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Talking Out Of Turn

I wondered a few weeks ago if I was just losing my touch. I hadn't really written anything of interest to law students in a while, and the diary aspect of my site was waning with the waxing of election-blogging. Though my readership seems stable, I'd noticed fewer links from other blogs. My time has been so full lately that I'd often felt as if I didn't have the chance to write. And I know the project's going badly when even Google feels it should downgrade me from a PR6.

But it's not just a lack of time. There's a lot of things I want to write about, but for once my pen stalls with concern. Heidi's written recently about law school bloggers worrying about their reputation. My 2L year seems full of things I'm bursting to write about, and yet feel I shouldn't.

Take the whole job interviewing thing. There's a lot I'd love to say about it: the ups, the downs, the whole damn crazy process. For instance, the national guidelines say that 2Ls can only have a certain number of outstanding offers from law firms at any given time, and that means a process of calling up some firms and saying, "I'm sorry. You're a really wonderful firm, and I enjoyed meeting your people, but I think I'm going elsewhere."

Now, it's irrational, but I hate doing this. Sure, it's BIGLAW, and the firms are evil slavemasters that want to take innocent doe-eyed young law-students and break them on the rack of 2400 billable-hour years. Or at least, that's what I tell myself, because generally I'm calling up some kind person who took some of their time to talk to me and express an interest in my life and career. Heck, usually I'm calling a firm that took me to lunch, and I'm quite grateful and can't really repay them. It's like being a very bad boyfriend, and breaking up with a girlfriend who's been really nice to you just because there's a more attractive blond over in the corner of the bar. I feel like a heel. And--stop me if you're surprised here--I've never had to break up with multiple young ladies at the same time before.

See, there's a lot of observations like the above that I'd like to write about, but don't really feel like I should. After all, employers might read this site, and while I wouldn't say anything specific about a firm, I don't know if they know that. I'd hate for someone who'd been quite nice to me to read something like the above--except perhaps less positive, although more useful to future students--and think, "God, I wonder if he was talking about me." And law school is famously unfair in its distribution of goodies: some people might not be rejecting offers. Is it really wise to say the above, and risk offending some friend who might be suffering a different--and less trivial--problem?

Right now, the world's filled with this kind of issue. I'm deeply, deeply loving my project for my clinic, but it's covered by confidentiality and so I can't talk about it. Law review is a lot of work, and there's a lot of things--both good and bad--to say about the process, but it's also a very small world. I'd love to respond to a new criticism of law reviews by Richard Posner, because he's in fine critical form but very unfair. How can I do that without mentioning the guts of my work, my team, my classmates?

And here's the rub. I think it's a lot easier to blog 1L, although the year itself is probably more difficult than this one. As a 1L, you may have a study group, pro-bono work, or an interest in some student organization, but so much of your life exists as a single atom. You study for exams and face your grades as one individual in a class of other floating atoms, never really coalescing into molecules.

This year I belong. I have a clinic group, and within that a clinic partner. I work with a team of editors on a law review, which is like copy-editing on a magazine. You begin to feel some loyalty to your co-workers. One of my classes has eight people: there's nothing I can say about it that isn't a betrayal of confidence.

My archives hold quite a few pieces set to "draft" status, and it's going to remain this way until I can find some means of escaping this trap. I think what I'll end up doing is focusing on the little things, small facets I can show safely.

Take this vignette. The other day my clinic partner and I completed our mock-counseling session. We'd both played to form, and both felt it was something like a train wreck. You could tell I'd come in with a checklist of things that needed to be done, and wasn't going to leave until they were finished. My partner, on the other hand, was gregarious, caring, sensitive--everything I wasn't.

So we're walking to the elevator, filled with post-project adrenaline, and I mumble, "You know, I'm going to just cut it short. I'll quit law school and go become a drill instructor. Go with what I'm good at." Quick as a whip he replies, "Then I guess I'll go teach day school."

I laughed like crazy. (I also asked him if I could write about this.) Okay, out of context it's not so funny, but we'd been studying together the how of being lawyers, as much as what the law is, and I know I wasn't entirely comfortable with what I was seeing. I was tense, shot through with doubt, and critiquing my every move for the last forty-five minutes. And then--BOOM--he spouted a bit of perspective, and it all went away.

I don't know how to connect together disconnected snippets like the above, turn them into something that gives my readers more than a fragmentary idea of what's going on. But that may be the narrative problem I have to solve.


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Ha. And now I'm totally agreeing with you. I felt nervous even blogging about interviews, mind you--what if someone who didn't have any interviews had their feelings hurt? And now we're approaching one of those offer-juggling deadlines, and I, too, find it very hard to tell people No. It's not, in my mind, quite like breaking up with people. It's more like when someone you like, but not quite in the right way, asks you out.
Well it's your choice, but having been there, done that and lived with the consequences here are my thoughts. You're right to respect privacy, and that does mean that a class with eight people in it can't be blogged in anything but the most general terms. I was never able to talk about what went on inside my MBA study groups for instance because there were only five or six of us. That said you can I think be pretty forthright, as long as you're honest about it. I once wrote that my classmates attitudes to certain things 'turned my stomach', a quote that later appeared in The Times (yes, that one). They were fine about it, took it in context and well that was that. I'd say you've probably got more scope than you think when it comes to writing about things like the interview process. You're bright enough to be discrete and while people might like the gory details they're not in and of themselves useful. With your public service hat on blogging about how the process works, what to expect, how long people take to get back to you that kind of thing. Information people can pick up and use in a years time - that is probably OK. Finally, I stuck links to my blog all over my CVs, and only one interviewer ever got round to reading it. They hired me. Of course right now I'm sitting at work drinking vodka, becasue the Russian Duma has passed Kyoto and we weren't kidding in the press release.
Great post. I've felt the same way sometimes; most of the interesting personal experiences I'd love to blog about got censored out for the same reasons you mention. And I can't really get excited about what's left--the sanitized, generalized experience of a "typical" 2L (I'm not sure I'm qualified to speak for a group of people I'm not sure even exists). My blog was never really meant to be a diary of law school anyway, so none of my readers would be likely to notice that anything had changed. I only talk about these things in comments on other people's blogs. :)
[Ed's note: I've removed this post because it was off-topic, a post of an article, and quite possibly spam.]

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