The First Day of Class…

Well, today is the big day. And so begins a new academic year at W&L Law. Orientation is over, and at 9:00 this morning, the 135 members of our Class of 2012 will take their seats in their first law class.

Your first day of law school is truly a special moment. After months of LSAT prep, applications, deep-thought and difficult decisions, law school has finally begun. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s certainly exciting (after all, this is why you’re here), but it’s also a little nerve-wracking (I doubt this is a great revelation).

Furthermore, due to our small size and unique location, your entire first year of law school at W&L Law is a singularly formative experience. As a 1L, you will forge friendships you will maintain for life. You will have professors you will never forget. You will find yourself speaking to classmates as you pass them in the hallway. During the fall, you will spend way too much time talking about intramural football. In the spring, you will find that you care more about softball that you ever thought you would. You will remember the first time you were called on (for me, Criminal Law with Professor Sundby). There will be moments from class you and your classmates will talk about twenty or thirty years from now. This year, perhaps more so than any other year, is the year you will most vividly recall when you reflect upon your time as a law student, and you will always remember at least the feeling of that first day of class.

I can still remember my first class. It was Torts with Brian Murchison (one of our most beloved professors). Determined to be completely prepared at least for my first moment as a law student, I’d spent close to three hours reading and re-reading and reading again a single seven page case (Van Camp v. McAfoos). I’d even talked it over with one of my classmates. In light of my exhaustive preparations, I was pretty sure I knew almost anything anyone could ever ask me about this case. I mean, how complicated could it really be. It seemed to be  just some case about a kid on a tricycle running into a woman on a sidewalk in Iowa. Simple. Well, perhaps you can see where this is a going.

Arriving early, I settled into my seat (next to the young woman with whom I’d discussed the case the previous day) and waited for class to start. At the appointed hour, Professor Murchison walked in, wearing a judge’s robe (this was not exactly what I expected), and briefly introduced himself. I’m not quite sure what he said, but I seem to recall the words “semester” and “Torts.” He then opened his casebook and called on the young woman next to me. From this moment on, the remainder of the class is an absolute blur. I don’t remember taking a single note. I’m not even sure what was discussed. All I can remember thinking is, “Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me.” After all, if she didn’t know the answer, in light of my heightened emotional state, I wasn’t going to be much help, and I was fairy certain (even at this earliest moment in my law school career) that “What she said” might not be an acceptable answer.

Of course, things got a little easier and class became enjoyable. At W&L, I had some truly great professors who made subjects I thought I would never like (Civil Procedure) vibrant and interesting. First year is often vilified in popular lore as a time of great pain and suffering, a year more endured than enjoyed. However, at our law school, I believe the opposite is true. While this year is certainly challenging and not without its attendant struggles, it is, both scholastically and extracurricularly, a truly enjoyable time. Our first year students will invariably look back upon these halcyon days and think, “How great was that?” At the very least, they will miss all the intramural football.

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