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Sounds of Law School

by on February 28, 2012

This post might be a little different than the Catrina Chronicles or my usual law school posts about pop-culture references and the like; instead, I wanted to give you, my small yet loyal readership, a glimpse of what law school life is actually like. To do that, I thought I’d focus on one peculiar bit of the atmosphere here: the sounds. Oh, it’s a veritable symphony, it is.

1) “ClickittyclickittyclickittyCLICKITTYCLICKITTY……click….clickittyclickittyclickitty….”

It’s funny; when I started undergrad lo these many years ago (2006, to be precise), there was hardly anyone who used a computer in class. Part of that may have been because I took a lot of classes where there were only five or six people, and it’s a LOT more noticeable when someone in a tiny class sitting right next to you is checking Facebook than if you’re doing it in the nosebleed section of a classroom of a hundred people. On the other hand, I did take some undergrad classes with twenty-thirty people, and maybe one or two had computers. Fast-forward to law school: virtually everyone takes notes on computer. I prefer taking notes like General Anna from The Pushcart War, by hand, but I’m one of the very few. What that means is, in any given classroom here, you will hear the steady patter of hundreds of fingers pecking frantically away at dozens of keyboards, sounding very much like a falling spring rain. It’s poetic, really. You’ll also notice that the sound sometimes rises and sometimes falls (also like rain), and this happens usually when the professor says anything preceded by the sentence: “This will be on the exam”. At that point, there will be a crescendo of clickittys (side note: I’m totally using that as a book title). Conversely, should the professor start off with “This will not be on the exam,” the clickittys will die away except for a few dedicated souls valiantly attempting to transcribe the professor’s every single word.

2) “rumblerumblerumblerumble”….

I believe it was Professor Andrew McClurg, writer of “1L of a Ride”, who made the observation in his book that law school classrooms are very much like the departure gate at LaGuardia, and it’s true. What occasions this comparison, you ask? Rollers.  Ah, those backpacks with the little wheels on the bottom and the plastic extending handle, that make it virtually impossible for you to sneak up on someone because they’ll always hear the roll of your wheels approaching.
I was a non-roller like you once, before I took a figurative arrow in the knee. Specifically, the strap on my computer bag irreparably broke, and naturally I needed a new one. But not just any old bag, no, I needed one that could go the distance. See, the thing about law school is, we have an inordinate amount of stuff. Casebooks, supplements, folders, binders, planners, loose papers we haven’t yet put into our folders and binders, notebooks, extra notebooks, fliers, post-it notes, miniature staplers, plastic stress heads….and our piles of stuff are growing all the time. We print out so much paper that our school has provided us with a helpful widget that not only informs us of our printing allotment, but also tells us exactly how much of a tree we have killed. I’ve killed one and a quarter trees, so far. (Woohoo!)  And I’m not even done with the first year yet. Collectively, my class has probably wiped out a whole old-growth forest in South America by now. The upshot of all that is, ordinary backpacks simply can’t take the strain of all this stuff. Thus, the roller. Which, therefore, means that at any moment, if you should be standing in one of our hallways, you will likely hear the *rumble rumble rumble* of someone’s rolly backpack trundling along the floor.

3) Silence

Law school has many silences. The awkward silence right after you’ve been called on and sixty people are staring at you waiting to hear you say something remotely intelligent and you’re scrambling to remember what on earth the original question was.  The dead white-noise silence when you’re studying in the library basement and there’s no one there except you and the occasional bug. The brief millisecond of stunned silence right before the explosion of laughter that comes when someone says something particularly amusing. The frantic stressed silence that fills the hallways as people rush past you on their way to class or study or working on the next big writing assignment we’ve got going. The expectant hush that falls over the crowd when the professor comes in just before he or she starts talking. Indeed, this place has almost as many silences as sounds. Poetry, it is.

  1. And I thought roller backpacks were only used by awkward sixth graders….turns out they put them away and get them out again in about 10 years.

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