Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The door's open but the transfer ain't free

This column originally appeared in the Georgetown Law Weekly Vol. 43 No. 6 on October 31, 2006

I had originally promised that I would devote this column to my personal struggles as a grab-bag of genetic detritus, but I've decided to renege on that promise. Reading about someone's difficulties in life is about as fun as listening to someone describe their dream from the night before, which is to say that it is not fun at all and kind of makes your angry.

Why do we insist on explaining our life story at every possible moment? Every discussion class I've ever had has involved someone describing their background, parentage, and major political views in detail before even answering the damn question. That is not warrented except in two instances: (a) you are in a class named "The Legal Philosophy of Second-Year Law Students," or (b) You are a transfer student.

If you transferred here from another law school, then congratulations! You've done two wonderful things by tranferring here: (1) You decreased the number of people at the top of your class at your old law school by one, thus making it easier for your old friends to get jobs and date the people who used to have crushes on you. (2) You've taken the place of one of the top students at Georgetown, who left for the bright lights of an even bigger pond. That is the feeding chain of transferring: we get some of the best students from The University of X, and we pass some of our best up to Y University. I'm almost certain there is some Buddhist theology that would be helpful here, but as a devout Catholic I don't actually read religious texts.

Before I get in trouble here, let me emphasize something all the students reading this, transfer or otherwise: don't base even a little bit of your self-worth on the fact that you're a law student at Georgetown. If I ever catch you making fun of a law school that happens to be lower-tier than here, I will personally hunt you down and kick your leg, Vossberg-style. The rankings that make you feel good when you talk to some people will make you feel like ass when you talk to other people. Go to ANY law school faculty web page and you'll find that they all went to the same six law schools, and Georgetown is NOT one of them. Go to any law school in the country and I will find students that are smarter, have better legal minds, and are less ugly than you. Everytime you look at a school lower on your preference list and breathe a sigh of relief, remember that there is someone at another school looking at you and breathing a sigh of relief themselves. You are lucky to be here, five minutes from the U.S. Capitol, at one of the best-regarded (rightly or wrongly) law schools in the country, and that is the extent of it. Be happy, but don't be arrogant.

Before I get in trouble for different reasons, let me emphasize this: This is a great place to go to law school. I've loved my time here, and that is despite the fact that the academic niche I've managed to fill here is not, shall we say, what I expected. The students who are my classmates are some of the most brilliant people I've ever met, and the facilities are top-notch. This truly is a wonderful school, and I'd like to thank Harvard and Yale for producing such amazing faculty members.

Anyway, back to the transfer students: welcome to Georgetown. I know you might think of yourselves as isolated, like it's hard to fit in, and that's understandable because it is. The untold story is that it is hard for the rest of us to fit in too. Everytime you walk into a room and think, "crap, I don't know anyone here," one of people who's been here as a 1L also walked into the room and thought, "crap, all these people were in a different section than me." You actually have an advantage, as you are an unknown, an exotic figure; people haven't heard you tell the same stories over and over again, read the same columns over and over again, etc. At the moment you arrive here, you have something many, many of us do not have: an impeccable academic record. One of the great things about law school is that status really is determined by academic acheivement, kinda like living in South Korea. Use it to your advantage! Your A-average brain probably remembers more about torts, property, and Con Law I than most everyone else here. Hell, Section 3 people didn't even learn the difference between contracts and torts; you could rule like a king over a group of Section 3 people, assuming you want a kingdom of ambiguous language and hemp clothing.

I know that it's not as easy to get to know people as it would have been had you been here as a first-year student, but think of how hard it must be for the evening students: those guys all have kids.

Mark Nabong is wondering who the 3Ls are who transferred away from Georgetown. His columns can be found online at chicago-typewriter.blogspot.com.


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