Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Sunday, March 8, 2015
I haven't been blogging much since I entered law school. These have been some of the highlights of my experience at Notre Dame.
The class of 2017 has around 200 students which is somewhat larger than many of us expected, but is certainly not too large. Our mandatory 1L classes fill up the lecture rooms but the students don't feel anonymous. It's actually rather nice to have a full classroom because it decreases the chances that any individual will get cold called by the professor.
The law school experience is quite different undergrad. The main classes on legal doctrine require only reading casebooks and taking notes during lectures before one final at the end of the semester graded on a curve. In undergrad, there were many assignments, tests, and quizzes throughout the semester, and finals were often not especially challenging nor did they form the basis for a student's entire grade. Law school is less stressful during the bulk of the semester but gets intense at the end as finals approach.
Law students are not however entirely free from assignments throughout the semester. Our first semester we were required to take a one credit Legal Research class and a two credit Legal Writing class. The former required easy but somewhat tedious weekly quizzes and the latter included a number of writing assignments including an Office Memo, and a Motion for Summary Judgement. The legal writing assignments were good confidence boosters. It is nice to see a real working document of the kind that we will be producing in our legal careers with your own name on it.
Our second semester was expected to be easier than the first, but a mere half-semester one credit class made it somewhat more stressful. For Legal Writing Part II, students team up with a partner to write an appellate brief and present an oral argument before a panel of judges. We finished last week. The research and writing took a while, but it was an important skill building exercise and was a cause for camaraderie as everyone worked through it together.
Law students are expected to plan for their future career from the first semester. Students are told that they should already have a good idea of the geographical location they would like to practice, if not the specific practice area. We send out applications for summer jobs from Christmas break through April, and hope to gain valuable work experience and contacts over the summer. There is less pressure to get the perfect job in our first summer than in our second. Law students hope to get their first real post-graduation job out of their 2L summer job.
The atmosphere is the law school is congenial. Students are not overly competitive and are happy to help each other. A feeling of fellowship extends beyond the law school, and many law students are enthusiastic participants in the broader university life. Sports is one unifying factor, and the law school is always well represented in the graduate student section at home football games. Going to law school at Notre Dame, one feels a sense of history, a connection to people such as Fr. Sorin and his band of Holy Cross priests who founded the university, and Knute Rockne the greatest football coach in history. A sense of gratitude to those who came before in the university's long history is shared by students and faculty alike.
Spiritual life is fairly strong at the law school. Daily masses at the law school chapel are well attended and the chapel is packed for Sunday mass. The mass is said reverently by Holy Cross priests who are often excellent homilists. The law school is better at maintaining a Catholic identity than much of the rest of Notre Dame, and law professors are often seen at mass with students. The faculty includes important defenders of Catholic life in the public sphere, most notably Gerard Bradley. If you have ever read an article about the Notre Dame administration making its latest accommodation to the enemies of the Faith, you have probably read professor Bradley quoted as the voice of opposition.
For all its faults, Notre Dame is a great place. The campus is beautiful, and a physical testament to the faith and success of American Catholics. I enjoy walking past the famous "Touchdown Jesus" mural everyday on my way to class and seeing the stained glass windows that mark the many chapels around campus. At night, lights are shined on the golden dome of the administration building, and it is comforting to see the golden statute of Our Lady watching over campus. It is bittersweet to behold such great symbols of faith in a campus that continues to jettison its Catholic identity, but it inspires hope for the success of outposts of orthodoxy such as the Law School.
Notre Dame Ora Pro Nobis!