Law School Stockholm Syndrome


A couple nights ago as I was leaving the law school (around 10 pm; it was an early night) I ran into a friend who was cleaning up after the Moot Court Honor Board’s contract competition and we killed a few minutes catching up on each others’ lives current courses. She gushed about how great her courses were, and I followed suit. Around the point where I was raving about my Estate Tax class, I paused and asked if she was often still in the building this late. And then she said it. “Well, yes, but it could be much worse, so I’m happy.”

Now, I’ve thought the same thing to myself hundreds of times, but hearing it from someone else tripped a switch. I realised something. There’s a term for being happy on the basis that things could be worse: Stockholm Syndrome. But that’s what happens in law school. Maybe it’s a second-career thing. I mean, it could just be my own fault for having had such a stressful life before.

For a good part of my life I logged a quarter-million miles on airplanes each year, lived out of my suitcase, and got far too familiar with the ins and outs of Marriott’s loyalty program. I once spent the night in Boston’s Logan airport and I’ve had to sprint to reserve the last available rental car and drive 150 miles to another airport when a flight got canceled. I’ve given presentations to C-level executives of Fortune 500 companies who didn’t want to hear what I was telling them, didn’t understand why scope creep is bad, and couldn’t see why specific requirements are necessary for software development. That was more than a little rough.

Law school is only slightly less “more than a little rough” but I’m convinced that I’ve never been happier. Law school isn’t trying to hurt me, it’s just that it’s backed into a corner and doesn’t really have a choice. And it’s trying to be nice when it can, I mean, it doesn’t have to have a shower for those times when I’m stuck here all night, but it does. Because it really does care about its students. Sure I had to spend 4 and a half hours digging out of my driveway in conditions that caused the governor to declare a state of emergency because it required me to be physically in the library to complete an assignment, but it didn’t mean for that to happen. Anyway, I could have avoided the whole problem by just staying at the law school when the snow started instead of heading home after my last class the day the assignment was given.

Besides, during finals the law school gives us free coffee. Nothing shows love and care like caffeine.

(Post image from Shutterstock)

The Northwest 3L spent 6 years in the "real world" cultivating cynicism and a dim view of humanity in the telecom and software consulting industries before deciding that the best way to deal with having zero debt in a down economy was to load up on student loans and truck on off to law school. Asked for a description, his friends replied, "says inappropriate things." Grainy, out-of-focus film footage suggests that he attends law school somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

2 Comments

  1. Not an Elle

    January 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Nice piece! I completely agree. Great job summarizing the love/hate/it could be worse mentality. Well done.

  2. SnarkyAtLaw

    January 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Wait, you have SHOWERS???

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