Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

“So close to Boston… yet so far…”

The turkey was good. Nobody vomited. And my request not to have any squash at the meal was honored (Hark overkill). So, all in all, Thanksgiving was a success. I think it’s good to go home for a few days every once in a while. I brought my contracts casebook home and it made a great prop for show-and-tell. “Look at this big heavy book we have!” “Ooooh,” they all said. “And there’s stuff highlighted here, at the beginning. And there’s stuff highlighted here, at the end.” “Aaaah,” they all said. Fun stuff. Too bad the whole book isn’t written in Russian, or in binary code, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics (I’m picturing a “hairy hand” symbol here…) – then the reaction would be even better.

Being home for a few days, seeing my family, seeing some friends, reminds me why I’m in law school. (In a parallel universe, the next sentence would include the phrases “help people,” “correct injustice,” and “make large companies slightly larger through marginally justifiable litigation.” This is not that universe.) All of my friends hate their jobs. Maybe it’s just a fluke, and there are lots of people out there in the world, our age, who enjoy what they’re doing. But I don’t know any of those people. It’s not that I’m happy my friends don’t like their jobs – it’s just that it kind of makes me feel like I’ve done the right thing by going to law school if I don’t see anyone not in law school who’s found something awesome to do. It’s kind of like when I watch Saturday Night Live, I root for it to be horrendously unfunny. Not because I don’t want to laugh, but because if Saturday Night Live really sucks, it gives me hope that maybe I’m a better writer than the writers they’ve got, and that makes me feel better about myself.

I have a friend who’s a consultant. He got sent to Geneva for 3 months. He tells me that’s in Switzerland. I suppose I’ll believe him. He flies seven hours into Geneva on Monday, and flies back from Geneva seven hours on Thursday. He says all he’s seen in Geneva is the insides of the airport, the airport hotel, an office building right by the airport, and three different Starbucks branches. This whole “business travel” thing? Doesn’t sound that cool.

Then again, if he were to ask me how much of Boston I’ve seen, it probably wouldn’t make him particularly jealous. “Well, I’ve seen Boston Harbor from a boat.” I think. Was that Boston Harbor on the 1L boat cruise, or was it the Charles River? Or the Atlantic Ocean? Or some big lake Harvard built using its endowment, actually in the middle of Allston?

It’s weird that we’re so close to Boston, yet going into Boston seems like such an event. More than once I’ve decided not to go to a bar review because it’s “all the way in Boston,” as if Boston was across some giant ocean and the only way to get there was to swim. Even the seven-minute walk from my dorm to Harvard Square sometimes seems like a chore. (That’s the kind of attitude Three Aces depends on to get customers, isn’t it?) When people ask me how I like living in Boston, I find that I really don’t have an answer. None of the responses I’ve tried – “it seems nice,” “you know, a city is a city, they’re all pretty much the same,” “looks like fun on TV,” and “gets awfully cold in the winter,” – really seem satisfying. My latest attempt, “well, how do you like living in... uh… Portland?” just gets me a puzzled stare. I figure my best solution is probably to buy a Boston guidebook and read all about the cool things I’m not seeing and doing, so I can at least talk intelligently about them. (I know there must be another solution, but I can’t quite think of it…)

By the time I come home next month, I’ll be armed with a whole set of anecdotes about Boston landmarks I haven’t seen – “The Tremont Street Burial Grounds are a wonderful attraction if you want to learn all about Boston’s Puritan history. Almost as exciting as King’s Chapel, whose bell was originally cast by Paul Revere. But you haven’t lived until you’ve wandered the streets just off the Freedom Trail and seen how contemporary Boston has incorporated its past.”

I’ll also bring some more items home for show-and-tell besides my contracts casebook. Like my crim casebook, my civ pro casebook, and some of my professor’s past exams. Which may in fact seem like they’re written in Russian, binary code, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Can’t wait.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I went to the movies this afternoon and saw "The Emperor's Club," a movie about a teacher at an elite boarding high school and his students. It wasn't terrible, and actually pretty interesting -- if contrived but well-done movies about teachers and students are your cup of tea. Not as good as Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting, but not awful by any stretch. The biggest problem I had was its predictability. Every plot point was telegraphed a few minutes in advance and set up such that nothing was a surprise. The most glaring example (and I'm really not giving anything away here) was that at one point in the movie, the students persuade the teacher to join them in a game of baseball, the pitcher convinced he'll strike him out without a problem. Just then, the headmaster pulls up, across the courtyard, in his automobile. Camera focus on the driver's side window. I don't need to continue. It's the attempted emotional manipulation of "Stepmom" combined with the "there's-a-deeper-meaning-here" of "Field of Dreams." So if that sounds like something that wouldn't put you to sleep, I recommend it.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

The trick is that if I wait another 5 minutes before I post this, it'll come up as Friday and then I get a free day not to post if I can't think of anything. But nah, this way I force myself to write something tomorrow. Lucky you. :)
Quick note on the posts below. They're in reverse order. A "World's Worst Cover Letters" theme. Just so you know what's going on and can follow.
Continuing this absurd theme (see below)... The World's Third Worst Cover Letter:

December 1, 2002

Shearman and Sterling
New York, NY 10012

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a first-year law student at Harvard Law School, and I am not interested in a summer internship with your firm. Not interested at all. I am simply seeking to inquire -- just out of curiousity -- what kinds of things you might be looking for from people who ARE interested in a summer internship. I don't mean me. Like I already said.

For example, would telling you about how I spent last summer working for the Department of Justice and earning a Presidential Medal of Honor help me get a summer internship, if I wanted one? Or would that be of relatively little importance compared to my award from the American Bar Association for dedicated service to the legal profession following my initiation while in college of a class action lawsuit on behalf of four million citizens injured by the plastic caps on soda bottles, resulting in a $16 million settlement and a feature article in the New York Times Magazine. How about my 4.2 GPA at Yale? My gold medal in the Luge event at the recent Winter Olympics? My Nobel Peace Prize?

How about the fact that my father is a partner at your firm? Would that help me?

Again, I'm not interested in a summer internship at your firm. But I just thought I'd check whether or not my past experiences might help me -- if I ever was interested. I'm available for an interview Tuesday afternoon. Give me a call.
The World's Second Worst Cover Letter:

December 1, 2002

Harry's Corporate Law Firm and Taco Shack
123 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Dear Harry:

I'm a first-year law student at Harvard Law School -- and an avid consumer of Mexican food -- seeking a summer internship at either your law firm or taco shack. In fact, my top preference would be to split the summer -- 5 weeks at the law firm, and 5 weeks at the taco shack. My favorite kind of law is corporate litigation, and my favorite taco filling is spicy chicken with a green tomatillo salsa. I have significant experience doing legal research, writing memos, and re-frying beans. In fact, I'm a member of Harvard's Corporate Law Journal, and I eat at Anna's Taqueria at least twice a week. I am a skilled negotiator, analyst, and vegetable chopper -- and have experience with Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw, and both whole wheat and corn tortillas.

