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.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Building on yesterday's post about choosing a new seat in Property class...

“778 Words About Assigned Seating”

I’m not sure whether I won or lost the assigned seat lottery this semester. In both required 1L classes, I was assigned a seat in the back row. One fictional classmate I’m inventing solely for the purpose of writing this column thought I got lucky: “I hate sitting in the front,” she would have said if she were real. “I feel too exposed. Too conspicuous. Too noticeable.” (If she were an exceptionally ironic fictional person, I would point out that she often came to class not wearing any clothes. But I’ll choose instead not to head down that path.) She also might have mentioned how it’s much more difficult to fall asleep, play solitaire, or make cell phone calls while sitting in the front row. Another fictional classmate thought I got the short end of the stick. “I hate being in the back,” he said as he practiced raising his hand in preparation for the first day of his elective. “The professor never notices me nodding my head in agreement.” I yawned. He continued: “And, sitting in the front row lets me pretend that it’s just me and the professor, having a one-on-one conversation. Like there’s no one else in the room.” I tried to interrupt. But he just kept talking. Even after I walked away. Even after the janitor turned off the lights. Even after the world ended.

After a week of classes, I had gotten used to my back row seats. And had started to appreciate the people-watching that you can do when you’re in the back. I was getting used to the guy three rows in front of me who’s addicted to spider solitaire, but really bad at it. Used to the girl down the row who stays awake by playing with dust. And used to the guy across the room who brings animal crackers to class and uses them to put on elaborate animal cracker plays on his desk. I started naming the plays in my head. On Monday, I enjoyed “Lion goes to the Circus to see the Elephants.” On Tuesday, I watched “Three Tigers eat the Zebra, and then visit their good friend, the Giraffe.” And on Wednesday, it was “Rooster, Seal, and Boar Hog have a threesome.”

But it all came to a crashing halt this past Wednesday, when our Property professor told us he’d gotten complaints about how people feel cramped and can’t fit their laptops, power cords, casebooks, notepads, wrist supports, foldable keyboards, portable monitors, donuts, coffee mugs and animal crackers on the desks without infringing on their neighbors’ space. (My ironic imaginary friend noted that it was especially fitting that people would complain about their personal space in a class about Property. But, then again, my imaginary friend is also convinced that the Hark’s “Sushi Day” came about by accident, when the oven broke and they were unable to finish cooking the “flounder with molasses gravy and chunks of blue cheese” that was originally on the menu) So, since the back half of the room was empty, he allowed us to come in the next day and pick new seats.

Unfortunately for people who were hoping to get fodder for a super-amusing column about the seat-picking event, it was a fairly calm process. No fistfights over any particular seats, no arguments reminiscent of second-grade class trips when kids fought over whether or not you were allowed to “save seats” for your best friend, and nobody seemed visibly upset that he had carefully placed himself in “the perfect seat” and then his arch-enemy came along and sat down right next to him. (My ironic imaginary friend sometimes wishes he had an arch-enemy. He thinks it would be cool.)

It sounds fairly pathetic to say, but I actually set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual so I would get to class to make sure I got a good seat, and wouldn't be stuck right behind a compulsive Snood player, next to a compulsive talker, or directly in front of a compulsive projectile vomiter (or is it vomitor?).

In the end, I was giving myself (and my ironic imaginary friend) a headache by thinking so hard about the relatively unimportant choice of seats. So I left it up to chance. I called my grandmother and asked her to choose a number between one and a hundred. She chose 475. She had forgotten to take her pills. I asked her again, but spoke more slowly. She chose “molybdenum.” And since molybdenum is number 42 on the periodic table of the elements, I chose seat 42. (And now there’s even room for my ironic imaginary friend to sit next to me!)
I don't think I've posted this before... apologies if I have... but I don't think I did...

"I Can Finally Get Hired" (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 legal writing 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…

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Yesterday in Property class, the professor told us that people had been asking if we could move from our assigned seats and spread out a bit so we have more room -- some people feel cramped by the small desks (can't fit laptop plus textbook without infringing on our neighbor's space... or as we might one day say in property class, if we were the kind of people who made relatively un-amusing comments trying to tie the law into all aspecs of everyday life, crossing the property line between ourselves and our neighbors) and the room has a bunch of empty rows in the back. So he told us that we could all choose new seats in class today.

Unfortunately for people who were hoping to get a super-amusing weblog post out of this event, it was a fairly calm process. No fistfights over any particular seats, nobody visibly upset that they had carefully placed themselves in a seat and then their arch-enemy came and sat down right next to them. It sounds fairly pathetic to say, but I actually set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier tha usual so I would get to class a bit early to make sure I got a good seat and wasn't stuck right behind a compulsive solitaire player, next to a compulsive talker, or directly in front of a compulsive projectile vomiter (or is it vomitor?). I also actually spent a non-negligible amount of time considering my options -- taking into account that the professor calls on people based on seating location: the right side is at risk of cold-calling on Wednesdays, the center on Thursdays, and the left on Fridays. Wednesday's class is 20 minutes shorter than the other 2, so that was a plus for the left side. However, the center is much larger, so the chances of each individual getting called on are quite a bit smaller.

Balancing those two factors -- along with my preference to be off to the side (it's easier to see without other people's heads and laptops getting in the way, especially since the professor tends to walk from side to side quite a bit), I chose the right side, 3 rows back, 1 seat in from the aisle. I also made sure to take into account the potential pre-class conversation with those around me, and tried to pick a region of the room where other people I'm friendly with were sitting.

...and my mother says I think too much about the little stuff... :)

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Ten Things I Saw People Do In Class Today To Make The Time Pass Quicker:

1. Nose picking
2. Raising hand as much as humanly possible
3. Hair twirling
4. Re-enacting circus using animal crackers
5. Laughing at inappropriate times
6. Playing with dust
7. Working on novel
8. Conducting an imaginary orchestra
9. Writing amusing top ten lists (well...)
10. ...and in one case, simply continuing to lecture...

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

“It’s the Bluebook”
(to the tune of “Copacabana”)

I thought a footnote, was just a footnote
Italicized a little there, and lots of commas everywhere
Supras and infras, see and see generally
It isn’t just a guide
Footnoting keeps me satisfied
Abbreviations for the states, what the editor reads when he masturbates
I know all ninety-seven rules
And you wonder why I can’t get dates

It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
So torn up that I bought a new book
It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
Abbreviations for two hundred nations
It’s the bluebook... I fell in love.

