Author: Tahsin Najam
Why, hello there dear incoming law student. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life. What’s that? Perhaps you haven’t obtained admission into the hallowed halls of Allard Hall? It’s quite all right – this guide will be just as pertinent to your inquisitive and curious self.
Allard Hall. A rather glorious building nestled in one of the far-reaching corners of the never-ending UBC campus. Don’t fret, there’s a reason why this building is so illogically placed. Seclusion and pretension are instrumental in creating an air of hauteur within the law school atmosphere. Implictly understood is that if university campuses were divided into a class-system, the law students would be consorting with each other at the very top with a mutual disdain for those lowly undergrads.
There are a variety of main and side entrances to Allard, but it doesn’t matter. The second that you, a student not currently within law school, enters, we know. You will be met with looks of contempt and superiority. Has this person written the LSAT? Sociology, calculus, and psychology – please. Until you have composed 1000 words on why your trip to Africa made you yearn for a legal career to put right those ghastly wrongs in the world, you are an outsider. Hope, social justice and activism? While you use them to get into law school, the faculty sneers at such things. They spend every moment of three years extracting such ideals from your mind. They won’t stop until you can rationalize global corporations killing baby pandas for the sake of laying down mile-wide oil pipelines, and maybe a dog-fighting casino (sponsored by Michael Vick). That doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter, you’ll justify it.
Upon entering, you must go to the front desk to declare your presence. As stated before, we know you shouldn’t be here. If you’re able to make it past the accusing glares and gain admission into the prestigious elite, the front desk allows you to put a red sticker on your student card succinctly stating, “OK.” This red sticker signifies that you are a law student and that you are indeed, okay. Anything else would be intolerable, and such imposters are stamped and put in a line, subsequently being slowly trudged out of the building as the law students pelt them with old statutes and gavels. Though one history student died of traumatic head injuries upon being flattened by the Criminal Code, there have never been any other casualties.
The Law Students:
Ahhh, the law students. If you are lucky enough, then one day you too can join the ranks of these neurotic and perverse souls. There are three types of law students – one for each year they attend the educational quagmire that is law. The longer they have attended, the more likely it is that they have completed their transformation to jaded and narcissistic suits.
First Years (Or otherwise known as, the 1Ls): If you ever gain admission into law school, you will be able to experience the peculiar life of a confused first-year law student. Often described by practicing lawyers as the most difficult year of their lives, fresh-faced individuals from all walks of life come together to undergo a torpid yearlong roller-coaster ride. This isn’t the plot of a movie, it’s an actual phenomenon, and Roger Ebert just gave it a post-humous two thumbs up. Faced with an onslaught of hundreds of pages of readings, one hundred percent finals, and a brand new way of thinking, these students look up to their upper year mentors and choose the only sensible option available – drinking their sorrows away. Indeed, besides the other required courses they take, law students gain an introduction to their inevitable descent into alcoholism.
Travelling in packs around the building wishing to avoid any contact from those outside their year, 1L’s often tremble and sweat profusely if addressed directly. Used to having been in the top of their classes, they come to understand that they are dreadfully average in law school and that there’s no better wave to ride than the class curve. Many events and social functions are offered to first-years to continue their legal education and serve as an opportunity for them to meet the socially inept people that they too will become in just a few years. This culminates with a final end of the year party after which they try and cleanse themselves of that feeling of contamination that just won’t go away. Fear not 1Ls, that feeling is there for the rest of your lives.
2L: By this time, students have become accustomed to the grind of the law school life. Besides their search for a job (a process so inhumane, one breaks several Geneva Convention standards simply by alluding to it), second-years have realized that their best opportunity to not remain alone for the rest of their cat-loving lives comes from the students around them. Equally awkward and motivated, students begin to pair off in increasing numbers in a Discovery Channel-esque mating ritual. Always beginning with an inebriated fling and resulting in a contractual relationship rather than breakfast the next morning, they tolerate one another and take solace in the fact that they aren’t that other law school couple. As a wise man once said, “if you ain’t no punk, holla we want pre-nup.”
3L: By their final year of law school, students have given up all pretense of being interested in their academic pursuits. Having usually figured out which desk at what firm they are going to be spending the rest of their lives performing menial tasks at, students simply drink and live. 3L, don’t care indeed.
