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I've described the stresses because they're an important part of your first-year law school experience. I think they made us harder, more competitive, and more paranoid.
But we did not cease to be human. Even during the first year, there was humor in the classroom. For instance, one exceptionally self-assured student actually had the nerve to interrupt the professor, in the middle of a 150-student class, to tell jokes. The amazing thing is that they were really funny, and everyone laughed.
In some classes, you could play Bingo. You create the Bingo card by using the names of the turkeys who are constantly speaking up in class. You put John in this corner, instead of B13, and you put Susan down here, instead of G8, etc. Each time John or Susan or one of the others pipes up in class, you fill in the corresponding square on your Bingo card. When you get a complete row, you have to raise your hand, respond to something the professor said, and, well, you might say, "Yes, Professor Berger, the defendant was negligent, and - Bingo! - they slapped him with a lawsuit." Everyone knows the game, so you're guaranteed a round of applause when you win at Bingo.
And you get silly sometimes. This is what happens when you force 1,000 nerds to stay in the same building for all those hours. What's the translation of the Latin phrase, sic transit Gloria feriis It's "How does Gloria get to work on Mondays?" For those who joined the Army to pay their tuition, hoping for wealth from private practice just as soon as they were discharged, ROTC means "Rich off the Corps." In my international maritime law class, it wasn't the size of the ship, it was the motion re: the ocean. Female students need to learn how to get into an adversary's briefs. It takes a tough man to make a tender offer. Lawyers are always appealing.
Some humor requires guerrilla tactics. At the start of the semester, the professors post blank seating charts in the hallway. You're supposed to put your name down in a seat, and be in that seat, and respond when called upon. The trick is to put false names in some of the blanks, so that you get a laugh when the professor looks at the chart and then calls out. You can deride your professors in hilarious, anonymous poems on the school bulletin board. Or you can distribute a rambling, stupid memorandum in which you pretend to be a particular universally despised professor and apologize for your incompetence.
I have to admit, not all of my classmates really got the hang of this concept called "fun." Perhaps this quote will give you a feel for what I'm saying:
During my first year, we had a Halloween party, a "Spring Fling" barbecue and dance, a law week, intramural sports competitions, and a theatrical production called "Assault and Flattery" in which students and faculty members parodied themselves and each other. The somewhat underground "Kamikaze Law Student Association" also held a party with the student spoof law firm of Saliva and Sloth, P. C. Now that was a bash. However, back to the pressure, hard work, and tedium.
Outside the classroom, not everyone utterly subordinated their personal lives to their studies. Lawyers like to talk about their endless days of toil in law school. But for some of us, the senior year in college had been an opportunity, finally, to have a good time. The habit had become ingrained during that year, and now, 12 months later, not even law school could entirely break us of it. From the very start, I, personally, was a proud member of a pioneering group of law students who tacitly agreed that only a fool would ignore the charms of New York City during the three years of law school.
In the second year, as other students came to share my group's attitudes toward law school, our numbers and energy grew. And that seems proper. After all, we were only observing the spirit, if not the letter, of this rah-rah advice from two Fordham professors.
If you become a participant in the school's social life, you will likely describe your school as a warm, friendly, caring place where you spent some of the finest years of your life. Join a school based organization or study group. It is in the warmth of such groups of mutually supportive friends that one finds the recollection, years after graduation, that law school was a warm and caring place.
We took that recommendation. Our study group met on Friday nights at about 10 p.m. at an East Side bar called The Sugar Mill. I was in the company of people whose idea of a good time was to dance until the clubs closed at 4 a.m., pull out a previously concealed bottle, drink until sunrise, and then have breakfast.
The partying was perfect. The dean of admissions had weeded out all those sick puppies who as college students would get too drunk and get arrested or set fire to the frat house. The only ones left, by the time we got to law school, were those who knew how to get positioned, carefully and intensely, before partying themselves into oblivion.
The motto by which some of us passed our second and third years of law school was this: Live now there's plenty of time to be dead later. So we went out to clubs, to museums and concerts, playing video games at Times Square and roller skating and bicycling all over town, not to mention spending hours in the scrounge old West End Cafe, the Marlin, and the other horrible bars in the Columbia area. We made ourselves more respectable by founding a local chapter of a legal fraternity and using it as a legitimate excuse to hold parties in the law school itself.
It was helpful that my friend Alice had become a sort of informal party chairperson. One February, she came up with a beach party in the corridors - "Law Beach," we dubbed it - complete with beach chairs and sand strewn across the floor. Another time, she declared a Hat Party. It got crashed by some huge guys from the Columbia rugby team. They started by grabbing everyone else's hats, although it took them a minute to unwire my buddy’s electric halo. Then they stacked all those hats on their heads and paraded around in a tight circle, one behind the other, singing tunes about. Well, about the kinds of things you'd expect guys from the Columbia rugby team to sing about.
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