I had this journal, it was infernal
Four thousand pages all in Dutch, the ink was melting at the touch
The rule was sixteen, on page one-eighteen
It told me what I had to do,
Oh bluebook I’m in love with you
And my line editor said that ‘cause I did this I was through
But I want more cause I love the process
Give me rule 18-point-2.

It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
So torn up that I bought a new book
It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
One short citation, oh what a sensation
It’s the bluebook... I fell in love.

Now there’s a pamphlet, but there’s no author
But I’ve got rule 15.1, the Bluebook makes my evenings fun
Page 107. Now I’m in heaven
Cause I just love these caps so small
Next to parentheses so tall
The 3rd edition -- check, let’s add a comma, what the heck.
I am the master of the cite
Nothing else to do at night

It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
So torn up that I bought a new book
It’s the bluebook, the holy bluebook
Let me revise it, so everyone buys it
It’s the bluebook... I fell in love.
A parody song about law school grades. To the tune of "Sloop John B," called "Law School B." Note that I haven't received grades yet, so I have no real emotions to draw on yet. We'll call this "potential scenario #1."

I'm stuck with the Law School B
For overachievers like me
We blame the curve, but still the grade is too low
Studied all night
Thought I was bright
Well I feel so broke up
I want to go home

You see all the B-range grades
Still there's that sense of shame
Thought you could rise above
All of the rest, all of the rest
I wanna go home, yeah yeah
Well I feel so broke up
I wanna go home

The gunner, man he got drunk
Locked himself in his trunk
The white coat men, they came to take him away
All 'cause of that B
He got in Property, yeah yeah
Well he felt so broke up, and now he's gone home

The transcripts they all say B
Some of the worst say C
All of the students who hoped to make law review cry
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, let me go home
Why don't you let me go home
(Stuck with the law school B)
Stuck with the law school B
I feel so broke up I wanna go home
Let me go home

The justice's son was disowned
The one who got an A got stoned
Classmates all threw rocks at him cracking his head
Then he went home
Helping the curve for next time, yeah yeah
This is the worst grade a few ever saw

Let's all hold our B's up proud
Lowest grade the registrar's allowed
We pay tuition -- can't fail! So we all get Bs
Let me go home, let me go home
I wanna go home, let me go home
Why don't you let me go home
Yet another Torts limerick, about the case of Vosburg v. Putney, where a boy with a pre-existing leg condition was kicked by a classmate, causing tremendous damage.

Was a boy who was kicked in the shin
Who already had illness within
Who'd have thought that gentle touches
Would result in needing crutches
And would cause this long trial to begin
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Just did some punching-up to the Socratic Idol skit below -- so if you read it before but are looking to waste another 4-6 minutes of your day, check it out again. Approximately a dozen new jokes! Including one about Pete Townshend! Exciting!

Monday, January 27, 2003

Another Torts limerick, this one about a case the professor mentioned where a woman microwaved her wet dog to dry him off, and then sued when he died because the microwave didn't have a warning about not putting your pets inside:

In the bathtub, our pet doggy floated
With water, his fur was all coated
Our mother is dim
So she microwaved him
And then our poor doggy exploded

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Why are commercials so graphic? Just saw one that started with "you'll never think of a yeast infection the same way again." And, no, I'm not watching Lifetime again.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Coming soon to FOX... "Socratic Idol"

(Lights up on the Supreme Court, and a line of eager law students waiting outside. Sleeping bags, tents, everybody all bundled up in winter coats. Studying casebooks. Piles and piles of casebooks. Everyone wearing glasses, everyone speed-reading page after page after page. Emanuels, Gilberts, Casenotes, and every other legal outline imaginable litters the ground. Ryan Seacrest stands in front with a microphone.)

I'm Ryan Seacrest and we're here outside the United States Supreme Court where over three thousand law students have been lined up, hoping to get an audition for Socratic Idol, the new Fox reality show designed to find the next great legal scholar.

(Ryan walks over towards the mass of people. He picks one out, curled up in a sleeping bag, using her enormous Langdell coffee mug as a quite-serviceable hat, and reading a Civil Procedure casebook. She's excited to be on camera.)

What's your name?

Violet. Like the color.

Okay, Violet. And how long have you been waiting out here?

Five days. I got here Friday, and it's Monday now.

Uh, okay. And why are you here at the Socratic Idol auditions?

Well, Ryan, it's been my dream ever since I was two years old to be the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

You have the looks for it.

Thank you. It all started in elementary school, when I couldn't resist getting into arguments with my classmates. I even kicked one in the leg once and got taken to court. After grade school, I debated in middle school, did Mock Trial in high school, and even participated in Moot Court my first semester at law school. But I'm still waiting for that big break. I want to get discovered by a great common law judge. I know I'm ready to be the next Socratic Idol.

Great story.

(Ryan goes down the line a bit more. The law students are screaming. He stops at a guy wearing a judge's robe.)

What's your name?


How long have you been here, waiting in front of the Supreme Court?

Since last spring. My friends raised the money for me to get down here by working an extra hour at their corporate law firms. They raised seven zillion dollars that way. And all it cost them were their hobbies and friends. But I'm here against the wishes of my parents. They're not supportive of my dream.

They don't want to see their son be the next Socratic Idol?

No, this whole law school thing has been a tremendous disappointment for them. They wanted me to pick a career that was safer, more secure, less predicated on the whims of a few judges, hiring partners, admissions committees and standardized tests. They wanted me to be a pop singer in a boy band. But at the Mickey Mouse Club auditions, at the talent shows, at Pete Townshend's open casting call for young boys who want to be stars, and at my voice lessons, I'd always be reading the National Law Journal, briefing circuit court opinions, or practicing my Latin phrases. Ex ante! Sua sponte! Arguendo!

That's exactly the kind of legal jargon our judges are going to want to hear in the auditions. Good luck.

Thanks. I mean, a habeas corpus to you, Ryan!

Speaking of our judges, let's meet them now.

