Halfway Done, Long Way to Go
A commentary on building a community
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law
Nearly four weeks into the semester, I am starting to come to terms with the somewhat terrifying reality that the inaugural class is halfway done with law school. Looking back, I am amazed beyond words by all that my classmates have accomplished—creating student organizations, writing student notes, and perhaps most significantly, laying the foundation for UCI Law’s professional reputation. Our community has grown and developed greatly: beautiful new facilities have been built and an incredible second class, faculty, and staff have joined us. Although the last three semesters have been long and I sometimes have trouble remembering life before law school, I cannot believe that we only have 18 months left.
Buzz about the first wave of admission offers for the third class has made me curious about the Class of 2014. Even more so, it has pushed me to think about what UCI Law will look like for them. In some ways, the third class will be the first to enter into what looks like a traditional law school. Their law school will have 2Ls and 3Ls, a law review, a moot court program, and a plethora of student organizations from which to choose. As our classmate Brad Walters phrased it, the law school for the third class is perhaps more accurately termed a young school rather than a new school. This raises the question, how will our young law school be different from other top law schools? Do we not want it to be?
Students, staff, faculty, and administrators often speak to the uniqueness of the strong sense of community at UCI Law. I was enticed by the idea of going to a law school where gunners were the exception rather than the norm and where everyone was invested in each other’s well-being. I often tell prospective applicants that we are like family; we may not always like each other, but we love each other and look out for one another. After 18 months, I can still say that ours is a uniquely special, caring community. Not surprisingly, as the school continues to grow and we get busier, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance community and institution building with being a law student, an extern, and/or a pro bono volunteer. It is understandable that busy schedules (or simply a desire to sleep) may result in a decreased 2L presence at law school functions or student organization events. While attending fewer events is not in and of itself a cause for alarm, the sentiment that “2Ls can’t be bothered” may be.
Perhaps the diminished energy level is a product of the sheer exhaustion that comes with being in law school. Perhaps it is completely normal for law students to reprioritize after the first year. But, apathy is contagious. So is enthusiasm. As potential members of the Class of 2014 visit, I would like to tell them that while law school is not easy, with the right friends and classmates, it is doable. I would like to tell them that UCI Law students, 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls, take care of each other—that someone will notice if you are not in class and for better or for worse they will find the time to ask why. Although we only have 18 months left, we have 18 months left to weigh in on what UCI Law looks like.