I'll be in New York over Christmas, interviewing at law firms and taco emporiums throughout the city. I would love to come in for an interview, armed with a resume and an apron. I will call you next week to follow up.
Apparently Adam Sandler's new cartoon movie, 8 Crazy Nights, is one hour and eleven minutes long. 71 minutes. Pathetic. If I'm going to pay $10 for a movie, I at least want 90 minutes of entertainment. Or 90 minutes of something trying to be entertainment. Or a 90-minute long nap in a nice comfortable seat. 71 minutes is ridiculous. Regardless of quality. Just my opinion...
Happy Thanksgiving! (And, yes, it feels kind of odd not knowing exactly who I'm wishing a happy Thanksgiving to when I post it on here -- if even anyone at all -- but nevertheless...)
The World's Worst Cover Letter:

November 28, 2002 (Who cares about the December 1st restriction??)

Jones & O'Smith
123 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10101

Dear Hiring Partner (I would have called to get your name, but I was too lazy):

I'm a first-year law student at the 3rd-ranked law student in the country (we would have been first but there's a conspiracy), Harvard. I'm sure you've heard of it. I'm seeking a summer job where I can do very little and get paid a lot. Your firm seems like a perfect fit.

Ever since I was a child, I've had an interest in whatever type of law it is that you specialize in. The size of your firm, whether large or small, appeals to me very much. And the location is somewhere I've always wanted to live. Last summer, I worked for a firm that does very similar work to at least one firm that someone in your office may have heard of, meaning that I have the skills and talents needed to make a tremendous impact even from day one. Plus, my uncle went to high school with the guy who used to wash the windows at your building until the unfortunate accident.

In college, I was a member of the RBA (Resume Builders Association), where I served as Associate Treasurer and Second Vice President of Marketing and Publicity. Here at Harvard, I've become involved with a multitude of activities and interest groups, some of which are surely relevant to the work you do. I am most proud of my involvement with the Consortium on Getting Summer Jobs, where I've learned valuable tricks like how I should stamp "confidential" all over my envelope so it gets opened by you and not your secretary. Of course, that would be a more useful trick if I had bothered to call up and find out your name.

I think it's obvious that I'd be a perfect fit for a summer internship in whatever department is it that I seem to have expressed interest for in the first two paragraphs. I look forward to hearing from you with a salary offer. I will not actually take the time to call and follow up, so it is up to you to contact me. Be aware that my phone number appears nowhere on this letter or my resume. You'll have to do some detective work if you really want me.

I don't do interviews. So don't even ask.

I know you're cheating on your wife. I have pictures. Trust me.

A Future Partner At Your Firm

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

No snow on the ground here in New York, but apparently I missed from travel-difficultifying (yeah, I know that's not a word, or even anything close) snow in Boston. It's weird to be home. Not that much to do. Went to the dentist this morning. Fun stuff. Read "The Death of Contracts" on the way home. For class, not for fun. Thank goodness. I'd need some medical attention if I was reading something like that for fun.

Forgot to mention earlier this week -- I somehow got my first choice elective, International Environmental Law. Even though there were only 15 slots open. Out of 550 people who could have chosen it. And in fact the class is still open, so it must have not been a very popular choice. I had been planning on choosing Law and Education as my first choice, but 5 factors made me change my mind. I offer them only to provide insight into the elective-choosing process (and because I can't think of anything else to write about...) (1) The professor for the Environmental class is a visiting professor, so it's a one-time-only thing; the Education class appears to be taught most years; (2) I found an outline for the course, and it looked kind of boring (but they all do...); (3) I spoke to some people who took the course last year and they had pretty mediocre things to say; (4) It's an 8-hour take home exam and the other one's a 3-hour in-class. I like my exams short. Like my [looking for something to put here that's funny, but I can't think of anything. I'll come back to it. Or if this is funnier than whatever I'm going to think of, I'll just leave this bracket in]; (5) I heard too many people talking about the Education class as their first choice and was afraid I wouldn't get it and be stuck with my 8th choice. Which was Advanced Legal Research. No, I'm kidding. That would've been my 9th choice. My 8th choice was Health Care Advocacy. Which is probably as dismal as it sounds. Anyway, I'm pleased that I got my first choice and am looking forward to the International Environmental Law class. I took an Environmental Economics class in undergrad I really liked.

Here's a sketch I've been working on in my head. It's closer to the truth than one might like to believe.

"The Unprepared Professor"

[Lights up on a classroom filled with students. They're restless, looking at their watches, talking to each other. PROFESSOR runs in, harried look on his face. He stops at the front of the room and takes a deep breath. He bangs on the desk a few times to get people to be quiet. They get quiet.]

Sorry I'm late. I was working on something. Something more important than class. Sorry. [He looks around, a little confused.] Someone remind me... uh... what subject is this?

[He looks around the room, sees a few hands go up. He's at a loss for words.]

Let me get the seating chart.

[He pulls the seating chart out from under the desk.]

Mr. Silverberg.

[No response. The professor points in some general direction.]

Mr. Silverberg.

[From the other side of the room, a girl speaks.]

You mean me? Ms. Silverman?

Yeah, sorry. Ms. Silverman.

This is Property.

Yeah, yeah, now I remember. What case did we stop at last time?

Rogers v. Big Empty Field.

On page...?


[Professor flips open his book. Looks at the page. Scratches his head. He has no idea.]

Uh... let's take twenty seconds to... uh... remind ourselves what the case is about. Everybody reread the case silently.

[He, like a man on a mission, speed-reads the page. Flips. Speed reads. Flips. Speed reads. He's going as fast as he can. But he realizes everyone's watching him. He looks at his seating chart.]

Ms. Chan?

[No response. He points in a general direction.]

Ms. Chan?

[From another part of the room, a guy talks]

You mean me? Mr. Cheng?

Yeah. [more confidently] Yes. Of course. Go ahead, Mr. Cheng.

Uh... go ahead with what? YOU called on ME.

Oh. Sorry. What was I.... Oh, yeah, the case. Uh, just for the benefit of -- uh -- your classmates... tell me -- I mean US -- the facts of the case, as if you were speking to someone who'd never read the casebook. Or any casebook. And who wasn't really paying attention but was instead thinking about how his wife was in a really crappy mood this morning because it's that time of the month and I forgot our anniversary and she found the love letter I sent to my secretary. The facts of the case, Mr. Choi.

Mr. Cheng.


Uh... in this case, Rogers sued the government over the Big Empty Field he claimed he had won in the land auction. He sent a certified check to the Department of Land for seventeen thousand dollars, but then the National Guard attempted to evict him and his family.

I'm sorry, I wasn't listening. Could someone else repeat that? [He points.] You. You in the shirt and pants.


Fine, whatever.

Uh, he said that Rogers was suing --

I'm sorry, did someone call on you?

Yeah, you did.

Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Rogers was suing the government for--

And remind me what the question was that I asked.

You just wanted me to repeat what he said.

Yeah, yeah, gotcha. Okay, go ahead.