(Ryan runs down the line and into the Supreme Court building. He passes through the metal detector and it beeps.)

Excuse me, you'll have to step through again.

(Ryan puts down the microphone and walks back through. It beeps. The security guard waves the metal detector wand around him a few times. They find some change in his pocket. He takes it out, walks through again, and he's fine. He enters the courtroom, and three judges sit up top, where the Supreme Court justices would normally sit.)

Here they are. US District Court Judge Randy Jackson, Supreme Court Justice Simon Cowell, and Traffic Court Judge Paula Abdul. Randy, what are you looking for in the next Socratic Idol?

He or she has got to have the whole package. Broad knowledge of precedent cases, intimate familiarity with legal reasoning, the ability to draw analogies and make connections, lots and lots of Westlaw points, a broken spirit, a neatly written name card, and, of course, a winning smile.


I'm looking for a law student who can make me want to bang my gavel.

You're a moron.

But I'm pretty, Simon. That's all that matters in jurisprudence anyway. And I'm so excited to be sitting up here. I feel just like Diana Ross.

The Supreme Court, Paula. Not the Supremes.

Same thing, Simon.

Simon, what are you looking for?

I'm looking for someone special, Ryan. Not the run of the mill law student, with the decent grades and decent LSAT. This isn't Socratic Practitioner, or Local Socratic Writing Instructor. This is Socratic Idol, and the next Socratic Idol has to be someone who can really be a star. I'm looking for young Antonin Scalias, feisty David Souters, law students with a presence like Sandra Day O'Connor and a confidence like William Rehnquist. The football skills of Byron White combined with the interpersonal relationship skills of Clarence Thomas. And the good looks of notable Circuit Court judge Elizabeth Hurley wouldn't hurt either.

Elizabeth Hurley isn't a Circuit Court judge.

Well, she should be!

A tough standard to meet. But I think we're ready to start. Bring in the first contestant!

(Law Student Cathy enters, very excited.)

Oh my god! I can't believe I'm finally here! Justice Cowell, I love you!

That's great, but that's not why we're here. For that, you can see me after the competition. I'm wearing nothing under my robe.

What case will you be answering questions about this morning, Cathy?

Hawkins v. McGee

That's one of my favorites. Good choice. (Paula pulls out a commercial outline to find the case)

Okay, let's start easy. What was Hawkins' first name?

Uh... Mortimer?

I'm sorry. Which hand had the surgery?

The right? No, the left. No, the right!

Did you actually read the case?

Yes, yes, I did, I swear. I'm just nervous. Give me one more chance. Let me appeal!

I'm sorry, honey. It was a good try.

That was dreadful. Simply dreadful.

But-- But I go to Yale!

I don't care where you go, that may have been the worst Socratic dialogue I have ever heard. You're simply not cut out for this.

Simon, there's no need to be mean.

I'm not being mean, I'm being honest. Clearly, she does not have what it takes to be the next Socratic Idol.

But my law professors---

Frankly, I think you should sue your law professors if they think you're gonna be able to make a living as a lawyer. Go back to vocational school, get a job as a bank teller, I don't know. But you're no lawyer. Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. You deserve to be trying small claims cases in the smallest small claims court in the smallest county in the smallest state in the smallest country on the smallest planet in the smallest galaxy. And even there you should really only be a paralegal.

(Cathy exits, her dreams crushed.)

Next we have Joseph, a 2L from Columbia.

(Joseph enters. He's got a great smile.)

Wow. Joseph. You certainly have the looks to be a Socratic Idol, no question.

But will his words be as bright as his smile?

What case have you prepared for today?

The Bernhard Goetz case, State v. Goetz.

Criminal law. Interesting.

So was it self-defense?

I think we have no choice but to say that it was. He was genuinely scared, he thought was in danger. He had no choice but to shoot.

What about the reasonable person standard?

Only in some jurisdictions. The Model Penal Code says you just need a subjective belief, not an objective standard here.

And when he went back and shot the kid again, after he paused and saw he wasn't dead?

Uh... well, that's a tougher call to make...

Come on, Joseph. A tougher call? Give me a break. There are no tough calls in Socratic dialogue. You either read my mind or you read the want ads. Get out of here before I throw this casebook at you.


I wasn't actually going to throw it at him, Paula.

No, I was saying ouch because my brain hurts. From thinking.

Look, Joseph, that wasn't bad, man, but I just don't think you're quite ready for the big time. Another year, perhaps. It wasn't bad, but you're still young. A lot of cases ahead of you, a lot of facts, a lot of theories, man. Legal reasoning, dissent, concurrences, all that jazz, man. You're just a kid.

I think maybe criminal law just isn't your genre. You might want to try torts, or property.

Why sugar coat it, Paula? You weren't good enough. You're not the worst lawyer in the country, but that doesn't make you the Socratic Idol. You're in over your head. Go back to state court, Joseph. I think that's where you belong. I don't think you're cut out to be dealing with choice of law and complicated issues like that. Save that for the real champions.

Don't listen to him, man. Bone up on your arguments and come back next year and try again. I see potential.

And don't lose the essence of you. Very important to stay within yourself and not try to be a justice you're not.

(Joseph exits, disappointed.)

Our next contestant is Mary Beth, a 1L all the way from Stanford.

(Mary Beth enters, 3-piece suit, her hair pulled back)

All the way from Stanford, wow.

You've got to update the image, Mary Beth. You're an Eleanor Roosevelt in a Ruth Bader Ginsburg era.

I don't know. I like the retro look, if it fits with the case.

What have you prepared for us?

Nurse v. Barns.

See? An old english case. Perfect with the image. Nice choice.

So what kind of damages were we talking about here?

Consequential. And they were certainly foreseeable, as under Hadley. And easily calculable, as under Dempsey. An open and shut case.

What if the expenses were incurred beforehand?

Then it's an Anglia issue. When measuring expectancy, the timeline doesn't matter.

And if we were in reliance?

But we're not. It's distinguishable from every reliance case in the canon.

I'm impressed.

Nice job.

I say pack your bags, you're going to the Senate Confirmation round.

(Mary Beth shrieks in joy)



See, Mary Beth, you are exactly what this competition is looking for. A bright young legal mind. Excellent job. Finally someone who we wouldn't be embarrassed to call the Socratic Idol.

Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Justice Cowell, I love you!

And there we have it, our first contestant going to the next round. After this commercial break, some more of the worst of legal scholarship, and some of the best. Stay tuned for more Socratic Idol... here on Fox....


Friday, January 24, 2003

Apologies if this parts of this make no sense to my non-Harvard Law School readers.

“How ‘Bout Some Grades?”

Semester two has started. Only five more sets of finals to go. It’s tough to start a new semester without knowing how we did in the last one. Tough to evaluate our study habits and decide what worked and what didn’t, and how to change it for semester number two. We may not find out until a month into the new semester that our method of reading only every fifth word in the casebook didn’t lead to grades as high as we wished. Or that the “hack into the professor’s computer and steal the model answers” plan went even better than expected and we won’t need to go to class at all this time around. Worst of all, the gunners won’t know if they’re allowed to continue being gunners or if some lackluster grades will shock their confidence and render them powerless to continue raising their hands at speeds never seen before law school.

As much as I keep telling myself I don’t care about my grades – they won’t affect the jobs I can get, I’m confident enough in my abilities that my performance on a couple of exams shouldn’t matter, just getting into law school should be enough validation – I can’t quite fully internalize it. I care. I admit it. But it’s harder to figure out why. Maybe it’s habit. We’ve spent our entire academic lives caring about our grades. But I think there’s more to it than that. Our grades are basically the only feedback we get – our only chance for approval, a proxy for our professors saying, “job well done.” And it’s sort of tough not to want that.

Of course, the flip side of good grades being a proxy for our professors saying “job well done” is that not-so-good grades become a proxy for “job screwed up pretty bad.” And, given the curve and the fact that everyone here is pretty bright to have gotten in here to begin with, that’s probably not really the case. However, law school gives us only one person to blame if we don’t do as well as we might have liked.

The registrar.

It’s the registrar’s fault. Well, the registrar and the rest of the examination bureaucracy. For eight reasons (one for each hour of the take-home exams):

1. I didn’t get my take-home exam until 7 hours and 45 minutes after the rest of my section did because I was at the end of the exam distribution line.
2. I was rushed in copying my identification number onto the cover sheet, did it wrong, began to cry, and the ink ran off the tear-stained pages, spoiling my exam.
3. The proctor tripped and dropped my computer disk down a sewer grate and I had to re-take the exam. (She also broke her hip.)
4. The exam drop-off window closed shut on my wrist, slowing my typing ability by 50%.
5. I relied on the e-mail system to send my exam to myself so that I could print it in the library, but at that very moment, all of our e-mail was erased by a mysterious “system failure” and I had to start over.
6. The fire alarms went off and I “stopped, dropped, and rolled” right over my laptop, erasing the hard drive.
7. The bookstore sold me a replacement ink cartridge filled with invisible ink.
8. My professor determined that my answer to one of the questions was so horribly incorrect that he knew it could only be me who had written it, and therefore I was deemed to have self-identified myself on the exam, and I failed anyway.

Thankfully, exams ended before season 2 of American Idol started. I think they should do a spin-off called “Socratic Method Idol” where law students compete to determine who can most accurately read the professor’s mind. I think the auditions would be quite amusing. Or a Joe Millionaire spin-off called “Joe Highest Grades Prize.” “These twenty-five law firms all think he’s won the Highest Grades Prize, but, in fact, he got a low pass in the first-year lawyering workshop. Boy will they be surprised when he starts work and they discover he can’t write a memo!”

But, of course, that television show can exist only in our minds, because the law firms (and public interest organizations, and district attorney’s offices, and Taco Bell, and anywhere else we might end up working this summer) don’t know our grades yet. Actually, that’s the best reason I’ve come up with for the professors to take their time. Come to think of it, if they take another ten months or so to grade the exams, we won’t have to worry about them at all….
For the umpteenth time in as many weeks (that would be umpteen weeks, but who's counting?), Harvard's e-mail server has done something weird, prompting them to (in their infinite wisdom) send us an e-mail saying e-mail isn't working. Apparently, for some people, their entire set of mail stored on the server was deleted. For others, mail that they sent never arrived at its destination. Apparently for me, neither have those have occurred -- and, in fact, I received the e-mail saying e-mail was down, so I'm not really sure what it all means. And the one e-mail of reasonable importance I sent yesterday (regarding a summer job opportunity) got responded to, so I knw it made it to where it was going.

A haiku about e-mail servers going down:

I am lost e-mail
I did not get where I'm sent
No one will read me

Today during torts class, I amused myself by writing a few limericks based on what the professor was talking about. I'm hoping to make my class notes interesting enough so that I can post them on the Harvard outline library after the semester is done and feel confident that I'll amuse generations of law students to come. At the very least, I'm probably amusing my seat neighbors.

In the case of Marshall v. Ranne:

There once was a hog who went wild
Leaving a farmer beguiled
He put out his hand
Defense didn't go as planned
But at least the hog didn't maul a child

And regarding the recent McDonald's lawsuit:

There once were some people humongous
Who lived on this planet among us
They loved all-beef patties
That turned them to fatties
At least the meat didn't have a fungus

