Getting to know professors personally your 1L year can be challenging. In class, you may be cold-called a few times (“Why don’t you tell solve this riddle for us, Mr. Rennie…”) or, if you volunteer, you might imprint yourself a little more fully in the professor’s mind. But what about my abiding interest in social justice? How can I let her know that we’re both from South Dakota? Office hours may not be much better—they can be crowded, and who has time to go anyway?
Enter the 1L Reading Group. NYU Law is rolling out informal small-group sessions where 1Ls meet in the evening at a professor’s home to talk about something less dry and doctrinal than what we get all day long. Topics run from “Law and Lawyers in Literature” (my own) to “Corporate Crime and Fraud” to “Cowboys, Gauchos, and Samurai.” My group met on a recent Monday night at the apartment of a certain young professor of constitutional law to talk about Antigone. Ten of us sat down over Brooklyn Lager and sandwiches in his living room to talk Greek tragedy.
Casual, warm, free-ranging: it was like a book club with a legal slant. Aside from getting to know a professor better in a more intimate setting, we also got to meet people from outside our sections—a greater challenge than I would have anticipated. We went to college in different places (Berkeley, Abu Dhabi) and have worked before law school (teaching, cage fighting). Everyone chipped in with their thoughts, coming at the story of Antigone’s defiance of Creon from different backgrounds and perspectives. People related the story to their home countries, to things from crim class, to post-9/11 America.
Dean Morrison threw out questions, synthesized comments from different people, and occasionally made a nerdy connection to the legal profession (Haemon: arguing in the alternative). While we all to some extent feel like we know the dean, it’s different to meet with him in a small group, to hear his thoughts on something (relatively) unrelated to the law.
The 1L Reading Group also allows, or forces, you to read something other than cases. It is helpful to remember the big things outside of the law—literature! history!—that we used to think about before 1L, and which give meaning to some of the dry things that we do every day. It’s easy to lose sight of these things when you’re only reading judicial opinions. This is the selfish, but utterly necessary, reason to enroll in one.
Oh, and the leftover sandwiches. It’d be worth it just for the sandwiches.