• Maurie

Law as an Uncompetitive Degree

When I went to high school (which was a while ago) we all did things together and shared information. It was us against 'The Man'. So when I started my degree, there was one thing that got me curious. I learnt pretty quickly that some law students are reluctant to divulge their grades or exam marks to each other.

I first experienced this from a friend after I asked her about a mark in one of my early subjects. She said that she didn't like to 'brag' about her marks, so she never revealed it to me or anyone else as far as I could ascertain. The skeptic in me thought:

a) She is a brilliant student that doesn't want to brag about her HD;

b) She got a horrible mark and doesn't want anyone to think she sucks at this degree; or

c) She could not bear the thought of anyone doing better than her.

At first I couldn't understand this process, but then I thought about it a bit more:

a) Humans can be competitive beasts;

b) Law students can be competitive beasts;

c) Human law students are a different beast altogether.

Why wasn't I aware of this before? By the way, the answers were c) and c).

I am genuinely not a competitive person. I don't crack it if I get a credit instead of that elusive distinction. If I feel I've tried really hard and did my best, well, that’s okay with me. I'm older and comfortably realistic in the fact that my opportunities might be limited in getting employment in the more 'traditional' law firm. So that's probably why it's disturbing, unsettling (and humorous) that I'm surrounded by certain people who feel that they have to clamber over each other for that elusive law firm internship. For them, a law degree is a race and a matter of the survival of the fittest. And here I was thinking that the joy of studying is an amazing, fulfilling journey that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Silly me.

This is going to sound strange, but stay with me. To me, the pleasure of this degree on a personal level is the uncompetitiveness of it all. Apart from the achievement of goals for myself, I like to share information, pass on things that I've learnt and having a certain sense of joy seeing your colleagues do well. We have a group on Facebook that help each other out, that will pass on notes, that will find an obscure English case from 1832 for someone who couldn't, that push someone to get that essay done instead of watching Dancing With The Stars, and that will just reassure each other when things aren't going so well (which is a regular occurrence). And yes, I'm happy to report that we do share our marks between ourselves.

This is an adaptation of an article that previously appeared on The Elephant in the Room. Reprinted with permission.

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