Reviewing the Cambridge Law Faculty
Food, toilets, water temperature – all the important stuff
Sidgwick Site is far from cohesive; one would be hard pressed to draw any kind of stylistic parallel between, say, the Seeley Library – the architectural equivalent of a giant bowtie – and the brutalist American high school on stilts that makes up the MML and AMES faculties. One of the biggest and most prominent buildings at Sidgwick is arguably the Law Faculty, a giant wave-shaped glass monolith home to six stories of lecture theatres, moot courtrooms, the Squire Law Library, and the weary footsteps of overworked law students. This is an inside look at the Law Faculty, a peek into what lies beneath its shiny glass surface.
The first and most important item on the review agenda is coffee. After all, a Faculty is only as strong as the coffee that keeps its students alive. In this respect, the Law Fac does fine. The coffee is pretty bog standard: not particularly inspiring, and sometimes kind of bitter, but does the job and keeps me from drooling on a stranger’s shoulder in my 9am. However, in my humble opinion, the real gem of the Law Fac coffee offering is actually the “Cantab Coffee” machine, a best-kept-secret always blissfully unburdened by any kind of queue. Its “Cantab Caffe Mocha” is God’s gift to the Law Faculty: a smooth chocolatey blend in a formidably large cup for the £1.20 price. That said, God giveth and He taketh away, for the Cantab Coffee machine is broken more often than it is functional; the “Out of service on account of water tank problems” screen display is the cause of my deepest emotional strife, and the reason I don’t trust people.
The other coffee machine, Caffe Praego, is wholly insignificant and not even worth speaking about in detail. It’s the caffeinated understudy to Cantab Coffee’s primadonna, always there to step in and underwhelm when the volatile diva breaks down and cannot go on. On a good day, it dribbles a vaguely beige-coloured concoction into its pathetically tiny cups; on a bad day, you’re pretty much paying 60p for a lukewarm shot of water in a little paper cup.
Two grievances with the Law Fac toilets. First, after you’ve walked out of a lecture having dislocated your knuckles from transcribing every word out of the lecturer’s mouth, there’s nothing better than coaxing life back into your hands by rinsing them in searing hot water warmed by the rabid fires of Hell. The water in the Law Fac toilets shoots out of the tap like molten lava, such that leaving your hands under the stream for any more than a few milliseconds poses a real risk of exposing bone. Those who say Law is boring clearly haven’t sought the thrill of washing their hands in our toilets.
Second, the toilets resolutely do not flush. One could probably spit in the street more forcefully than the toilets’ flush mechanism, which inevitably provides cause for everyone’s beloved “I’m sorry, it won’t flush!” conversation with the person next in line for your cubicle.
The Squire Law Library is the pride and joy of the Law Faculty, and genuinely a fantastic place to work. For a start, the decor is refreshing and modern, and you’re unlikely to get asthma like you would from inhaling the centuries of accumulated dust in your mouldy college library. The airport aesthetic kicks in here, creating that uniquely airport-specific atmosphere of busyness and productivity; if nothing else, the year-round sight of people looking tired and stressed around you is sure to provoke some kind of impetus to get some work done. Furthermore, because the building is constructed almost entirely from glass, it’s the perfect work environment if you like light and airy workspaces. The other side of the glass coin, however, is that these days it takes all of five seconds for it to get dark, so you’ll invariably be sat in the Squire witnessing the sky suddenly darken around you on all sides like the start of the apocalypse.
Food at the Law Faculty is very good, and from what I hear, almost the best on offer at Sidgwick. The Cambridge Blue café offers a solid mix of paninis, hot and cold sandwiches, pastries, and baked goods. The Fac also regularly hosts catered talks and seminars, such that tables laden with free drinks, nibbles, and sandwiches frequently materialise in front of the lecture theatres, almost on a weekly basis. Despite the fact that this food is off-limits to students not attending the designated events, they have a reliable history of being swiped by lecture-goers who have no intention of attending the event they’re provided for. What else could you expect from a Faculty populated by ambitious, results-oriented people, fiercely hungry for success?
Another tasteful result of our students’ longstanding relationship with food at the Faculty is the fact that every single chair in the lobby is permanently food-stained. You will fail to pull up any chair that isn’t speckled with sausage roll flakes, or graffitied with spilt coffee, or covered in grease from someone’s Meat Feast panini. As a wide-eyed fresher last year, I naively combed through chair upon chair to find one clean seat free of food or stains, only giving up on the impossible when I was already late for my lecture. I have now accepted the omnipresence of the stains as unalterable fact, and plonk myself blindly on top of them as a matter of course. There’s something comforting about the fact that, the world may spin wildly on its axis and the times may change, but the Law Fac chairs will always be filthy and covered in the oily remnants of someone else’s breakfast.
Like its students, the Law Faculty looks tough and well taken care of on the outside, and is plied with plenty of food and coffee to keep it going. However, like the best of us, it's susceptible to the occasional blight of darkness, hellfire, and coffee-fuelled breakdowns. I can't think of a better place to call home. A firm 2.1/1 from me.