Okay. Rogers sued the government for--

You know, before we get to that, I'd like to see what everyone thinks about the decision in this case. This is a fascinating case, really. One of the few that, uh, the casebook editors decided to put in the casebook. So it must be important. I'd like to get a sense of what everyone thinks about it. You know, in your heart, not necessarily what the law is. Like you're talking to someone who has no idea what the law is. Why don't we just go around the room. Class is, what, an hour long?

[Guy calls out]

An hour and a half.

Well, we'll say today it's an hour. And there are 60 of you, so that's one minute each. We'll go around the room and everyone take one minute to say what you think about the decision. We'll start with you -- [he points to someone] -- whoever you are.

Well, I thought --

[Professor begins to head up the aisle and out of the room]

And while you guys do that, I'll be -- uh -- in my office working on some other stuff. Just leave whenever everyone's done or an hour is up... and I'm cancelling my office hours for later today. If you need to speak to me, uh, I'll be around sometime next week probably. Call my secretary at some point in the spring...


Monday, November 25, 2002

Tonight at 9:00 on the History Channel: a two-hour documentary about Ronald Reagan. The reason why I point this out is that I read something about it somewhere this afternoon ( saying that it seems like it was originally written to be aired after Reagan dies (it's all in the past tense), but since he hasn't died yet they figured they'd air it anyway. If I watch, I may be able to singlehandedly lower the average age of the viewers by a few years.
Today in contracts, we were discussing a case where a contractor withheld a $7,000 payment to his subcontractor until he received assurance that the job would be completed. The professor said, "you may wonder why they're suing when it's only $7,000, but you have to remember that $7,000 was a lot of money back then." The case is from 1997. Oops.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

"My Least Favorite Holiday"

There's a holiday coming up this weekend. Everyone seems to be preparing for it. But forget the turkey and cranberry sauce. I'm talking about mail merges and cover letters. December 1st. Officially, it's "the day the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) says that 1L students and employers may initiate contact with each other regarding summer employment," but that's a little cumbersome, so I'd like to just call it "Frito-Lay Resume Day." (Because if it really was a holiday, I'm sure there'd be a corporate sponsor.)

We sometimes hear people complain about how long the Christmas season is, and how early people start preparing. But Christmas is nothing compared to Frito-Lay Resume Day. They've been preparing us for this since the moment we arrived in September. With World of Law panels, letting us hear from lawyers at medium-sized firms focused on inter-jurisdictional litigation, or private public interest firms based in the mountain time zone who have business casual dress codes, or lawyers who work for non-governmental organizations closely affiliated with the Department of Agriculture. Or unemployed lawyers looking to network with their peers and beg for jobs. I actually can't speak with any authority regarding the World of Law panels. I was too busy updating my resume to actually find the time to go.

(But I went to a couple of the law firm panel discussions. Invariably, one of the lawyers would ask, "how many of you are 1Ls?" And everyone's hand would go up. That should have been an indication that these things were useless. Well, not completely useless. I ended up with a pen. And some Pepperidge Farm goldfish. So it was all worth it.)

We had the Public Interest orientation, where they gave out a 414-page book listing every job any lawyer ever got that pays less than $25,000 per year. We had opportunities to meet with Fellows of all sorts - Public Interest Fellows, Christopher Columbus Langdell Fellows, Why-Didn't-I-Just-Hang-Up-On-The-Career-Services-Office-When-They-Called-Me Fellows. Even Female Fellows. However that's possible. We had pre-introductory workshops to prepare us for the introductory workshops to prepare us for the actual workshops where they would tell us that they can't really tell us anything about finding a summer job. And this was all before Gatorade Career Advising Day.

I mean November 1st. The day they were allowed to stop having workshops to tell us they weren't really allowed to talk to us yet but under this or the other loophole, they were allowed to answer questions specifically about how many inches long your tie should be when going on an interview, but not whether you were allowed to double-knot your shoelaces. Since Gatorade Career Advising Day, it's been a whirlwind of meetings and workshops designed to prepare us for Frito-Lay Resume Day. Whirlwind is the wrong word. I really mean "time-sucking monstrosity."

Take a typical recent week. According to the online Career Events Calendar, there were 19 career-focused events one could attend. Like the "Legal Smackdown" program featuring famous WWE wrestlers like Larry the Litigator and Pete the Probate Practitioner. Resume workshops, brown-bag lunches with At-Least-They're-Letting-Me-Keep-The-Frequent-Flyer-Miles Fellows, World of Law: International Tariff panels, and, best of all, tours of the hallways on the third floor of Pound. "To your left is the women's bathroom. To your right are piles of binders listing every job everyone in the class of 1955 interviewed for. Behind this secret panel is the closet where we keep the Attorney Advisors at night. Under the floorboards is a copy of every resume we've ever seen. Enjoy your search."

I finished my resume. It looks like everyone else's, so I know it must be right. I made sure to put that recommended "interests" line at the bottom. "Interests: wearing dark suits, pretending to know what distinguishes your company from its competitors, and revising my resume." I'm not quite done with my cover letter yet. I thought I was done, but OCS told me I needed to spend some more time sucking every shred of personality out of it. "I am a Harvard Law School student. I like the law. Please hire me. You can reach me whenever you want, even at 3 a.m. I'll be in the library, printing out more labels with law firm addresses on them."

Seriously, we've been here three months and already we have to look for a summer job. Aren't we all here to avoid looking for jobs? Isn't that the whole reason we went to law school? I'm not ready to look for a job. I want to go home and enjoy Thanksgiving without having to worry that all of my classmates have exhausted the world's supply of 9x12 envelopes. Okay. Back to my cover letters. "Dear Taco Bell…"

"The Boston Red Sox are expected to name a new general manager this week, with all signs pointing to the promotion of 28-year-old assistant GM Theo Epstein, ESPN's Peter Gammons reported. ... Epstein will be the youngest GM in baseball history, just ahead of Randy Smith, who was 29 when hired by the Padres in 1993."

When I was a college freshman, I remember noticing that there was a major league baseball player younger than I was. And that pretty much ended any hope of that. Now it looks like I've only got about 5 more years until there's a general manager younger than me too. I guess after that the next set of people to look at will be the owners... and after that, I guess I'll just have to admit it's not gonna happen....

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Working on my Civil Procedure writing assignment. He gave us a page-long scenario... "Ms. Atherlee has not been paying her rent... the lease contains a clause that says disputes are governed by Kansas law... Ms. Atherlee has never been to Kansas..." and some questions to answer... "Can she assert a defense for lack of personal jurisdiction...." We have 1400 words to write, and a suggested time of 8-9 hours. It's practice for the final exam. And oh what fun....

