Volume 9, Issue 12
When I was procrastinating from ‘studying’ during my Arts degree I would often trawl the MLS webpage. I would peruse subject handbook entries, weigh career options and dream of degree partnerships. During my self-indulgent wankery, one thing would always catch my eye: the Jessup Moot.
Like many a JD applicant before me, I considered myself a budding international lawyer. What could be better than single-handedly saving the world—and making a boatload of cash—while jet-setting across it? I had the prerequisites: Internationals relations major? Tick. Public speaking skills? Tick. Private school-instilled self-importance? Tick. Looks good in United Nations Blue? Double tick.
But when I arrived at 185 Pelham Street that dream was tempered by reality within weeks. Law jobs were hard enough to get, let alone international ones. And PPL was painfully dry. So I reset my horizons: I’d aim for just a job, any job, in law.
When the ‘Jessup Moot Information Session’ popped up in my Facebook events, I didn’t hesitate. Here was my chance to distinguish myself from the pack. Here was how I was going to forge my career—and maybe just achieve my loftier ambitions.
So when I left that session swearing I wouldn’t apply, I was surprised as anyone.
It began unexceptionally. The usual crappy sales-pitch YouTube trailer and introductions to former participants that you get for any old competition. Faculty and a coach explained the program. They pretended not to know that we applicants had hungrily read every word on the MLS website a million times already. Yet, no one had the courage to ask the one question we had come here to answer. Like teenagers a church social, we awkwardly danced around it, talking of anything but. It took until the final Q&A for someone to pluck up the courage.
“So, what’s the expectation regarding the workload?”
The Jessupers fired up. Like contestations at a dick measuring competition, they boasted in units:
“14 hours, seven days a week, all summer,” said one.
“We did 16,” interjected another.
“Well, of course we gave them a few days off over Christmas,” the coach said, laughing. “But they wouldn’t take them.”
This went on. Eventually, the faculty member interrupted, to halt the braggadocio. Lip service was paid to those whose circumstances could not sustain such hours: brief platitudes about how the university would accommodate for people who ‘had to work’. The word ‘work’ sounded like a rare and unfortunate ailment coming from their mouths.
I would do nearly anything for the guarantee of a good job after the JD. I think we all would. It’s why we moot, volunteer and intern. That’s what Jessup promises: the Faustian bargain. If you sell your soul to it for a summer—quit your part-time job, move back home, spend every waking moment in the library, eat three meals a day at Porta Via and utterly neglect your friends/lover/mother—it offers such a guarantee.
No rational person would do it. The required workload is utterly mad. It is demonstrably unproductive and unhealthy. Moreover, it could only be sustained by the most privileged people: those with enough money and/or support to delegate cooking, cleaning and the other tasks of normal life for its duration. Who else could give the requisite dedication to what is literally law kid make-believe?
But as I left that room, swearing out loud that I wouldn’t apply, the thought remained in the back of my mind: what if I did? Wouldn’t it all be worth it in the end? Three short months of soul-crushing work for the career I wanted?
What an absurd world we are in where that is a rational thought.
A former Jessuper, Josh Quinn-Watson, has written a considered response to this article, which can be found via the link here.
The rest of this week's *bumper* issue: