|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
31. The Failure (1981)
The Au Pairs
|I have no real
idea why I decided to become a law student. Like so many of the major
events in my life – careers, relationships, homes, the stuff which
other people agonise over – it was something that just…happened, I
At school, I had always blithely
assumed that one day the clouds would part, a giant hand would reach
down towards me bearing a rolled up sheet of parchment, and I would
suddenly be filled with a sense of vocation. As this never happened, and
as I definitely fancied living the life of a student for a few years
(well, it sounded like fun), I drifted into law.
In some ways, it felt like the path of
least resistance. I come from a family which is steeped in the law, on
both my mother’s and father’s sides. There was even a family law
firm in Doncaster – Slater and Sons – which I could have stepped
into if I chose (thus making me the fifth generation of Slaters to do
so, as my grandmother often reminded me).
I also thought (when I bothered to
think about it all) that as an academic discipline, law would suit me
well. I enjoyed mathematics and languages at school, and I imagined that
solving a legal problem would be very much like solving a maths problem.
Define the issues at stake, get the books out, process the information,
output the result. The Law Says This. Then, like in maths, you could
mark me out of 100 for how near I got to The Right Answer. And in the
process of reaching The Right Answer, I could use my language skills to
argue my case eloquently. Well, there had to be just the one Right
Answer, surely? You know, natural justice and all that? Right and wrong
– true and false – binary thinking – piece of piss, probably.
Oh, and I enjoyed “Crown Court” on
the telly. Seriously – I factored that in as a reason. Human interest
and drama – there was bound to be loads of it, right? I couldn’t
wait to get stuck into those case reports, and learn all about the
personal struggles of the people involved.
How wrong can you be?
As a fledgling law student, I soon
learnt a few things.
1. There is no right or wrong answer.
It’s up to you to argue a case one way or the other.
2. There is no human interest in a law
degree. Case reports are not like newspaper stories, or episodes of
3. There is a huge amount of reading.
It’s not like reading a novel, either. The prose is dry to the point
4. 90% of law students are
hyper-confident, self-possessed, highly motivated, ambitious
individuals. I am none of these things, nor can I pretend to be
5. There is no discussion, at any time,
of morals, ethics or natural justice. I think this might have been
optional in the third year, though.
6. There’s a lot of fun to be had as
a student. None of it has anything to do with your coursework.
7. As an academic subject, Law is
really, really boring. Teeth-grindingly, skull-crushingly boring.
Well, it was inevitable really. I
flunked one of my four first year exams – Property Law, a subject
which I especially loathed. There was a resit at the end of the summer
vacation. Even faced with the possibility of being thrown off the
course, I couldn’t bring myself to do the necessary revision. I
flunked the resit, and was promptly thrown off the course.
I been denying the reality of my
situation for months. Now, reality hit me hard – for the first time in
my life, I had failed an exam. It felt like waking from a dream. I was
no longer comfortably rolling along the conveyor belt with everybody
else, safely on my way to the assured future of a well paid professional
career. I was out on my arse.
Once again, I’m not too sure how this
happened - but a week later, I found myself accepted as a first year
student in the German department of the very same university. In one of
the greatest strokes of luck in what has unquestionably been a
ridiculously lucky life, I was now back with my friends on that very
same conveyor belt.
A mere blip, then. Life rolled on.