Saturday, April 4, 2009

Law School Visits: The Miniseries

Duke held its admitted students weekend on March 20th, and Kate and I had been planning to attend it since not too long after I got my acceptance there. It's been one of our top contenders, in large part due to the attractiveness of their joint JD/LLM program. I suppose it also holds a distinction as the only non-urban school we've been looking at - LA, NYC, New Haven, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis... then Durham. Granted, it's part of the North Carolina "Research Triangle" (made up of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh) but my understanding is that Raleigh is really the most urban of the three.

So, we got ourselves a great deal on a hotel through, which we'd never used before (less than 1/2 price for a 4 star hotel!), made various scheduling arrangements, took the car in for a check-up and to fix an oil leak and started we packing up (much to our kitties' dismay).

Unfortunately, shortly after we got the van back, and just a few days before we were getting ready to leave... the transmission gave out. The catalytic converter was busted too. And so, we had to scramble to figure out whether we should go, and if so how. We ended up renting a car - or rather Kate's mom did, and we signed on as additional drivers, and we had a mode of transportation!

It ended up being kind of nice, since Kate and I haven't driven a car built in this decade (2000 being last decade, and excluding a few of my brother Rob's cars which I took out for brief joyrides). We wound up getting a 2008 Nissan Versa, a little cheap subcompact, that ended up driving a gazillion times better than any other car we remember driving in years (again, excluding Rob's cars). So, it was a nice treat, which ended up being rather informative as to our off and on search for a used car (if we end up needing to get one).

It's somewhere over 9 hours to get from here to Durham, and we decided to make the drive easier and split the trip into two legs... But we knew the trip was going to go well, when we saw this omen not long after we got on the road (look closely...)The drive was relatively uneventful... Cadence and I slept a lot, and Kate had to do most of the driving. Although we both agreed that driving the Versa wasn't bad at all, and I was excited to drive it... I just got sleepy a lot. We stopped at a Holiday Inn with an indoor pool the first night, and paid way more than we'd planned to, but Cadence was melting down and it was the first place we found with a pool... so we stopped there. It was a really nice hotel, a great way to end the day, and we were mostly able to rationalize the price tag. After all, our little B got to try out her new swimsuit, which she picked out herself!
The stop also had the distinction of being Cadie's first hotel! So it was great to have a nice one. After 9 months of sleeping on an air mattress, it was also an amazing luxury to sleep on a nice soft king size bed.

Cadence even came up with a new game! Or maybe you could say it's a variant of an older one. However you look at it, she loves hiding behind the see-through curtain things on the windows (Kate went shopping so, unfortunately, she isn't here to tell me what they're called...)
Well-rested and rearing to go, we went to fill up on fat, cholesterol, salt, and deliciousness at a Cracker Barrel down the street. We tried to eat light, but figured a bit of familiarity would help Cadence with this whole road trip thing. She seemed to enjoy it thoroughly and we even picked up a smelly candle to help with bedtime on the road.

We had some hard rain, on the drive, but got into the Hilton Durham near Duke University (which is actually what it's called) later in the evening, safe and sound. We got ourselves settled, and ended up staying in and relaxing, making the incredibly unwise - but otherwise satisfying - decision to splurge and order room service, including a drink from the bar. And splurge it was, as we ended up paying about as much on that bill as we did for a night's stay. Keeping in mind, of course, of course that we did get that great deal through Priceline (do you think if I mention it often enough, they'll give me some sort of gift basket? Or maybe Bill Shatner will come visit and give me lawyering tips....)

