Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Musings on the mind of a law student

Law school has done something to me. Alas, it seems—at least superficially—that I have lost some of my creative abilities. In fact, I know that merely writing this post will be an arduous chore. It already is. My use of the word "alas" suggests that I am expressing my unhappiness with the (apparent) departure of my ability to not "think like a lawyer." Don't understand yet? Let me explain.

I am sure that at least a few law students can relate to this phenomenon—that is, the incarceration of most of your thoughts and actions in the abstract penitentiary of legal reasoning. Please don’t let my flowery language shield you from my point: everything is law to me, and it may well be the case that you’re a victim of the same phenomena. It’s not for nothing that the only metaphor I’ve used in weeks employs legal jargon.
Since we’re on the topic of legal jargon, let me shell out the “test” for you to “apply.” You know you’re hooked when you're walking down the street and you think about the concepts you learned in torts as if they transcend everything else. You strive to fit everything you hear within a logical framework of some sort. This cycle can get nasty, and worst of all, it may even interfere in your relationships with "non-law school" pals. Is this what "thinking like a lawyer" really entails? Maybe. The truth is, I can’t answer the question definitively because it really can go either way; and that’s why W&L’s practical approach has to be crazy—right? I will resist the temptation, at this point in the essay, to give you three concise, logical reasons as to why my deliberately vague contention is correct.
I had a teacher during my 1L year who told me that "thinking like a lawyer" is akin to breaking free from the chains of ignorance. No, I'm not kidding—he really said this. Assuming that there is some freeing aspect to learning how to think in this way, I hope I find it soon. Unfortunately, I doubt it will come so quickly. So, in that vein, I want to provide you with three general recommendations on breaking free of this cycle—at least from time to time. I think you will find that these recommendations are a logical outflow from my initial premise that law school captivates your mind. Err...
The truth is that I don't need to give any recommendations, because everyone is different; we all have our own escapes. But we forget, at times, to use them. It just takes some refreshing. Take your mind off of the minutiae for a minute, relax and remember how creative you were before you came to law school—you can still use those skills if you want to.


  1. I agree completely...another thing I'd point out is that law school has made me far more risk averse than I ever used to be.

    There's no question in my mind that law school has the ability to seriously change one's personality. But, as you point out, we do ultimately have control of how much we let it.

  2. I'd echo what both Nima & Craig said: When I go into a store and walk into a protruding wall/trip over a unlevel plank in the floor, I think to myself 'how Torts-rific!' If I'm in a charitable mood, I'll inform the cashier and/or manager-- most of the time, I just wish I would've hit the protrusion harder so I could get next semester paid off.

    Additionally, I have become a lot more cautious in both my actions and my words. For example, I recently found out that a buddy's mom was going to be starting up a company with a couple of investors. Being the BizOrg scholar I am, I proceeded to grill him about the finer points of limited liability, protection of holdings, which he responded "Dude, why are you asking me this stuff? I don't know!" I then proceeded to tell him about the ways close corporations dissolve (i.e. how one or two members gets screwed). Later that night (after my friend Sam Adams turned the lawyer switch to off) I told him "sorry about that bullsh!t, but I just didn't want anything to happen." He understood, and then demanded that I chase that drunken apology with some Johnnie W Black. I, of course, obliged.

    I wonder sometimes if this is a net 'good thing' or a net 'bad thing' for me personally-- on the one hand, I'm always thinking and looking out for people that I like; on the other, I am starting to get a bit nosy in ways I probably shouldn't. I don't know... all this self-reflective thinking makes me want to talk to Sam again... maybe...

  3. lol this is a fantastic post...mastershake...your stories sound so much like mine

  4. Nima,

    Good points. I think we all lose sight of things in the abyss that is the law.

  5. I love M.C. Escher

  6. I love M.C. Escher too!!

    I think it's even worse when people start making law school JOKES. That is when you know you have a problem. For instance, I was with a group of people yesterday, and we were discussing whether or not gift cards expire when someone mentioned that it would be illegal because technically they are currency, and Starbucks can't deprive us of our property! We all laughed and then there was a slight moment of silence where I believe the communal thought was..."did that just happen? yeah, we're definitely law students." Another example (and I take full responsibility for this) is when I told a friend that a girl was trying to adversely possess him by demanding that they spend all their time together. Yes, I know. Very sad.

  7. Very very sad. Law school is a sham. "Thinking like a lawyer"? 3 years of learning how to do it, no less. Yet when you graduate, you don't know how to be a just know how to "think like one." Riiiiight....GTFO.

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