Friday, August 03, 2007

Second Class Citizen Advanced Degree Students

Advanced degree students already occupy a kind of second class citizen status at law schools, what with the separate interview regime (by that, meaning that they don't really participate in OCIP but rather bank on the big NYU job fair or, heaven help them, the new West Coast job fair at UCLA and independent resume sending) and being supported by rather understaffed and wholly inadequate program offices and directors.

But my biggest gripe, since I don't really care about the segregated interview regime (or at least have no personal stake in it), is our late registration status. What's up with that, man? I've been admitted to the S.J.D. program for months now--I could have registered for courses for this Fall last Spring. Instead, next Friday, at our orientation, they will explain to us how to register for courses that will begin in two weeks. All the seminars will be full of 2Ls and 3Ls, and so if I need a course for my dissertation I need to beg my way in. Which, by the way, doesn't always work here at Liberal College Law.

Last year, there was a course on Federalism and Family Law--great! Kind of fits with my thesis on federalism and child pornography regulation (attenuated, but not so far a stretch). But, I didn't get off the waitlist. I don't get the professor--did she not want, as she said, intellectual diversity in her classroom? No to the J.D.-accomplished, Masters student with only one year to take courses (if I wasn't doing the S.J.D.) already doing research in the area? I wanted to say, "Bitch, please, I could teach this course. If you don't want to teach me, I'll teach myself." Of course, I didn't say that. I'm not that stupid. Only on this blog am I so stupid. Anyway, I ended up taking Sociology of Law, which is how I got to my dissertation topic, so I'm not really complaining. Well, I am complaining, but it's in my nature. Gripe and grumble.

So now I get to hope and pray that I will get into the Disability Law seminar (which you know, might be useful to one writing a dissertation on the FMLA). I am sure I'll get into Administrative Law, because half the people there drop after looking at the syllabus (fools and suckas). And I will take a methods course, because I have to design the qualitative and quantitative portions of my dissertation. That will be a process, getting Institutional Review Board human subjects approval, drawing up interview questions, figuring out which companies to target, deciding what kind of models to use or what other data sets to mine, etc.

Of course, I am not a big fan of taking too many courses--at this point, they must serve the dissertation or produce another indepedent article, or they're just not worth the time they take away from writing. So I guess I shouldn't sweat the late registration status. But being ornery as hell, I wanted to gripe and grumble about it. It just doesn't seem fair, and makes no sense. Why, why would you force students to wait to register for courses two weeks before class?! Seriously, do you want us to wear big L-shaped (for we are 5Ls, after all) loser patches on our foreheads?! On second thought, they probably do. There are two "L's" in L.L.M after all.

Oddly enough, I will go to the orientation and then stay to congratulate, welcome, and talk to the incoming class of LL.Ms about how great Liberal College Law is, and how wonderful the LL.M experience. I will of course be lying. It was an intense year and no joke. But any badness last year had more to do with external drama than anything else (I wish I could be candid and tell them to make friends carefully and try to take their time getting acculturated). Well, if I could I would tell them to be careful about being matched up with an advisor--don't just take the first one the school assigns you because they write tangentially in your area. It's a lot more about interpersonal dynamic than I had thought. In retrospect, I learned over the course of last year that almost every S.J.D. student switched advisors--as have I. My master's advisor isn't even on my dissertation committee. But this is probably not something to go shouting on about.

I'm not sure I'll tell them that while we live in an Awesome Part of the Country, it's not so easy to get around to seeing much of it (let alone the rest of the nation, which those party-ambitious internationals do) during the course of that intense one-year program. Or at least, to see much of it and do well in school. I went to the city only a handful of times. But then again, I'm a big ol' nerd and homebody. I like just having time to read and pursue my nerdy hobbies. I like taking working vacations to stay with friends and work at different libraries and universities. I have plenty of fun just hiking. I really didn't get why a group of them went to typical college places for spring break--I mean, Daytona?! Miami?! Las Vegas?! Hmm, missed that boat the first time around 7 years ago, and I was happy to miss it again.

I traveled a lot last year for work and maid-of-honor duties, and I feel now more than ever that I just want to stay in one place for longer stretches of time. Except for visiting my family(something I guiltily admit not doing enough of considering the ease of the trip), I just want to get my work done and limit traveling next year. Otherwise, I'm happy to spend weekend after weekend at my house (which is really nice). And seeing as The Roomie is gone most weekends, it's time I have to myself, and that's time I really need. I wouldn't mind spending such time chilling out with The Roomie or a SO, but I look at the 1Ls and their weekends at Nearby Tourist Destination in huge gaggles and groups, and I really just get exhausted at the thought. Seriously, folks: rethink the amount of time you have to be "on"--if you're always going at a breakneck pace in your work, social life, and "downtime," you're probably going to burn out at some point .

Work hard, play hard, but laze hard. I think most 1Ls and new admits forget that chilling out is a perfectly good way to spend a few hours every weekend, if not an hour or so every day. I can't believe how overscheduled I was in law school, until I think about how overstretched I was last year. If every weekend is booked and you're not getting enough exercise or sleep--it's probably too much all around. If you aren't feeling guilty for wasting time doing nothing productive or exciting, you're living too hard. Of course, that's not to say you shouldn't have fun. Just don't make fun such hard work. It's like dating: if you aren't enjoying yourself, it's probably what you're doing or more likely the person you're doing it with, not the entire enterprise itself. Have good, non-exhausting fun. Just don't finish your 1L year or LL.M year looking like Lindsay Lohan after a hard Tuesday night.

So, what's the plan for this third law degree? Again, since the academic stuff I have to do is clear and the path relatively direct, I am making the following social and way-of-living resolutions: Make friends carefully and selectively, if at all. I like one-on-one interaction and form close, if few friendships, so I won't be joining any cliques at the law school. Repeat after me, faithful reader: lessons learned. I have enough friends here, and half of them were through The Roomie and so are not even in my program (ahhh, blessed are the bioengineers). I don't need more. Again, avoid dating in the law school if possible. And I'll keep with my introverted ways and so will be skipping all those school organized forced-fun events. I'll probably also avoid joining student orgs (although I can imagine attending ACS lectures). I think I'm too 5L for bar review, and I really want to see if I make it through another program without ever going to the Law School Prom. I think I just might be one of those rare people that gets three law degrees without ever going to one of those shindigs.

If I have a new resolution this year, it's to really explore the city I live in and the Bigger City next door. And to bake more. And run 10-15 miles a week. Yup, that's about it.