I am surely not alone in my inability to attend the first week of classes. I prefer to avoid the dryness of introductory speeches and administrative tedium. It began during my undergraduate degree and admittedly, over the years and into postgrad, my absence during week one began to stretch into week two. My university’s recent decision to stop requiring attendance minimums bolstered my cavalier attitude.
First semester this year, it bulged into week three like a muffin top after a summer of fried food. Second semester began with me avoiding law school as I always did, doing my readings from the calm of my living room and serving painfully fashionable filter coffee in a Northside café.
In week three something terrible happened, rendering me homebound and distraught. I missed a further three weeks of classes, while my life fell inevitably back into place. Semester was half finished and I’d not attended a single lecture, tutorial or seminar.
I resolved to attend after the semester break. I was keeping up with readings fine, and after two years of law I found the concepts easy to grapple with, if tedious. It was getting warmer and I could lie in my garden with cups of tea, legs bare to the sun, reading over cases while my classmates learned under fluorescent lights.
The break passed with little fanfare – I was merely doing what I’d done all semester. Week seven rolled around, and it was raining a little. Surely one more class missed wouldn’t matter. Or another.
At week nine too much had passed. My absence had become a personal experiment. I would not attend any more classes, and see what happened. Between torrents of fear and grey stretches of self-loathing, week twelve rolled around in a haze of blue skies and twenty-plus degree days. The hipster men in my suburb were wearing t-shirts under their beards. Parks were full of people with dogs, picnic blankets and casks of cheap wine. I had not attended law school all semester.
Academically, I maintained my good marks. This was fascinating. My university extols the benefits of lectures and group learning. I eschewed everything I had on hand and yet my results didn’t differ much at all. Yet, without that first year and a half of struggling and exercises and guidance from my lecturers I wouldn’t have been able to traverse statute and case law like I did.
Next semester I’ll probably be absent in the first week. Possibly even the second. My life is obstinately outside of university, but as it’s my last year I feel some sort of urge to participate. I won’t repeat my experiment, but I predict my attendance will be sloppy as ever.
I won’t go as far as recommending a class-less semester of law school. I likely missed some vital insight due to my own lack of experience and my ingrained way of learning. If you desire a social presence in the university at all, your invites will go the way of the dinosaurs.
I hope I don’t inspire a mutiny of truants, but I do wish to put across the message: given a little academic experience, you don’t actually have to go to law school to go to law school.
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