Upon gaining access to Allard, there are several areas in which you can luxuriate in your newfound status. The first is the law cafeteria, or as the Faculty pompously calls it, the Hong Kong Alumni Student Lounge. This speaks to a maxim that you must take to heart for your career in law. Why state anything concisely when you can add half-a-dozen more words and a more impressive noun? Though primarily used to confuse non-legal folk into paying lawyers for inane work, there is also a precedent to put law students through excruciating pain by reading decisions and statutes hundreds of pages too long simply because the judges and lawyers themselves had to do such things. See that sentence? It could have been half as long and just as effective.
Moving back to the cafeteria however, it is a central location in which students sit amongst each other and discuss pretentious things that they all know nothing about. Meanwhile, the large-screen TV inundates the students with news of global politics and disasters to which they throw an occasional glance as they wait for their turn to speak. While law students take pleasure in the sounds of their own voices, they eat from the over-priced and very bland café. It operates much in the manner of any campus cafeteria, serving slop on rice and other baked and somewhat healthy goods. The difference? This nutrition is worldly; that’s not just beef stew on rice – it’s Mongolian beef with Venezuelan baby carrots. Every day, law students eat the same slop while taking pride in their cultural acceptance.
Next are the lockers downstairs. Law school is not simply an illusion of high school, it is a deliberate recreation of the best times of some of these student’s lives. As students gather around their lockers partaking in the latest gossip, or mock-complaining about their time in law school, they are secretly assessing each other’s social value whilst trying to evaluate who they must befriend or dispatch from their inner circle. Once you make it past the lockers, you see that there are card-access showers where law students fornicate with one other in an attempt to never leave the building. Or washrooms where cardigan-wearing men ogle at themselves in the mirror whilst their female counterparts do the same in a variety of outfits ranging from outlandish to severe business professional.
Finally, you can retreat to the law library where a sullen despair reigns throughout the year. There is no happiness to be found within these three floors of study spaces and stacks. As students pore over volumes of confounding legal nonsense, they, as a unit, pull out their packs of highlighters and multi-coloured tabs. As they attempt to outdo each other by making the most beautiful flowcharts, case summaries, and lecture outlines, this twisted dance can only be interrupted by one thing. SNAILS. No, I’m not speaking about terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs, but the presence of non-law students. You see, it is a privilege to be able to study in this tortured space; so much so that they have coined a term for the intruders. Students not actually in law school, or SNAILS. If any such person attempts to cram their much-less complicated material on these desks, law students will stare daggers at them, and occasionally unsheathe their actual daggers in a menacing manner. These SNAILS are only spared when the monitoring library staff asks to see their stickered student card. Upon coming up empty, the SNAILS are marched out while law students shower them with salt only to return to their studies with a vindictive silence.
The professors are like a cast of a frenzied musical – each playing their own role, each peculiar in their own way. Whether through illegible scribbling, unintelligible barking or whispered murmurs, these professors communicate the secrets of law as students hurriedly and peevishly take down every word coming from their hallowed mouths. Never actually found in their offices, the professors are often away on exotic trips to distant parts of the world, or just found in the faculty lounge where they drunkenly swap stories of old courtroom battles just like the grizzled veterans in your favorite forlorn pub. If you do manage to get some time with a professor to ask class-related questions, they will often take that time to distract you and regale you with stories of past students and their favourite refrain – “You’re going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.” Whilst also acting as a cover to mask their forgotten knowledge surrounding their class material, this constant expression is used to build a façade to anesthetize law students into believing that they are indeed going to be all right, or put more plainly, make the exorbitant amounts of money that they came to school for.
Unfortunately for law students however, not everyone is going to be all right. Faced with suffocating debt, this is where career services play a role. A legendary branch of law school, these three women glow so bright that students have mistaken them for Greek gods sent to help students navigate through the mire that is trying to obtain a legal career. As they bring offerings for pieces of advice, students are funneled into corporate openings as firms test potential hires by first intoxicating them and subsequently asking them to complete complex legal problems while concurrently perfecting the weekly crossword. The students who fail this standard test are tossed aside only to be seen during commercials of your favorite legal drama offering their own legal services in exchange for just about anything.
Finally, back to you, a potential Allard Hall student. Have you been swayed by the grandeur of law school? Fear not, if you do one day decide to attend law school, you will be welcomed with pasty open arms and clenched hearts. Despite being a breeding ground for Patrick Bateman types, the legal community is just that – a community. All it will cost you is a piece of your soul, impending alcoholism, and a skewed sense of right and wrong. Welcome to Allard High.