Five Monsters You Meet In Law School


For some of us, law school was a horrifying place, filled with terror and dread. Fortunately, there’s Halloween—a time when we can collectively put our fears out in the open and (hopefully) conquer them. So, in honor of Halloween, Bitter Lawyer is revealing the spooky truth about real law school monsters.

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1.  THE GHOST

At best, you saw this guy when the seating chart was handed out on the first day. A master of disguise, he took a spot somewhere near the back, but not so far from the professor’s firing line that he’d draw attention to himself. Maybe he even took the bold step of volunteering to brief a case in the first week when everyone else was too busy being scared shitless. But since then, he’s been an apparition. There are rumors of his whereabouts (anywhere from the city morgue to the Third World brothel), but nobody knows for sure—he’s a ghost and he appears on his own time.

Still, never bet against the ghost. Like that guy who got stuck in the bathroom in Summer School, he may just float in, take finals, and he may just get the best grade in the class… and then vanish.

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2.  THE ESCAPED MENTAL PATIENT

This chick (it’s usually a chick) may look normal. But she’s not. Law school is just a cover for her.  And if she didn’t have a decent LSAT score, there’s no telling where she’d be.

Psycho is probably an understatement. She’ll hide casebooks, even in the Internet age. She’ll spread the rumor that an afternoon class has been canceled just to see how many fellow students she can keep from attending. She’ll binge on Diet Coke and NoDoz come finals time, and if she even gets an inkling that it will help her grades, she will cut you.

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3.  THE ZOMBIE

The thing about zombies is that they have a way of multiplying faster than Gremlins, and there comes a point in every semester where your law school looks more like Zombieland than The Paper Chase.

The students in your section only resemble people. Inside, their hearts are gone, their souls are crushed, and their brains exist only to determine the ownership of Blackacre or the liability of A to B.

But what’s most terrifying about zombies is that you yourself may become one.

Thankfully, there are warning signs:

• If your non-law school friends don’t understand a word you’re saying, you’re at risk.

• If you find yourself signing in to Lexis for “fun,” you’re a zombie. Seek help.

• If eating guacamole, you find yourself chatting to anyone who will listen about the Dormant Commerce Clause, you’re a zombie with no hope of ever again becoming mortal.

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4.  THE VAMPIRE

This guy/gal takes on the form of a bloodsucker for a reason—they’re always trying to borrow your notes or mooch off your hard work.

Conversations may begin with an innocuous opening like, “Did you understand that discussion of personal jurisdiction in Civ. Pro today?”

Whether you understood it or not, you should immediately be on guard. Ask yourself, “Is this person a Vampire, or do they bring something to the table?”

Feel free to judge them harshly. Did they fail to grasp that day’s material because it was so challenging that it eluded most of the class? Or, were they in the dark because they were busy sucking the blood out of a quiz on Facebook? Or, perhaps they don’t understand anything, and never will.

It’s your call to make. But remember, just like with the legend, they can’t come in unless you invite them, so don’t give the Vampire the time of day, and make everyone in your study group wear garlic necklaces.

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5.  THE WEREWOLF

By day, he’s your average law student—overstressed and over-worked. But at night it’s a different story. More beast than man, the Werewolf is one monster worth knowing, because he knows how to blow off steam. While everyone else is crammed into the library, the Werewolf is bending the ear of a local bartender or organizing a midnight rally to an area casino.

True, his grades have been known to suffer, but the Werewolf isn’t in it for the grades. He finished 1L in the middle of the pack, crunched the numbers, and realized that he’d never crack the top third. So, instead the Werewolf elected to devote his last two years of law school to hedonistic pursuits, knowing that once he enters the workforce, he’ll either have to buckle down or risk being implicated in a New York Post expose on a hooker and cocaine ring gone bad.

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For the time being, the Werewolf is the only monster you want to know. The Ghost knows nothing about his midnight expeditions; The Escaped Mental Patient hooked up with him and now avoids him like the plague; The Zombies envy him; and the Vampires aren’t hungry for what he knows.

Bitter Staff is a collection of current and former editors, contributors, and various other lawyers who have written for Bitter Lawyer over the years. Posts include interviews, contests, and other general lawyerly and bitter content.

