Law in Contemporary Society

Why I’m Leaving In the Fall (Or Better Yet, As Soon as Possible)

-- By GershamJ - 28 Feb 2020

What I Seek Is a Personal Doctrine

What I seek is a personal doctrine, a way to predict myself. In order to find this sooner rather than later, I have decided that it is best for me to abandon law school, effective immediately.

I realized, perhaps too late, that law school could never provide me a personal doctrine, primarily because law school trains for the aggregate. The good lawyer (or, more accurately, the bad man) is great at predicting the will of the public force. The only problem is that the bad man seldom learns how to predict himself. The bad man seldom knows who he is because he has only studied the will of the prism containing everyone else aside from himself. (Robinson, to the extent that he can “predict himself,” seems to have acquired this ability long before practicing law.)

Estrangement in the World

The writer Viktor Shklovsky suggests that we can only see the world authentically if we “estrange” it from our everyday understanding and language. Those who live inauthentically use the conceptual lenses already given to them by society (or by the law) instead of devising their own. For us law students, it is easier to just be a “1L” or “Public Interest” rather than daring to view those concepts strictly through our own experiences and eyes. The term “risk-averse control freak” helps estrange us from ourselves because suddenly we are forced to encounter what lies beneath the surface of “the everyday.”

I’ll admit, “estrangement" appears about as close to transcendental nonsense as any legal term of art. (Although, it is no more transcendentally nonsensical a proposition than, say, a judge evaluating the “totality of the circumstances.”) But that’s why I’ve decided to embrace “law school estrangement” as the “standard” of my personal doctrine. It is a personal legal principle that, while abstract on its own, I can apply (somewhat) concretely when I am feeling inauthentic.

Estrangement in Law School

This is why I am leaving law school now. Half a year ago I decided to set my clock to law school time. But “1L” is only a unit of temporal measurement, no less arbitrary than measuring with minutes or seconds. In reality, I will be a law student only for as long as I am able to pay, or pass my classes, or generally desire to be here. I therefore choose to estrange my understanding of “law school time” by eliminating it entirely, replacing it with how I actually perceive my timeline: an indefinite existence as a law student occurring only at the present moment.

No graduation date really matters now, because my education is always incomplete. Because the end is arbitrary, the real question for myself, in evaluating this personal doctrine, becomes the following: what would being a law student mean to me if I were to step out of the classroom now and never come back? I’ve determined that this is a two-prong analysis.

What I Apply Is a Personal Doctrine of Law School Estrangement

The First Prong

The “macro prong” involves my relationship with law school itself, from the perspective of the always imminent and yet always distant death of my law school experience. If I find that reading Russian philosophy on a Wednesday night is providing a deeper understanding of both my existence in law school and my possible and inevitable existence outside of it, I just may take the opportunity. I’m still trying to learn how to study the law with one eye outside of these walls, pointed towards my bedroom in Chicago, where I can observe an alternate universe where a song is born on a Thursday afternoon. I’ve started to realize that if three classes can turn into four and memos can turn into appellate briefs, my sense of “having no time” has already been artificially constricted by these arbitrary walls I’ve allowed myself to live in.

The Second Prong

The “micro prong” involves the main attraction: my predictions for myself. I suspect that there will never be a world in which I don’t adore music consumption and music-making (until there is, of course), so I estrange my inherited conception of “law student” to incorporate both my prospective legal life in music-related services and my non-legal life as a musician. Because I’ve already estranged my personal conception of time, I recognize that I can have both feet in the law school and non-law school worlds. Only an instant of time separates them, if even that much.

Consequences of Prediction

Perhaps this is all easier said than done. My time may not feel tethered to an externally imposed three-year plan, but surely my predictive ability has to be inspired by it. And yet, because it is my time—and I allow myself to see it as my time—there are suddenly a wide array of ways I can manipulate it. Law school estrangement may not invent time that doesn’t exist, but perhaps it can radically reorganize the time that does.

Perhaps it’s a fool’s errand to desire to predict yourself. But it seems that the Robinsonian lawyer who can predict who he is likely to represent (or not) will have a better understanding of how he will be present (or not) in his time. This doesn’t mean that the Robinsonian lawyer must predict the exact individual he will represent next Tuesday. My goal is not to “predict” my exact exit, because after all I am always already leaving. Instead it's to predict the conditions that will either keep my feet placed firmly within this world of law, or require me to step out entirely. In applying this two-prong, personal doctrine of law school estrangement, it’s my fantastical hope that I'll be ready to cultivate whatever version of myself I find at whatever moment the timeline ends. Regardless, I will be here only so long as the opportunity ripens.


Webs Webs

r1 - 28 Feb 2020 - 17:58:47 - GershamJ
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