At the heart of the New Law Building, saddled between split staircases that reach down to the lower chambers of the law school, sits a surrealist portrait portraying two alien-like creatures, crouched in a naked embrace. A judge’s wig, with sides enveloping the frame, crowns these cowering figures – invoking a divine sense of calling, of greater good, and of guardianship.
Its meaning, if one can be found, is sure to inspire. With many hurried trips past this ominous wall, however, an impression forms that behind it lays a crypt, the resting place of life sapped from law students, this plaque the only memory.
The only textbook you are provided here, at the cost of $50,000, is your peers. As such, your education will come primarily from what you learn at law school, not in law school. Considering the barriers to entry, you’re surrounded by believers of rules; understanding them, following them, and even making them. This is home to the rule of law, and the law of rules. While this myopia can oftentimes be contagious, you’ll be taken aback by how pleasant everyone is, contrary to stereotypes that USyd’s law students are all cut-throat, sociopathic and self-interested. From them, you’ll learn drive and discipline. There is a camaraderie that is rarely given credit.
Yet as time passes, you’ll learn more uncomfortable truths. Despite what law students may have thought about themselves before coming here, there are three unavoidable realities that tie us all together: we can’t read, we can’t write, and we are all too insecure and convictionless to be doing something else.
Five long years without parole at any institution is bound to chip away at the soul. Like a cult, your identity becomes tethered to this place, where the thought of leaving grows too unbearable, too great an existential risk to what you’ve come to know yourself as – a law student. Youthful restlessness dims. Values tire and dreams languish. Once a place of opportunity, crossroads become dead ends. In the absence of that something else, you begin to soak up the ambitions of those around you.
A sense of adventure withers into a quest for comfort. You’ll catch yourself in talk about clerkships, polishing yourselves for presentation at interviews, networking events, and corporate panels. You’ll become too busy to consider if this is even what you ever wanted. Only once the adrenaline haze of naively needing to prove yourself fades, and often when it is too late to turn back, does it dawn on you…
Huddled bare, entrapped by the narrowed view of what is possible within the law, and now too ashamed to make eye contact, we hold one another with a truth: Law school is where dreams come to die, and where we come to kill them.
0.995/10: Graveyard of dreams
Christian Holman Econ/Law IV