1L: We’re Halfway Done
It is a strange feeling. The time that has elapsed since the start of 1L feels both brief and lengthy. Everyone was on their best behaviour, delivering the same topical summary of who they are and where they’re from—not to mention the litany of reintroductions. Yet it also seems like the first semester zoomed by like a Kingston bus ahead of schedule.
This article is not an attempt to fit the 1L experience into a few paragraphs. It is just my interpretation of the rollercoaster ride that is Queen’s Law. We are at an interesting juncture; the rhythmic clicking of our carriage on the track has ended and we’re at that calm pause at the top of the course. We can see the entire park and have a glimpse of what’s to come. Before we shoot down the rollercoaster at break-neck speeds, I wanted to take a moment to reflect.
Queen’s… Well more aptly Law at Queen’s
In the summer when I first visited Queen’s, the modest character of the architecture blew me away. (I came from a GTA-based school resembling a dull, unwelcoming concrete labyrinth). Not only does Queen’s look different, but the city of Kingston is quaint and charming..
The people are always friendly, the cabbies are fair, the restaurant prices are well within reason, and the list goes on. But being in the law program is a unique experience. The vast majority of us rarely frequent Ale House or Stages—those venues are for our younger counterparts. In reality we often bounce around from the Grad Club, Brooklyn, The Griz, and various pre-drinks hosted by some of 1L’s finest (shout-out to Ben and Nima).
It dawned on me that I really didn’t know Queen’s much outside of the law building. Goodes Hall has the Starbucks, then there’s the ARC for the gym and a quick bite—oh, and somewhere in between there’s that library that tends to have better operating hours than Lederman. Clearly, Queen’s Law is a bubble.
The law school bubble makes us close as a group. I noticed a stark difference in how we behave now compared to the start of the school year when class participation would often be a vain stab at appearing like a prodigal superstar.
However, now this could not be further from the truth. In the last month I have been consistently astonished by my peers’ thought-provoking ideas. We have clearly shed our insecurities in an effort to engage with the material, and this will only benefit us going forward.
This collectivism has even impacted the way we study. Think about the last time you were studying in Lederman and you faced a difficult problem: when you turn to the busy peer seated next to you, without fail, they’ll drop what they’re doing in an effort to help work out your issue. The benefit of this is twofold: we get help when we need it and difficult concepts are not tucked away but instead openly explored.
The collegial atmosphere even affects our personal lives. After a few months at Queen’s it is clear that we embrace the strong “work hard, play hard” culture; sleep being the only thing that suffers—which I have no qualms with. There is something to be said about our tenacious work ethic (even though we self-deprecatingly believe we’re not working hard enough). Yet we still manage to let loose around one another at the end of the week. As we shift into the new year we will no longer be shackled to the cave of our egos and insecurities; instead we will confront legal realities with a modicum of confidence.
This final reflective section presents some difficulties since I will have to restrain some of my candour out of respect for our teachers. Generally, I feel that the level of engagement has a weak correlation with perceived interest in a given subject. Courses that I thought were dull turned out to be fascinating and the opposite was true for courses I expected to be fascinating. This comes down to the way the prof teaches the course.
So what makes a good professor? Now I feel like I am getting in over my head on this one, but I have an idea, which some of you have corroborated. The first type of good professor is one who has the structure of the course so clearly laid out and explicitly states where they land on issues, yet embraces challenging views and will make room for explorative dialogue during lecture. The second type of good professor is very different from the first. They won’t be so materialistic; there will be little to no spoon-feeding of explicit conceptualizations. Instead, they will provide us with the tools to figure it out for ourselves. Peer discussion is the basis for discovery as they ensure we maintain focus by acting as a moderator. The common denominator amongst good professors is that they engage us and motivate us to come prepared—whether it is to challenge their stance or to construct our own.
All things considered, the professors at Queen’s Law are greatly influential in their own ways. I constantly find that I am challenging assumptions or beliefs I’ve held for years. I particularly appreciate how contentious issues are dissected outside of the context of political affiliation. This is advantageous because it erodes any such potential for intellectual resistance; broadening (and often complicating) our understanding of simple but deep divides.
The admission ticket to this rollercoaster has been anything but cheap, but I can safely say that I am content with my decision to come to Queen’s Law—I hope we can all agree with this statement come April.
Junaid Malik (1L) is a contributor to Juris Diction.
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