Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And With A Gurgle of Frustration, It is Done. For now.

Ramblings Post #72
I'm trying to remember the exact moment I decided to go to law school. I haven't always wanted to be a lawyer. I remember the convincing argument that if I went in X amount of time I would be a lawyer, and if I didn't go in X amount of time I'd be the same age, but not a lawyer. It sounds a lot more convincing when you're tired of talking. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy law school, as it's nice to talk with people as smart as I or smarter - unlike the chikin' plucking job - but sometimes, I ask why did I do this to myself. And that sometimes is usually right around finals. Go figure.

A fast recap of my week of finals, for which I took an unprecedented week off from work to get ready for.

The first exam, a three hour lovefest which was open book, seems almost quaint looking back. When I got to a question on a case and I wasn't quite sure what the reading said, I actually looked the case up and reviewed it quickly for the answer! I felt confident leaving the room, taking time at the end to review my answers. A this point the test feels remarkably pedestrian for such an involved and in-depth subject.

The second exam I could still be working on right now. Three hours, no notes, you just had to know the material. Essentially one long fact pattern from which we had to discern the arguments and counter arguments - like say - actual lawyers who have to consider what the other side will say and be ready with a response. Because I'm part time, and just now finishing my first year, my class was split between actual first time law students and we semi-second year kids. I felt better about my response when I found out that most of the first year folks didn't bother to take the practice exam the prof was nice enough to give us, so I'm certain their responses weren't as crisp as they could have been. And in law school they grade on the curve.

Then, flush from my imagined success on two exams, mind still burbling with responses to the exam questions I could given, that Friday night right after the second exam I opened up the email from my last professor regarding his exam, my last. And, obviously a bit woozy and delirious from exam taking, I figured I had read it wrong and needed a quick lie down. In the morning it would all be clearer. And it the morning it was. Or wasn't depending on your point of view.

Now my first year of law school my profs would tell us about the test, but having never seen one I had no idea how to approach them. Then having seen them, it took a minute (a semester) to get my skills right. So looking at the instructions for this exam, and knowing how the prof phrased his questions I was - well, stunned.

The usual law exam is a few questions to check fact knowledge and a great deal of essay. Acres of essay. The second exam this semester was all essay. Lawyers are by in large storytellers, who weave a narrative of the facts into something persuasive for the best representation for their client. This semester, I had one professor that during class insisted our spoken answers have "a beginning, a middle, and an end" so that we get used to speaking in a narrative. A lot of our professors tell us they don't care what our final answer is as long as we can logically and persuasively defend it using the law, i.e, create a narrative.

I say all that to say that this was not that test.

This test had clear right and wrong answers. This final exam was black and white in field that specializes in shades of gray. I come from a small country town, and this exam when handed out was thicker than my hometown phone book. The questions just kept coming and coming. Page after page. And then essay questions that didn't really ask for a persuasive defense, but for specific terms and concepts. We had four hours to work on it, and I took three hours and fifty minutes.

Hopefully, I did okay. I hope.

Barkeep, the stuff you been keeping for a special occasion. Four semesters down, six to go.

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