Many of your professors will tell you that Law in a noble profession, which is a very true statement. However, no one tells you this piece of truth: the day-to-day life of a law student does not feel noble. No one gets enough sleep, everyone is struggling to stay mentally and physically healthy, and not a single person misses the stress of the financial struggle.
There will be tears and there will be suffering.
Luckily, there is also a shining beacon in the world of law school: the study carrel. At the University of Idaho, every student is guaranteed a spot in a carrel within the law building. As a 1L, you usually have to share with one other person, but after that year you get to have your own personal space. Law students spend so much time in their little cubbies, that it is hard not to get sentimental about them.
The carrel is first and foremost a place for quiet study. Your own little area in which you can spread your books, laptop and binders out and get some serious studying done. I personally spend at least 3 hours a day at my carrel, and I probably average around 5. I get a lot done in my little space, and it is nice to be able to come straight from class and get some work done before my brain gives out or I loose focus. If I didn’t have a carrel, I would probably end up going home and not getting any homework done.
Secondly, your carrel is your personal space. My carrel is my dining table, my meditation corner, and in very desperate circumstances, my bed. I can’t count how many times I have sat at my carrel and eaten yogurt or soup while I read for my next class. After hour 4 or 5 at school, I routinely use my carrel as my space to do some focus exercises and neck stretches to keep those reading muscles loose. Up on my fabric walls are all the things that keep me going: Funny comic strips that remind me not to take myself too seriously, cards from loved ones with inspiring words in them, a picture of my 18-month old nephew (SO CUTE!), and a letter confirming my acceptance of a summer job offer which reminds me to keep working hard.
When I am starting to feel stressed, upset, or down on myself, I just have to lift my head to remind myself that this spot is mine. My carrel is my golden ticket, proof that I am right where I am supposed to be. By being able to make my own little corner at the law building, I am able to keep my sanity.
Additionally, I have made use of my carrel for quick naps to keep me going through the day. In fact, my friend and I have perfected the best nap set-up: Yoga mat on the floor under the carrel, sweater for pillow, ear buds in, and feet propped up on the chair. Even with the limited space available, any law student at UI has enough room to get at least one REM cycle in if need be. There is a definite sense of belonging that comes with a carrel. I know that I am not the first person to eat a meal on this desk, shed a tear in the building, or catch some Zs on this patch of carpet—and I won’t be the last either. You don’t just develop kinship with the students your particular class, but with every Idaho law student before and after you through the shared experience of the carrel.
Lastly, your personal carrel is your spot in the law building community. After a particularly rough class, I know that I can commiserate with my carrel pod members (aka “Carrel Buddies”) to make sure I am on the same page as everyone else. It also means I am just a chair-wheeling-push away from someone who can help me with homework or have lunch with. Law school is so time consuming and tiring, I rarely have time for traditional socializing. Therefore, most of my interactions with other humans happen in whispered tones inside the law library. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my carrel buddies, and we all keep each other sane.
I was shocked to learn that carrels are not an ABA requirement for law schools. I can’t imagine having to take my 40 pounds of books home everyday. I also have no idea how I would get all my homework done if I didn’t have a spot on campus to study in between classes. And not just a spot to study, but also an area that is easily individualized, and facilitates friendship. I don’t have any statistics on a correlation between law school retention and carrel assignments—but I am certain that it exists. I am very thankful that I go to this school, where the faculty and staff create an environment for success.