Thursday, January 23, 2003

'Twas the night before classes, and all through the dorm
Not a student was clicking on Internet porn
All the casebooks were open, the highlighters out
Every student decoding what each case was about
There were briefs being written and outlines to make
There was nervousness building in case of mistake
There were keyboards a-clicking and disk drives a-whir
Opinions dissenting and those that concur
There were court names and years on the notes that got made
Procedural histories, reasonings weighed
There were details and thoughts and some brand new ideas
There was music to every professor's two ears
Cause the day before classes, it started anew
For a brand new semester, the work we would do!
We'd resolved to be better, to show up prepared
So in case we got called on, our ego'd be spared
We'd have pages and pages and pages of notes
Filled with case cites and precedent, Justices' quotes
But then sitting in classes, the truth would be clear
Perhaps it's not worth missing American Idol's premiere
The briefs can be shorter, could read with less care
As long as the big picture story is there
The details for later -- the Daily Show's on
The outlines can wait till a few weeks have gone
And if I get called on, I'll surely survive
Cause February sweeps will be soon to arrive
All the great motivation was here for a day
A brand new semester; they all start that way.
The bad thing about having a counter on the weblog is that statistically insignificant changes in the number of readers I get make me draw conclusions. I have concluded that I must have been funnier last week than I am this week, due to the slight drop-off in average daily hits (and we really are talking statistically insignificant). Hence, I feel extra-obligated to post something extra-funny. This is a warning that it's coming later this afternoon. I don't what it is, but I promise it will be extra funny. So tell all of your friends. :)
I learned all about the differences between pigs, hogs, boars, and swine in Torts class today. And, in unrelated news, the cafeteria had made-to-order sushi. But it was really expensive ($5.95 for a roll), so I passed. Plus, it was the cafeteria, so who can trust the fish? They probably got an accidental shipment of raw fish -- instead of, I don't know, acorn squash -- and figured they had to do *something* with it. I have very little faith in the law school cafeteria. I do, however, have renewed faith in building maintenance, which fixed my slow-draining toilet while I was in class today. I realize that by writing about sushi, swine, and toilets in the same post, I'm opening myself up to all sorts of odd google searches resulting in a link to my page. But I really have nothing more interesting to say today.

A quick TV tip: Dave Chappelle's sketch comedy show on Comedy Central last night -- pretty funny. I recommend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Had my new semester classes today. Well, the two required ones (the elective starts next Wednesday, but mine only meets on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I guess it doesn't start for almost 2 more weeks. I don't understand the scheduling quirks here.), Property and Torts. They seem fine. I can't figure out how to turn the alarm off my watch (I got it for free, so how much can I complain...) -- I had set it initially during exams as a backup, for 7:30 AM, but then it woke me up one morning after exams, so I changed it to 12:00 figuring I wouldn't care if it went off every day at noon. And I forgot about it. Until noon today, when I was sitting in class. It starts beeping. I immediately fumble around and press every button as fast as I can, simultaneously shutting off the beeping, starting the stopwatch, and resetting the seconds counter. Five minutes later it starts beeping again. I think I jumped. Pressed the buttons again. Realized that it's going to keep going off every 5 minutes until I let it beep for the full minute. I don't know why this is. So for the rest of class -- 4 more 5-minute cycles -- I was vigilant -- VIGILANT, I tell you -- about staring at my watch and watching the second count down until that 5-minute mark, and trying to intercept the beeping by pushing the buttons immediately. It went okay I guess, except that I was freaking out in my head. It's not a particularly loud alarm, and I'm in the back row (results of the random assigned seating lottery -- back row in both of my classes), so I'm guessing the professor didn't hear it anyway. And if he did, he doesn't know who we are yet anyway. But I really need to figure out how to shut this thing off, which combination of the 4 buttons needs to be pressed so this watch makes no noise ever again. Or I need to hit it with a hammer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

According to Nightline Up Close: The Onion, on ABC just now, at the writers meetings, the writers pitch 25 headlines each. On the off chance that someone from The Onion tracks their website visitors by referring site, and on the off chance I click the following link 500 times in a row The Onion, and on the off chance someone clicks back and reads this, and on the off chance they need another writer... here are my 25 headlines.

1. Local Skydiver Sets Speed Record, Dies
2. War With Iraq Postponed Due To Inclement Weather
3. Super Bowl XXXVII watched by MMMMMMMCXXXIII people
4. 94% of American Children Have No Idea What Color Ketchup Really Is
5. "Happy Martin Luther King Day" Cards Not A Top Seller
6. Moderate Use of Alcohol Leads to Lower, Higher Heart Attack Risk
7. Paper Beaten By Rock In Upset
8. "Pie Diet" Fails To Produce Results
9. Senior Citizens: Pro or Con?
10. Baby Dangles Michael Jackson From Balcony
11. Lonely Planet Guide To Iraq Sells 17th Copy Nationwide
12. Reality TV Show About The Filming Of A Reality TV Show About The Filming Of A Reality TV Shw Wins Time Slot
13. Computer Beats Man In Chess, Blindfolded
14. New Shampoo Fails To Provide Organic Experience for Local Farmer
15. Students Cheats on Ethics Test, Fails To Recognize Irony
16. New American Idol Not Idolized, Hardly American
17. North Korea to U.S.: "Why Don't You Like Us?"
18. Homeless Man Gives Quarter To Other Homeless Man
19. Woman Using Fertility Drugs Makes History By Giving Birth To Just One Baby
20. Local News About Global Warming Down 70% Since Snowstorm
21. Ben & Jerry Split Up; Ben's Ice and Jerry's Cream Begin Supermarket Shipments
22. Babysitter Promises Never To Shake The Baby Again
23. "World's Largest Pancake" Eaten By "World's Largest Man"
24. Mexico Builds Wall Along U.S. Border to Keep Americans From Entering Illegally
25. Law School Student Creates Foolproof Scheme To Get Hired By the Onion (Ha!)

Sunday, January 19, 2003

2200 words about the summer job search, some of which my loyal readers will recognize, but many of which are brand new:

Truth, Justice, and the Summer Job Search

I’d been a law school student for less than a week when I found myself in a crowded lecture hall staring at a PowerPoint slide that read, “Introduction to the Summer Job Search.” Already? I thought I was at law school to avoid looking for a job. Wasn’t that what made law school sound so appealing? Three more years to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life?

“We’re not allowed to talk to you yet about finding a summer job,” the woman with the permanent smile told us. “The rules are that we can’t talk to you until November, and you can’t send out any resumes until December 1st. This is to make sure you’re able to focus exclusively on your classes for the first part of the semester.” I took a deep breath and relaxed a bit. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

The woman continued. “We are, however, allowed to talk to you more generally about the kinds of jobs that are out there, and give you some tips on writing resumes and cover letters. I’m passing out a pamphlet we publish every year with some more information.”

I’d already learned that a pamphlet in law school means something very different than a pamphlet at the doctor’s office. On the first day of civil procedure class, the professor asked to turn to page 845 in our federal rules pamphlet. Everyone looked around, wondering if we’d missed the pamphlet distribution session, and what kind of pamphlet could possibly have 845 pages. It turned out he meant the thick red book we’d each spent sixty dollars for in the bookstore. But I suppose compared to the 1400-page casebook, it was in fact just a pamphlet.