Friday, November 22, 2002

Washington Post article: "Harvard Mulls Offensive Speech Ban" The Washington Post has an article about a proposed offensive speech code at the law school. Frankly, if you read the article, you'll know as much as I do about this. Apparently part of the offensive speech they're banning is actually telling the students about this. News to me. I can, however, point out an error in the article. It says, "In the meantime, the school is also offering first-year students a new course to help them "manage difficult conversations" and learn how to speak with sensitivity on touchy issues such as race and gender." Well, that's not really true. They experimented by having one or two of the first-year sections (there are seven sections total) go through a two-hour workshop on this. It's not a "course," it wasn't "offered" to anyone, and my section wasn't one of the ones picked, so I have nothing to say about the content. The other thing they left out of the article is that on Monday night there was some sort of task force on diversity open meeting, and a bunch of professors spoke against any kind of speech code (that news courtesy of the Boston Globe -- not like I actually know what's going on here...). Alan Dershowitz apparently said something like "I will not be silenced." Good for you. I don't know what else to say about this. Personally, I haven't heard too much offensive speech here, so I don't know what the big deal is.... You can see this is an issue really close to my heart...
More from the files of administrator stupidity. I mentioned in a post a few days ago that we have to pick electives. So there are about 30 choices on the "1L electives sheet," each with a number of slots available, and all 550 of us 1Ls have to rank our top 8 choices. We can't pick anything that conflicts with our required classes. So I went through the list, and discovered that about half the classes conflict with the required classes for my section. That's ok, no big deal. Out of curiosity, I looked to see if the other sections had it better or worse than my section. And it turns out that all of the sections have the same timeslots filled with their required classes next semester. OK. So that means that half of the courses on the "1L electives sheet" can simply not be takem by a single 1L. So the fact that there are, say 40 slots open in a class, is meaningless, because no one can choose it. So the big fuss they made that since there are 1,350 slots for 550 students, so everyone will get a top choice, is really not the case at all. Brilliant people at the registrar's office I guess.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

We got a Legal Citation assignment, 10% of our grade in the pass-fail writing class. The instructor took the first few pages of a court brief and messed up the footnotes, and our assignment is to rewrite them correctly. Fine. Not a big deal. On the bottom of the instructions page, he writes, "if you're interested in this topic, you can find the complete brief at [internet address]." Uh, you mean the complete brief, with all of the correct footnotes??? Did he not realize that he was giving away the answers there? I didn't look, because (a) the assignment is easy, and (b) come on, could someone really be desperate enough to cheat on this thing, worth 10% in a pass-fail class? and (c) I really feel bad for the professor because clearly he didn't intend to do this, and it wouldn't be right to take advantage of his carelessness.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Daily Show is interviewing some woman who wrote a book called "The Case Against Lawyers." She says we have too many regulations, and so lawyers and legislators control the world because they control the rules that everyone has to follow, by being the only ones who get to make and interpret them. She's saying the Court system is bad because the "making, manipulation, and selective enforcement of laws" is bad. She says lawyers are only after money and power, and they're evil, and they're self-interested. They're one day lobbying and the next day writing our laws, while the rest of us sit on the sidelines.

I say "they" like I'm not going to soon be one of them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I keep buying boxes of cereal, eating half of what's inside, and then getting sick of that cereal and buying something else. The disadvantages of living alone on a dorm room. No one to eat the rest of my cereal. A few weeks ago I noticed a cereal on the supermarket shelf I'd never seen before -- Quisp. Apparently it's a cereal from the '70s that Quaker recently brought back. It tastes like Captain Crunch. I don't like Captain Crunch. My latest purchase is Life cereal. I'm not sick of it. Yet.

There's an article in The Onion this week ( about a guy whose e-mails to his friends are too long. Aw, he just needs a weblog. :)
I posted 5 entries yesterday. That's what happens when they cancel a class. I was truly bored -- perhaps for the first time since I got here -- yesterday afternoon. Hopefully the take-home writing assignment my Civ Pro professor is giving us this morning, and the random busy-work I'll invent for myself to do will make up for it today.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Something more funny (I hope) than my essay below on the summer job search. A sketch and song:

"1L Summer Job Hunt"

[Lights up outside Holmes Hall, nighttime. 6 students are bundled up in winter clothing, each wearing a backpack. Student 1 looks at his watch.]

Student 1: 11:59. Only one more minute till midnight.

Student 2: I can't wait.

Student 3: Yeah, I've been looking forward to this since September.

Student 4: Ten seconds.

[They count down together]

All students: 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - ZERO!

[They're very excited!]

Student 1: It's December First!!

Student 2: Now we can apply for summer jobs!!

Student 3: I'm so excited!

[They open their backpacks and pull out stacks of manila envelopes. One student tries to open to the door to Holmes, to get into the mail center.]

Student 4: It's locked!

Student 5: Don't worry! I stole the guy's key ring during lunch yesterday and made a copy! No one's gonna get their resumes to the firms before us!

[He starts to unlock the door.]

Student 2: How many envelopes have you got there?

Student 3: Sixty. How about you?

Student 2: Sixty-three.

Student 3: [trying not to show his disappointment] Well, this is only the first batch.

[Student 1 takes off his winter coat to reveal that he is wearing a suit.]

Student 6: Why are you wearing a suit?

Student 1: I have an interview with Milbank at 12:10.

Student 6: Tonight?

Student 1: Yeah. Unfortunately someone had already taken the midnight slot. I'd better run.

[Student 1 exits.]

Student 6: That sucks.

Student 4: Yeah. I'm really worried. My first interview isn't until tomorrow. After lunch.

Student 3: After lunch? But by then all the jobs will be taken.

Student 4: That's what I'm worried about.

[Student 2 pulls out his cell phone and starts dialing. He motions for everyone else to quiet down.]

Student 2: Shhh. I'm on the phone. [he talks into the phone] Yes. Shearman and Sterling? Hi. I'm a 1L at Harvard and I was wondering if I could set up an interview. [pause] Yes, I realize it's just after midnight. But it's December 1. [pause] I realize that. But it's the first day that 1Ls can try to get summer jobs, and so I figured. [pause] Oh, the hiring partner will give me a phone interview right now? That's great!

[As soon as the other students hear that, they all take out their phones and start dialing.]

Student 3: O'Melveny and Myers. Speed dial number 7.

Student 6: [into his phone] Hello? My grandfather is Mr. Cromwell.

Student 5: [into his phone] Do you have Mr. Cravath's home number? Yes, I realize it's late..

[Student 2 hangs up his phone, excited.]

Student 2: I got a callback! I've got to get to Logan to make the red-eye for my 4 AM interview!

