outside, wondering if anyone’s watching. They’re starting to realize no one’s out there; no one cares if you spend forty hours on an outline; there are no gold stars for library-time. The professors watch American Idol in the evenings, maybe read the paper. It’s an internal game, this law school, and more and more people are opting out, refusing to internalize the game. Already they’ve stopped reading; the astute learned long ago that reading is for those with time and interest, and a good law student has neither. Just the facts, ma’am, nice and easy, no legal jargon, no bailor- bailee lessor-lessee word triangles. Parallelograms in some classes. The commercial outlines and canned briefs are out in force, and at times even those seem wordy and obtuse. The real studying won’t happen for at least another week or two, and even then it’s not “real studying” in the 1L sense of the phrase. Instead, it’s a passable outline, and maybe glancing at a practice test. And then it’s a couple months until a handful of Bs pop up online and everyone wonders why they even ran in the first place. No one’s watching, after all.
The universal 1L moan: “We have to do finals again?” Yes, and again, and again, and again. Until you don’t care anymore and the whole process seems outright quaint. But now you do care, because if you’re in the bottom of the class this is your big chance, if you’re in the middle of the class this is your big chance, and if you’re in the top of the class, you know this is everyone else’s big chance and you don’t want to blow it. But blow it you will, Ms. Top 10%, because for a minute there you thought you were slick, a law school whiz bang, 100 words per second of Prosser-worthy verbage. A couple of B- will set you straight. And if you’re in the middle of the class you’ll blow it, even if you do well, because 10 spots mean nothing and regression to the mean is the name of the game. If you tread water you’re doing great, but the 50th spot in the class is the same as 150th sans a 1, and you can only tread for so long before Con Law or Contracts or Property teach you that a C isn’t as hard on the ego as you thought it would be. Those at the bottom have swallowed their pride and are on the fence: throw in the towel or give it one last go. They settle for something in between, and seal their fate accordingly. But the 150th spot in the class is the same as 50th , plus a 1.
Guest editorial by Alex Ross, a University of Colorado 2L. Comments can be sent to email@example.com.