Where was I...? Right... Duke. The whole reason for this trip, and ostensibly this post... Friday was entirely devoted to Duke's open house programming, and they kept us pretty busy. I'll start out by saying that the law school building is pretty beautiful. It's was renovated fairly recently, with lots of open spaces, and big windows in almost every room offering plenty of natural light, and great views of the gorgeous campus. Having gone to NYU for undergrad, the difference was pretty stark, and had a definite appeal. Everyone seemed super enthusiastic, except maybe for a friend of mine from O&G who's going to school there... she mostly seemed really tired. Honestly, I think Kate and I were a little taken aback by just how super the enthusiasm was. I guess Audrey was right, and NYU did make us too jaded... On the other hand there was a reception in the Duke Garden where Cadence got to see some ducks up close!
I got to meet a bunch of people in similar boats to me, waiting to hear back from some of the top, top schools... and some in very different boats, like a pregnant Army officer whose husband is deployed, and who will be giving birth right before the start of school, and a girl who gave us the distinct impression that her father (who accompanied her to the event) had filled out her law school applications - and took over the conversation when I introduced myself. Otherwise, there were a few panels of varying interest, tours - John Ashcroft sat down across from Kate and grumbled at her while Cadence was napping, and dinners with various student organizations. The Parents Attending Law School fed us burritos from Cosmic Cantina, of all places.
I was left a little shell-shocked from the amount of information they were giving us, and feeling like I could almost like going there. But, ultimately, Kate and I both came away with a distinct sense that it wasn't going to work for either of us.

Maybe it was the neo-gothic architecture that seemed to be trying a little too hard, or the a-little-too-chipper vibe we got, or my realizing the joint degree program wasn't going to offer me the same sort of career boost I envisioned it providing.

On the other hand, I gained a lot more from the trip than an opportunity to eliminate a school from the list. I learned that I am attracted to the idea of a small class (i.e. Yale). I also got a better, more concrete sense of what law school schedules will really look like - particularly vis-a-vis family. There were a couple of mock classes, one in contract law, and the other in criminal law and they were really fun. I'm sure they picked the most enjoyable professors to teach the courses, but even still - I'm even more encouraged and excited to be going to law school.

When the day was done, we headed back to the hotel and... Uncle Rob and Grandpa came to visit!!!

That's right! My brother Rob lives in Virginia outside of DC, and my dad has been working in DC performing upgrades to cell phone networks for the better part of a year, so they took the 4 plus hour drive, and Cadence LOVED it.

After a brief warm-up period of shy, she was ready and played with Rob

spent some quality time sitting with Grampa

and ran back and forth with me across the room "one... eeee.... eeeee............ go."

and, of course, hiding behind the curtain.

And, of course, there was another king size bed.

The next day started out with a little rough... we got a late start, having to check out, but Cadence was ecstatic to see Rob and Grampa again... then she began screaming when she realized they weren't getting into the car with us. Despite our reassurances that we were just taking separate cars and would see them again in just minutes. She was awfully happy to see them when we finally got there, though.

We missed our chance to take a campus tour but did make it in time for the apartment tour, where we got on buses and they took us to various apartment complexes, which each gave us tours, sales pitches, and swag! This was, perhaps, one of the most bittersweet parts of the tours.

$1200/month 2 story, 2 bed, 2 bath townhouse with a washer/dryer, dishwasher, huge kitchen, garage and a pool?

All minutes from campus... And then there were the 800-1000 square foot apartments for 5-800 a month. Oh, and more pools! Cadence especially liked the inspired combination of balls and pools. "Pool! Ball! Two!!!!"

After that, we all decided to take a look around the campus, explore, and get a feel for the area outside of the law school.

We walked around, and Kate showed us where the chapel was. We saw some wildlife!

and we sat on an authentic college-student painted bench,

saw a Segue-ing security guard,

even jugglers,

who Cadence liked an awful lot...

and then we were off to the garden.

And oh the fun we had! Hanging out with the guys,

and smelling the flowers.

We all had a lot of fun, Cadence especially. She even got to meet a duck couple, who - perhaps spoiled by overly-generous park-goers, had no compunction waddling up to our little one and checking to see if she had any food.

And then there was a little girl who, perhaps mistaking Cadence for a large doll, picked her up and started walking off with her. Cadence, as she often does, responded by not doing anything but giving a bit of a befuddled look. It's her defense mechanism around strangers doing strange things, I suppose.

As is pretty evident, there was a lot of park bench sitting.

So, yes. There was much fun, much visiting, and plenty of learning. The return home was pretty uneventful. We ended up meeting with another former co-worker, who's going to school at UNC, and then we got back on the road. We had been planning on stopping again, but after spending about an hour looking for an affordable hotel with a pool, and vacancies... and failing to do so, we ended driving the whole way home. Which was very, very nice.

Wooh! That was a doozy, huh? I'll leave you with one of Cadence's trademark oratories.