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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do you go to the Barristers' Ball?

Every March at around this time, our Dean sends an e-mail encouraging us to attend our students' annual Barristers' Ball.  And every time, I cringe.

It's not that I don't like our students.  Getting to know them is one of my favorite parts of this job.  I really enjoy talking with them, whether in response to specific academic questions or just in casual conversation.  I've stayed in touch with many of them after they've graduated, and always love hearing what they are up to.

But I don't want to put on a little black dress and, with my husband in tow, spend a Saturday night with them at a formal dance.  Maybe because I'm still in my 30s and am not that much older than many of them (I'm still sometimes mistaken for a student here), I feel the need to maintain a certain separation.  I'm curious, though: do others have the same reaction?  And on the flip side, do students really want us there?   


Posted by Emily Gold Waldman on March 14, 2013 at 03:25 PM | Permalink


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What I think is more concerning is the open recognition that the event is one where many students get very drunk. I recently attended our law school parody play, and was bothered by how much drinking and being hungover were subjects of the play. This is all particularly concerning given the rates of alcohol abuse in the profession and the possible link between drinking and the state of the legal job market.

Posted by: New Prof | Mar 21, 2013 10:47:39 AM

We are somewhat encouraged to go, but I never do, mainly because it really never very convenient (in terms of location and time).

Posted by: ML | Mar 19, 2013 11:28:17 PM

Many years ago when teaching at a different law school I attended that school's incarnation of this event. At 7:00 p.m. -- far earlier than other comments have indicated students get sloshed -- I went to the ladies' room and a female student was passed out cold on the bathroom floor. Worse, three male students were in the ladies' room attempting to revive her. They eventually just carried her out. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not anxious to repeat this experience.

Posted by: Patricia | Mar 19, 2013 5:49:38 PM

We are encouraged to go (although we have to pay) and the event is folded in with certain award presentations, including Outstanding Professor. The students seem to enjoy having us there. Most faculty leave as soon as the alcohol and dancing kick into gear.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 16, 2013 3:03:55 PM

A student asked me if I was going. I laughed and laughed and laughed...

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Mar 16, 2013 11:38:20 AM

I go to the ball almost every year. I enjoy seeing the students dressed to the nines and enjoy meeting their significant others. I agree with VAP that it is important to know when to leave.

Posted by: Kevin | Mar 16, 2013 9:24:18 AM

We are given free tickets and encouraged to go. Etiquette demands leaving before the students get sloshed.

Posted by: VAP | Mar 15, 2013 2:07:18 PM

I go to these things sometimes because students really do like to see profs there. But, I try to leave before the tipping point where enough alcohol has been consumed that the students become either overly affectionate towards me or overly honest. Both are uncomfortable for me and cause subsequent remorse and regret for the student in question. So, I put in an appearance and interact with the students but try to leave well before that inevitable time when the party starts to take that kind of turn.

Posted by: prof | Mar 15, 2013 1:05:41 PM

I remember hearing about this in law school and thinking to myself - Seriously? Are we going to have a homecoming game too?

Posted by: Jeff | Mar 15, 2013 11:59:35 AM

A prom for law students.

Posted by: brad | Mar 15, 2013 10:42:29 AM

Emily, I'm with you. But I'm untenured so I have to go. Around here, it's seen as "part of the experience." And, surprisingly, the students do actually seem to like to see the profs there.

Posted by: Newbie prof | Mar 15, 2013 8:58:59 AM

I'm not sure if US law schools teach the carbolic smoke ball case in contracts, but that's what my law school called our formal event.

Posted by: Prof | Mar 15, 2013 1:09:30 AM

What is a Barrister's Ball?

It seems that I managed to both (a) go to a law school, and now, some years later, (b) teach at a different law school, neither of which have this particular event.

Posted by: curious prof | Mar 15, 2013 12:55:58 AM

A certain separation is a good idea.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Mar 15, 2013 12:08:17 AM

If I've learned one thing over the years, it is that faculty, students, and alcohol are a highly combustible mixture. So even though I like a refreshing adult beverage as much as the next guy, I try to avoid law school social events where there tends to be a lot of drinking.

Posted by: Steve Bainbridge | Mar 14, 2013 8:13:13 PM

Our Dean also encourages us to go. And holds a pre-party.

Posted by: Prof | Mar 14, 2013 7:36:30 PM

Speaking as a current student, one side of me doesn't want you there because it would feel too much like the teachers chaperoning a seventh-grade dance, but another part does because it's kind of fun seeing professors outside their regular element. I could go either way, I guess.

Posted by: Adam | Mar 14, 2013 4:39:24 PM

Dunno about other schools.

But the administrative encouragement seems odd and maybe a little overbearing. I imagine some students want faculty there and some don't. So it seems like a strange point of decanel intervention -- not least because, as you mention, students should be able to wear ill-fitting suits and drink too much booze without faculty watching.

And so should faculty.

Posted by: SparkleMotion | Mar 14, 2013 3:52:27 PM

Our dean always encourages us to go (and offers a partially subsidized ticket) on grounds that the students really want to see us there. Does this not happen at other schools? (I admit that when I was in law school, I never went, so I don't know how unusual it is for faculty to attend!)

Posted by: Emily Gold Waldman | Mar 14, 2013 3:37:03 PM

Why would your dean encourage you to go?

Posted by: SparkleMotion | Mar 14, 2013 3:28:32 PM

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