Law School Lore: Baby steps
[I did train to become a lawyer and that involved spending half a decade in a residential campus with some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever known. This is a series on things we did there which might give context on why one exhibits certain traits. Or not. Read the previous story here.]
In the run up to college and staying at the hostel, I was obviously treated to a host of adult wisdom on how to navigate hostel life, the long and short of which was to get up early and avoid long lines at the loo. I’m certain there were more things, but this was the only one that seemed useful then (and now?) to my 18 year old self. So at the end of day zero, I mentioned this to my roomies, thinking I’d just earned their eternal respect for such a gem of a suggestion and so we did hit the sack early and wake early — only to find that NO ONE had bothered even thinking about waking up at that hour and we had more than enough choice from three floors of open, unused bathrooms to choose from. Great advice woot.
To be fair, this was good advice generally and these advisors had all studied at large universities which certainly had more students than ~80 per batch (and just 5 batched) so I do appreciate it, but it was absolutely not applicable to me.
Anyway. Now that I was up, I headed on to get dressed and make the long walk to the mess with my bag and laptop and possibly an eager mind to get started on this academic journey (no, really, I was quite an eager beaver. Was). The mess had a feast! There was upma, poha and sheera (google if you don’t know what these are) and some excellent filter coffee. This was a regular Friday breakfast I’d come to cherish for the next several months, maybe in part because it was the first one. A few other peeps turned up by the time I finished my large breakfast (multiple servings, obviously, I had a long day ahead) and we walked up to class.
I’m not a nerd okay? And this is evidenced by me having taken a seat in the third row which was far enough to not look needy and close enough to not have to strain to hear the professor (fact apart, I shifted to the second row the next day because it was closest to the plugpoint for my laptop and then forever maintained that seat as my own).
The first class we had was of sociology and being the science student I’d been, I had absolutely no clue about what I was going to be treated to. Apparently, neither did anyone else because we all had ??? looks throughout especially when we heard words like ‘problematise’, ‘teleological’ and ‘Michel Foucault’ (which is a name, fine). I think I took some solace in the fact that this was new to all of us and that I wasn’t quite that dumb (debateable, but don’t burst my bubble).
The next class was even more bizarre. It legal methods — a course that serves the purpose of teaching young students how to navigate the law and law school. Think of it as the rough equivalent of a lab safety course for a novice chemist. However, our course began where the philosophy ends. We were asked, on our first day, the question that jurists have long tried to answer. “What is law?” If I thought I felt not smart in the previous two hours, this was what being a brain-less starfish would feel like.
Anyway. Class happened, I was glad it was over and I went straight out to where I felt most comfortable — the mess. Day 1 ended with a lot of question marks above my head, but that was all of four hours with forty minutes of break in between (yes, law school was not a long day at all :D) and I was looking forward to the rest of law school.
We have to actually read that?
In one of the aforementioned legal methods class, we were handed out copies of a document that might bring PTSD for law students across the worlds — The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. I picked it up, stuffed it into my bag and went my merry way thinking this was something I’d come back to read later on in the term.
The morning of the class following the last, I was silently eating my breakfast when a few people started discussing the case. I listened patiently until that bulb finally went off, and I thought to myself, “Wait. I had to read that for class? And there’s the chance that I’d be called up randomly to answer or worse, give an opinion? Hot damn.” I genuinely did not realise that the point of the handout was to be able to use it for the next class and I probably sped read the fastest I’d ever in the walk between the mess and class. Thankfully, after that day I learnt to read things I was told to and at the time that I should’ve.
Representing the batch of 2016
The SBA (Student Body Administration) Constitution (yes, constitution, we’re a serious law school) required each class to have a male and female class representative or CR for short. Sometime in the first week, the then president and vice-president of the SBA walked into class in one of the breaks and said that we needed to elect ours and had to do it right then. They asked which of the men would like to take it up and well, eager beaver me put his hand up. And so did 6 other eager beavers. Having never seen such enthusiasm, the prez and VP said that the class would need to elect but before that, SPEECH SPEECH SPEECH. And one by one we went up and gave our manifesto-less speeches promising to best represent the batch etc. etc. etc. Yours truly made a very interesting speech (if you know, you know; if you don’t, good let’s keep it like that). If, as one of the audience, you are chuckling about my speech, do remember that I won by a (not huge) majority. So you might’ve actually voted for me.
My counterpart, on the other hand, had no competition. In fact, when a call was made for the women to stand for CR, nary a hand went up, but for an eager-er beaver who looked like she was doing so out a sense of obligation. That was quite hilarious.
The post of CR didn’t particularly bring many perks at all. For the most part it included making pleas to the examination department to extend project deadlines using different creative excuses each time. The only few benefits I got were being invited to random high tea events when the college entertained dignitaries or visiting faculty. By the time when the class wanted new CRs, sometime two-thirds of the year through, my fellow CR and I were all too ready to pass on the mantle, but no one actually took it up. Weird.
Committees and Orientations
Good god does law school love its extra curricular activities and good heavens do we love structure and hierarchy in that place. Every activity had its own committee and each committee had a defined set of roles and each of those wanted to sell themselves to us to get future labour. What that meant was that the first week was filled with hours of hyped up presentations by multiple committees and sometimes at ungodly hours of the evening and night.
That week of getting to know and navigate the different committees was like an information overload. We had these folks and I’m probably forgetting a whole bunch:
- Law and Society committee — the saviours of society and the ones who created judgement-free, safe spaces on campus (I was with them from years 2–4)
- Moot Court Society — organized moot court and other dispute resolution simulation competitions
- Literary and Debate Society (and I think. We always just said L&D) — most debates, but also quizes
- Sports Committee — I really shouldn’t have to explain this one, come on
- Academic Support Program — facilitated student volunteers to conduct extra classes closer to exams on topics that generally stumped us all
- Cultural Committee — organized the best quad parties on campus and the best end-of-the-year interbatch events
- Law and Technology committee — self explanatory again
- Legal Services Clinic — community aid and outreach
- MUN Board — organized the NLSMUN
- Entrepreneurship cell — binnis ideas!
- Editorial boards of different journals: NLSIR, Socio-Legal Review, IJIEL and some more
- And then there were the hostel committees: general welfare, mess and security/discipline (yes, I wish I were joking)
I think by the end of the first week we were to make our preferences known and make our applications and what not. I applied and got into the ASP and MUN Boards because all my personality and interests at that point had were decent grades and MUNs. No regrets.
I’m not projecting onto you
Law school is intense with its projects. Each subject had a project and viva that accounted for 35% of the grade which, as you can see, is a decent amount. A day or two into class and we had our project topics allocated to us and like every other written submission we had regular consultations with our professors on these topics.
One of these projects was a group project and my partner TJ and I had a relative fun topic that we were to write on.
Except only one of us was actually doing the reading meant for that writing. The first day we planned to sit down and make progress, I once again underestimated the sense of urgency of actually writing a paper and whilst TJ was diligently reading up on the lovely broadcasting issues in the Canary Wharf, I was there reading the SBA Constitution to know my rights (there were none). I might’ve also disappeared for a bit, leaving behind a hastily written note. Yeah, sorry about that. For the record, though, we did well in the subject and the subsequent time that the two of us were paired.
At the end of week 1 when I got home to do my laundry and get a breather from the hell-ish, sleep deprived, yet fun week that it’d been, I wondered how best I could describe this to the folks at home. Knowing me, I probably said, “Yeah, it was alright.” But that week truly was something else and if anything, was the trailer for what was to come later on.