Monday, August 13, 2012

One Day Down

Well, I did it. I'm here in Iowa City, with Erin and Allisyn, and I'm going to law school.

My first day of school!

At the University of Iowa, 1L students start nine days earlier than the rest of the law school. It's for more than just orientation or "welcome freshmen!"-type activities. I had some of that yesterday. (Yeah, on a Sunday. Weird.) But I also actually take a course, Intro to Law and Legal Reasoning. It's a week-long class, with an exam on Saturday. It counts for one of my 15 credits this semester. It seems like a pretty good idea. I feel like with this "mini-semester" before the real semester starts, I get a lot of the "first time" stuff out of the way. Law school is challenging, and different from any type of education I've had before. But a lot of the jitters that 1Ls get is simply because they haven't been 1Ls before.

I've heard from multiple sources that this first week at Iowa is the worst week ever, and the rest of the semester is a breeze by comparison. But from what I can tell so far (admittedly, it's only been one day), it's nothing I can't handle. Where the exhaustion comes is that I'm in class all day, and in one class all day. When the real semester starts, I'll have four classes that are more spaced out through the week.

The reading takes more effort than what I'm used to, but it's interesting so far and it doesn't usually go over my head. For this first class, we read "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers." Have any of you read it? It's a fictitious case that takes place in the year 4300 in a made-up country and made-up judicial and legislative system. It was written in 1949 and published in the Harvard Law Review. Besides being an allegory of the law and how ambiguous it can be (and how flawed it can be in the hands of the judges charged with interpreting it), it has a real dystopian, dark humor kind of feel to it. It actually reminded me a lot of Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_EpWyBZJXhgI/SQ4_ZxV2NII/AAAAAAAACUo/FYvMjkKDJ_Q/s400/Dr+Strangelove-725873.jpg
I'd even recommend it to someone outside of law school.

Another reason this intro course isn't overwhelming is because I was lucky enough to have a professor who's more benign than average when it comes to the Socratic method. For those of you who don't know, the Socratic method is what law students will tell you is the most terrifying thing about law school. In the most nightmarish scenario, a snobby professor will choose a student at random to interrogate about the reading assignment, in front of the whole class.

I'm sure I'll have a real run-in with the Socratic method later on, when my real semester starts. But for now, I have a professor who simply calls on students in order of where they are sitting, starting with the back row. I sit in the middle, so I haven't been called on yet. But so far, every question I've been able to answer pretty well in my head. And a few times, I felt like I could give a better answer than the student who was called on. (One observation: if the reason someone gets nervous about being called on is because he or she wants to sound confident in front of the professor and not mess up, don't you think that person would want to not answer with an upward inflection in his or her tone, like he or she is asking another question? It seems like a lot of classmates did that today.) I think as long as I come to class prepared, I won't feel like I'm handcuffed to a chair under a dangling light bulb.

"We can either do this the easy way, or the hard way." 
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Again, it's been just one day. So I'm no expert and I still don't know what I've gotten myself into. We'll see if I change my tune a little later in the semester.

One thing I was not prepared for was the information session about the bar exam. I don't know how it is in every state, but at least for the Iowa bar exam I'm supposed to sign up for the bar exam before November 1 of this year, even though I wouldn't be taking the bar exam until 2015. (I can register later, but the fee will double every so often.)

I didn't expect to even think about the bar exam before my third year. Part of what made choosing a law school difficult for us was that we don't know where we want to settle down long-term. We thought we were putting off that decision for at least three more years, and that with a high-ranked school like Iowa I would still be likely to land a job where I wanted, wherever that may be. But if I need to plan for the bar exam now...

What I might do is just register for the Iowa exam, as a back-up at least, and because it's less expensive to pay the registration fee without taking the test than it is to pay late fees when it turns out I want to take the Iowa bar exam after all. After a couple of summer internships, maybe one will lead to a job out of state, in which case I'll forget the Iowa exam and chalk the Iowa registration fee up to just another education expense (it's cheaper than buying another textbook). And passing the bar in Iowa could count for other states (although it costs a lot of guita), and some of my scores could transfer to other states, so taking it here wouldn't rule out the other 49 states automatically. And I could always take more than one state's bar exam. (Although, after learning more about the bar exam's format, I wonder how the whole exam can fit into a single day. It seems so intense. Two bar exams in proximity to each other might give me a heart attack.) And, who knows? Maybe I'll want to spend the rest of my life in Iowa and I'll want to take the bar here anyway.

Any other ideas, fellow law students?

Anyway, time to get to tomorrow's homework!
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