[They all begin to sing // to the tune of: "Higher" by Creed]

When reading I'm dreaming 'bout another world
A world where I get paid
At sunrise I want to be at interviews
And talk about the law and all about myself
'Cause there's a hunger, a longing for the good life
Fulfilling all the dreams I've had since was four

I'll make partner
Then I'll find me a life
I will make partner
Then I'll buy me a wife

I can finally get hired
So my law career can start
I can finally get hired
Because I am really smart

It's easy when firms are falling over
To try and talk to second-years but I am not quite there
Cause first year, they say that it's a challenge
But I am gonna be the first one, who's hired for the year
First step towards the White House
And first step towards my future monarchy

I'll make partner
After my third heart attack
I will make partner
And buy my wife a new rack

I can finally get hired
At a firm where rates are high
I can finally get hired
Work like mad until I die

I'll make partner, partner
I will make partner
I will partner some day

In suits I feel like I'm alive for the very first time
With dictionaries, photocopies, Westlaw searches, lunches with the boss
All that I'm learning in FYL will soon pay off

I can finally get hired
Doors are opening, let me through
I can finally get hired
Legal research is what I'm meant to do
I can finally get hired
All my loans be reimbursed
I can finally get hired
Just after midnight, it's December first
In Criminal Law today, we were talking about a case where the police were searching the scene of a shooting and saw some stereo equipment they thought might be stolen, and turned the equipment over to check the serial numbers. The justification they gave was that nice stereo equipment didn't seem to fit in an otherwise poorly-outfitted apartment. But, as one guy in my section said -- and it's the funniest thing anyone has said in class all semester, by far -- that would be "stereo-"typing. Ha.
I chose my elective for next semester this afternoon. Had to rank my top 8 choices. Because each class only has a few open spots, and there are 550 1Ls who have to fit in all these classes. It was hard to find 8 courses to rank that I wanted to take, which is not a good sign for next year and the year after, when all of my classes are electives and the choices are not much larger.
I watched the new Behind the Music: Matchbox Twenty on VH1 last night and then listened to the new Matchbox Twenty album on (I sound like an advertisement... sorry...). I'd like to make a prediction that their song, "The Difference," which, as far as I'm aware has not been released as a single, will be released as a single and be a pretty big hit. Unfortunately, the rest of the album didn't impress me that much.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Nothing really interesting happened today. So I'm searching for something to post. I sent an e-mail to a friend this morning regarding my thoughts on school vs. work and the on-campus recruiting process. Maybe some of that would be interesting to anyone reading this. So here's some thoughts, based on the admittedly limited experience and perspective I've got.

My advice -- from my limited and narrow experience -- would be that before you take a job, make sure you understand the day-to-day work you will have and what they really envision you doing. My other advice is that on-campus recruiting is not the be-all and end-all of the employment world. There are other jobs out there -- and the jobs that *don't* come to campus to recruit people are perhaps in many cases much better jobs. My reasoning -- and this kind of makes sense, I guess -- there's a reason why some companies have to come to campus and woo people and make it really easy for people to take their jobs, and some companies that don't. Companies that come to campus need to do that because all else being equal, no one wants their jobs. If nobody came to campus, students would go out and find enjoyable, fulfilling jobs because they'd have to go searching regardless. But these smart companies that have crappy jobs to offer need to come and intercept -- before you find the good jobs -- and snatch up students, making it as easy as possible for them to say yes and not think about what they really want out of a job.

I know I'm ignoring the flip-side of the argument, which is that these companies really need people while the ones that don't come just don't need as many young people right out of school. But my response to that line of reasoning is that there's a reason they need more people -- because everyone quits and leaves when they realize how crappy the job is.

I don't think it's as extreme as I'm pretending it is, though. I'm sure there are lots of good matches people can find between what they want and what's being offered. Just remember you're gonna be there 40+ hours a week, so make sure you like the people and you like the work before you give them half your waking hours.

As far as working vs. going right to grad school -- it's pretty clear here who's right from undergrad and who took some time inbetween (although I'm wrong sometimes when I try to guess). Seeing what's out there besides school, even just for a year -- seems to give people a little bit of perspective, and helps them realize that school isn't everything, that they can function in the real world, that they're employable, that the world doesn't revolve around them, and they appreciate that school is easier and more fun than working. Not so much that schoolwork is easier than workwork, but that the school lifestyle is easier than the work lifestyle -- it's very hard to do much besides work when you're working all day. Your energy is low, there aren't "extracurricular" activities floating around, you don't have forced opportunities to interact with lots of people... it makes you have to try harder to do stuff. Maybe people here who came straight through don't try as hard to make themselves happy and fulfilled as people who had some outside experience, if that makes any sense. I'm not really basing this on anything except my intuition, but it seems like maybe they're more content to be stressed and unhappy and insane. And it's no fun dealing with stressed unappy insane people who can't put things into perspective and realize they're lucky to be here, they've pretty much guaranteed a decent future by being here, and law
school can be a lot of fun if you let it.

The scariest thing about working was that it's so easy not to do anything else besides work and eat and sleep. It took a bigger effort than I expected for me to fill up my spare time fulfillingly and not just busily. I found people to eat with, and occassionally do other stuff with, but it seemed like "doing things" became more special than it should have been, and instead of the default being to do something, the default became to go home and maybe try to write, or maybe watch TV, or maybe go to the supermarket, or maybe go to sleep. Which I didn't like. The best thing about being here is that it's so much easier to do stuff -- there's more time, and there's more stuff. I don't know what the point I'm trying to make here is, I'm sorry -- I forgot where I was headed. Just to basically say that school is good after not school for a while because you realize how much there is to do and how easy it is to do it.

Whew, that's a whole bunch of text. Hope it's kind of helpful and interesting... or if not, hope you'll still come back tomorrow and see if I post something better and funnier.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

An all new Saturday Night Live soon. I always root for saturday Night Live to be bad and not funny. It makes me feel better about myself if I can confidently say that I can do just as well as their writers can. And since it usually sucks, I find that watching it becomes my self-esteem boost for the week.

Friday, November 15, 2002

“Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving Break”

For many of us 1Ls, Thanksgiving break next week may be the first time we’ll see our families since starting law school. For me, one of the most common questions my family asks me about law school is, “…so what exactly are you learning?” (The other most common questions I’m asked by my family include, “…are you eating enough vegetables?” “…have you met a nice Jewish girl yet?” and “…have you figured out a way for me to get out of that felony murder charge?” My uncle Elmer. He’s got some problems.)

Usually, I just respond to the question about what I’m learning by saying some big complicated words I’ve heard in some of my classes. For example: “I’m learning a lot, Grandma. I now know that given the precedent set in the landmark case of promissory estoppel v. appellate restitution, the jurisdiction of the exclusionary rule is intentional infliction of emotional distress. But only if the action is brought in a federal district court in reliance on the expectancy nudum pactum de novo res judicata assumpsit.” That usually shuts people up pretty quickly.

However, I’ve recently begun to wonder if I am in fact learning anything useful, or at least anything useful for Thanksgiving conversation. I’ve already thought of a few good lines I’ll hopefully be able to use at the dinner table. Like when my little cousin throws up on the floor, I can exclaim that he was simply performing a restitution remedy and disgorging the benefit the festive meal had conferred upon him. Or when my aunt throws out the burnt sweet potatoes, I can gently warn her that even under the fourth amendment, her trash can be searched without a warrant, and the whole world will know she can’t cook.

But more seriously, I wonder if there’s anything substantive I’ve picked up in eleven weeks of law school. And when I really think about, I realize that there is quite a bit I’ve learned. I’ve learned that highlighters don’t last very long. I’ve learned that getting called on in class isn’t as scary as it first seemed. I’ve learned that you can always read more carefully. And I’ve learned that for every argument on one side of a policy issue, there’s four counter-arguments, two counter-counter-arguments, and one random aside into the world of ancient Greek mythology.

