Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summertime (And The Livin' Ain't Easy)

Summertime doesn't mean that the livin' is easy.

For some it may be though. I will tell you that right now, while you profs are scrambling to edit course readers and get syllabi out and are deluging your administrative assistants with photocopy requests, your students are trying to cram in as much fun as possible before the term starts. The 1Ls are of course freaked out, and are overwhelmed with welcome week activities. They are overcome with eagerness and vague trepidation over this new adventure. They will buy every book that they're advised to, including "Plain English For Lawyers" and every, and I mean every, hornbook in the bookstore. Right now, they are in their new apartments and looking over their two-feet stack of books and rigid course schedules and wondering what the hell they got themselves into. Only two months ago, they were English literature majors. Life was good. Reading was fun.

Right now, the incoming 1Ls sit in apartments furnished by Ikea and the kitchen-in-a-box from Target, awkwardly chatting with new roomates found via Craigslist or the law school list-serv, wondering at what have they done and are they really expected to learn the Rule Against Perpetuities?

Right now, the 2Ls and 3Ls are in Vegas or Hawaii.

But eventually all the 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls will meet up this weekend to cram in some fun in the city, at the beach, and most definitely in the bars. One (not really last, given the drinking culture and Bar Review) hurrah, and will try to cram in the first reading sometime on Sunday night, when they are bleary eyed and already exhausted from the pre-school fun. Good morning to you, Professor.

Because I am straddling the line between student and academic, this has been a mixed summer for me. I spent a week at Con Law Camp--a conference that required considerable preparation, all on the heels of finishing my master's thesis and moving into a new house. I had out of town guests every other week. I visited my family for a week and a half this summer as well, greeting a new nephew. Between settling into a new house, catching up on the much-neglected personal life, and working every spare moment on editing old articles--this summer has flown by!

If you're used to an academic calendar, it's the summer that's the season of change. It's the most dynamic. Every year the stores herald January 1st as the pivotal date of change. That's when the new calendars come out, and the new date books are available. Well, not if you buy the 18 month academic calendars that I do. When I think of "next year" I think "next Fall term." This is a sign that you've been going to school for too long, and that you're a born-and-bred academic. Summer is always a transition time for me--one academic year has ended, and in two and a half months another will will begin. I imagine, for the 1Ls, this season marks an even greater transition. For many of them, it marks their new status as graduate students. They have chosen a profession, and they are committing to careers. Even if many go to law school because they don't know what else to do (avoiding real life, as it were), this is probably the first really grown up thing that they're doing. No more dorms, no more parental safety nets, no more lax professors and fudging their way through. Welcome to the Bell curve of life and law school. And they will find all this change occurs within one change of seasons, from the summer of youth to the fall of young adulthood.

Summer's date hath all too short a lease--just two months ago, I finished my thesis and graduated with an LL.M. Yesterday I had my first meeting with my new dissertation advisor (which accounts for my not blogging over the weekend). It was a good and productive meeting. She likes my proposal, and has given me advice regarding courses, project design, and has given me a deadline of the end of September for a draft of my questionnaire and human subjects IRB proposal. By the end of the term, I should have a bibliography (and a chunk of it read) for my literature review. The plan is to hit the ground running by next summer so that I can really go out and do the field work and data collection. You see what I mean by summer being a season of change? I'm really happy with all this change though. I'm really excited about my project, and I really like my advisor.

This summer, I finished one program and began another. I changed houses and neighborhoods (trading up). I got a new advisor. Lots of good change. It's a good feeling. It's an exhausting feeling too. I don't know how you professors do it all during the summer--research, write, go to conferences, catch up on life. And I don't know how you deal with so many successive years of change, with the great turnover of students. There is a new class for you all to teach and mentor, and there will be new adventures in academia for all come Monday.

There are those that accuse academics of static indolence and laziness--armchair academics, are we not? I don't know about that. I think academics are pretty good at handling the sea changes of life and helping students manage such big transitions--we do it every year, after all.