I had an interesting conversation with someone in my section the other day about our impressions regarding law school so far. A few observations we were able to articulate that I hadn't really reflected on before:
1. The people here from what U.S. News might call less stellar undergraduate universities are in some ways (and this very much a generalization) more impressive than the people from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.
And I think the reason is because to get in here from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc is, while "easy" probably isn't the right word, certainly it's easi*er*. The people here from SUNY Albany, or the University of Oklahoma, or any number of schools, presumably had to be really extraordinary -- at the very top of their class, or have had some outside work experience that's unique and interesting and makes them stand out. While the people from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc have a little more wiggle room. I know I wasn't at the top of my class -- I told someone during the first week here that I had two C's on my transcript and the reaction I got was "...and they still let you in?" -- but undergraduate background becomes a plus as opposed to something that has to be compensated for, like if your school is the University fo Utah. So I think a lot of the impressive people -- I know a doctor, a couple of phD's, just as examples -- are the ones not from U.S. News's favorite places. Which I hadn't really reflected on before.
2. This place is really pitched at 22-year-olds right out of undergrad.
...and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But I've definitely been surprised at how little difference there is between this and undergrad, from a lifestyle perspective, and even from a schoolwork perspective. For me, I'm happy with that -- I loved undergrad, and I'm thrilled that there are lots of opportunities here to meet people, that there are lots of activities to get involved in, that -- although to a lesser degree than Princeton undergrad, but still enough -- it's not hard to get into a routine where this is your entire world, especially if you live on campus. I mean that less negatively than it sounds -- all I mean is that unlike a job (or at least unlike the job I had before coming here), you don't need to make connections external to the law school, to go into Boston and find activities to get involved with unrelated to school, to make friends in town, stuff like that. Those opportunities are there if you want them, I'm sure. And for people with lots of Boston connections before coming here, I'm sure they find it refreshing to talk to non-law school people and maybe even find it frustrating that they don't have *more* time to spend outside of here -- but for me, I'm awfully happy that I've been able to find enough that I'm fulfilled without being forced to go searching in the "real world" for things to fill my time and energy and keep me satisfied. So in that sense it's a lot like undergrad -- in a good way for most, but if someone has a family, and, well, a Life outside of Harvard Law School, I can imagine it's frustrating.
And, similarly, just as an aside, the Socratic method of teaching is certainly pitched more at a 22-year-old than at an "adult" (yeah, I know lots of 22-year-olds probaly think of themselves as adults. I'm 23 and certainly don't). Being questioned, and pushed, and potentially embarassed in class (although that's so much more in people's heads than for real -- no one remembers who gets an answer wrong, and even more so, no one cares) is not really an adult technique, and if I was 35 I'd probably be more than a little annoyed by a teacher treating me like a 5-year-old. But at 23, I'm totally cool with it.
3. A little work experience goes a long way.
Just seeing what's out there besides school I think really makes a difference. I was joking with someone that I feel like I can tell who's straight through from undergrad and who tok some time off. I was wrong on the two cases they tested me on, but still I think it's a valid idea, generally. There's something different about the people who have had a job, even just for a year -- they know there's something more out there, they have more of a reason for being here and understand that school isn't the entire universe. I think for a lot of people straight out of undergrad, they're here because it's the next logical step. It's what it made sense to do. And they haven't really thought about *why* they want to be here, and they don't really know what their other options were, and they have nothing to measure law school against in terms of a job or real-world experience. Whereas the people who were out in the world have a little tiny bit of perspective, and realize that if law school isn't for them, or being a lawyer isn't for them, there are other options, and they've seen what they are. And because they made a conscious decision to leave something else to come here -- as opposed to just right here when undergrad ended -- I think there's more of an element that they have a reason to be here -- or at least they know why they made the choice and they're not wishing they were elsewhere or wondering what life would have been like if not here.