Life in the Law School Lane: 4 Observations from the Back Row

Wow, October of 3L. Just thinking about how different my mindset is now (cruising through thinking about my upcoming travels and graduation) from 2L (stressed from over-involvement in extracurricular activities and whether I chose the right firm) and 1L (clueless about what I was learning and whether I should be in law school) at this time, is unfathomable. Now that some nostalgia has kicked in, I cannot help but reminisce on all those great times I had in law school, all the way in back row of classrooms. You know, I may not have retained the most information that a law student can sitting there over the past few years, but I have learned a fair deal in my chosen seat.

1. Your activity level in class is directly proportional to how close you sit to the professor.

As far as I can tell, the people that raise their hands the most all sit within the first few rows of the classroom. Of course, there are students who sit in the front who don’t speak unless they are called on and those that sit in the back but still volunteer. However, students who love to impress the professor or ask “insightful” questions tend to sit up-front, typing away on their Mac laptops or even handwriting their notes. Perhaps it would have been smart to befriend these eager beavers earlier on in my law school career, but alas.

2. Your grades are directly proportional to how close you sit to the professor.

Once you get to your third year of law school, you pretty much have a good idea of who graded-on vs. wrote-on to Law Review. You’ve heard rumors of this person or that person who “definitely would have been on it had it not been for that one B+ in Professional Responsibility.” And you have also made certain assumptions (whether rightly so is up for debate) about where certain people lie on the curve based on their firm choice. With that knowledge in tow, it is plainly obvious that students who excel at law school continue to sit in the front even into the third year, when grades tend to matter "less." As with the first observation, there will always be exceptions. There are definitely some students who are just geniuses and can sit in the back row, seemingly never pay attention, drink multiple nights a week, and still destroy the curve. You envy those students because you want to be them, but you certainly like them more than those still sitting in the front row after all these years!

3. Your Klout score, Amazon bill, etc. is inversely proportional to how close you sit to the professor.

It should come as no surprise that the further away you sit away from the professor, the more time you spend on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Amazon, ASOS, etc. I’ve seen students watch golf, buy Waffle Makers, plan trips to Amsterdam, and play I Spy with the students in the classroom, all from my very spot in the back row. I’ve become keenly aware of who prefers Gchat to Facebook Chat to iMessage to Groupme to even old school, AIM (my screenname is lboogy480, add me). In fact, I am very guilty of both racking up a hefty Amazon bill and promoting this blog from the back row. Wait, is it too late to say sorry to all the professors I’ve had since January?

4. Birds of a feather flock together.

The biggest difference that I’ve observed between front row and back row students is that back row students tend to sit in blocks. When you go to a school that has around 300 students per year, you generally get to know your year and the year below you well enough to know who is friends with whom and what cliques exist (Facebook definitely helps with that!). As such, you can clearly tell that back row students tend to take classes with at least 3-4 of their friends who then choose to all sit together and spend more time discussing the class on Gchat or Groupme than actually paying attention. This is not to say that front row students don’t have friends but that they either don’t take classes with a lot of their friends or consciously choose to only sit near at most one of them. Perhaps if I had chosen to not sit among my friends, I would have learned more about the exceptions to hearsay, how to search a suspect without a warrant, and the duty of loyalty, but hey, that’s what Bar Prep is for...

Now you all must be thinking, “Wow, this girl is a scary creep. Why is she observing everything going on in the classroom so intently instead of actually learning?” Well, to that I say, I was once told that a good lawyer has a keen attention to detail…if I wasn’t going to kill the curve in Employment Discrimination, I might as well have practiced that skill, right?

*Note: All observations in this study are based on empirical data from non-seminar, black letter law, electives that contain some combination of 2Ls and 3Ls. Propositions may not hold for classes under 40 students.

What observations have you made in the law school classroom? Are you a perpetual front row or back row student? Let the Ms. JD community know in a comment below!


Lauren Nevidomsky is your "average" law student trying to figure out her way in the legal world. She tells the tales of her law school trials and tribulations with the hopes that she'll help make the life of even one law student easier and less stressful.

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Missed any of her previous Writer in Residence posts? Check them out here.



Love this.  I sit in the second row, for balance.  Front row is too front row, further back and I get distracted by so much shopping going on in front of me!  I now sit behind a front row 2L who spends his class time stalking BigLaw partners on Lexis and researching firms.  Just a few more weeks.  I can get through a few short weeks without clubbing him with my evidence case book, right? 
So with only one more semester to go, are you staying in the back row?  What is the benefit you get from that?  What does it cost you?  What do you think would happen if you came down to row 2 and sat beside me?  (We’re all buddies down in Row 2, just as you folks in back are, but you’re welcome to join us!)
Last month, I wrote about this same topic.  It is the open secret that everybody pretends not to know.  I wonder how the classroom dynamic would change if there were a NO LAPTOPS rule?

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