27 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    October 29, 2009 at 4:13 am

    I met a woman while doing my LLM in DC who could only be described as a mental patient. (#2 above) She spent time in the library.  Rumor was she was interested in the tax professor’s TA, and was also very pushy with her body towards me (though I never let her do anything). After she graduated (with a JD), she took a job with the US Patent and Trademark Office examining Trademarks, and she was there 6 months when they discovered she was hiding the files she found too difficult to examine.  They fired her and she then started to try to get cozy again with me.  Thank goodness I never even slept with her.

  2. Craig

    October 29, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I am the ghost. Down to the very last sentence.  There is no doubt.

  3. Frat Guy Lawyer Type

    October 29, 2009 at 6:01 am

    I believe I was No. 5, but I posted this on Facebook to confirm.

  4. Craig

    October 29, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Just to add to the fun, as a ghost, vampires are harmless.  Even if they can track you down, you never have any notes to give them or anything, and you don’t even look at the material until a couple of days before the test, so you can’t help explain anything either.  The Werewolf will always attempt to make friends with the ghost, thinking they are alike (either confusing the ghost for a werewolf or confusing himself with the ghost, or thinking ghosts and werewolf’s are compatible).  The Zombie and the ghost might as well go to different law schools and live on opposite ends of the earth, because they rarely cross paths.  Zombie’s are inherently jealous of the ghost and wish they could be one, but know they can’t.  As for the escaped mental patient, she also has no effect on the ghost because the ghost does not even involve himself in the normal law school behavior.  The ghost will pity the mental patient from afar.

  5. BL1Y

    October 29, 2009 at 7:08 am

    I think I was a Will-o’-the-wisp.  I’d show up to class, but just play video games the whole time, luring the eyes of those sitting around me until they stop listening, don’t take notes, and have no idea what’s happening when they get called on.

  6. Desi

    October 29, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I knew a vampire – or two.

  7. PI Guy

    October 29, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I hooked up with two escaped mental patients in 1L. It was awful and glorious.

  8. Brett

    October 29, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I think I was a hybrid–ghost wolf.  I rarely went to class (more so 3L year than the other two), and I was the first to show up to bar review and the last to leave…graduating in the “upper middle” of the pack.  At least I had lots of fun; which seems rare in law school.

  9. BitterPD

    October 29, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Funny how nobody is fessing up to being a mental patient. You know you’re out there.

  10. BL1Y

    October 29, 2009 at 10:00 am

    If you’ve ever referred to yourself as “Type A” you’re probably in the mental patient category.  You know who you are.

  11. BL1Y

    October 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Five Monsters You Meet in Big Law: (1) The Mummy.  This is a partner who’s so old that it’s impossible to understand the forced moans and grunts that come from his decaying corpse.  They sound like “library” and “fax”…words that perhaps meant something back when he was still among the living, but have long sense been forgotten.  Best to just turn in work and not explain how you did it.  (2) The Bugbear.  The bugbear has never been seen.  It is supposedly an associate who left the firm maybe a year or two before you started.  People will whisper about the bugbear having been fired over some trivial error, one you’ve already made a dozen times.  The Bugbear is more cautionary tale than truth.  Don’t bother trying to get the real story, no one really knows the facts.  (3) The Golem.  The Golem is an association created by a partner from recent-graduate clay.  The partner will always be one who prides him or herself on billing 4000 hour years, and is creating the Golem as an attempt to reproduce this “perfection” in another being.  The Golem is mindless, never eating, never sleeping, always working.  Resist being turned into one, and avoid at all costs.  The Golem strangely sees its slavery as a virtue and will try to convince you to become the same.  Don’t argue with it about work-life balance; it will just relay your message to its masters.  Just avoid conversation completely.  (4) The Leviathan.  The Leviathan is a giant case that is a huge source of cash for the firm.  Unlike a whale, which can be harmlessly pumped for cash, the leviathan will destroy those assigned to its work.  Once tasked to it, an associate or partner will likely spend the vast majority of several years working on one deal or one law suit.  Those assigned to it will eventually find the leviathan dead, their skill set too narrow to be useful and their book of business empty.  If you find yourself working on a leviathan, always be looking for other work or ways to diversify your skills (maybe get an article or two published or take on a pro bono client).  (5) The Hydra.  Just as a hydra grows back two heads should you cut one off, this partner will always have two assignments waiting whenever you finish one, often unrelated to the previous work.  If you find yourself facing one, try to find another partner who can give you a more urgent matter to work on.  If no such work can be found, then try to turn in assignments after the Hydra has left for the day, before it arrives in the morning, or just before the Hydra goes to an important meeting (check your firm’s conference room schedule).

