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The Mythology of One L

The first year of law school is famously competitive. Or so we are told. People camp out in the library for 15 hour days. Gunners hide key textbooks from classmates in trap doors. Did you hear about the One L who knifed the tires of the curve setting students the early morning before an exam? On and on the stories go.

But hold on friends, before you get too worked up, let me let you in on a little secret. The Paper Chase was fiction. It didn’t really happen. None of the legendary nonsense actually takes place in law school. It’s a big fat lie.  Turow claims his book was a true account of his One L year at Harvard. Maybe it was, but I can assure you it has absolutely no relation to the ordinary life of a law student today.

Perjury is a crime, but lies about law school are encouraged. For in the end, they serve a noble purpose: to make you insane, and to make the ordinary One L class a total nut house. Again, the creed: it was horrible for us, and it is going to be horrible for you.

However untruthful it is, the hazing of One Ls is very effective. If you walk around a law school about five minutes, you will see two noticeably different groups of people. One group looks like a ward full of eighth grade ADHD patients: edgy, nervous, pacing around like crack addicts, spying on everyone in sight, jerking about in purposeless movements here and there, or huddled together in large groups like emperor penguins staving off the cold at the South Pole.

The other group? They are totally relaxed, even bored most of the time. They don’t seem to be bothered by anything. They wear flip flops and sweat pants to class. They meet people to drink beer at 3:00 on a Tuesday afternoon.

What’s the difference between the two groups? It is very simple. The first group are One Ls, who have no clue what is happening to them. The second group is everyone else, everyone who is in on the secret.

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