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Grades are the much-anticipated epilogue to weeks of library-camping. Every two days, I’d get one grade back. Today I got my last one, from the aptly named Professor C. In college, I was used to the Cuban system of grading: mostly vowels. College is a fine institution where, if you know your stuff, you are The Man. A touch of knowledge, and you, too, can coast to glory on IQ and Big Ideas. There was even a department called “Big Ideas”. Grades? We’re not concerned about making you all play some silly little game. What we want to know is: Are you having a fulfilling experience? Really, college was like that. This is how my school song started: “Thucydides, Euripides, Peloponnesian War! X 2, Y 2, H 2SO 4!” Hey, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. liked it. The school if not the song. At least before they rejected his thesis. Law school employs the Polish system of grading — mostly consonants — and it stinks. B’s can mean 60th percentile at Hastings. They also mean your professor is telling you: “You knew the material, but didn’t present or persuade quite the way I did when I was at Yale. Ha ha!” The first grade that any of us got was in Legal Writing and Research. I have always been one to push boundaries, and this time proved no exception. On that memo I was nailed with the lowest grade in my section. This was evident since my grade matched the “lowest grade given.” And I thought, “This is stupid.” And my doubts surfaced: “Oh, Christ, is my mind no good for law school?” And my ego struck back: “I am too smart for this. If I were dumber, I would’ve done better.” And my mother said, “Stop listening to your ego! Just do what they want you to do and you’ll be fine.” What a trick. Jump through the hoop! Proper citations! Woof woof! Just one day later, for the first time, I got paid for an article I wrote. No barking. This time, my foot was positively thumping with excitement. I didn’t know whether to feel vindicated or inconsistent or what. I was confused. Legal Writing and Research is a microcosm of the entire grading process. Most of what is wrong with Simon-says cite applies to grades in our real classes, too. Yet real classes involve more substance, and are taught by people who usually know how to teach. Unlike Legal Writing and Research instructors, law profs want more from life than to make sure that everyone around them stays within the lines. (As the profs see it, the lines are our friends.) Despite what our profs may want, real classes essentially boil down t “Gimme what I want, my way.” Learn the rules. Learn how to think about hypos where everyone’s initials match. Learn to say it the way previous students who aced old exams did. No, we don’t want you to regurgitate other students’ successful methods — but in case you do, here are their sample answers. Look at the prose! See how it glistens in the Law Reviewsun! You, too, could be a worthwhile human being. Seems silly when you consider all the money riding on who gets those vowels. Not many A’s to distribute in the Curve of Life. Towards the end of every semester, every prof (except my favorite) makes some lame-o speech about how they regret that they have to employ this curve and gee, they would love to grade us as high as they want — if only they could. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their words, but give it a rest. You are more than complicit. If you aren’t going to award students points for B’s, don’t expect points from us when we are fed B.S. Besides, it’s being on the high end of that curve that got you paid like a starting corporate lawyer for teaching and writing and having us laugh always — although you are only funny some of the time. Getting graded is why we are here. Law school isn’t like med school; we aren’t here to learn how to be lawyers. At best, we’re here to learn how to learn how to be like lawyers. When we graduate, most of us won’t know how to perform the job we’re hired for. Now, there’s plenty to be said about learning skills while students, but there’s something much bigger looming. Law schools exist because law firms and other legal employers don’t grade us themselves. There is a need for someone to judge us. Law schools are there to measure us and, more importantly, to report our legal skills. Law school is like the LSAT, except you get to hear how unhappy everyone is while they’re doing it. The LSAT is to law school what law school is to legal employers. See, law schools function to let the powers-that-be know who among us is going to make them money, and who is going to lose to the guy who made the other law firm money. Grades are the fundamental reason law schools exist. Preferably, legal educations inculcate social mores, facilitate change and growth, and ready advocates for those who naively depend upon their car tires’ integrity. Bless the professor who propagates the legal Lorax! Let him speak for the trees! But all these preferences are not the focus of the everyday; getting us jobs is where it (i.e., the money) is at. They tell us grades aren’t everything. When do they tell us this? — the time of year when they’re about to bomb some grades into our lives. They tell us it’s just a game. And so it is — in the way they give grades, not in the way grades affect our lives. Grades aren’t everything, but they really are more pivotal than any test you’ve taken since your girlfriend asked you, “What’s this box of condoms doing open in the trunk?” Grades are handed out in a stupid manner — and they will affect us. That said, our stress over them will not affect them. Unless you’re at, or may crack into, one of the extremes of the grading curve, getting your first ulcer before your first gray hair may not be worth it. Indeed, if you’re not going for broke and hoping to patch up that ulcer with a nice, fat GPA, make right now the good life, the student’s life. Does anyone really think this is the hard part? Silly rabbit, this is the easy part! Do you think that once you ace law school and land that dream job, you will finally stop stressing? Feh! Annoyed at being around law students all day? Imagine what you’ll feel like after spending all day with lawyers who have been trained to irritate the aneurysms out of you. This is the easy part — this, the student’s life. After law school, no more wearing sandals to class. No more slacking when you want and cramming when you can’t. No more chats on the finer points of justice while strolling down tree-shaded paths. (I’m guessing this is what would happen if Hastings actually had a campus instead of slabs of concrete mysteriously named “The Beach”.) Over time, you, gentle reader, will become one of four kinds of people, with some overlap: � The Professional He does a lot of what he does to get a lot of money for it. Eats out more often than cooks. Has a lot of khakis. Always carries his IKEA card. Is no longer offended by the term “yuppie,” save for lack of originality. Refers to his friends as “fellas”. � The Dream-Worker Doesn’t necessarily get paid for what she does, but she’s living out her dream. Mainly writers, actors, musicians, dancers. Anyone who hangs out in San Francisco’s trendy North Beach, but can’t afford the rent. Would love to be called an artist if only she had a script to push. � The Nothing My friend Ron. Computer Science degree from Stanford and still lives at home, waiting to steal second. A good night involves shaving his shoulders. � The Student Leads the good life. If she wants to sleep through class, she won’t get fired. If she says, when called on, that she didn’t do the reading, they won’t cancel her financial aid check. So she has something special: Time. This is the good life. Law school can be hard. I know some of us spend more hours studying and outlining — and outlining outlines — than Dubya spends memorizing names of foreign heads of state. (Get ready, Dubya.: Ne-tan-ya-hu.) But no one spends every waking hour studying. Those who came back to school from the working field will agree with me: The student life beats working. Law school does indeed suck the life out of us. But it doesn’t have to, not as much as a future of grafting for The Man, eating at the right places, wearing the right clothes, hating the right minorities, harassing the right secretaries, etc. When these years are over, we won’t have the freedom to be outside, feeling sunshine on our shoulders whenever we want. We won’t have the luxury of time to reflect. So, if it’s going to get harder no matter what, enjoy things now. This is the last time in your life, while you still flip the channel during the denture-glue commercials, that you can call a decent chunk of your time your own. And the point of having your own time is doing what you want to do with it. You don’t want to spend all your time freaking out over grades, do you? Whatever your desires may be, this is the most time you’ll have to fulfill them. Grades and the game may seem unreal, but, I assure you, freedom is real. So go fulfill before the only thing you’re filling is a timecard! Mitch Artman, a Hastings 1L, plans on beginning his own firm called “Anti-Shysters.” He likes law school because being around law students makes him remember to follow his dream. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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