  12. LawGrrrl

    October 29, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Our valedictorian was the ghost.  He was also that guy who studied for the bar on his own (sans Barbri).  Certainly the most frightening of the bunch.

  13. Guano Dubango

    October 29, 2009 at 11:41 am

    BL1Y, I wonder why there are no female monsters in your firm at Big Law.  I know there was one very homely female partner when I worked over the summer between my arrival and my starting my LLM program who was always rubbing up to me in the elevator.  I tried to play it cool, but she started nuzzling me when we were alone in the elevator.  Fortunately, I had to leave the firm to go to school or she would have made me sleep with her, or worse. I did not like the rubbing of her crotch against my rear end and her making grunting noises.  I could only imagine what she would have done had she gotten me into bed with her without clothes on.

  14. Magic Circle Jerk

    October 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I was the Werewolf in law school.  Thank god that was when guys at the median in the lower t14 could get decent biglaw.

  15. JD

    October 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I was a Ghost. Not proud of it, but made it through.

  16. Boogie Jones

    October 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Feels like most of us were ghosts.

  17. Brett

    October 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    BL1Y, your additions sound more like the “Dungeons and Dragons of Law School.”

  18. BL1Y

    October 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Guano: I had both women and men in mind for those.

  19. PGuy

    October 29, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    “…if she even gets an inclining that it…”??? I think you mean “inkling”. Come on, folks, we’re lawyers. Let’s be literate out there.

  20. Nelly

    October 30, 2009 at 10:19 am

    LMAO

  21. Paulie Two-Fingers

    October 31, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I am the werewolf, to the letter.  Once I figured out that 1) I’m not going to get a job at a prestigious firm; 2) I wouldn’t want such a job anyway, since it entails sacrificing your soul, I decided to show the school how we do.
    AAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

  22. Isabella

    February 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I showed this article to a fellow-2L girlfriend of mine, who I happen to think is an Escaped Mental Patient.
    She read it, laughed and then said “I know, aren’t Law students crazy?”
    Several (several!) days later she brings up the article and says “So I was just thinking… which one of those character-types would BigLaw most likely hire? Just out of interest…”
    Classic Escaped Mental Patient!

  23. Ishita

    July 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Awesome post!! loved it. the moment i read it, i knew the exact people fitting the description.
    My heart and soul are intact but still i have all the symptoms of a ZOMBIE! I crack law jokes specific to the subject i read or have an upcoming test on. And now people around me wait for my next attempt of being funny. I am called “legal aunty”

  24. 2LWolf

    September 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Guano relates to women weirdly. I mostly fit the Werewolf category in that I’m a partier, but I do above-middle work…yay me. Escaped Mental Patients don’t announce themselves because they aren’t self-aware at all. That’s why they do what they do!

  25. Evil Lawyer

    September 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Guano is one of those guys that just looks at women. He never makes passes at them. I say always make passes at women out of your league: even if she is an escaped mental patient, you might get lucky. Just don’t tell her your real name.

  26. Travis Walken

    November 27, 2011 at 5:26 am

    I knew a girl in law school who was literally a crack-whore, she was addicted to cocaine (and sold it to a lot of others at school) and slept with at least 10 guys in school despite having a longtime bf who did not attend the school. Towards the end of school when it became apparent that no one was getting jobs..she suddenly became interested in this fugly rich dude she had ignored for 3 years, the problem…she was already knocked up and he wasn’t having any of that..so she got rid of it..and now they live happily ever after. True story.

  27. jestoppel

    April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    man, i never met a single one of these. unless we were ALL ghosts. like that movie in which nicole kidman has photosensitive children.

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