Volume 9, Issue 12
This letter is a response to another of this week's articles, which can be found here.
Thanks for your article. I wanted to make a few comments.
First, I’m really disappointed you felt we were glorifying a totalising workload. If we gave that impression, we gave the wrong impression. I’m sorry. In my experience, no-one who has actually worked those hours — and has borne the attendant costs to health and finances and relationships — thinks they are worth celebrating. What you saw as self- aggrandisement was more likely a plea for sympathy. If you knew any of us, or had asked any of us how we felt before writing, you would have realised that ex-Jessupers are more prone to measuring the size of their Jessup-shaped scars than anything else.
Secondly, I felt your article made many general implications about who Jessupers are, and what motivates them. In my view the worst implication is that all Jessupers are creatures of privilege who use either or both of money or a near-sociopathic ability to subcontract out their self-care to others to get through the process. No doubt both of those things help, and for some it might be true, but you were looking at several people on that panel who supported themselves throughout the process, who didn’t have a familial home to ‘move back to’, and were ‘ailed’ by the requirement of work the whole way through, and still ended up in a financial hole. I was one.
Thirdly, I don’t think it is true that Jessup promises a job. I’m sure it helps in some ways but it’s no guarantee of anything. In my experience, there’s every chance a law firm treats it as a signal you are headed to the bar and a poor investment for a firm. As far as Faustian bargains go, it’s fairly average.
For me, that was the most frustrating part about your article. You start with the assumption that Jessup guarantees a job, work back to the Jessup process, assume rationality, and then arrive at a conclusion about the type of people that must involve themselves in that process. It seemed like your reasoning was: the endpoint is a job; the process is time-consuming and totalising; people would only do it if (a) they thought it wouldn’t affect them too much financially at the time and (b) would lead to a bigger pay off later on; ∴ the people who do it must be privileged law students leveraging their privilege for more privilege down the line.
I can’t say that's always false, but I do know it’s not generally true. Aside from the assumption that Jessup=job, the biggest problem in my view is the assumption of rationality. In my experience, many of the people who do Jessup are people who irrationally love mooting, or learning, or international law, or working with their friends on something extraordinary. They bear huge costs for pursuing those loves, and because they have pursued something they love those costs are bearable. At least that’s how I felt.
Finally, you’re right that there are obviously problems with the program. The fact that a passionate and well-credentialed candidate like you walked away at the first hurdle is evidence enough of that. I think a lot of these problems stem from the transition to the JD. Since that transition, MLS teams have been mainly first years, and are expected to be competitive in the toughest regional rounds of the world’s most complex moot against final-year law students from other excellent schools. Melbourne’s been at a huge structural disadvantage since moving to the JD-only Jessup model, and the gap between resources and expectations has largely been bridged by a frenetic summer of work. This is not ideal. Personally, I think it verges on cruel. Believe it or not, many past-Jessupers, and faculty members, have raised these concerns and are working together to fix the program as part of a major review this year. If you’re a first year student, perhaps it will be a better sales pitch next year. I sure hope so.
Ultimately, I don’t object to you publishing your article, even though I think it’d be a different, and more accurate article if you’d have started at the bottom end of your chain of reasoning by finding out what Jessupers are actually like rather than starting with the Jessup process and inferring down. I think if you’d reached out to any of us Jessupers, you’d have realised that we largely share the same struggles you do and wrestle with the same doubts about the program. It is extremely difficult in this hyper- competitive environment to keep on top of everything and still have time and energy left over to do what we love. As far as Jessup goes, some of us are trying, inch by inch, to make it a better process. Under any circumstances, Jessup is an incredible experience but it does need to become a healthier, more affordable, and more manageable experience for anyone who participates.
But it's a personal piece, and, it’s not for me to tell you how to describe how you felt at that session. And though some of us might feel a little bruised by the description, I think the piece will be useful in highlighting important issues — your descriptions of the barriers to participating and the costs of participating are largely right. The ironic thing is that Jessupers, dick-measuring privilege jockeys as perhaps we are, largely agree with you, and are working the hardest to fix it.
If you ever want to have a coffee and to chat further, please be in touch – email@example.com.
Josh Quinn-Watson is a third-year JD student
The rest of this week's *bumper* issue: