C.A. Esquire- The 1L Way: Constantly Feeling Stupid?

I have shared some practical advice about law school so far.  I haven’t really elaborated on my own thoughts about the law school experience, so in this post I thought I would make things personal.

Law school is this constant feeling of wanting to check yourself for the “stupid gene.”   I kid you not, each day I struggle to remind myself that “I am not stupid.”  I have done “stupid things” and I have experienced “stupid situations” but that doesn’t make me stupid.  (Repeat after me if you feel the same way- “I am not stupid”)

I spend a good amount of time reading the cases, pouring over the supplements and reviewing my notes the day before class.  It is not like I am wasting my time and neglecting to put effort into the assigned material.  But when class starts, I kid you not, when the professor asks a simple question like “Mr. Stupid, what was the procedural posture of stupid v dumb”, I am utterly lost.  Procedural what?

Its not a hard question, in fact, after your second class in law school you will know precisely what is being requested of you by that question.  No, rather, for me its this feeling of not being able to adequately express in a proper way the response that summarizes my understanding of the “procedural posture.”  Granted this is really a simple example, there are far worse experiences where I gave significant amounts of “praise the Lord’s” that I wasn’t the one called on for that question- BUT, I volunteer my heart out when the professors open forum it, in the hopes that they won’t stare down at their call sheet and be like “oh, Mr. Shaikh been elusive, avoiding eye contact, craning over his notes, so lets CALL ON HIM!”

I don’t think I am afraid of being called on, nor is it the idea of looking silly (stupid) in front of my classmates, silly I do that voluntarily already, so its not something I have to worry about.  I can’t precisely say where the “stupid” comes in regards to this aspect of my experience because its hard to pinpoint, but one thing I figure is a cause is the idea that I am being outed for being utterly lost in comprehending the reading.  Plus its a ego factor to, I spend the day prior to class, or weekend, trying to grasp the reading.  I come to a point where I feel I understand it, but when I go to class there is this feeling that I been caught without my clothes on because I can’t even understand the basis of some of the Professors questions.  I ask myself “is Professor Law speaking English?”

Working on the language theme under stupid,  I feel/experience that law school is taking “you” through a systematic way to “think” like an attorney (obviously, thats why people want to go to law school, not to become Iron Chefs).  To “think like an attorney” you need to do the things that go with it- speak like an attorney, have the vocabulary of an attorney, etc.  Now whether or not law school is really preparing you to “practice the law” is highly debatable, but for the most part the law school pedagogy seems to be designed to mold you into being a certain way.  Which for many people is problematic because they spent years trying to be themselves prior to law school!

Law school is in essence this experience of full immersion in Law- law is a culture, law is a language, law is a society- and like any new society you try to immerse yourself in it, to become part of it.  I guess in a way they require you to “assimilate” but I never was one to assimilate and prefer the idea of acculturation.  The feeling stupid feeling might just be my unfamiliarity to this new “lawistani” way and, or, my unfamiliarity and subsequent knee jerk reaction to delineate the boundaries of acculturation.

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