I’ve noticed law school has started to make me think differently. I send e-mails where my points are numbered: “…the movie was (1) a dramatic masterpiece, (2) with stirring performances by (a) the pretty blond girl, (b) the overly-precocious child, and (c) the giraffe, but (3) I was distracted by the German subtitles.” For the first time, I’m mindful of promises made without bargained-for consideration: “I promise I’ll meet you by the Harkboxes at noon. But you’d better give me a dollar, just so we can be sure we’ve got an enforceable contract. Yes, of course I’ll give you back the dollar. Not!” I’ve started to recognize the opinions of certain Supreme Court justices: “well, the rhetorical flourishes in the first section make me think it’s Justice Jackson, but the wavering between federal and state common law smells a lot like Justice Ginsburg….” And, finally, the most dangerous knowledge of all, I’ve begun to actually recognize the names of law firms: “White and Blue. Yes, I know them very well. They specialize in international export law, yes? And the esteemed firm of Chance, Luck, and Happenstance. World leaders in capital markets and currency law. Fascinating firm.”

My family thinks it’s pretty cool I’m at law school. Frankly, so do I. I think it’s pretty cool that last week in Civil Procedure, we had to read page 1000 of our casebook. “Let’s turn to page one thousand and four” is something I never thought I’d hear anyone say. I think it’s pretty cool that three months ago I would have said that UCC was some fringe cable network (the United Cheese Channel? the Urban Cinema Channel? the (always-exciting) University Choir Channel?) and now I know that it stands for the Unenforceable Contract Channel, and, without looking, I know that UCC 2-205 refers to “firm offers.” (But please don’t ask me what a firm offer is!)

Valuable knowledge? Maybe not. But enough to impress my relatives at the Thanksgiving table. I’ll be sure to tell my grandmother that I’m eating lots of vegetables (well, lots of one vegetable, anyway – it always seems be squash week at the Hark). And maybe that nice Jewish girl will give me a call. I'll make sure to keep her away from Uncle Elmer.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

I should be working on my memo, but instead I'm having "fun with math" -- here's something stupid I just discovered while looking at the course schedule list regarding the electives we can take -- all of the sections have pretty much the same time blocks filled with required classes next semester. Yet on our list of elective choices are a whole bunch of classes that fall into those slots. So the "list of 1L electives" included classes nobody can possibly take. And yet the available slots in those classes are counted in the total number of available elective slots, meaning that instead of 550 students to choose from 1350 total slots for spring courses, it's really only about 1000 slots. Hence they make us choose our top 8 elective choices. Because some people may get choice #8. Ick.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

"Why did the lawyer cross the road?" "To escape jurisdiction."

I bet lawyers would find that funny. Isn't that sad?
Been watching The Daily Show pretty much every night for the past few weeks. Good stuff. Consistently funny.
I got back my first legal writing memo today. It's pass/fail. I passed, along with everyone else. Phew, what a relief. In the comments section, there's a comment: "your issue #1 could use some more analysis" followed a comment section later with "you
do an especially nice job of analyzing issue #1." I felt like I was reading a course review. :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

I had lunch with one of my professors this afternoon. He's been taking groups of 6 students out each week, and this was the week I'd signed up for. Mostly I'm just awed by the professors here, and it's really cool that this professor in particular has made it part of his routine to go to lunch with his students. So it was 6 of us and this Civil Procedure professor -- he's 70 years old, has been at Harvard a long, long time, and in class he's super-sharp, and really quite funny. And we basically were all in awe of him the whole time, he was telling us how of the people he keeps in touch with from his law school class (here, class of '54 I think), one was a U.S. Senator, two were law school deans... he asked us how we like law school so far... I don't know that I said more than three words the entire two hours we were out, but I was content just to listen and absorb. Cool experience.

The funny anecdote I'm getting to is at the end of the lunch -- it was a Chinese lunch buffet -- the guy sitting next to me opens his fortune cookie, and the fortune says: "If you make a promise to give someone something, keep it." Read that again, please. Obviously it means keep the promise, not keep the something -- but what a poor choice of words...

And you're probably thinking, "Now wait a second. He goes to lunch with a professor and the best anecdote he's got is about a fortune cookie." Yeah, that's the best I can do. Actually, here's something else kind of funny -- so we all went up to the buffet once and took some food, and then it became what could perhaps have seemed like a contest of wills to see who'd make the first move to go back and get more food. And nobody did. It's cool, because we were all engaged and listening to the professor, but I thought it was interesting that no one (including me, of course) had the guts (guts isn't the word I'm looking for... I don't know what is though...) to get up and get more food. But still, lunch was really cool.

Monday, November 11, 2002

We had a negotiation workshop today. They told us what it means to negotiate. The guy teaching it said "I give this lecture to kids ranging from elementary school all the way up to adults." The same lecture I bet. This was really boring. He spoke for about 20 minutes, then we had a negotiation exercise with a partner -- not worth going into detail -- and then we come back from that thinking it's almost over and he says, "now I'll just talk for another 40 minutes and then you can go." Great. At the end he said, "I'm sure this is way too much information for any of you to grasp." Yeah, because we're seven years old. What we learned: (1) negotiation is when two sides bargain to come to an agreement, (2) you can be nice or you can be nasty about it, and both tactics have plusses and minuses, and (3) talking about negotiation is really boring. The funniest part of his whole lecture was at the beginning he mentioned that there's a negotiation class we can choose to take in the spring as our elective, but this is just a sample. What I heard that to mean was it was a 90-minute infomercial for the negotiation class. And a very unsuccessful one at that. No one's gonna take his class. He'll be negotiating for his job. And then he'll be negotiating with pedestrians for spare change...

Sunday, November 10, 2002

I ran into a girl across the hall from me a little while ago who asked me if the noise last night kept me up. I asked her what noise she meant. She said she and some friends were playing loud music and screaming in the hallway between 4 and 6 in the morning. I kind of remember hearing something in the middle of the night,but if it woke me up I fell right back asleep... so I told her I didn't really notice. And she told me it woke my next-door neighbor up, and she went out in the hall and asked them all to be quiet. But apparently I slept right through. My question is: what the heck are people doing making noise in the hallway -- what are people even doing awake?!? -- at 4 in the morning? Maybe this is why people think law school is hard. If you're gonna be up at 4 in the morning, just staying awake the next day is going to be hard, let alone reading and thinking. I just don't understand...

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Click this link Unbelievable. For $100,000,000, you can name the Harvard Law School Library. Which, by the way, already has a name. But I guess Mr. Langdell, the founder of the notion of the modern law school (or so they tell us), isn't really that important. This kind of stuff is what gives lawyers a bad name. Or maybe it's the kind of stuff that gives ivy league universities a bad name. I don't know. Either way, I think it's absurd.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Another week, another column draft:

Evaluating the Course Evaluations

I was excited to read in the Advisor last week: “1Ls will be able to submit their elective course selections via the Web on Mon., Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. until Thurs., Nov. 21, at 12 p.m.” An elective! Exciting! So many choices! But unfortunately, all of them are about the law.

