March 16, 2004

A Non-Symposium Post... or: "At The Risk of Offending All These Lovely Readers..."

by Jeremy Blachman

The Really Unofficial Guide to LLM Life

While we're excited about this symposia idea we've launched with, we had a quick e-mail exchange last night expressing concern that people wouldn't know there's also going to be other content here, about whatever it is we feel like writing about. To illustrate, here's a post that has something to do with our broad symposium topic (legal education) but not really. I just posted it on my solo site, but I figured since it did fit the topic, and the comments function might enable people to more quickly communicate to me how unintentionally offensive this attempt at humor really is, I thought I'd post it here too.

I stumbled across a website devoted to assisting Harvard LLM students* in their transition to law school here. There's a similar site for JD students, but this one was apparently an experimental spinoff a few years ago that never quite took off. Anyway, there's a "Unofficial Guide to LLM Life" on the site that I thought would provide me with all sorts of material for a funny little piece. But it was actually pretty straightforward on its own, so I thought I'd try and parody it and turn it into something worthwhile.

*An LLM is someone who comes to law school for a year to get another degree on top of their law degree, often foreign students who need or want an American credential.

Hence: The Really Unofficial Guide to LLM Life

Welcome to law school, and, in some cases, to the Northern hemisphere, where you will be startled to find that water runs down the drain in the opposite direction. Here are some things to know as you begin your time here in the United States.

1.1 The Academic Year

The academic calendar is divided into three semesters: Fall semester, which runs from September to December (although you probably call this "Spring" if you are from somewhere below the equator); Winter semester, which is a three-week period in January (you probably call this "Vacation" if you are from any school but this one); and Spring semester, which runs from February to May, but feels like Winter because this is Massachusetts, which is the Indian word for "Cold and Windy, Ten Months Out of the Year." Your classmates will also be impressed if you know the translation for the Indian word "Boston," which is "Place of Intolerable Accents." Or the translation for "Harvard," which is "Land of the Brilliant but Modest." No, actually that last translation is absurd in how incorrect it is. But you will endear yourselves to the natives if you tell them that's what you think it means. They might even stop spitting on you when they pass.

1.2 Courses

You are only here for a year, which means there's a chance, although small, that you may actually find enough interesting classes to fill your schedule, as opposed to the JD students, who end up cross-registering for Portuguese or Modern Yoga in their third year, just to fill out schedules already padded with classes that have no hope of being interesting but at least the professor does not take attendance. Your course guides will include many classes not offered in this, or any, academic year, only listed because once, in 1892, a professor thought he might offer it one day, but never did. Note that any class that sounds truly compelling will have filled up long before you get a chance to register, and the ones you are left with, although you may blame the professor's incoherence on your non-native English skills, there'll actually be no one in the room who knows what the heck he's saying. So don't worry -- even if you failed the TOEFL, you'll still be on equal footing.

1.3 How Much Do Things Cost?

Too much! Your textbooks will cost approximately $1/page, your classes will cost $1/second, and your breakfast cereal will cost $1/flake. No, it's not really that bad. But if you're from a country where things are relatively cheap, plan to spend as much in a day here as you would in a month there, plus tax and gratuity. Housing will set you back about $2/square foot/month, which is why the law school dorms are just $4/month. Cafeteria food will seem reasonably priced until you just vomit it all up every afternoon and realize you're not getting good value. Library fines are exorbitant -- your best bet is probably just to avoid the library at all costs.

1.4 Where Will I Be Living?

Many students live in Harvard Square, under park benches. This would be more reasonable if it wasn't winter all year long ("Winter All Year Long" is also the name of the school's theme song, which can be found on the upcoming CD, "A Cappella Music For The Hearing Impaired," available from a retailer near you). Apartments vary in cost from "Are you kidding me?" to "Can I please file for bankrupcty?" The farther away you live from campus, the cheaper your rent. Some students choose, therefore, to live in Vermont (where the new theme song, incidentally, is "Thought We'd Finally Get Some National Press By Sending A Man To The White House, But Guess Not," which can be found on the upcoming CD, "Campaign Songs for Campaigns That Never Took Off," also featuring Gary Hart's hit, "The Press Can Keep An Eye On Me -- Oh Wait, No, Oops").

1.5 What Will I Be Eating?

Food as interpreted by Cambridge restaurants will be largely unfamiliar to you, regardless of your country of origin. Burrito = Egg Roll = Blintz = Cardboard Toilet Paper Roll. Indistinguishable. For real ethnic cuisine, you'll have to cook it yourself in the well-appointed dormitory kitchens, which contain a dirty pot, a broken stove, and a wooden mallet. Just like home! Don't expect to find anything delicious anywhere; you'll have to subsist on greasy pizza and fragrant potpourri.

1.6 How Will I Get Around?

Rickshaw. No, not really. You'll wander the beautiful streets of Cambridge, and get lost among the CVS pharmacies and Fleet Banks, which appear on every corner. If you bring a car, you're just being silly. There's nowhere to park, and no one is Boston observes traffic laws. In addition, the corrupt local government means that no one who runs you over will ever be punished, unless you're Irish. Sorry.

1.7 What Things Will I Have To Buy?

Prostitutes. Have you seen your fellow students?? No. I'm kidding. That was a cheap joke, and not true at all. Jokes are the only thing cheap here in Cambridge. You'll need to buy soap and deodorant, unless you're French. You'll need to buy a gun, because this is America, and all Americans carry firearms on them at all times. And you'll need to buy earplugs, unless you enjoy the sound of trucks rolling by outside your window.

1.8 What Is It Like Finding A Job After Graduation?

About the same as it was like before you got here. Did you really think a year at Harvard was going to open doors for you? Come on. Law firms want fresh, young American meat, not someone who comes to this country with well-developed notions of justice and fairness, and a sense that people shouldn't work 100 hours a week to support their greedy, hedonistic lifestyles. Silly LLMs!

Enjoy your time at law school!

March 16, 2004 12:02 PM | TrackBack

What? No advice on where to paaaaaaahhhhkk the caaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh?

Posted by: Brian at March 16, 2004 07:50 PM
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