Lollygabber: Law School to the Liberal Artist

by ursavoice

Lauren Davis

J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law


    I consider myself a “liberal artist”—a play on my liberal arts background and liberal political ideology/artistic interests. When I came to law school at UCI, I was most excited about the interdisciplinary curriculum. I became interested in interdisciplinary studies as a middle school student. Our English, social studies, and science teachers coordinated their lesson plans around particular themes and learning objectives. Even at a young age, I appreciated how the readings and projects from each class spoke to the others. But law school can frustrate and even deter the liberal artist.

    I struggled during my first semester of law school because I became increasingly distracted by the sociopolitical implications and normative questions behind the doctrinal concepts we were learning. Memorizing and applying black letter law seemed unimportant compared to the actual people and issues behind the cases. When I crafted my outlines and prepared for exams, my creativity and individuality reached an all-time low. After turning in my last exam, I walked across the street to a used book store at the University Center and bought a near truck load of old course books and readers. I immediately recalled the excitement associated with learning and the relaxation that came from reading for fun.

    Over my first winter break as a law student, I had a vivid and intense nightmare about final exams. In the dream, I was in the middle of taking my last exam when I suddenly forgot how to write in English. I tapped my pen rapidly on my blue book as I tried to figure out what to do. Finally, I began to write my answers in Spanish. Unfortunately, after a page or two, I forgot how to write in Spanish as well. Absolutely distraught and humiliated, I grabbed a giant crayon from my backpack and scribbled over the rest of the blue book until I woke up in a cold sweat. I felt I had lost my voice in a sea of stare decisis and penumbras of emanations.

    Fortunately, the anxiety and disorientation associated with law school began to fade. Pro bono projects and oral advocacy assignments gave life and meaning to the doctrinal and analytical skills we were learning. Our course on the legal profession began to explore ethical and legal issues and professional opportunities through multiple lenses. Ultimately, I had not seen the forest for the trees—the legal, cultural, social, and economic forces that shape legal doctrine and the profession.

    Most of the upper level courses I have taken in law school have involved interdisciplinarity—particularly Memory and the Law, Negotiations and Mediation, Consumer Bankruptcy, and Legal History. This semester, I had the pleasure of taking a seminar called Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Law with Professor Tomlins. From works by Michel Foucault to Ann Southworth, the course readings provide an array of intellectual frameworks to explore some of the most fundamental themes of our legal system—stare decisis, property, democracy, normality, and even immortality. It bridges the gap between the philosophical and academic underpinnings of a liberal arts undergraduate education and legal indoctrination.

    While Tomlins’s course exemplifies the interdisciplinary study of law—in name and in substance—threads of multiple disciplines are woven throughout the UCI Law curriculum. I recommend taking as many interdisciplinary courses as possible during our short time here.