There is still a plethora of tomatoes on the vine, their musky scent and neon yellow pollen clinging to my hands as I pick them. The weather each afternoon is still warm enough to wear shorts, and children are still running barefoot down my block. How is it possible that we have returned to school already?
Yet those same tomatoes are being used as the base for deeply flavored, hearty soups, and those same kids are wearing sweatshirts and jackets, as well as shoes, on their way to school in the mornings. Autumn is tiptoeing into our lives, gently but inexorably reminding us that it is time to let go of our languid, bright summer days and focus once again on the faster paced, softer lit days of fall.
I have found myself resisting the change, reluctant to reconnect and get back into the groove of school.
Some of that resistance had to do with the wonderful experience I had this summer. I spent five weeks at the Lewis & Clark Legal Clinic, focusing on landlord-tenant and family law cases (the clinic also handles bankruptcy and tax cases). At the clinic, you get to work on real cases under the supervision of one of the four professors. While I was there, I spent so much time at the courthouse the security staff started to recognize me. Considering the hundreds of people who go through there on a daily basis, I was very impressed.
Getting to work with actual clients on actual cases was fantastic — and it made me wish, not for the first time, that I could just spend the next two years in an apprenticeship, rather than heading back to class. While I enjoy my professors and love all the interesting things that happen on campus, the clinic experience was amazing for me because it was so practical and so real. I miss being there, and I can’t wait to do it again.
The other reason for my resistance was a less happy one, and I have struggled with what, if anything, to say about it here for a couple of weeks. In the end, I concluded that it would feel dishonest not to mention it. So here it is: a couple of weeks before classes began, one of my classmates died.
The news was a huge shock to me, and I am deeply saddened by the loss, even though we hadn’t spent much time together for a while now. But he was my friend. In my own neglectful way, I loved him. He was a big, bold personality, with a lot of warmth, and I miss him terribly.
I was fortunate to be able to take a bit of time away, afterward: we rented a house and had a lovely stay at the Oregon coast. Though the weather can be dicey at this time of year, we lucked out. It was a gorgeous few days, and we spent most of our time on the beach. Being able to just be with my family, and cherish them, and remember my wonderful friend, the surfer, in a place that was his second home, was wonderful, if bittersweet. I am grateful I had the opportunity.
During your first month of law school, most of you will hear some variation of “law school is like training for a long distance race”: you have to start slow, find your rhythm, overcome hurdles, and, eventually (hopefully), make it to the finish line. Upon reflection, I think this analogy is spot-on (at least, in terms of surviving 1L).
When starting law school, all of us were required to take a two-week course called Legal Elements. This class introduced us to the dreaded “Socratic Method” and trained us on how to brief a case. One of the first cases I read was Garratt v. Dailey. I remember how challenging it was to decipher the procedural posture from the facts, find the issues, and understand the reasoning. In those two weeks, I remember spending hours on homework, looking up definitions of new words, and trying to comprehend every sentence to prepare myself for the possibility of being called on in class. I thought it was tough. Now, I can’t help but smile when I think back to those first two weeks. Eventually, things that seem so arduous and demanding will become second nature. I promise that you will find your rhythm.
Sure, law school isn’t easy. I still fear being called on in class when I don’t know the answer to a question. I still feel anxious near finals when I realize that my grade depends on one three-hour exam. But, law school is definitely not as terrifying as people make it seem. It’s all about developing an appropriate school-life balance and having a (healthy) stress relief option. Running was my way of dealing with stress. My weekly mileage averaged somewhere between thirty and fifty miles. And, after coming home from a run and taking a shower, I felt refreshed, energized and ready to hit the books (perhaps it was my shampoo…just kidding). That said, I did have a month period during my first semester where I stopped running and ate much more Nutella (Have you heard about the class action settlement with Nutella?) than necessary. And, you know what? That month was unkind. Find something that you enjoy and allocate time in your schedule for it.
There were two major hurdles for me during 1L. The first was having a computer meltdown only a few weeks before finals. Thank goodness for dropbox! The best thing you can do for yourself is to back up your files. Trust me. My second major hurdle related to first semester grades. I won’t lie. Grades mean a lot and, unfortunately, in law school, only the top 10% can be in the top 10%. If you are among the 90%, you will feel as though your options are limited and you will undeniably question why you decided to attend law school. Thankfully, this questioning period doesn’t last long because school doesn’t wait for you. You then have two options: 1. Give up or 2. Bite the bullet and continue trying your best. You should already know what option I chose. (As I have emphasized in previous posts, the community at Lewis & Clark is one-of-a-kind. Don’t fret. Speaking with upper division students, alumni, staff and faculty will almost certainly make your choice an easy one).
Sure, I struggled at points. But, I worked hard. More importantly, I tried my best. And, today, I made it to the finish line.
I think I love Justice Sotomayor for doing this appearance. I can’t wait to show my kids.
My thoughts to close out the year:
Things that I have learned in 2011:
1) 12 year old girls are the lovechild of a porcupine and a bear. Prickly and easily enraged.
2) 10 year old boys, on the other hand, seem to be the equivalent of monkeys crossed with locusts. Constantly on the move, and constantly eating, yet skinny as rails. Completely unfair.
3) Four year olds … well. You know how people frequently refer to the ‘terrible twos?’ I can’t even say what they call the fours. Just know that it’s not ‘fabulous.’
All this to say that I am changing my schedule in the upcoming term, and in Spring 2012 will be taking only daytime classes. I really enjoy the evening program, and will miss my podmates terribly, but also want to try being home for dinners and bedtimes again. Not that I will never take an evening class again, but I think trying day classes will be good for us all. My kids are growing up super fast, and I want to be around for more of it.
This is one of the really cool parts of the part-time program — and one I had forgotten(!).
As a 1L, part-timers take all classes at night. After the first year, however, students can take classes at any time of day and still be considered part-time. The only thing that changes is whether or not you have priority for registration. If a student plans to stick with only evening classes, then, when it is time to choose classes for the upcoming year, they just need to let the registrar know, and then they get first dibs on registration. It’s a pretty neat system.
At the moment, I’ve taken one exam (Property), am preparing for another (Business Associations), and am working on a paper for Children & The Law. At this time of the semester, I find myself in need of some help to maintain my normal cool, collected demeanor (those of you who’ve met me in real life obviously know that I am joking). So I’ve broken out the trusty sticks and gotten into my knitting again.
Knitting, you may ask? Well, I refuse to smoke, the last time I tried yoga I think I sprained an internal organ, and there’s only so much coffee I can drink before my eyeballs start rotating independently of one another. So back to knitting it is. I’ve been a knitter for more than twenty years — yikes, that makes me feel old! — and haven’t found anything that gets me in a more serene frame of mind. I love it. Besides which, it gives me the opportunity to make lovely things for people I care about. My youngest has been asking me to knit for her for some time, and I’ve put it off time and again. But since she’s a small person, knitting for her takes up very little time and is quite easy to do. She’s getting a cowl and mittens.
Speaking of Miss Z, we celebrated her birthday today. A gaggle of preschoolers descended on our house and amazingly, left it in about the same condition as they found it (thank you, awesome parent-friends for the help). The girls had a great time making pizzas and decorating her cake. And the best part? Once they were all filled up with sprinkle-covered cake, the party was over and everyone went home. This is how I felt about that.
My Street Law class came to an end this past week — my students worked on mock trial for our last class, which was fantastic. Despite the short amount of time we had to work on it, they did an amazing job and I am truly proud of them. My students were great in general, but here they really shone. I know one student is considering joining the police force, but after listening to him play the part of an attorney in our mock trial, I hope he at least thinks about giving law school a shot.