I have finished my first week of law school. Technically, I guess you could say that this first week of classes was really my second week of law school, because the week before class started we had orientation.
So far I’m having a good time. Orientation was way too much for me, but I coped by not going to some of the events. Moving in has been somewhat of a hassle, but I’d say that my apartment is basically livable now that I have a table, a futon, a shelf, and a bed. Classes have been fun. I’ve enjoyed the reading, the amount of which has been reasonable, and the content of which has been appropriately challenging.
Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of how I’ve spent my time so far:
Tuesday, August 28
Drive up to Massachusetts with my parents. We stay with my Aunt at her house.
Wednesday, August 29
First day of orientation at HLS. I check in pretty early. There is breakfast. I eat a frittata. After eating, I have to wait an uncomfortably long time before the actual programming starts. Hanging out with 560 people I have never met is tough. I want to get to the part where the activities are planned and I don’t need to figure out what to do with myself in a room full of strangers.
After about an hour, I go to my Section 2 (the first-year class at HLS is divided into 7 sections of about 80 students each) classroom and there are introductions. Our BSAs tell us what BSAs are (the Board of Student Advisors consists of upper-level J.D. students who serve as guides for first-years in general, while also acting as Teaching Assistants for our Legal Research & Writing course). Eventually we all file out of the room and the building and go to hear Dean John Manning speak in Sanders Theatre (which is utterly beautiful).
Dean Manning says that law school is not like being chased by a bear. He also instructs us not to compare our insides to other people’s outsides and assures us that everyone is nervous when they start at HLS, but that the feeling will go away as we discover that we do, in fact, belong here. The speech was funny and memorable.
After this, we walk back to Wasserstein Hall, where most of our orientation programming was. Susan Davies (my professor for Legislation and Regulation) and David Singleton give talks about what it means to be a student here at HLS. Professor Davies focuses on how we don’t need to compete with each other, because we’re already “at the top of the heap.” Mr. Singleton admonishes us not to “write people off,” especially with respect to politics. (The theme of treating others charitably even if you disagree with their politics was persistent throughout orientation, which I thought was great.)
We meet our Faculty Leader, Prof. Jim Greiner. He sorts us randomly into groups and has each group come up with a Harry Potter-themed name (he loves Harry Potter). Then he makes us build towers out of index cards. I certainly did not expect law school orientation to include tower-building, but it did.
We round out the day with a group photo and dinner. I sit with Prof. Greiner for part of it, but don’t have a lot to say. When I get back to my Aunt’s house I am exhausted.
Thursday, August 30
We start with breakfast. It’s not as good as yesterday’s.
We’re in our section classroom. A woman comes in and introduces herself. It becomes clear that this is going to be a kind of “social justice” training. But there’s no sense of ideological indoctrination here. No claims like “all white people are racist.” Instead, we focus on how our brains unavoidably rely on implicit biases to function (i.e. we have to “fill in the blanks” when information is incomplete). The woman encourages each of us to consider what our own blindspots might be and how they might affect others, and to assume the best about others when their actions negatively affect us.
Then, more time with our Faculty Leader, Prof. Greiner. We discuss a case that he had us read beforehand, called Lassiter v. Department of Social Services.
Suddenly, Justice Kagan is here, speaking with the Dean. I don’t make it into the main room where the event is taking place. Instead I’m stuck in an overflow room watching via projector. But that’s okay.
I leave campus after this rather than doing the fun thing that’s on the schedule, because I’m tired, and then I go to the beach with my family. There are huge seagulls that no longer fear humans and have no qualms about stealing your food right out from under your nose. We eat delicious ice cream.
Friday, August 31
Friday starts with breakfast. Once again, there are frittatas, and I eat one. Then there’s a long panel about all the resources available to students at HLS. It’s good to know there are people looking out for us.
Then comes the highlight of orientation, “TALK,” hosted by HLS Student Government. Three current students give “The Moth”-style talks about their lives. One person speaks about growing up poor in Hawai’i, as well as about being transgender. Another details his childhood as a cult member, and how he eventually left. A third talks about helping to write the Harvard Law School Parody, a yearly musical that makes fun of the law school. I especially enjoy the story about the cult.
After TALK, we go to lunch with our BSAs. Mine is named Gabi. We go to a Japanese restaurant and I have ramen. A classmate of mine talks in detail about his work as a film producer, which is very interesting. After lunch, we have more time with Prof. Greiner.
At some point during the day, I’m informed that my apartment is ready. So my parents drive into Cambridge to pick me up and move all my belongings into the apartment. In order to do this, I skip the LAWn Party, but that’s okay. I am very tired.
After moving things from the car to the apartment, we go back to my Aunt’s house for dinner. Two of my cousins are there, along with my cousin’s wife and two children. The kids are very cute, and we have a lot of fun with them. Later at night we go to pick up Michelle at South Station. She is coming in on a bus.
Saturday, September 1
Today is the day that our lease starts. Fortunately, we moved things into the apartment already. But we had stuff delivered to my Aunt that also need to be moved. We load up the car with boxed furniture.
In our new neighborhood, Allston, almost everyone’s lease starts on September 1, as there are lots of students. Everyone moves on September 1. People often leave things they don’t want on the street for people to take (for this reason, September 1 is referred to as “Allston Christmas”). Despite the craziness, we are able to stop the car long enough to unload before my mom and Michelle drive off to buy things for the apartment. My dad and I build furniture.
