Monday, October 2, 2006

When Little Ideas Become Traditions

Having a study aids library that is open to all law students at whatever level in the three years is useful.  The advantages are that students who cannot afford personal copies of the study aids are grateful, students who might otherwise never venture into my office appear happily on my doorstep, and students who would make uninformed choices about study aids ask for advice.  I have many good conversations with students about study problems as we peruse the shelves for volumes that might help them.

 

Once I had this regular contact with so many different students each day, I became more in tune with the moods of students during the semester.  What happened next started as a gesture of goodwill.  I just wanted to cheer up the tired, stressed, and worried masses of law students who came to my study aids library in days prior to and during exams.  I started small and soon ended up with a tradition that grew to gigantic proportions.  The tradition spread from exam period to every period.  I had accidentally found a common denominator for the consumers and purveyors of legal education.

          

What am I talking about?  It is green, fifteen and one-half inches high, and twelve inches in diameter.  It is “The Candy Bucket.”  Initially, when my study aids library was new and relatively undiscovered, the candy would last for many weeks.  I now have to re-fill it about every three weeks.  Not that it is entirely empty in three weeks, but the tradition of The Candy Bucket has spawned certain rules of procedure that are as cherished as its contents.

 

First, The Candy Bucket must always contain a wide variety of wrapped candy - only one or two types would be frowned upon by all.  Second, one is allowed to "dig for gold" looking for personal favorites - no embarrassment necessary.  Third, there is no limit on the number of visits per day or the number of pieces at a time - adult self-discipline is assumed.  Fourth, students are allowed to report when their favorites are no longer within the mix of candy - subtle hints are rare.  Fifth, faculty, staff, children of anyone, and student workers share The Candy Bucket access with my law students - even our Admissions Office tours stop by (to discuss my program, of course) with many visitors departing with a sweet or two.

 

The Candy Bucket was one of the best ideas I ever had.  Faculty stop by to chat as they look for their favorites.  Many students confide their worries and triumphs as they look for their personal version of gold.  I have discussed the fine points of briefing or time management or outlining around The Candy Bucket on many occasions.  After a chat over candy, students who would not have thought to make an appointment often sign up for time with me to work on problem areas in their studies.  And, nothing can compare to the joy on a law student's face when a Laffy Taffy or a box of Nerds is plucked from the layers of candy just when all such treasures seemed to be taken by prior gold diggers.

 

Should you decide to embark on a candy tradition for your law students, I have several suggestions.  This generation of law students has a passion for candies that I never knew even existed.  I suggest Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Sweet Tarts, StarBursts, sour apple bubble gum, and Bottle Caps as starters.  Faculty and staff seem to like toffees, caramels, Mary Janes, and Bit O' Honey.  Get a membership at Sam's Club, CostCo, or your local equivalent.  Salt Water Taffy is not popular in Texas - how was an Easterner supposed to know.  Do not make your candy run in 105-degree weather no matter how empty the bucket is.  And, as your tradition grows in popularity, I suggest you add a line to your budget unless you think that the IRS will consider your candy donation as a deductible charitable expense.  (alj)                  

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