The First Year, they scare you to Death
The Unspoken Code of
Law School is a kind of intellectual boot camp. It is likely to be as strenuous and draining as anything you’ve ever experienced in your life. With this new experience comes a new set of social norms–a canon of ethical behaviour to govern your behaviour and social interactions during the next intensely competitive years. The problem is, in most schools, the canon is unspoken. It’s something you have to figure out as you go along–which can be extremely stressful, deeply humiliating, and even permanently destructive depending on which mistakes you make, and when and how you make them.
When these rules are followed, you end up with a school where class materials, knowledge, and understanding are generally shared freely among students, where in-class discussion is vigorous but respectful, and where the study of law is made just a little bit more humane in the process. When the rules aren’t followed, you end up with places where needed books disappear from the library shelves, every word spoken is contested and challenged, and the educational experience seems to degenerate into cannibalism.
Regardless of what school you go to, becoming familiar with these rules will help to ease your assimilation into the confrontational, competition-laden law school culture, help to ensure that you remain in the good graces of your classmates and, consequently, assure that your law school experience will be as civil and collegial as possible.