The Law School Magazine  ·  Fall 2009 :

Student Perspective: Scare you to death, work you to death, bore you to death?

By - Fall 2009
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When I decided to attend law school, my family and friends were happy for me — they hoped the experience would make me respectable or wise or something like that (talk about wishful thinking). Attorneys, however, weren’t so excited. They listened politely, but then told me how they really felt.

Consider all your options, especially not going to law school . . .

But that’s three years of your life . . . in law school . . .

You know, they first scare you to death, then work you to death, and finally bore you to death . . .

 Well, here I am, still alive. Law school’s been a rough ride, sure, but it hasn’t been the all-consuming hell the attorneys said it would be. Still, there may be some truth, a granule of it, to the third comment: that law professors first scare you to death, then work you to death, and finally bore you to death.

Scare You to Death

In my first year, Professor Whaley kicked off my contracts class with Hawkins v. McGee, better known as the “hairy hand” case. He called on a guy and asked him to recite the facts. That guy (we’ll call him Mr. Jones) did a nice job, but what happened next made me cringe.

Whaley: “Since the estimates were exceeded, Mr. Jones, does that create liability?”

Jones: “I’m not . . . I don’t know . . . the hand should be perfect.”

Whaley: “So does that create liability?”

Jones looked to his book.

Whaley: “Mr. Jones, please look up from your book.”

Jones: “I just didn’t . . . I . . .”

Whaley, smiling: “I’m not in your book. Do you see me there?”

Jones: “I’m sorry . . . I . . .”

Whaley: “No need to apologize . . . let’s just find the answer.”

That back-and-forth continued, at an excruciating pace, with the student shifting in vain in his seat, for the next 40 minutes. I should mention that Mr. Jones was (and is) a terrific guy, unassuming and very smart. Same goes for Whaley. It scared me senseless, though, to watch someone unravel like that, an audience looking on. After all, it was just a matter of time before Whaley called on me . . .

Work You to Death

Two words: appellate advocacy.

Bore You to Death

I’m sick of the Socratic Method and bored of the case method. Each served its purpose in my first and second years, but now they leave something to be desired. I’m ready (well, maybe not ready, but eager) to apply what I’ve studied.

It reminds me of my hockey days. At the beginning of each season, we practiced endlessly — we ran drill after drill, offense and defense and neutral zone and special teams. We skated around cones until we buried them in snow, and eventually we got sick of it . . . we wanted to play games.

That’s why, this year, I’m taking two clinics: prosecution in the fall, and legislation in the spring. As a result, I’m far from bored. Prosecution has let me lace up my skates and face off against a real opponent (I deserve 10 cents for this amazing analogy). So far, I haven’t been knocked through the boards or kicked outta’ the game. I just make up in preparation what I lack in experience.

And fortunately, preparation isn’t a problem for me
. .  ever since Whaley scared me senseless.

Jonathan Peters, a third-year student and award-winning columnist, is from Athens, Ohio.  E-mail him at