Law Student Guides
What’s A Gunner?
Monday, October 19, 2020
An in-depth look at the most annoying type of person you'll encounter in law school.
When you begin law school, you’ll be surrounded by smart, capable people, yourself included. It’s these people you meet in law school that you’ll likely encounter in your career as well; they won't disappear from your life after just three years of law school.
Many of them could become your colleagues, lifelong friends, or opposing counsel. A few you may just see at the local bar, or local bar events. Thus, the opinions your law school peers make of you, and the opinions that you make of them, will follow you for some time.
Heck, some of your law school classmates might even kind of hate you, or you might hate some of them.
Especially if you're a gunner. If you haven’t heard of the “gunner” stereotype yet, we hope this will enlighten you and prepare you for such an inevitable encounter.
The gunner is the most widely known law school stereotype. They are a complicated and toxic mix between a try hard and a blow hard. Fueled by ambition and competitive aggression, the gunner is always in pursuit of the top grades, best internships, and prestigious clerkships.
The gunner will raise his or her hand in every class, always argues with the professor, and invariably believes that he or she is better than everyone else. They’ll think that they’re God’s gift to law school, and speak with extreme misplaced confidence you’d think that every word out of his mouth is gold.
When you encounter the gunner, they’ll talk your ear off about reading Law Review articles, going to office hours, and bombard you with his or her weird theories of justice and the law. You’ll immediately know about his or her family friend who’s a prestigious judge and is sure to let him clerk this summer.
The good news is that these types tend to relax a bit after first semester grades come out. In the spirit of the plethora of factor-tests and flexible standards that you’ll encounter in law school, we’ve put together a four-factor balancing test that you can apply to see if someone you know is a gunner.
Under this test, law students consider (a) the number of times he or she speaks in class, (b) the relevancy of their discussions when speaking, (c) his or her propensity to promote their self-worth or belittle others' self-worth (the “humble brag” or “humble put-down”), and (d) the frequency of his or her references to their past experiences, particularly, (1) their undergraduate, (2) how high their LSAT score is despite never having to study, (3) prestigious and honorable work experiences, and (4) the frequency of “one upping” responses to others.
To add to this, there are several sub-types of gunners that have evolved over the years; some not so bad as the previously mentioned alpha-gunner.
You’ll encounter the (1) grades gunner, (2) nuisance gunner, (3) savior gunner, and (4) the teacher’s pet.
The Grades Gunner
The grade gunner is focused solely on getting ahead of the curve and is a very relatively toxic sub-type.
They’ll cause others to get a lower grade, solely by virtue of the mandatory grade curve. They’ll hide hornbooks, give wrong case briefs, and generally try to mess up every one else around them in as subtle of a way as possible so as to elongate their toxicity.
Against stereotype, grade gunners don’t necessarily raise their hand or speak very often. The nuisance gunner is closely related to the alpha-gunner stereotype, except that he or she focuses solely on his or her performance in the classroom, and not on grades.
The Nuisance Gunner
A stark polarization of sub-type to the grade gunner, the nuisance gunner always sits in the front of the class, hand up all the time, asking questions and throwing hypotheticals at the professor as if class time were office hours.
The nuisance gunner is the reason why the professor doesn’t get through the syllabus at the end of the year, because he or she is always gumming up the works and preventing your professor from moving on with the material.
The nuisance gunner doesn’t waste time raising his or her hand but rather shouts out answers at an instant, even if someone else is on call.
The Savior Gunner
The savior gunner is, interestingly, a good sub-type of the otherwise negative gunner stereotype.
We call him or her the savior because they are the one who is willing to raise his or her hand and venture into a very difficult question posed by the professor when no one else will.
He or she has read for every single class, and is prepared and engaged. But he or she will never interrupt, raise his or her hand, or waste the class’s time with pointless hypotheticals.
Not really a gunner at all, the savior gunner is there to take the hit when no one else has read, is always prepared for class, and always takes a polite and reasonable amount of time to raise their hand to answer.
The Teacher's Pet
Finally, we have the teacher’s pet. Again, this is a good sub-type of the negative gunner stereotype.
Through no fault of their own, the professor has singled this person out because, in the professor’s opinion, they give good answers to questions and can be relied upon to engage.
This sub-type is usually one related to the savior gunner, although there are differences.
A final caveat
Despite being highly competitive, not everyone in law school will be a gunner or is out to get you.
If you’re an incoming 1L, take it upon yourself to find a group of individuals interested in collaborating, sharing ideas, and who all share a common goal of lifting each other up. In law school, everyone wants to be number one.
Whether one is willing to crawl over the backs of others is what divides the gunners from the valuable and lifelong companions you’ll meet in the practice of law.
So do you know any gunners? Are you a gunner yourself? What are some additional sub-types of gunners that you have encountered that would be helpful to incoming 1Ls to spot?
Let us know in the comments down below.
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