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First Day of School

January 23, 2011

Tomorrow is the first day of Yale Law School’s spring semester, and hence my last first day of school (although actually I probably won’t go to any classes until Tuesday). While most of me will be glad to be done with school — it’s expensive, for one, and it takes up time that I could use doing other things — I’m also sad about it.

Law school has been nice, an opportunity to do things like read books (I even like reading cases) and learn about new things and meet nice new people (who are mainly ten to twenty years younger than I am), without the responsibility and pressure of a real job. But more than that, school has been very, very good to me. I recognized as early as high school that what I was best at was going to school (and I vague recall my friend Jed, on the first day of senior year, saying “It’s the last first day of school!”), and except perhaps for the years researching and writing my dissertation, that has proven true over the years.

In the long run, what I’ve learned is that being good at school is not that important in the real world. In the business world, for example, academic and intellectual skills are far less important than the ability to pick up a phone, call someone you hardly know who doesn’t owe you anything, and get him to do something for you — and that’s something they don’t teach in any school. In the academic world, even, the skills you need to take classes are far less important than the ability to identify promising research areas and convince other people (particularly funders) that they are promising areas of research. And of course, in life as a whole, being able to get along with other people and enjoy your time with your family and friends is more important than just about anything. But that’s made law school even more enjoyable in some ways, because it’s this little cocoon where I can forget how complicated life can be outside the classroom.

Most of my classmates can’t wait to be done and off to their exciting new jobs (mainly as clerks to federal judges or associates at big, fancy law firms). But I can wait a few more months.

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