Sure enough, the woman proceeded to distribute a 425-page book listing the address of pretty much every organization in the world that’s ever hired a first-year law student, along with sample resumes and cover letters. Of course, they weren’t allowed to talk to us about finding a summer job for two more months.

According to the New York Times, students are “flooding graduate and law schools with the highest number of applications seen in decades.” A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette proclaims that “across the nation, graduate and professional schools have experienced a surge of interest not seen in nearly a decade as graduating seniors… seek refuge from a dismal job market by re-enlisting for another hitch in the academic world.”

“Seek refuge”? Not quite. I can say with confidence that going to law school to avoid looking for a job is like going to the rainforest to avoid getting wet.

Here at Harvard, they double the pleasure. An Office of Career Services for the law firm jobs, and an Office of Public Interest Advising for everything else. Literally everything else. As long as it’s not a law firm. I get the feeling that I could get public interest funding if I took a job cutting down redwood trees, spilling oil in the ocean, or kicking puppies. Just because it’s not a law firm.

At times it feels like the two offices are at war with one another. Another September meeting joined representatives from both offices together – again, they weren’t allowed to actually talk to us about finding a summer job; this was merely a meeting to discuss what they would be allowed to tell us once they were allowed to talk. A tag-team summer job assault, I suppose. They took turns – the man from career services said that “most people go to a law firm, and there’s a good reason why.” The woman from the public interest office made a face. “Money isn’t everything,” she said, “and a law firm job isn’t for everyone.”

“But there are many different kinds of law firms, not just the large corporate ones in the big cities. There are also the medium-sized ones.”

“But public interest doesn’t mean living in poverty. It might, but it doesn’t have to. There are many fulfilling public interest jobs in cities where the cost of living is low enough that earning $17,000 per year is not that terrible. Cities like Moscow.”

“But there’s a reason everyone goes to work for a corporate firm. It’s good training.”

“But it’s only good training for corporate work. There’s a temptation to follow the herd, but you don’t have to be sucked in.”

“They make it easy for you. They come to campus – 800 employers a year, for 550 students. So some walk away empty-handed. They want you. You’re smart. They’ll pay you lots of money. It’s not that bad. Some people like it. I met one of them once.”

“They make it easy for you because if they don’t make it easy, no one will go work for them. And the pay really isn’t that good when you factor in that you’ll be working 120 hours a week.”

“Eighty, tops.”

“A hundred.”




“And a half.”

“When you’re working ninety-two and a half hours a week doing something you hate---“

“Remember, you still have over 75 more hours to do something you love.”

“And to sleep.”

“Good lawyers don’t sleep.”

And on, and on, and on. We left that meeting with two sets of handouts, one lauding the praises of law firm work, and one comparing it to a deal with the devil. Only the devil doesn’t make people defend tobacco companies, insurance companies, oil companies, corporate polluters, former dictators of third-world countries, and Enron.

Actually, the deal with the devil metaphor isn’t mine. It comes from a brochure we received in our mailboxes. From a law firm. It’s scary enough when the public interest office tells us that law firm work is no fun. Scarier still when our friends who’ve already graduated tell us. But scariest when the law firms themselves say so. In their promotional materials. The trend appears to be manipulated honesty. They admit life at a law firm sucks, but they position themselves ever-so-slightly above the fray. “Yeah, it sucks. But here at Wealth, Power, and a whole lot of Caffeine it sucks slightly less. So come work for us. Please.”

I’m not exaggerating. Verbatim from one law firm’s brochure:

“You are about to become a lawyer. Think about it: This may be the last time anyone is totally up front and 80 percent honest with you.”

“As a first year, you may feel like a fire hydrant. Here, at least you're a well-respected fire hydrant.”

“[Our] Summer Associate Program: Glamorous work, lavish meals, theatre tickets. Your basic deal with the devil.”

“Now that's something you don't often hear in the halls of a law firm: Laughter.”

“In closing, we know you have a choice. So let's talk about our cafeteria.”

As the day when career services was actually allowed to talk to us approached, law school’s delicate balance between classes and the job search began to tip. As if a big bag of gold coins fell on one side of the scales of justice. On November 1, resume workshops began. They instructed on the Harvard Law School resume template, where every resume looks the same, and every student is equally qualified. Anything not legal sounding – any jobs not involving grueling hours of research, any extracurricular activities that don’t have the word “law” in them, any “hobbies” like the sport in which you won an Olympic Gold medal – gets shunted off into a section on the bottom called “interests,” or “personal.”

Frankly, I find it offensive for them to say that one person’s published book is of equal worth and should be treated the same on the resume as another person’s “interest” in “watching reality television.” Yet that’s the advice.

On December 1, when people were finally allowed to send out resumes, it was like a holiday. A holiday for the post office, actually. Classmates racing to the mailboxes at seven in the morning so that their envelopes would be among the first batch sent out, and among the first batch received by the law firms. As if on December 3, a firm would say, “well, we’ve waited two whole days for these resumes to come in – I guess we should probably make our choice today.”

One of my friends stamped “confidential” on all of his envelopes, so that the secretaries wouldn’t open them and throw them away. I asked him if he thought a working lawyer might be bothered by the fact that his “confidential” mail was simply a resume from a law student and throw it out, and whether it might be better for the secretary to open it, since she probably had a whole pile of resumes she was collecting. He didn’t think my reasoning made any sense. After all, why wouldn’t a lawyer want to read his resume? He does, after all, go to Harvard Law School.

A bunch of firms came to campus for a job fair. However, none of them were hiring first year students. They were here in preparation for next year – so we would remember their names and send them our resumes for a second-year summer job. As if anyone did actual research on individual firms and didn’t just use the mail merge files that we were provided for each major city.

Actually, there was a competition to be one of the people on the “mail merge verification committee.” The opportunity to call the firms, speak with the recruiter to verify the mailing address – and introduce yourself so she knows your name – seemed too great to pass up for lots of people. Anyway, it seemed as if the real goal of the firms at the job fair was to bribe us for our resumes. They had glossy brochures, pens, highlighters, mouse pads, keychains, yo-yos, t-shirts, bookmarks, calendars, and stress balls to distribute (the entire Oriental Trading Company catalog, in full color). The choice to distribute stress balls seemed a bit odd – was it a subtle admission of what life at a law firm would actually be like?

