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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Nancy and Them

We met them in the summer of 2010, which was either a day or a decade ago. It’s hard to say when you live in that strange time zone peculiar to law school and the armed forces, a suspended reality in which connections coalesce and dissolve at the mercy of intense temporary assignments.

They had survived that intimidating first year of law school and thus seemed infinitely wise. By and large, they still do. Tonight’s fresh crop of graduates from the Brandeis School of Law will always be a year farther down the road than we are and hence a shade more seasoned. This is significant even though, in real time, a year is no time at all. In this context, where the not-so-subtle pressure of indoctrination triggers seismic shifts in perspective within a matter of weeks, a year is all the difference and then some. In time, we would come to understand that their secrets were not so much secrets as time-tested strategies handed down through generations of law-school culture as surely as that threadbare maxim that the first year of law school scares you to death, the second works you to death and the third bores you to death.

And so we who were scared to death latched onto their coattails, hoping to learn from their missteps lest we make them our own, and adapting their recipes for success to fit our own ingredients. We listened to their assessments of this professor’s penchant for toying with first years and that one’s predilection for brain-twisting fact patterns on final exams. We tracked their progress for harbingers of what was to come. Now they’re moving out to study for the bar and pound the pavement for jobs, and we newly minted third years are moving in. I’m told each year’s crop of students bears its own unique stain. This newly graduated class -- or at least those members of it that I know well – possesses varying degrees of brilliance, generosity and self-deprecating humor, which is just the way I like my mentors, generation gap or no.

Law school threatens to break you down at startling intervals. If you’re as lucky as we were, someone with a whole two semesters more under his or her belt will come along to reassure you that it’s not as bad as you think it is, that you are not in your right mind and that all that doomsaying is just law school doing what law school does. I made a mess of class actions, I lamented.  I totally tanked the Erie Doctrine last year, one of them shrugged.

I wonder what becomes of us now that we no longer share the day-to-dayness of dwelling in the law-school foxhole. Are the new graduates so finished with law school that they are also finished with us, along with our relentless one-more-year chatter? Or are we done with them first, smug in our new status as the most battle-scarred students in the house? My hope is that neither is true, that those two overlapping years somehow cemented a relationship or two and that we will reconvene periodically to show off our law-school scars and bore the daylights out of anyone and everyone who wasn’t there.

Congratulations, boys and girls. If nothing else, we’ll see you in court.