Having no idea what I want to take, my first reaction was to check the online Course Evaluation Guide and see what’s gotten good reviews in the past. The first evaluation I clicked on was very helpful: “Students generally liked [the professor]. Four students found him ‘clear.’ Other students said [he] was ‘not clear’ (4).” Very informative. Clearly, the Course Evaluation Guide has modeled itself after the Zagat’s guide to restaurants. The food was “good,” but “bad.” Service was “lightning-quick,” but “painfully slow.” I was “delighted,” but “poisoned.”

I read another review: “positive comments [about the casebook] ranged from good, well-edited, and challenging, to fine, relevant… unclear, horrible, boring, unorganized, the ‘worst’, impenetrable, and too complex.” Ah, yes. The more adjectives, the better.

I was also disappointed at some of the math in the course reviews: “[t]welve students commented that the casebook was bad and poorly edited (8).” But perhaps those course reviews were tabulated by the students referred to here, regarding another course: “[a]s for prerequisites, one student recommended second-grade math, while another suggested fourth-grade algebra.” The course was Family Law. No, I’m kidding. But, seriously, did we really learn algebra in fourth grade? Must have been a private school…

It was nice to see agreement about the value of course materials: “[s]tudents seemed to blame [the professor’s] power point presentations (11)… [a] significant number of students did find [the professor’s] power point presentations helpful (10).” In another review, “[s]ome students stated that the casebook was ‘poorly edited’, ‘poorly organized’, and ‘not great’. Other students found the book ‘good’ and ‘decent.’” Wonderful.

Some students apparently used their course reviews to show off their knowledge of obscure vocabulary words: “[o]ne student called the course ‘unnecessarily obfuscatory.’” In another review, “[o]ne student described [the professor] as ‘baroque in his formulation of the issues.’” Yet another student described a professor as a “pedagogical trainwreck.”

I was perhaps most amused by the following excerpt from a review: “[t]wo students declared that they would ‘love to have [the professor] as [their] grandfather.’ A minority dissented. They found him confusing, unable to bring students to the point, and grating.” Grandfatherly qualities indeed.

What was truly baffling about the course reviews was the lack of agreement regarding how the course was taught. Given the options – “Socratic, no passing,” “Socratic, passing allowed,” “Voluntary participation,” “Group/panel asked to prepare,” and “Lecture,” one would think it would be fairly easy to get a consensus from the reviews as to how each class is taught. But we are not so lucky.

For one class, 22 students said the class had “voluntary participation,” and 58 said “group/panel asked to prepare.” Can there really be that much confusion between the two? For another course, 66 said it was “Socratic, no passing,” and 54 said passing was allowed. With two students, who apparently were never called on, insisting it was voluntary participation. Huh?

One of the more baffling splits was a full five-category spread – 10 for Socratic, no passing, 41 for passing allowed, 17 for voluntary participation, 2 claimed a group/panel was asked to prepare, and 37 chose lecture. If you can’t even get this question right, how can you even think about the final exam? Odder still was a class that 99 students said was Socratic, no passing. Seems pretty clear. Yet 2 students said passing was allowed, 2 said it was voluntary participation, and 1 said it was a lecture. I don’t want any of those five students in my study group.

My favorite comment seemed truly out of left field: “[s]tudents felt that [the professor should avoid bashing the South (3).”

The conclusion I draw from reading all of these course evaluations is that the evaluations need an evaluation of their own. Because while they’re “comprehensive” and “organized,” they’re also “contradictory,” “confusing,” and “utterly useless.” The proliferation of “quotation marks” makes them “difficult” to “read.” In “sum,” they’re “good,” “bad,” “long,” “short,” “clear,” “unclear,” “unnecessarily obfuscatory,” “baroque in their formulation of the issues,” and “grandfatherly.”

Maybe I’ll just cross-register.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A Parody of the disco song "What Is Love" that I wrote for the a capella group which they probably (and justifiably!) won't use:

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more
Oh, baby don't sue me
Don't sue me no more

What is law

Oh, you sued me, in District Court
But I want to have, the case removed to the state
Which law is right, which law is wrong
Gimme a rule

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more
What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more

Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh
Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh

You win if we, apply state law
But federal law, I will come out on top
We can't decide, the judge don't know
What can we do

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more
What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more

Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh
Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh

What is law, oooh, oooh, oooh
What is law, oooh, oooh, oooh

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more

Don't sue me
Don't sue me

I read State v. Tyson, Erie v. Tompkins
But I still don't, have a clue
All courts in all places, there must be more cases
But not International Shoe

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more
What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more (oooh, oooh)

What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more
What is law
Oh baby, don't sue me
Don't sue me no more (oooh, oooh)

What is law?
Went to a "public interest student job fair" today, where students who worked at public interest firms sat at tables to answer people's questions. Good concept, poor execution. They should have given out background on each job first, or some handouts -- because the only question you could ask would be "uh... what did you, uh... DO?" And most of the jobs were so specific and targeted towards a certain narrow group of people -- "International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda," "Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch," "US Attorney, Western District of Missouri," "Farmworker Legal services of New York," "AARP Foundation Litigation" -- that I didn't really feel interested enough to actually go up and start a conversation. The level of interest needed to get people to potentially rope themselves into a ten-minute conversation they don't want to be in is too high -- if they had more printed material, or it was a forum where each person got up and gave a short speech and then hung around for questions... I don't know, that may have worked better. At least they had some free food. Not enough for dinner though.
I got a flyer in my mailbox about the Jewish Law Students Association free Shabbat dinner next week. The flyer says Free!!! Catered!!! Kosher!!! They should've stopped at catered.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I spent an hour tonight working on my resume in preparation for a 20-minute meeting tomorrow morning with an advisor in the Office of Career Services. Basically, they prefer that all resumes are the same and that everyone is very boring. Corporate law firms like to hire boring people without personalities or interests because that means they won't mind spending 21 hours a day at the office working. Not that I want to work for a corporate law firm, but still. I have my answer prepared for when they say something like, "an employer doesn't want to see this stuff about you writing things." My answer: "then I don't think I want to work for them." And that's not as flip an answer as it sounds -- I don't think it's terrible to want to work for an employer who is looking for someone to do the kinds of things I want to do. If what they want is a legal research slave, that's great -- but it's not the job I want, so why should I have to make my resume look like I do. I want a job that uses my passions and skills, not that ignores them. Something else that bothers me -- they want you to shunt everything non-law related into a catch-all category called "Interests." I think that's idiotic and demeaning. "Reading" is an interest. But if someone, I don't know, wrote a book, or performed in the Olympics, or anything real and substantial, that's an activity, a livelihood, an accomplishment. Calling it an interest minimizes it and relegates it to second-class status. I don't like that.

I'll post tomorrow after my meeting, to say whether or not I got to use my prepared answer. I'm betting I will.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Mitt Romney won. My prediction was wrong. Looks like Republicans may gain control of the Senate. Or at least that's what John McCain is saying in an interview on the Daily Show. That's my source of political news. The Daily Show. It honestly is the funniest show on TV.

