Team building exercises are intended to foster camaraderie. They are meant as tools for creating long lasting personal relationships between people who beforehand did not know each other. Through fun, engaging activities, great stories emerge, bonds are formed and organizations are enhanced.
Somehow, though, type A personality law students are taking lessons meant to emphasize teamwork and transforming them into intense competitions. This phenomenon, sources report, is quite often seen on student retreats.
"This past October our office of Student Services (OSS) sponsored an outing for student leaders of all stripes," stated Janice Mill, Dean of OSS at Columbia Law School. "The event was meant to be a pleasant way for organization presidents and others to meet each other and form relationships through cooperative games. I should have foreseen that law students, especially those that lead student groups, would act like a-holes and make the whole damn thing one big competition."
According to Mill, one of the highlighted team building activities was separating the participants into groups and having them each attempt to construct the tallest structure using pieces from a K'Nex building toy set. The exercise was meant to improve communication and instill the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. However, the law students managed to corrupt the intended purpose from the get-go.
"Right away this girl on my team announces that we cannot let the other teams build a higher tower than ours," said 2L retreater Bob Lipkind. "She then starts barking orders and telling everyone what needs to be done. I even remember at one point her yelling at another team member and saying 'with a work ethic like that no wonder you didn't make the law review.'"
Once the teams had finished their structures it was time to measure. Again, the students' competitiveness overshadowed the cooperative nature of the activity.
"Of course being law students we had to argue over various ways to figure out who won," remembered Lipkind. "After 20 minutes we finally agreed that we'd use the container the K'Nex came in and measure how many box-lengths high the tower was. But then it took another 20 minutes for the various teams to agree whether the measurements were accurate and which building was in fact the tallest. The whole thing made me want to stick one of those long, grey plastic pieces in my fucking eye."
Apparently, retreats are not the only places where law students have turned seemingly innocuous and fun activities into passionate contests where victory is the paramount concern. Law firm recruiting departments across the country have reported that countless summer associate bonding activities were corrupted due to aggressive law students.
"I remember that during our cooking event one summer kept boasting that he was going to "unquestionably out-risotto" all the other chefs and during our bowling outing there was almost a fight over whether a foot foul should be marked zero," stated Hogan and Hartson recruiting coordinator Melanie Houff. "But the worst was during a go-carting event when this one guy, before the race, kept asking how we were going to determine a winner. When I told the summer that there would be no winner he responded 'So then what's the point?'"
Renowned legal psychologist Dr. Joanna McDonald believes that such behavior, while expected, can be detrimental in the long run.
"I have conducted numerous studies and each has proven that law students are especially competitive," remarked McDonald. "Unfortunately these same reports demonstrate that the aggressive behavior, if engaged in for a prolonged period, can lead to the alienation of peers, destruction of relationships and of course inevitable depression. And trust me on this. I am pretty much better than everyone else at this type of research."