Everyone knows about the intellectual rigor required by law school. It’s a place where challenging ideas are presented, and you are expected to engage with them on a daily basis. What people might not know is that there is a whole other legal education available to us outside of the classroom that can be just as, or even more, valuable! Recently a session of my Income Tax class was canceled. Most of us certainly took the opportunity to sleep in, especially considering that our class is at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. (Oof!) But the reason it was canceled was that my professor was moderating a panel at a colloquium on income tax, with responses by the now-famous Thomas Piketty. So, I decided to go. What the heck, I was already planning to be up at that time!
While I thought I understood very little of the discussion—since it was with tax professors and aimed at other professors who had read and engaged with their paper—when I went back to describe the event to a friend, I found that I actually had processed quite a bit of the information. Not only that, but it made me understand some of the underlying ideas that had been touched upon in my class but weren’t fully explored. And they gave me fodder for some political conversations and thoughts I had been toying with since seeing a few documentaries on wealth and inequality in the past few weeks. But the biggest bonus of all was that I can now say I’ve heard Thomas Piketty speak, which is pretty cool considering he’s probably the most influential economist and tax scholar of our generation.
These kinds of opportunities pop up all the time, and I try to take as much advantage of them as I can. I went to almost every Milbank Tweed Forum my first year, and saw talks on the NSA papers released by Snowden, the regulatory state, and the rise and fall of the civil jury, among many others. I also saw Professor Rachel Barkow give a talk about her scholarship, which introduced me to her thinking before I entered her class on criminal law, and I heard Eric Schneiderman give a talk about public service. I was lucky enough to go to a Dean’s Roundtable, after entering almost every week, with Timothy Mayopoulos ’84, the president and CEO of Fannie Mae. All of these lectures and panels helped me shape an idea of what I wanted to pursue in my legal career, but more than that, they gave me context to what I was studying. Maybe not immediately, and maybe not obviously, but each one of these lectures has filled in gaps in my legal education that I didn’t know I had, and introduced me to fields and ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
I’m going to try to continue to go to these lectures and meetings, even as my schedule gets busier, because I know this is probably the last chance I’ll have to just sit and listen to brilliant people talk about their ideas. It’s obviously hard to motivate myself to go when I have piles of readings and friends I haven’t seen in months, and it’s lunch or dinner time. But I’ve been glad every time I’ve gone, so I just have to remind myself of that. I hope you will, too!