I wrote in my first All Rise column that law school is what I expected — and it’s not what I expected. That continues to be true: the whole experience has endowed me with an appreciation for surprises.
The Whole is Greater than its Parts
I spent my undergraduate years at one of the best journalism schools in the country. Brilliant people surrounded me, and there I met some of the most talented young writers I’ve ever read. We studied one another’s work, we adopted one another’s techniques, but we avoided study groups. We told ourselves that they were unhelpful and were a pain to coordinate. I swore by their uselessness.
Since then, I’ve eaten my words. The law is so complex, so nuanced that it helps to draw from the knowledge, perspective, and strengths of multiple people. Because one student’s weakness is commonly another’s strength, study groups enable everyone to develop a better command of the subject at issue. In that sense, one student can provide the missing piece to another’s puzzle.
Another benefit: study groups actually bring people together. There’s disagreement and tension, sure, even some yelling, but ultimately the group is like a sports team rallying against a common enemy — the law. I’ve developed great friendships with the people in my study group.
A New, Improved High-School Prom
Just when I thought I had attended my last prom, I came to law school. The annual Barrister’s Ball has been a wonderful opportunity for me to see who’s dating whom, and for me to embarrass myself (I danced on the stage this year, totally looking like a flamingo in heat). To put it another way — for those who scored well on the SAT and LSAT — the Cincinnati Bengals are to football, as I am to dancing.
Anyway, nearly everyone at Moritz attends Barrister’s Ball, and they clean up really well. In fact, some of my classmates clean up so well that I introduced myself to them, not recognizing them from class. Yes, that actually happened to me, but we don’t have to talk about it. Let’s just say that clothes, hair, and attitude make a difference.
Barrister’s Ball also forces students to develop better study-group skills. It does so because many attendees spend the next day calling one another trying to figure out what happened the night before. Again, one student can provide the missing piece to another’s puzzle.
Yes, that’s called synergy.
From News Hound to Sparknote’s News
I think the most interesting people in the world are broadly knowledgeable and able to contribute (intelligently) to conversations spanning an array of topics. I’m not talking about depth as much as I am breadth. That is, I like people who have depth in some areas and who don’t suffer from tunnel vision in others. That includes the news.
Keeping up with news and commentary was once a sacrosanct part of my life. I would read two newspapers each day, as well as four or five columnists. Those news habits, needless to say, suffered a quick death in law school. Now I read briefs and motions, cases and notes, treatises and restatements. I’m lucky to squeeze in one newspaper a day, and I sometimes cheat by reading news summaries, rather than the actual stories. That’s right, I’m a columnist and an occasional investigative reporter who prefers short form to long form.
I’m the guy I mocked in journalism school — the lazy news consumer.
What I Already Knew
Law school is a nothing-ventured-nothing-gained experience. Every day, I make decisions that affect the rest of my life, whether it’s to attend class, to participate in moot court, or to meet with my advisor. I now appreciate surprises and the unexpected. And the biggest surprise to me is that law school is rewarding, in the sense and spirit of something William Penn once wrote:
“To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals — this alone is worth the struggle.”
Jonathan Peters, a second-year student and award-winning columnist, is a Leadership Scholar at Moritz. He is from Athens, Ohio, and a graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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