Eventually, my mom and Michelle come back. We clean the apartment (because for some reason it hadn’t been cleaned before). When it gets later, we head back to my Aunt’s house so we can go get some dinner. We take my Aunt and Uncle out for Sichuan food.
Sunday, September 2
We do not go to church today. We don’t know where to go, and even if we did, we have a lot to do. My parents drop me and Michelle off at the apartment before starting their journey back to Virginia. The apartment is still in need of serious cleaning before it’s ready for me to spend the night there. So we do that.
Michelle and I clean and clean. Eventually, it’s time for Michelle to leave, too. She gets a Lyft to South Station so she can catch her bus back to New York.
Monday, September 3
Today is labor day. I need to read for class on Tuesday. But besides that, I have very little to do. I speak to my brother for the first time in months, as he has been out of the country and very busy. The Xfinity guy comes in the afternoon and now I have WiFi.
Tuesday, September 4
Law school is actually happening! And it’s happening right away. My first class starts at 8:10 a.m. It is Criminal Law, with Prof. Ronald Sullivan. I have a good impression.
In between classes, I 1) pay for my MBTA semester pass (I got a student discount through the school), 2) go to the Copy Center to pick up course materials, and 3) cancel my Planet Fitness membership (the day before, I transferred my membership from my old location in Brooklyn to one in Cambridge just so I could cancel it). I don’t eat lunch, but I’m not hungry for it anyway.
Civil Procedure is with Prof. Greiner. It’s also an interesting class. I like learning about procedural things that most people find overly technical and boring, so this class will likely be a good fit for me. We discuss how the Court has interpreted 18 U.S.C. §1331 to confer jurisdiction in a far narrower set of cases than Article III of the U.S. Constitution, even though they use the same language to describe the jurisdiction being conferred.
After class I check my email and discover that I now have a locker. I put things inside. Then I go home and call the electric company to set up our account for billing. I have to read for Civil Procedure the next morning and Contracts the following afternoon. I eat something simple that my mom bought for me.
Wednesday, September 5
The day before, I was notified via email that I am having dinner with Dean Manning on Wednesday, and also that I am to dress business casual for this dinner. So on Wednesday I dress business casual. I also bring all of my books to school so that I can keep them in my locker, as I expect to do most of my studying at school.
I take the bus to school. Before going to campus, I stop by the Harvard Square subway station and buy a month-long bus pass, as I won’t receive my student bus pass until the end of September. Then I stop by my locker, leaving the books I don’t need and taking the ones I do. Afterwards, I go to a coffee shop where some people with a Christian organization are having a casual meet-and-greet thing. It is very hot and I am sweaty, so I drink an iced tea. Then I go to class.
Today I have an extra Civil Procedure class because we are doing extra classes in order to make up for future classes that will probably be cancelled. We talk about diversity jurisdiction and how the Court has interpreted 28 U.S.C. §1332 to confer jurisdiction only when there is complete diversity between parties.
I don’t eat lunch.
I have Contracts class. We discuss why contracts should be enforced at all and in particular cases.
There’s a lot of time in between the end of Contracts and dinner with Dean Manning. I go to the library and figure out how to print things. I also prepare for my classes on Thursday.
Dinner with Dean Manning is fun. Once again, he gives a good speech, telling us about the dark side of the history of Harvard Law School. Prof. Sullivan admonishes us to do justice. Food is good. The classmates sitting at my table are excited to hear that I’m engaged, and I’m excited to tell them about it.
Thursday, September 6
Today I leave the apartment later, because my classes don’t begin until 9:30 a.m. Traffic is worse, and the bus ride is less pleasant, than the previous days.
Legislation and Regulation with Professor Davies is fun. She has a lot of energy and speaks quickly. We discuss different approaches to statutory construction and begin discussing Yates v. U.S., in which the Supreme Court determined that a fish is not a tangible object. After Leg Reg, I have Contracts again. And after Contracts, I have Legal Research and Writing.
And after that, there’s an event put on by the Office of Public Interest Advising. Jason Wu, an HLS alumnus and director of GLAD, speaks to us about being a public interest lawyer. He tells his story of transitioning out of Biglaw, his parents’ subsequently disowning him, and his eventual reconciliation with them. Dean Manning also offers some remarks. And Judge Barron, who used to be a professor at HLS, tells us why all the reasons we might not go into public interest work are perhaps not as compelling as we might think.
Then there’s a big party. I go to it, but very quickly wish I hadn’t. I get a free drink, though, and I stay until I’ve finished the drink. Then I go to the library to print and scan some documents for financial aid. Then I go home.
Friday, September 7
It’s the last day of my first week of class. All I have is Leg Reg. We discuss Yates (the one where the fish isn’t a tangible object) and then TVA v. Hill (in which the Supreme Court decides that the Endangered Species Act means what it says, even when following it will have serious financial consequences). I go home pretty much right after class.
My mattress has arrived. (Up until this point I have been sleeping on an air mattress.) I manage to get it into my apartment and unpack it. It expands on my bed frame. I do some reading and stuff.
Later in the evening I go back to school for the Harvard Law School Christian Fellowship’s first meeting of the year. Professor Okediji speaks about the history of the fellowship. Larry Wee, a partner at Paul, Weiss, admonishes us not to be glued to our phone screens, to support one another, and to remember that if Christ is for us, no one can be against us (not even our CivPro professors).
After the meeting I go home and talk to Michelle. It has been a long week.
Saturday, September 8
I make coffee and eat some breakfast. Last night, our side table arrived. I build it while also doing laundry at the laundromat around the corner. I write a blog post about the past ten days.