August 2, 2004


"Law sloth" (and law student) Ava Rice amusingly describes the ways of the law school "gunner." Lawprof Cameron Stracher defends the gunner. (Both pieces via JD2B). Stracher's key point is that the gunner learns more, more quickly. Rice's key point—if you read past all the funny observation and cranky attitude—is that social acceptance counts. I think the well-balanced law student (and lawyer) can find a way, on the one hand, to do the work, gain the knowledge, and contribute to the classroom, and on the other hand, to win the respect of peers and have good social relations. It's not an either/or proposition. You can overdo competition and participation, and you can overdo seeking the approval of others. The gunner's primary offense seems to be seeking the approval of the teacher rather than the other students. Maybe the best strategy is not to yearn too much for either the approval of the other students or the teacher, but to seek what is really valuable: the knowledge that you will need to practice law and the collegiality that makes the practice of law personally rewarding. Not only is this the strategy of a person of good character, but it will feel a whole lot better too.

UPDATE: Ava Rice responds here. Ava Rice is a pseudonym (get it?) for a male, according to the blogger profile. He's expressing some uneasiness about getting linked here:
I never really thought about actual people reading this thing, forget about actual law professors..… I mean, do I really feel comfortable writing about what I really want to write about when I picture actual professors and lawyers reading this?

I think anyone who blogs really ought to picture everyone reading them, because the day is going to come when a prospective employer or prospective spouse or whatever is going to read your blog. You may imagine yourself just writing to yourself, in an impossibly obscure little outpost on the internet. But the fact is, it's on the internet. At the same time, you probably ought to picture no one reading your blog, or maybe just a few close friends, at least to be able to write your blog in a personal voice.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Danny Noonan at The Electric Commentary adds another law student denouncement of gunners. He seems to think a gunner might comment "on the dissenting opinion of one of the cases cited in the case they were supposed to read." I must say that in 20 years of teaching at Wisconsin, I have never had a single student even once refer to anything in a case the was merely cited in the assigned case. I've also never had a student refer to something that was in the full text of the case but not in the edited-down version of the case. I do think Noonan is right that there are many students in the class that are as well-prepared as the students who volunteer a lot. Why don't these people realize how much power they have to dilute the effect of the students that annoy them by talking too much? Well, I guess they do realize they have the power, but why don't they use it? And how can they complain if they have the power to eliminate the effect of the gunners but they won't use it? Gunner-hating is awfully passive-aggressive, isn't it? If all you gunner-haters would just raise your hand once a week and make a contribution, there would be no more room in the hour for gunners to occupy. You may think that it is entirely the prof's job to control the few students who talk too much (or, more importantly, stray off-topic), but in my experience, students will also fault the teacher for cutting off students and for displaying negativity toward a particular student. You may think you hate the gunner, but you will still, I'll bet, sympathize with any student to whom the prof seems to be hostile, even if that student is a gunner. The most effective and positive way to overcome the gunner problem is for all the students to make a decent contribution for the good of the whole.

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