Monday, November 04, 2002

My law school fantasy basketball team got crushed this week. 5 categories lost, 2 categories won, 1 tie. Dismal performance by these players whose names I don't know. Fantasy baseball was more fun, since I actually had some idea what was going on.

Election day tomorrow. Up here, apparently it's a super-close race for governor between Mitt Romney and Shannon O'Brien. The negative ads are funny. Mitt Romney's ad director has gone out of his way to find the most unflattering pictures of Shannon O'Brien -- in the middle of chewing some food, hunched over... she could pass for Ted Kennedy's twin sister. And Shannon O'Brien's latest ad features some random senior citizen saying something like, "I met Mitt Romney once, and he was mean to me. Don't vote for Mitt Romney. He hates old people." Wonderful stuff.

My prediction is O'Brien will win. I have no factual basis for this prediction.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Law School Mad Libs! Fun for the whole family!

Without peeking at the story below, choose each the following:
(Celebrity Last Name #1)
(Celebrity Last Name #2)
(Person you dislike)
(Place you don't want to go)
(Deviant Activity #1)
(Deviant Activity #2)
(Celebrity Last Name #3)
(Celebrity Last Name #4)
(Deviant Activity #3)
(Plural Noun)
(Celebrity Last Name #5)
(Celebrity Last Name #6)
(Deviant Activity #4)
(Action, present tense - ex: bake cookies, run up the stairs)
(Another adjective)
(Another plural noun)
(a family member)
(Deviant Activity #5)
(Deviant Activity #6)

Now insert the words in the story below:

This is the case of (Celebrity Last Name #1) v. (Celebrity Last Name #2) in the (State) (Adjective) Court, on appeal from Judge (Person you dislike)'s court in (Place you don't want to go). On (Date), the Plaintiff alleges that he/she entered into a contract with the Defendant. The plaintiff promised to (Deviant Activity #1) in exchange for the defendant promising to (Deviant Activity #2). The question before the court is whether (Deviant Activity #2) served as sufficient consideration to create a binding contract.

In the case of (Celebrity Last Name #3) v. (Celebrity Last Name #4), the court ruled that the plaintiff's promise to (Deviant Activity #3) was in fact sufficient consideration to support a payment by the defendant of (Number) dollars and three (Plural Noun). However, the judge insisted that because of unequal (Activity) skills, the contract was void on public policy grounds. Conversely, in the case of (Celebrity Last Name #5) v. (Celebrity Last Name #6), the court ruled that the plaintiff's promise to (Deviant Activity #4) was made in bad faith, and could not support the defendant's promise to (Action, present tense) every day for the rest of his life.

In the case before us, we hold that the contract is (adjective), but unfortunately is in violation of the (Another adjective) Evidence rule and the Statute of (Another plural noun). Our judgment is supported by the (Number) restatement on contracts, written by (a family member) while (Deviant Activity #5). Case dismissed. Time for Justices to (Deviant Activity #6).

Saturday, November 02, 2002

In Criminal Law, we're switching from learning substantive criminal law to criminal procedure, so we use a new casebook. I had bought a used copy of this casebook at the bookstore, and I remember thinking it wouldn't be a big deal because only a small section of the book is written in. Sure enough, it's the pages we have to read from now until thanksgiving that are marked up.

As I started reading today, I was holding out hope that the former owner's margin notes would be perhaps marginally useful -- but about three-fourths the way down the first page we have to read, after the book says "some regulation of policing is essential to a free society," in the margin, this person wrote "regulation good because otherwise people crazy."

Yes, clearly this will be very useful... oh well.

Friday, November 01, 2002


“The black nine on the red ten. Don’t you see it? No, don’t give up, no, NO! You can win this one. To the left, to the left. Look at the column. It’s right there. NO!” I’ve found that it’s very hard to telepathically communicate solitaire moves to the person sitting in front of me, no matter how hard I try. I pretend to take the moral high ground by refusing to play games on my laptop in class. Instead, I watch everyone else.

It’s become part of the sights and sounds of the classroom. The clickety-clack of laptop keys. The message on the blackboard about this afternoon’s symposium on Law and Cauliflower in the Ropes-Gray room. The kid down the row from me peeing in his pants every time his name is called.

And the solitaire. Well, not just solitaire. Hearts. Minesweeper. Snood. Games where you shoot colored squares as they fall down from the sky. Games where you catch colored circles as they rise up to the sky. In criminal law, I see people playing first-person shooting games. Next semester in property, I imagine I’ll see people playing Sim City. Perhaps in the sports law class, people play NHL Hockey. I’d hate to imagine what subject-appropriate games people play in tax law. And in feminist legal theory, perhaps everyone just watches porn.

It’s hard not to watch the screens. It’s impossible not to get mesmerized by the cards falling like springs when your neighbor wins at solitaire. Impossible not to marvel at the ability of some people to simultaneously play pinball and answer a professor’s question, without missing a flip of the flipper or a precedent case cited. Impossible not to wonder why we feel the need to keep ourselves otherwise entertained even while we’re sitting in the classroom being taught by some of the smartest people in the world.

I don’t know whether it’s our fault or the professor’s fault that it’s hard to stay focused. Even without playing games, I find things to steal my attention away. I change the colors on my screen. I spell-check. I use Microsoft Word’s autotext feature to create time-saving abbreviations while I take notes. My computer now automatically turns “sc” into “Supreme Court.” It turns “tjur” into “territorial jurisdiction.” My personal favorite is that “oms” immediately turns into “objective manifestation of subjective intent.” Thirty-seven letters saved. Used it twenty-four times in one contracts class.

The distractions make computers a curse as well as a blessing. Sure, they let us take more notes more quickly, more organized and easier to read – relieving us from having to decode our hurried scribbles when we go back over the pages (“is this a reference to UCC section 2-207, or my professor’s office phone number?”) – but they also give us dozens of ways to keep from paying attention.

I genuinely feel guilty whenever I lose focus and start changing my font or making the text blink. I feel like it’s ridiculous that I can’t force myself to concentrate for an hour and a half – especially since much of what’s happening in the classroom is genuinely interesting, or at least useful. I start to wonder if it’s a function of technology having made our expectations too high – television and computers and video games and cell phones and microwave ovens. (Microwave ovens? Maybe not.) Constant stimulation. Overkill.

I see commercials for cell phones that let you check e-mail, play games, send text messages, surf the Web, store your daily schedule, and do long division. Isn’t simply being able to talk on the phone enough? And if we’re used to our gadgets and gizmos doing eight things at once, I guess we’re used to our brains functioning like that as well. So a professor talking just isn’t enough. We need solitaire and minesweeper and pinball and Warcraft III (I did research to find that one) as well. It almost makes me wish we didn’t have technology at all. That we didn’t grow up with all this stuff to distract us. That laptops didn’t come with solitaire. That simply listening to the professor would be enough. Almost.

But I’m writing this during class. So who am I to talk.