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Inside L&C Law

Chelsea Stone

December 22, 2011

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My background:

Although I was born in Milwaukee, OR, I grew up in Aneta, ND, a small town that has about 150-200 people only if you count the residents of the nursing home.  Because I graduated from high school a little early and wanted to stay close to my family, I went to the University of North Dakota, where I planned to major in art and astrophysics.  I actually majored in philosophy, religion, and peace studies, and was pretty extensively involved in Student Government and some non-profit organizations on campus.  I worked all through college, and did a stint with AmeriCorps that rocked my world.  During my senior year, I did a lot of dithering over whether I wanted to go to law school or grad school, and decided that law school was for me.  I moved to Portland in June with my dogs (a Belgian Shepherd named Ingrid and an Italian Greyhound named Henreid), started school in August, and have been having a great time since.

A meaningful experience since coming to L&C:

My family’s pretty conservative, but I’ve always been really liberal.  I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve nonetheless always been about six miles left of center, rubbing shoulders (just a little bit) with socialism and sneering at even Democrats.  When I started Con Law, I learned about the Supreme Court and how the judicial system works.  I discovered the difference between conservative judges and activist judges, and then I started reading cases.  Much to my horror, I found myself “ruling” alongside the conservative judges and, even worse, nodding along as I read Scalia’s dissents and pounding my fist against the table when I read anything written by Stevens!  I didn’t share my newly discovered conservative bent with anyone, but I was mostly okay with it.

And then I got called on.  On my birthday.  In Con Law.  By Professor Funk.  It was just my luck that I thought the case he called on me for was crap.  It was a standing issue, where the state of Massachusetts was seeking to sue the EPA.  I agreed with the outcome–that the EPA did have to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars–but there was no way in hell that Massachusetts satisfied the requirements for standing.  We got through briefing the case and talking about the judicial split on it, when Professor Funk turned to the board where the justice’s names were written, erased Kennedy’s name, and wrote “STONE” on the board.  He turned back to the class and asked, “Okay, Ms. Stone.  Let’s say you were a Supreme Court justice.  How would you rule?”

I took a deep breath, opened my mouth, and, with just a slight pause, proceeded to explain why the liberal, activist majority was full of it:  my dirty, little, conservative secret was out of the bag. 

It was at that moment that I realized how much I had changed since I came to law school:  I had started thinking like a lawyer.  Maybe I had started really thinking, period.  At any rate, it’s come to be one of the defining moments of my time at law school.

Advice for those making final decisions on law school:

Go where you want to be; I was fortunate enough to have quite a bit of choice about where I could go to law school, and I settled on Lewis and Clark because at the end of the day, I wanted to be in Portland.  And Lewis and Clark is a great school—it’ll take care of you.  Exams just got done, and during that hellacious two week period (and it will be awful no matter where you go), the school fed us homemade baked goods, provided pots and pots of coffee, brought in therapy dogs for us to play with, and set up an area with Playdoh and puzzles in the library.  You wouldn’t think it, but that Playdoh was awesome stress relief. 

The hardest thing about adjusting to law school:

Chances are, if you’re coming to law school, you’re probably pretty smart.  This may mean that you haven’t had to put forth a lot of effort in your undergraduate career.  Get ready for that to change.  I’m not saying that it will be crazy hard necessarily, but you’re going to have to always do your homework, and when exams roll around, you’re going to have to actually study.






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