Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I may have lost my mind...don't be alarmed...

Before I get into why I may have lost my mind, I have to explain how my school works. It's different from other law schools. The students all have to complete four full-time 11 week internships before they graduate. And I do mean classes when you're doing an internship and no internships when you're in class. So how do they manage to work this in? Well, for their first year the students are on on a semester system. The fall semester starts at the end of August and ends before Christmas break. Then the spring semester starts in January and ends early in May. Sounds perfectly normal, but that doesn't work when you need to fit in the internships. So, during the 2nd and 3rd years, the students are switched to a quarter system (the summer counts as a quarter) and they rotate between going to their full time internship and coming back to the school to take classes. Each year a balance manages to work itself out where 1/2 the students are on a "fall/spring" rotation, and 1/2 the students are on a "summer/winter" rotation. So if you're on the fall/spring rotation, you do internships during the fall and spring quarters, and you're in class in the summer and winter quarters. And the summer/winter rotation is the opposite. Got it? Okay, on to why I've lost my mind.

So, I'm sure you all remember that class that became the bane of my existence. The one with the giant project at the end. Well, before I get into how I lost my mind I should explain more about that class. It's called "Legal Skills in Social Context" (hereinafter "LSSC"), and there are basically three steps leading to that final project.

The first step is with your fall Lawyering Fellow (LF), an upper level student who is essentially your teacher and helps you learn what legal skills in social context is actually supposed to mean. Basically the 1Ls are assigned a set of articles every week, usually law review articles, that have a very strong social science spin to them. These articles talk about lawyering styles, how to deal with cultural differences when you're a lawyer, how to deal with moral issues, etc. For me it felt like sociology with some law mixed in...which was cool, I was a sociology major in undergrad. And the LF facilitates their understanding through activities assigned by the LSSC program. So although the LF is a teacher, they have to follow the lesson plan that the LSSC program tells them to follow. Anyway, generally class time is just a discussion of the weekly articles, the LF asks thought provoking questions, all is good. The students are also assigned little projects that relate to the project they'll be doing later (the big research project that took up all our time) and help them apply what they've learned by reading the articles to the project itself. At the end of the Fall quarter the fall LF leaves them to go do an internship during the winter quarter, and their winter LF, who was off doing an internship during the fall quarter, takes over. When the fall LF leaves, he or she has to submit a research paper about the ultimate project. This paper is kind of a jumping point for the 1Ls so they know what has already been found about the subject and what they should be trying to find.

Anyway, the second step in the project is their time with the winter LF. The winter LF's role is very different. He or she eases the students into their transition of working on the project, gets them started on it and then when the winter quarter is over in February, the 1Ls are left alone to finish their project. So the winter LF just facilitates discussions about the project itself and about how best to approach it and helps them over those first few bumps before leaving them to flounder on their own. He or she also helps them choose a leader or two from amongst themselves who will facilitate the meetings and make sure everything continues according to plan. The floundering with their selected leader(s) is the third step when they have to make sure to get the project done without any push from any LFs. There is some push from the program leaders themselves and a push from the faculty adviser, but it's really not very strong, the students have to do a lot of self-governing at this point.

Anyhow, so now you have a sense of how the program works. Now, after the program is over, of course they start asking for applications for future upper level students to be LFs. First they just put flyers on the bulletin boards around the law school and put a slide in the ever-running power point presentation that displays on various screens around the school. The deadline for applications was a couple weeks ago. But it seems they don't have enough applicants (gee, I wonder why people aren't applying to lead a class that was the bane of their existence) because they recently put a plea out in an announcement on the school online bulletin board for more applications. And it seems they've gotten to the point of asking specific students to do it. Because our faculty adviser emailed me today and told me she thinks I should apply. She thinks I'd be really good at it. Which is a great compliment. And I may have lost my mind because for some reason, being asked makes me think I might actually want to do it.

The rationalization...for one thing, I'd be the fall LF because I'm on the summer/winter rotation (remember, that means I do internships in the summer and winter and classes in the fall and spring). That was the semester I liked with all the articles. I will still have to do that research paper which does give me some hesitation, but at least I would know what I was getting into instead of having it thrown at me as part of a class I was automatically required to take. And being an LF counts as a 6 credit class so then I wouldn't really sign up for many more classes, most 2nd and 3rd years take about 12 or 13 credits so instead of being assigned this giant class but only being able to give 1/5 of my time to it...I'd be giving about half my time to it. And I have to do a research paper before the end of my 3rd year anyway and I can use the one I'd be doing as an LF to meet that requirement. So it wouldn't become another LSSC moment for me, it would be a very different role and I'd be done with it after one quarter, it wouldn't go on the whole year like it did this year. Oh, and I'd get a $1000 stipend for doing it...not bad for 3 months.

Anyway, I haven't agreed to anything yet, I'm going to meet with Lucy (our faculty adviser) on Friday to talk more about it, ask my questions, voice my concerns, etc. So, we'll see what I feel after that meeting. In any case, it was really nice to be asked. It makes me feel good that I stood out in her mind as someone who would do well in such a strong leadership role. And if I decide not to do least I will have met with Lucy and talked about it before deciding that.

Oh, I also asked around and the email was definitely not sent to everyone in my Law Office (that's what they call the group of 1Ls, by the way). So Lucy specifically wanted to ask me. I don't know if she asked anyone else but if she did it was probably only a few others.

Anyway. In regards to current classes, I only have two more days of classes left! And then I have reading week, and then exams. Almost there! Woo!


Chucka Stone Designs said...

Wow that is really exciting news! Definitely spun my head around reading about how it all works so I can certainly understand your hesitation in jumping right in there. The good thing is you can get that research paper & a little extra dough while doing this. The one point I wasn't sure on is your credit requirements though - does that mean you would be pushing out your grad date to satisfy additional credits since you're not in class while teaching? What an awesome honor though to be thought of in such a strong light, that is so cool!

It is also cool that you get to take classes in spring/fall & intern summer/winter because there is nothing worse than having to have your nose in a book all summer long. At least while working you can get outside & enjoy lunch in the sun. Also, no studying on weekends so there are always beach/ski trips :)

Good luck with the decision, looking forward to yaking about it in the car in just 5 short days!!!

~ Jenn

Bridgete said...

Oh, no, I'm not pushing back my graduation date, this is a real class for real credit for me, it counts toward my graduation requirement. I was just saying that most classes are 3 or 4 credits and this one is 6 credits. And there's no requirement for what types of classes fill the credit requirement, other than professional responsibility. It's highly unlikely that I'd pass the bar if I didn't take Evidence or Trusts and Estates, but I certainly have time in the next two years to fit those in along with doing this class.