One common thread running through many student bloggers on here is their writing at least one piece on the life of a law student. And for good reason. After all, law school is our life, from countless hours in the dungeon up on the third floor of the library (read “the cite-check room”) or in the various conference rooms practicing for moot court to slogging through piles of casebooks on the law of torts, contracts, and civil procedure. Such is, to state the obvious, a far cry from the workload many of us had to endure during our undergraduate studies. To be sure, it is enough work to add a few gray hairs; I can still remember how often the ASP leaders and faculty during my first-year orientation reassured my classmates and I, “You’re going to be stressed.” “We know it’s hard.” “There’s on-campus psychological counseling available.” These stresses are so notorious, that my friends and I will frequently joke about how we should tell touring prospective students to get out while they still can.
But here’s the dirty secret: It’s really not that bad.
Sure, I have never been as stressed and anxious in any period of my life preceding law school.
But there is a lot to appreciate from the law school experience, aspects that we may overlook in the course of our grumbling over the competition for grades, editorial positions, national moot court participation, and jobs. And so, I will take the time here to recognize two essential elements of Marquette Law School: its students and its faculty.
I. The Students
The first part of Marquette Law that I noticed starting out was the sheer brilliance of my classmates. A day in class never ceases without my looking on in awe of how quickly some students can think on their feet, dodge bullets from professors, and keep a cool head in the process. Noting this reality began as a cause for concern, sparking questions about whether I would get the grades I desired even if I tried my absolute hardest. But with time, it became a source of inspiration. When I ran track back in high school, I always found that my personal record times always came when I had skilled and experienced opponents to chase. That same principle applies in full to my time with my classmates. Their own demonstrated abilities in this field have motivated me to challenge myself more than I ever could have done on my own.
Furthermore, the dedication of those around me to their work is something to behold. Some classmates in particular managed to juggle editorial duties on the law review, moot court competitions, and judicial internships with federal judges, all without missing a beat and frequent flier miles on the Dean’s list to boot. I’ve seen these students and many others huddled in the library late at night, some even protesting the law library’s new policy of closing at 10 p.m. and not midnight on the weekends. If we only had those extra two hours to make sure that there are two spaces after each and every sentence in our law review articles! To be sure, that very same dedication will cross over into practice when a client entrusts these attorneys-to-be with situations that have risen to the level of legal issues.
Perhaps the best that can be said, however, of these students and others is of their character. The majority of students at Marquette express a level of humility and empathy beyond anything I have seen before law school. A night at a weekly bar review will show a good number among the law school’s student ranks spending time enjoying each other’s company, despite having already spent most of each day studying with these same people. Though the competition for grades is, to be sure, an elephant in the room, many of us have no reservation about wishing each other well for present and future success. Moreover, many student organizations actively participate in community service and do so eagerly. One personal anecdote that comes to mind is of one student that, upon hearing of one such service event, almost leaped off the floor in excitement about getting involved. Her response’s spontaneity revealed how genuine it was.
I have often quipped that the most frightening words in the English language are “You [referring to my generation] are the future of this world.” Classmates, for measurably lowering my anxiety regarding that fact, I thank you.
II. The Faculty
To be sure, the national recognition many members of our faculty have received and the vastness of their knowledge in their areas of expertise is so obvious as to be self-evident, and I need not highlight each professor and explain their achievements. In any event, their CVs speak for themselves.
As with the students, I am impressed far more by their character traits. These traits, to be sure, explain how our professors have succeeded in their fields to such an extent. Chief among these characteristics is an abiding love for their work. One of the reasons my interest in the legal field have crystallized is that my professors have demonstrated just how fulfilling the practice of law can be. They have emphasized how to construct a story when faced with a fact-based rule. They have taught that those same rules are not to be feared but rather embraced as an opportunity for advocacy. They have pointed to the development of the rules over time and pressed my classmates and me on the policy tensions in the rules and principles guiding a substantive area. And most importantly, they have done so in an enthusiastic way that serves as a welcome foil to the cold black text gracing our casebooks. Such enthusiasm is best summed up with the descriptors “contagious” and “magnetic.”
In addition, each professor has been willing to keep their office doors open to students looking for a helping hand. Speaking for myself, I remember being in over my head in my first semester. I was thrashing for some inkling of understanding of the material, and as such, I found myself visiting my professors during office hours weekly at the very least. In retrospect, I really should have figured the material out myself, but our law professors nonetheless demonstrated an unhesitating willingness to take the time to ensure that I could reach that inkling I was looking for.
Also worthy of note is the humor that every professor I have had has employed. There is no way to bind them all into a particular category, and I have no interest in publicly disclosing potentially embarrassing jokes told behind classroom and office doors. Suffice it to say that such humor has managed to take the otherwise mind-numbingly stressful marathon that law school is and relieve the student body’s tension.
Professors, for inculcating a love of the law in my classmates and me and doing so with a sincere interest in our intellectual development, I thank you.
. . .
All and all, the most fitting words with which I can conclude are those of my high school history teacher at my graduation. He told my class very succinctly, “You are who you meet.” In line with that theme, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by such great people.