Archive for September, 2009

Sep 09 2009

The Stagflation of Social Development

Published by under Miscellaneous

Last year, I was having a discussion with my writing professor about 9/11.  I was telling her how close I was to the Pentagon and the chaos that erupted from the lack of ability to use cell phones and check on loved ones.  A classmate of mine interevened saying she was in 9th grade at the time.  I was absolutely deflated.  While I realized that this event was some years ago, I did not know people that young could already be in law school.  For that crowd,  a brief explanation of stagflation.  Wikipedia (my Webster’s) says that stagflation occurs when inflation and stagnation occur at the same time in an economy and remain unchecked.  The gist of this during the OPEC crisis, was that while prices were rising and changes were being made in response to the problem,  it did not fix the problem. 

From the law school perspective, we are forever trying to make our school a community.  Seemingly, this is why we are in cohorts, why leadership is a mandatory course and why we have the preceptor program and the afternoon teas.  One of the most effective ways to get a student involved in the Elon community is to engage them in student organizations.  They have the ability to work without oversight towards effecuating a new angle by which we integrate our students to the Greensboro legal community.  Over the first three years of the school’s presence, we have developed approximately 20 organizations appealing to most every aspect of a student’s personality.  As you read, two more are in development.  But, with this blossoming supply side of new organizations, space and time for activities remain stagnate.    We have but so many rooms in which to meet in this building, and with everyone on different schedules, 12:15 – 1:00 has become the default meeting time.  This obviously leads to double booking.  Take today for example (though it’s no more special than the rest):  During the same time we had a Lexis study skills review, a Phi Alpha Delta meeting, and an Elon Law Republicans meeting from 12:15 – 1:00.

Until we can master cold fission and replicate ourselves, certain decisions will have to be made.  Do I know enough about online research to sacrifice this review session for a legal fraternity to whom I have an obligation?  Can I miss out on a first meeting of an organization I would like to be a part of for the same reason?  And the logical question, which meeting has the best free lunch?  Seemingly, you could catch any one of the three on the second meeting, but most organizations only meet once a month, and this conflict of time and space seems to be a repetitive one.  In a separate dilemna, you may have to put an organizational meeting which you are chairing in front of a career services program you have been awaiting for sometime.  This is never a wise decision. 

So, if we are already stretched thin on our schedule, what then serves the purpose of continually accrediting organizations?  Instead of double booking, we will be triple booking, and so on.  Unless we can find more resources to accomodate for the operations of each organization, we are only allocating student funds to groups with low student support.  Further, if you are a member of multiple groups and only attending meetings on a rotating basis because of the conflict, how involved can you actually be?

I am, however, an advocate of not complaining about a problem unless you have a solution.  Here it is.  Monday and Wednesday – administration days.  Career Service functions, Let’s Study meetings, Town Halls, SBA/Honor Council issues.  Tuesday/Thursday/Friday – Student Organizations.  Divide each lunch hour into three 20-minute sections.  Think about all the meetings you have attended this year; each could easily be condensed into twenty minutes of actual work.  Admittingly, once or twice a year, extra organizations would have to suck it up and hold a meeting from 8:00-8:30 AM, or 4:00-5:00 PM.  However, doing so would afford each student the opportunity to become as involved as they want to be with each organization.  It would also have the collateral benefit of allowing each organization to weed out the members who show up once a semester to secure the organizational name on their resume and are never seen from again.  And all the while we spend more time at the school attending these meetings, the building starts becoming a community, instead of a place of business from 9-5 like the rest of downtown Greensboro.  Now if only we can convince the restaurants to stay open past 3…

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Sep 01 2009

Middle Children

Published by under Miscellaneous

First year law students seem to have it made.  There is a brief ‘smack in the mouth’ period until you realize how to adjust to a new life style, but ultimately you still hold the power.  Unhappy with your school?  Transfer up.  Need more scholarship?  Transfer Down.  Unsure how to handle yourself in professional situations?  There are literally volumes of books (and blogs posts) on how to make the transition to being a law student.  You don’t have to pick your classes, or who you hang out with (thanks to the cohort system), you are assigned an advisor and a preceptor to smooth the transition and give you some vision, and everyone is excited to welcome you to the school.

Third year students see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Granted, the bar looms in the distance like a severe thunderstorm, but many have just finished a summer internship that has given them some direction in life.  Some have standing job offers, some have a practice certificate so they can begin giving pragmatic meaning to their studies.  Some have prepared so well that they can coast down the road to graduation with electives and bar prep classes.

But what about the middle children?  The work load increases, because there are no ‘gimmes’ like first-year leadership.  You have some autonomy, but not enough to escape a pre-determined eleven credit workload.  You are forced to decide upon a specialization, which will mandate some classes that of absolutely no interest to you, regardless of your desired sector of the law.  And you must answer the overarching question of ‘What do I want to do with my life?’  This is the same question that many of you came to law school to avoid answering for another three years.

Somewhere in between the booze and coffee is the equilibrium of the second year student.  They suffer from what I call 20 to life, representative of the mentality of a prisoner who has been sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison.  You are too far into law school, in time and money, to get out and it is too late to decide you want to finish somewhere else.  So you are stuck roaming the halls, isolated from society and entrenched in a close knit circle of people in the same situation as you, perpetually talking about what you ‘should’ have done.  Against your will, the better part of the day is spent inside, while your body and your non-legal mind suffer the consequences.  No news, no pleasure reading, no exercise, just food/sleep/study/repeat.  I know the feeling well because it is much the same in the working world.  The phrase actually came from a guy who worked the midnight shift with me at the courthouse.  Biggest difference between here and there – we are not getting paid. 

Anyhow, this guy had been police for 10 years working from 11pm-11am most days, and was always in a good mood.  He was forever talking about his intramural football league.  He commuted almost an hour each way to practice twice a week, and once for games, from north of DC down to Gravelly Point, VA to play in league with no prize money, just pride.  But, football was what made him him.  He was always taking bets on the Atlanta Falcons when they played against your team, and talking about fantasy football when the rest of us walked around staring at the ground, drinking coffee, feeling tired and grumpy.  It was difficult to find someone who was energetic enough to throw a football around the office at 4 am on Tuesday morning after 5 hours of roaming the inside of  courthouse, staring at marble walls.  However, he was also the most well-liked guy on the shift because of his optimism.

Point is, in this arduous, and sometimes maddening process of school, you have got to find what makes you you.  Maybe it’s basketball, maybe it’s volunteerting, maybe it’s writing, but whatever differentiates you from the red eyes and noses buried in books is what will save you from crashing and burning.  Everyone tells your first year that you have to dedicate a night a week to your significant other if you want to make it work.  But, you must also allocate time for yourself.  It gives you stories to tell your friends, a means to relate to strangers, and talking points in your job interviews.  If you do not, at the end, we will all just be lawyers… and I don’t think anyone really wants that.

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