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The Sameness of Legal Life


Today I am writing about a reoccurring fear I have. That’s right, at least for the week, I’m shunning unauthorized advice, seriatim descriptions and even pie charts for the sake of addressing a subject seriously and somberly. With YouTube clips. Well one YouTube clip. But a serious YouTube clip. Ok not really.

But I am talking about a reoccurring fear. You see, the legal world is often regarded as a rather conservative universe, and it seems that conformity is the norm. Lawyers are expected to look the same, behave similarly and follow parallel paths toward comparable goals. I sometimes wonder if law school is really just the real life version of the Play Doh spaghetti maker. We spent the last twenty odd years making ourselves into these different and colorful masterpieces, which we proudly showed to our big sister, law school. And she went Oh how nice and picked out all the best pieces, and for a moment we were so gratified… but then the stupid bitch decided she wanted some fake linguini, threw us all into the same tank, cranked the handle, and out came a big brown blob of sameness.

That, in short, is what I’m afraid of: irreversibly ruined Play Doh. Oh wait, no, that’s not right. What I’m afraid of is the possibility that the legal profession requires us to shed the pieces that make us individuals. That success, or even survival, in the legal world depends upon assuming the qualities of the big brown blob. Which is deep, I know, but hear me out.

To start, think about the lawyers in TV and media that you’d actually want to be friends with. I mean, there’s cousin Vinny; hands down I’d want to grab a beer with him. Not only is he the scrappy underdog type, but you know that he understands the GTL code. I could definitely hang out with Elle, her parents are loaded and she’s good at the LSAT… I’ve made friends based on far worse criteria. Even Arthur Fonzerelli on Arrested Development would get an invite to my birthday party, although only because I’m pretty sure I’m genetically related to the Bluth family.

Ok, now let’s think about the ones I wouldn’t want to be friends with. Although I would totally root for Casey Novak in the courtroom, I highly doubt she’d be willing to wingman while I cougar hunt at the undergrad bars in Greenwich Village. Miranda Hobbs is an absentee parent with a penchant for buying shoes that cost more than my first car and emotionally beating forgettable men into submission instead of just coming out of the freakin’ closet already. Even Coach Gordon Bombay was an abusive alcoholic with a Napoleon complex when he was a lawyer. Of course after he quit law he somehow made a living tying children up and/or throwing eggs at them, but that’s just my point. He’s a creepster and I don’t want to be his friend.

Now, out of these six examples, which ones do you honestly think are most like real lawyers in the real world? Exactly: the boring ones. The ones who act appropriately, suppress their true selves and numb the pain with brown paper bag concealed liquor, consumed while veering down the mean streets of big bad Minneapolis, Minnesota (Ducks fly together).

Ok, ok, I’ll admit that comparing my subjective opinions of fake lawyers may not be the most scientific way to look at the problem. But I actually came up with the idea for this post when I came across a real life person, 17-year-old Jamie Keilis, who is a super smart teenager with a super smart blog, and who, quite frankly, I’m pretty jealous of. Especially because I see a lot of High School Dixie reflected in Keilis’s blog. I also wasn’t afraid to question the world around me, and generally created a good bit of ruckus while doing so. Sure, I didn’t have a blog, but that was likely because the Internet BARELY EXISTED back then. (Remember those days?) I did, however, write a number of articles for my school newspaper that were deemed “not publishable.” So I did the only logical thing, and distributed enough photocopies to land me in a one-on-one sex ed meeting with the “cool” guidance counselor. We had a long conversation where I explained that I wasn’t even having sex; I simply thought that the administration was wasting too much time and energy policing the morality of their female students. In return she ignored me and I walked away with a handful of condoms and a feeling of vindication.

Yet Law School Dixie writes under a pseudonym and sticks to pretty safe topics. With the exception of an occasional mild admonishment from friends who know my true identity, no one feels the need to respond, let alone supply me with free prophylactics. And I’m even more afraid of the future. If the current online legal female world is any prediction, I fear that Lawyer Dixie’s virtual contributions may revolve around sweater sets and debates on the proper venue for peep-toe heels. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like Corporette, but how does one start at The Seventeen Project and end at saddle reminiscent khaki pumps and seersucker blazers?

Again, like my selection of fake lawyer friends, I’ll admit it’s not the most scientific of studies. Nor is it grounded in “actual reality.” But it’s also not entirely in my head. In my real life I’ve also noticed concessions that once upon a time I wouldn’t have allowed. This worries me; conforming, however slowly, does not seem like the ideal way to start a quest to affect change. Sometimes it’s little things, like buying a hornbook because OH MY GOD IF I DON’T GET GOOD GRADES I’M GOING TO THROW MYSELF OFF A BRIDGE. Sometimes it’s bigger things, like giving up during a 3 v 1 argument where my classmates seriously proposed we are in some sort of “post-sexism” world. Sometimes they are somewhere in between. But the concessions are there, along with my fear that I’m slowly being churned into brown Play Doh poop-spaghetti.

Unfortunately, I’m still too much of a neophyte to have any real answers. But I do invite anyone else who has ideas or opinions to feel free to contribute. Otherwise, best of luck to you, my bright bits of colorful dough. May you never face the same concerns as I.