Gunners cannot always be identified by their visual attributes.
Sure, they might wear a suit or look like they just stepped out of Caddyshack a bit more frequently than the rest of us, but it’s never safe to assume that you are in the presence of a gunner based on appearances alone.
Accurate identification of gunners requires a more complex, thoughtful analysis.
Just as ornithologists identify birds by their songs, law students identify gunners by their unique auditory patterns (also known as ‘gunner songs’).
Gunners are inherently self-absorbed, so it is not surprising that many ‘gunner songs’ begin with the phrase “When I”:
“When I was working as (insert prestigious position at governmental institution or well-known corporation)…”
“When I lived in (insert major metropolitan city and/or foreign country)…”
“When I was at (insert ivy league school or prestigious international ‘uni’ a la Oxford or Cambridge)…”
“When I was interning at (insert coveted summer internship position)…”
If you hear anyone inject themselves into a discussion with any of the above phrases, you are probably in the presence of a gunner. To confirm, take a quick glance at your classmates. If they are rolling their eyes, groaning, or clenching their jaws and fists, the identification is confirmed.
Another highly effective gunner identification technique is a behavioral analysis.
Gunners exhibit a variety of behavioral patterns that distinguish them from average law students.
1) Class “participation”
While normal law students talk in class only when they A) are called on, or B) have something substantive to say, Gunners spray a non-stop-stream-of-words in projectile vomit formation across the lecture hall, successfully mimicking Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
Whether they are racing to be the first to answer a black-letter/facts-of-the-case question, sharing a tangential anecdote, or offering an un-solicited opinion, gunners will not SHUT. THE. F@#$. UP.
This does not end when class ends. Gunners will make a sprint for the front of the room as soon as class is over in order to monopolize the teacher’s attention with additional self-indulgent F$#%ery (“When I . . .”). They will then proceed with the professor into the halls/common areas, ignoring the line of students waiting to ask questions in the classroom, where they will continue to offer their unsolicited opinions on the content of the class, the caliber of the teaching that day, and/or their personal experiences to the professor and anyone within earshot. (See the “auditory identification” section above.)
2) Extreme Extracurriculars
Typical law students generally take on one or two résumé-building, extracurricular activities. For example, an average to above-average law student might do pro-bono work and be treasurer for a school group or practice on trial team and participate in a legal clinic.
As a sub-standard law student, my personal “extracurricular” activities include drinking excessively and crying as I rock back and forth in the fetal position. (Something that I understand employers really look for in an applicant.)
However, Gunners do all of the above activities plus Law Review, externships, and Student Government. Naturally, due to their unflappable capacity to talk about themselves, they will tell you again and again how busy they are and how hard it is trying to get all of their reading and projects done between all of their callbacks from OCIs.
3) Back-stabbing, Sabotage, and Gossip (oh my!)
Perhaps one of the most notable qualities of gunners is a complete lack of basic compassion, guilt, and shame when it comes to sabotage, gossip and backstabbing. Whether the gunner is a stranger, an acquaintance, or a dear friend, he or she will throw you under the bus at the first sign of contradiction or competition.
“He’s totally in the bottom half of the class,” she might say to a fellow gunner. Or, “I told her I wasn’t interviewing for that position she wanted, but I totally did, and I got it.”
This behavior is generally driven by a deep-seated psychological need to be “the best”…. Take that trophy away from him, and all you are left with is an awkward, insecure narcissist with the emotional maturity of an eighth-grader. And a true gunner will do anything –ANYTHING – to keep his little trophy (“Mine! MINE! All mine!”).
I want to be clear that not ALL gunners are so desperately insecure and malicious; not all gunners back-stab and tear down their colleagues for their own personal advancement… But, the most pernicious gunners do it so well and so frequently that the trait has become integrally entwined with the gunner label.
Certain kinds of gunners are more predisposed to this predatory behavior than others. To find out which gunners are the most malicious, most dangerous and most obnoxious, check back next week for my next report.
To be continued with Part II: The Species and Genus of Gunner Kingdom . . .