The American Civil Liberties Union also came to the job fair. The one public interest organization with a budget for tchotchkes, I guess. Although – and I am not making this up – they were giving away condoms. From a distance they looked like little cream cheese containers, like you get on an airplane. I was assuming they had run out of bagels, and were just left with the spreads. I'm glad I didn't ask them about the bagels, because it wasn't cream cheese. And I'm not sure that a bagel and a condom makes for a good snack.

I was left to wonder why the ACLU would decide to give out condoms at a career fair. What career were they pushing? Does taking a bunch of free condoms make you a more attractive potential lawyer? “Hey, you taking all the condoms – looks like you'd be perfect around the office… especially with our Christmas party coming up. Can I see your resume?”

A typical week in December had 19 career-oriented events we could attend – according to the handy career calendar on the career services web site. The nicest web site of any department at Harvard, probably underwritten by a law firm or two. Panel discussions, exploratory workshops, meet-and-greets, receptions, and on and on and on. More choices than the course catalog has classes. But, then again, more potential payoff than a two-hour lecture about the federal rules of evidence.

I suppose the real truth is that pretty much everyone came to law school to get a job, and so this really is what we’re paying for. And I’ll concede that the idea of being employable is a nice one, especially in this economy. But did it have to start so early? Is this really what law school is supposed to be about?

Maybe my problem isn’t that there’s such a focus on getting a job, but that there’s more of a focus on the mechanics of it than of finding the job that’s right for each person. I know more about how to get hired by a law firm than what lawyers at law firms actually do. I know more about the difference between cotton fiber resume paper and white linen resume paper than about the difference between corporate practice and litigation. I know more about what to wear to an interview than why I’m even going.

By this time next year, most of my classmates will already be hired for our second-year summer jobs, most of which will lead to full-time offers, and most of which will be accepted before the third year of law school even begins. Meaning that most of law school will have been spent already employed. So they start early. But if the goal is for us to really make informed decisions, for us to really discover what aspect of the law motivates us, inspires us, makes us passionate, maybe they start too early.

They should at least wait until the second week of school.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

...and the number one sign you've really got nothing to do on a Saturday night... I'm reading the weblogs of cast members of the Real World / Road Rules Challenge.

I challenge anyone to come up with a less productive activity.

Tony Delk - G - Boston Celtics Jan 17
Tony Delk returned to action tonight, but he didn't start and played just 15 minutes. J.R. Bremer got another start at point guard for Boston. Although Bremer looked good while Delk recovered from a sprained ankle, Delk likely will get his starting job back next time out.

This is what being in a fantasy basketball league does to a person. I actually CARE whether Delk gets his starting job back, because he's on my team. Three months ago, I had never heard of Tony Delk, didn't know what a point guard was, and couldn't have told you whether 15 minutes was a lot of time to play in a basketball game, or just a little (although I probably would have guessed correctly on that one). But now I know all about blocks and centers and steals and 3-point shooting percentage. More than I need to know.

Excuse me while I check the box scores to see whether Nene Hilario has fouled out for the second day in a row.

(The moral of the story: if you either (a) are woefully ignorant about a major sport but wish you weren't, or (b) have twenty minutes a day to kill setting your lineup, checking the waiver wire, and closely scrutinizing box scores, join a fantasy league!)

Friday, January 17, 2003

In the student mailboxes: a small green booklet from a corporate law firm. The trend in law firm promotional materials continues -- they all appear to be trying the same thing. Acknowledge that working at a law firm is not that thrilling, but make themselves appear to rise slightly above the fray. They're spinning us. And, oddly enough, reading this little green booklet makes me want to work for their advertising firm instead of their law firm, because they really are trying here. These are directly out of the brochure:

"You are about to become a lawyer. Think about it: This may be the last time anyone is totally up front and 80 percent honest with you."

"As a first year, you may feel like a fire hydrant. Here, at least you're a welll-respected fire hydrant."

"The [Firm's name] Summer Associate Program: Glamorous work, lavish meals, theatre tickets. Your basic deal with the devil."

"Now that's something you don't often hear in the halls of a law firm: Laughter."

"In closing, we know you have a choice. So let's talk about our cafeteria."

If every other firm weren't trying the same messaging, I'd almost believe them. It would be a fresh, new approach, and I'd appreciate their honesty. But not when every other brochure is saying the same stuff. I'm exaggerating. Half the firms are trying this "hip" (I bet that's what they think it is) approach. The other half are doing it the more traditional way: by sending us materials designed to frighten us.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Time for another song. How about an end-of-exams song!

(...starts off like a ballad...)

I spotted all the issues
Or at least I hope I did
Looked in every corner of the fact pattern where they hid

I took my pile of outlines
Made with tender loving care
And now that exams are over, threw them in the dumpster over there...

(...and picks up tempo...)

They're over
Exams are over
Take that term of jurisdiction
And pretend that it was fiction
Forget all the little details
About merchants, goods, and resales
Don't lose sleep over that murder
Cause it's not a crime you've heard of... anymore
Exams are over and the books are off the floor
...and in a drawer
...or in the trash
...or sold for cash
...or out the window as they smash
...onto than man and leave a gash it a crime? is it a tort?
...who knows? who cares? take me to court!
...but i don't know because exams are finally done
...and it's time to start the fun... of next semester.

(...back to the ballad...)

Explained it with precision
Hit the word count on the dot
But the moment it was over, all law I forgot

They say do no post-mortems
Don't re-check, re-think, reflect
I can't go back regardless, because the spine of all my casebooks is now wrecked...

(...pick up tempo again...)

