There are a lot of bad things about law school. It can consume every last minute of what used to be your free time. It can destroy any hope of a normal romantic life or acceptable interaction with normal people. It never stops finding new ways to keep a person terrified (though, to be fair, the current economy is doing its share to help out here). But all of these pale in comparison to the biggest law school mind-fuck of all. Sooner or later, no matter how much you know that your relationship with law school is an abusive one, you’ll realize that you like it.
The inkling may start early, but the complete process can take a while. It starts with the little things: finding that one perfect spot in the back corner of the library where you can research without people walking by all the time or the knowledge that there’s at least some comfort in the fact that you know the law building well enough to know that you can steal a couple hours of napping on a couch in the 4th floor hallway without anyone waking you up when you’ve been in the building for 36 straight hours. There’s a sort of familiarity that smooths over the initial contempt and even though you miss things like weekends and free time, you’re able to take some pleasure from having “mastered” the workings of law school. (You haven’t actually mastered anything, of course, because this phase tends to happen near the end of the 1L year, but you think you have and that’s close enough.)
From there, the Stockholm Syndrome begins to set in. At some point in your 2L year, you realize that you’ve passed the point of no return. One way or another you decide that you need to stick it out and graduate either because half a degree can look really bad on a resume if you don’t know how to spin it or because you just don’t want to admit that you couldn’t keep going. Rather than admit that you’ve made a mistake, you set up camp somewhere between Patty Hearst and the case study from Leon Festinger’s “When Prophesy Fails.” On some level, though, you know that something’s wrong. No matter how much you may claim otherwise, regret over the decision to attend law school has crept into your head. You just daren’t admit it.
That’s bad enough, but the real shock comes when you finally notice that the regret is gone and you’ve let go. Being $100,000 in debt has stopped registering as a concern. You still notice that other people’s eye glaze over when you start discussing legal topics, but now you blame them for their disinterest and you’ve lost the ability to understand why any thinking person could find the nuances of Subchapter T patronage dividends boring. During the Stockholm Syndrome phase at least you cared what others thought, but now you don’t. You’ve reached the point where you no longer love the law, you simply find it fascinating. Great for your own piece of mind, but I pity the person who sits down next to you at a bar.
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