WHO MOVES YOUR CHEESE IN A LAW SCHOOL
‘Who Moves Your Cheese In A Law School?’ This was the question that intrigued me when I finished Dr. Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who Moved My Cheese’.
Ready to start my sophomore year in college, I often reminisce about the time when I was preparing for CLAT- when the idea of being in a ‘law school’ seemed so exciting- I imagined that it would mean poring over books in the library buried in ‘heavy research’ and having the most exciting trials in classrooms where we would be discussing controversial cases and coming up with fantastic arguments. This is the Cheese (metaphor for ‘happiness’) that I sought while preparing for CLAT.
I was ready for the change that stared me in the face once I got admission in a law school and I remember telling myself ‘freedom at last’. A very uneventful fourteen years of school were giving way to the most enterprising five years of courtship with law...or did they?
After being warned by my seniors (from school) who were studying in law schools that I might face an adjustment problem like having to live in a cramped room with little air to breathe and nauseating mess food, culture shock (not to forget back-stabbing by fellow ‘budding lawyers’), I prepared myself mentally for this sea of change which would soon engulf my life.
To say that I survived the ‘adjustment factor’ would be modest; I pride myself in having found a home away from home which gave me peace both at mind and in my heart. But what of the law that I set out to study, how successfully could I enjoy that Cheese...
Man at heart is a very frustrated species it seems, we use our complex brains and human emotions complicate things just as they did for Hem and Haw who believed that nothing but their special Cheese could satisfy their appetite. I remember the first day in college when we were being given our library orientation and a Professor told us to spend time in the library after our classes got over; in the first week, you would find every first year student spending his time obediently in the library, after classes groups of four/five would brave the heat to come all the way to the library and you would find some students even daring a Dicey or Austin. This tomfoolery (and I call it ‘tomfoolery’ not to offend those who made the effort) lasted the first two weeks of college, after which everyone settled down in the laidback life of college and forgot the very purpose with which many like me prepared for law.
I don’t blame them, not entirely. All of us conjured an ideal picture of our dream law school and since in a dream one has the liberty to build his house of chocolate and have fountains that spout money, we pictured ourselves as patrons of law in NLSIU or Justice City. What we forget is that dreams are not prophecies, not all CAN go to big law schools and perhaps the most natural effect it has upon a prospective law student is that it makes him embittered towards the law school that he ends up securing admission in. He forgets that he can still make it big.
What happens to the “positivists” then? (“positivists” not as Austin meant them but “positivist” as in a person who thinks positively) somewhere, they too lose heart when they see ‘law as it is’ and ‘law as it ought to be’...again, I am not speaking in jurisprudential terms but in terms of what we think a law school is all about and the law school that we actually live in...
I fondly remember the first week in college, knowing that it will never come back. It will never come back because on the first day a class of enthusiastic 80 piled into Section A raring to unleash their oratory skills only to meet an unenthusiastic faculty, bitter seniors and project plagiarism. Welcome to the big bad world of law schools...subsequently the number of students attending lectures dropped; you would still find students whiling their time in the library but this time the number would be fewer and they would be people coming to catch twenty winks in the library (the air conditioning in the library is a blessing) or to “socialize” with newly found best friends. So much for the patrons of law!
In a Law Summit organized this year by a reputed coaching institute in Lucknow, I was invited as a panellist by virtue of being a former student of the coaching centre. The moderator started the panel discussion by asking the law students to define a Law School. If this question had been asked a year ago, I would have probably given a very romantic definition: poring over books...buried in heavy research...most exciting trials in classrooms...Alas, the folly of men...
The description to my own ears sounds so dramatic now! I land with a thud on the ground...I realize that a Cheese of such form and taste never existed! It was the creation of my own mind much like the way in which light rays bend to produce a mirage, so that it’s there but never really there.
But here comes some hope for those who think that this is the story only of a second tier or a third tier law school: this is the story of EVERY law school, yes even the ‘biggies’....if you go to a law school thinking that someone will teach you the law, you’d be living in a fool’s paradise...for no one can teach you law, you can only fall in love with it and law school helps you merely to identify your area of interest in law. You are lucky if you get a single “life-changing” teacher in a law school...if you do, count your blessings!
What bugs me the most and is one of the prime reason for writing this blog (apart from sheer desire to write) is that some people use their failure at procuring their Cheese (read pre-CLAT ‘dream law school’) as an excuse to shirk work, they think that the only place where they could have done well is NLSIU or NALSAR. While I acknowledge that by virtue of being an alumnus from the “cream of law school fraternity” you become a force to reckon with, there is no reason why you cannot make your law school just as idyllic.
You need to come to terms with the fact that it is time to move to new Cheese, everyone at some point of time will move your Cheese in a law school, they will steal it & eat it: you can be fighting for an internship which you lose to a friend, a moot court competition which you lose to a rival law school and a placement offer which you lose to a fellow batch mate. What you’ve got to realize is that you cannot be in denial all the time. Just as Haw, you’ve got to embrace the change. And even before you know it, you would have stumbled upon a treasure trove of Cheese.
p.s.: ‘Who Moved my Cheese’ can be read online at: http://mrlassen.wikispaces.com/file/view/Who_Moved_My_Cheese.pdf
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University