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    « A ray of sunshine for the Sunshine State | Main | Gagging the lawyers »
    Monday
    Feb022015

    The Clash

    Fighting tooth and nail in the law school trenches ... Ruinous timetables ... JD student Barely Legal asks, "why am I here?" 

    Why am I here?

    I'M hunched over a law library desk on a glorious summer's day. My summer Evidence exam is due in three days, and I'm procrastinating. My eyes dart to the top right of the dim screen, a little red number has appeared in my Facebook notifications panel. It's from my Juris Doctor Facebook "support" group - "New timetable is out! There is a clash! Corps and Admin!" - zero likes. 

    Facebook "support" groups, set-up by law student cohorts, are now the standard forum for communication among the legal studentry (thank you Strunk & White). 

    Official university communication systems are notoriously antiquated and impractical; they are shunned as a matter of Gen Y principle. Social media, particularly Facebook, are essential coping mechanisms for the modern law student. 

    All members of the JD Facebook group join the thread and we proclaim our collective intention to lobby the Dean to make a change to the timetable, to avoid the clash. Why should we pay for two subjects and only get to attend one? - Why aren't they recorded? - Who does this "Dean" guy think he is? 

    Our year begins as it always ends, in the law school trenches, fighting tooth and nail. Law students are enduring more grenades than usual, what with dim job prospects upon graduation, vicious competition among peers for volunteer legal positions, and Christopher (Lone) Pyne's pending neo-liberal tertiary dystopia just around the corner. 

    Should I stay or should I go? 

    The administrative shrapnel that comes with a new timetable marks the beginning of a fresh university year. The trepidation expressed by my Juris Doctor support group is common among law students. Clash? Overload? What will I do? In this timetable lies ruin! 

    Timetable panic (it's probably a medical term) represents an existential crisis for law students and brings on a flurry of pressing questions: why am I doing this ... why am I here ... why am I spending all of this money? As Mr Mick Jones wisely asked, "Should I stay or should I go?" 

    To be a Juris Doctor student is to have the experience of another degree in my bindle, and so this existential crisis is somewhat dulled, through repeat trauma or through experience. 

    As graduate students surrounded by young wide-eyed LLB babies, JDs hold a more acute sense of the future. We await the whistle to charge into the year and the workforce more keenly than our LLB counterparts. 

    We are older, our legal qualification arrives two years earlier, and we are spending far more money doing this thing called "law". 

    We understand that real life is just over the mound, and it scares us, it begets anxiety every time we see our year planned out before us in timetable form. 

    Like Sisyphus and his rock, JD students start each year with the conviction that it will be easier, only to realise that the law has no particular end point, it is by nature repetitive.  

    JD student - on the way up

    So too in practice, it is not possible to "complete" the administration of justice. As Sisyphus and Drake did, we must again start at the bottom, and work our way up. 

    The timetable is the first step. But, how do we convince ourselves to keep going, to keep pushing, to keep trying, without turning to the tired cliché, I'm a law student therefore I'm a masochist

    If there is no end, how to begin?

    And I heard him say …

    The answer presented itself to me at the beginning of my Evidence summer intensive. I found myself enclosed by three tope coloured walls facing the rapid flicker of a projector screen. 

    Below the screen my lecturer waves her arms around, explaining to the theatre the 30,000th layer of hearsay in our Evidence problem scenario. 

    "But it's an admission!" yelps one young man, head in hands, his brain on the verge of leaking onto the floor. He could not have been older than nineteen, an LLB student. 

    "Ahh, no …" retorts our lecturer. "Admissions only affect first hand hearsay statements made by the D." 

    Undeterred she pushes on, her enthusiasm for pedantry is astounding. 

    After the lecture I approach the young man, and ask if he'd like to grab a coffee and work on hearsay. We sit down for our fix and I ask him what brought on his yelp and subsequent mini-meltdown. 

    Coffee cup raised to his lips, he says: "I can't handle this intensive, it's driving me insane ... I think I'm going to quit law." 

    Why, I ask, did he chose to do the Evidence intensive and not the standard unit. "It was a timetabling issue," he said. 

    The law school trenches are a deep and often thankless place. But, we contain our crises and drink coffee and diarise our diaries. 

    How do Juris Doctor students begin their new year? We tame our timetables. 

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