Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In Which Law School Has An Identity Crisis

Um… ok. So, it’s January, and after a glorious 5 weeks of no classes, in which I traveled and celebrated holidays and saw friends and generally had a lovely time, it was time to go back to school. LAW school, because that is the school I am in. I did not opt to go to grad school. I did not opt to get an MFA. I opted to go to law school, for a variety of reasons.

These reasons have been well borne out by actual attendance of law school. As I’ve said before, night school is great, and it’s certainly not the Paper Chase, but law school definitely has its own way of doing things. I mean, I have a Masters degree. I know how grad school works. Law school is different.

However, this semester? Law school entirely failed to get the message about itself. Law school alternately thinks it is an International Relations Theory school or maybe an MFA program. At least according to my schedule.

Crim? Crim is… crim is fine, very “law school-y”, at least. However, the class itself seems to be having an identity crisis, because most law schools have “criminal procedure” and “criminal law”, as two different classes, one being more “here are your 4th and 5th amendment rights (at least currently, until our esteemed President gets involved), and one being a little more macro, as in the concept of criminal law. My class? Criminal Justice, which is already funny, in that it doesn’t exist. And my Professor, the first day, is all “this is criminal procedure”, which, fine, that’s totally reasonable. But then the next time class met… well, someone asked a question regarding indigent defense, and it turns out he was a Public Defender, and things got weird, and then they got… dramatic, and the next thing we knew he was on a soapbox giving what was actually a very moving speech, just somewhat… unexpected. And I leaned over to A and mentioned that I kind of felt like there should be music playing in the background, and maybe someone should jump up on a chair and recite, “O Captain, My Captain,” but no one did and the speech went on and on and now I sort of feel like I have experienced this massive call to action, except…. I’m not sure what that action involves, because… well, the speech had nothing to do actually with criminal procedure, which the class purports to teach.

But honestly, so far crim has been the ONLY bastion of sanity in this semester, as things got stranger as time went on. Because Monday I had International Law, and THAT class clearly thinks it is a grad school class. THAT class involved a couple hundred pages of reading a week, which first of all- not normal for law school, since we tend to need to read things rather in depth. Secondly, the Prof is sweet, and no doubt qualified, but she appears to have gotten a degree in Saying Things With A Plethora Of Unnecessary Words and a minor in Repeating Oneself, which… heh. And then her review of the class, which was fine, but… “So, I found out today that you all need a password to get into the computer system, so I am guessing you didn’t do the reading.” Which, no, we did not, seeing as how we had no idea what the assignment was, but it just got worse, because…

“Oh, well do all 400 pages for next week, then.”
“Oh wait? Is that a lot of reading??”
“I’m sorry. Just skim the reading. Get a general idea of the topic. We’ll discuss details in class.”
“Cases? Oh NO, don’t be silly. I won’t ask you to know holdings of cases or anything.”

Followed by a rousing discussion of the Theory of International Law.

So… Skim a fair amount of material on a certain subject to ascertain the key areas of contention, and then discuss in general the overarching theories? Ignore cases and holdings? Hi, Grad School! I… missed you? Um, have you seen Law School anywhere, because I could have sworn I was with him now…

Which would have been ok, since my con law class started out kind of like that and turned out pretty great, except last night convinced me that no, I actually had lost my damn mind, and was not so much in law school AT ALL, because last night I spent an hour and a half in class analyzing poetry.


Analyzing. Poetry.

Y’all? I love poetry. And I love Robert Frost, and I love Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Miles to go before I sleep? Hell yeah. But… I spent a class period discussing things like meter, and rhyme scheme, and choice of words, and how do you feel about the poem, and….

And I am Confused.

Of course, I shouldn’t let any class where the professor both staunchly declares “Now I don’t want you to let anything substantive distract you from this class”, and ALSO brings his wire hair daschund to class surprise me.

So that is my semester of law school, and I am sort of just going to hang on for the ride and hope I learn something law related, because in the last two days I have been asked to Play Lawyer twice, and I really sort of need Law School to get over its bad breakup/midlife crisis/lithium imbalance issues and do its damn job.

More soon, especially because I am anticipating a Friday purchase that is long in coming and will totally make my life a TON easier.