Law in Contemporary Society

The Price of Torment: Rising from the ashes

-- By BriannaCummings - 16 May 2015

$85,755: Hell is expensive

If someone asked you, would pay $85,755 to be tortured by the “elite” over the course of nine months you would instinctively say no. Yet, Columbia gets nearly 400 people to say yes every year. This is not an attack on Columbia nor an attempt to completely blame them for our woes, we as students must also share the blame for perpetuating the cycle and allowing our insecurities to be exploited. 1L, referred to commonly as 1Hell is exactly that, hell. From Legal Methods through spring finals we are constantly being broken down and re-molded by people that “care” about us, subtly and overtly.

During Legal Methods upperclassmen and even some faculty tell you; “it doesn’t matter”, “it’s not a real class”, “this time is to get to know your classmates”, “explore the city”. While this is largely true few of us escape the stories of the kid that failed the LM exam, which sub-consciously lingers in your mind for the duration. LM comes and goes, nobody fails and we all have a big laugh. The year progresses and you survive your first cold-call, you relax under your blanket of false security. You go to office hours and you think you understand what the “Professor”/“bullshit artist” expects. You spend long hours in dimly-lit classrooms without natural light preparing for exams.

Once take the exam it occurs to you that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did. After clawing your way through the exam period hoping you managed to get above the curve you go home and crash. It’s around this time that we realize that most of our professors didn’t teach us much of anything, certainly no practical skills. We come back in the spring and breathe a sigh of relief for surviving half of the year, only to be knocked down again when grades are released and it becomes apparent that the sleep deprivation really wasn’t worth it. Our disappointing grades and numerous rejection letters from employers causes a sense of contempt and indifference to spread amongst us. Our frustration leads us to ask, “What are we even paying for?” This is not as serious of a question as it should be. Our frustration is quickly explained away, “1L is the worst year”, “You’ll have a job, don’t worry”, “Grades don’t matter”.

EIP: The hazing continues

1L is over, what a relief…? Not so fast, you have to do a journal. And the elephant in the room; the Early Interview Program. The law school’s last chance to publicly humiliate you before you stop buying what they’ve been selling the past year. I think EIP is pushed so hard not only because it is one of the easiest ways to ensure the school’s employment placement numbers stay high, but also because administrators know once we have secured jobs a lot of our insecurity begins to fade. Though few of us will admit it getting the high paying job is really what most of us care about and EIP is the easiest way to get there. After all, being a CLS student usually means you’re a risk aversive control freak and there is significantly less risk associated with EIP than branching out on your own. CLS knows this will be the last chance to capitalize on the insecurity of not being able to pay back our loans or being “good enough” that so many of the students have. Even though we are told we are going to be the leaders and innovators of the world at orientation many of us are still insecure. When you think about it for many of us EIP is the last chance to “knock us down a peg”.

Pay $88,530 Things will get better

2L is the year where you get to learn “substantive law” and “practical skills”, the curve is better and you already have a job for the summer, everything is great. That’s what they say, but they also lie. After observing many 2Ls, I find that they are often just as stressed, if not more so, as the 1Ls. 2Ls replace classes and exams, with student organizations and journal notes. It doesn't really get better, it gets different and you think it’s better because picked your classes and choose which organizations and journal you want to be on. Maybe that’s true but, you’re still running around trying to make everything perfect and losing sleep working on a note that probably has less than a 10% chance of being published. All of this at your, your parents’ or the government’s expense.

One last round; Just for fun

These elite institutions, built on insecurity and promises of privilege, power and wealth are actually quite smart in an evil genius type of way. By the time you’re a 3L you’ve spent (or gone into debt), nearly $200,000 and all you want to do is graduate. Most 3Ls have become jaded by the system and rarely feel the need to attend classes, but they still have not escaped the grips of law school. The administration has one last card to play; graduation. If you don’t do x this way, you won’t graduate. Since 3Ls won’t call their bluff, they get to continue the manipulation.

The Coronation: A Phoenix is born

After going through the hell that is law school and being burned to ashes you get to be reborn. You are now a CLS Alum, which makes you better than most other law school graduates? You have the privilege of putting Columbia on your resume and bio page at your job. You have access to a network of powerful and successful people. You made it through all the torture, pain and manipulation, now you are ready to go out into the world and start anew. Everything you had to endure was for the moment when your golden ticket was given the Columbia Law stamp. You made it, Congrats!!!! Now, about the bar exam…

It's perfectly possible to do this a different way. This draft appears to represent the "there's no other way to do this" fixation that you want me to persuade you not to have.

It's school. There are many things to read, lots of people to talk to, lots to learn. Here you can find how to think about fighting injustice in practical ways that also appeal to your sense of developing self: the kind of lawyer you want to be. If you used these years systematically to figure out how to do what you want to do the way you want to do it, graduating would mean something very different. The important two thirds of the process still lie ahead of you. Skip EIP and start....

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r4 - 29 Jun 2015 - 21:42:31 - MarkDrake
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