They're over
Exams are over
Take the statutes and their sections
Leave them for the trash collections
Take the study guide you saved for
Ask what have you been enslaved for
Now you're free from all the study
No more casebook is your buddy... not today
Exams are over and so now it's time to play
...perhaps to pay
...for all the books
...the bookstore crooks
...say you will need for class that starts just five days when break departs
...and then it all comes back again
...when will it end? when? when? when? when?
...cause after school we'll all get jobs and they're no fun! what's the point of being done... when all that we have won... another semester... of... this.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Finished. A whole semester of law school, done. Following the slowest week in the history of the universe. It feels like the first exam was five weeks ago, not five days ago. And that winter break was three winters and a very brisk fall ago. It’s weird to remember how much more important this all felt a week ago. Before exam number one, as much as I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I was kind of concerned. Felt like a fairly major event – I went to sleep early, made sure to go to the bathroom the night before so I wouldn’t have to go during the take-home and lose valuable time (admit it, someone out there thought about hooking up a catheter…), did all the practice exams…. By exam number three it was just like any other day in the life of a law student. I even decided to only set one alarm instead of the three – clock, cell phone, and TV auto-turn-itself-on-really-loud-to-the-Spanish-channel – I’d set for exam number one. And exam number three seemed so much harder to get motivated to study for – after the first two, I knew that regardless of how I did, I probably wasn’t going to completely explode upon reading the questions or anything like that. I bet that if they compared students’ work from exam number one to exam number three, across sections and across classes, they’d find a tremendous dropoff in quality. There’s tension at the beginning, as much as we don’t want to feel it. By the end, we’re old pros. By next semester, we’ll be going out for lunch in the middle of 8-hour take-homes and waiting at the door of Pound 335 at 3:30 for them to start collecting them. Or maybe not.

The one good thing about exams is that they provide a whole bunch of new things about law school to make fun of. Like proctors. Boston accent and Medicare card required. It’s not they aren’t well-intentioned. But did it occur to anyone that the best people to deal with potential problems with laptops and computer disks in exam rooms might not be the elderly? When I have a problem saving a file to disk, my grandmother is not the first person I call. Someone asked if he could burn his file onto a CD, and the proctor said there would be no matches allowed in the exam room. Okay, not really. And that wasn’t even funny. What the proctor actually said was that in the event of someone burning his file onto a CD, the fire alarm would sound and we should all proceed to carefully save our work, shut down our laptops, and exit the building and await further instructions. In that order. So the building is engulfed in flames, but priority number one is saving our work to disk. At least risk-of-fire is an argument against having us write the answers in bluebooks – made of paper. But perhaps that’s the only argument against it. There doesn’t seem to be a reason why, for an open-book exam, we need to write it in-class on our laptops and then hand in a disk anyway. Instead of taking it home and printing it out like the 8-hour exams. Or even e-mailing it. It’s as if someone decided, “hey, let’s let them write their exams on computers. Computers are fun!” and that was the entire extent of the thoughtful planning process.

But that alone might have made it a more carefully considered plan than the take-home exam distribution madness. Again, if I want to efficiently run a process that involves people reading the small numbers on our ID cards and matching them to small numbers on a printed sheet, my grandmother is not the first person I would call. No, the first person I call would be her neighbor, who has cataracts, glaucoma, and two eye patches (but still drives at night). Having every section come get their exams from the same room at the same time may not have been my first decision either when planning the process. I’m surprised we didn’t get the fire alarm speech there too, considering the amount of people in Austin Hall was certainly a violation of the fire code. “In case the fire alarm should sound, please remain in line and wait your turn. After you receive your exam, you may proceed to the nearest exit, and stop, drop, and roll. If you leave the line before it is your turn, you will need to go to the back of the line and begin again.” Couldn’t they just e-mail the exam to us at 8:30 in the morning? We’re all headed back to our computers anyway.

So now that we’re done, it’s all supposed to be a big relief, right? Sell our casebooks back to the Coop for seventy-one cents each, burn our class notes in a big bonfire – or is that burn the files with our class notes onto a CD? I forget. I’ll ask my grandmother. She knows all about computers. But seriously, is it really a relief? It all just starts over again. And I’ve still got a summer job to find. Maybe, if I put on a gray wig and borrow a walker, I can get work as a proctor.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

One of my friends here is making fun of me because I said I enjoy watching "Everwood" on the WB. It's a good show. Give it a chance.
I bet that if the exam responses from Exam #3 were compared with those from Exam #1 -- across classes, across schools, across professors -- that the answers to exam #1 would be so much better. It just seemed so much more... more crucial to be ready for that first-ever law school exam. I went to bed at 10:00, I made sure to go to the bathroom the night before so I wouldn't have to go during the exam, I was meticulous about my studying, did all the practice exams, really felt ready. Because it really felt important. But now, by exam #3, I feel like I'm an old pro. Exams? Eh, I know all about exams.... No idea how I did, but still, it just feels like there's so much less pressure, it feels less... less crucial... to really be as prepared as for the previous ones. And everyone else I've talked to -- regardless of what class the exam is in, what professor they have, whether it's an in-class or a take-home -- seems to feel the same way. Just an observation.
Where do they find the proctors for our exams? Do they put an ad in the newspaper?

WANTED: Retired people who like to sit. Must be able to manage room filled with 80 students, most of whom haven't slept in a week and aren't all that relaxed to begin with anyway. Must be able to read small print (bring your glasses!) on student ID cards and match the numbers to those on a sheet. Ability to read basic instructions aloud without mangling sentences to the point of incomprehension is a plus. Finally be able to put law school on your resume and impress all of your friends. For more information, log onto our website... uh... that won't work... for more information, send us a telegraph at (617) 123-4567. Positions filling up quick, but there's still room on the wait list. Pleasant personality and basic grooming habits not required.
10 piles of paper on my floor, 2 casebooks, and a study guide. Learning everything on those pages in the next 24 hours is all that stands between me and a semester completed. Criminal Law. If all else fails, the answer is: "the Court would probably rule that he is guilty, but may be swayed the other way by an argument that his rights were violated."

Monday, January 13, 2003

Recuperating from civil procedure exam. Or, as my civil procedure exam would say, "Assume you have just spent eight hours staring at a computer screen typing words upon words upon words (as in Exam-taking). Dinner (D) is tempting, but Sleep (S) is tempting as well. Studying (St) for Wedensday's (W) Exam (E) is less tempting (T). Watching (W) the Real World-Road Rules Challenge (RWRRC) is most tempting (T) of all (A). Papaya (P) Banana (B) Ceiling (C) Elephant (E) Unrelated Words (UW). Write a memo (M), 1300 words, only 2100 vowels allowed total, pretending you are a law clerk (LC) to Justice Bob, and addressing wahtever issues (I) are relevant (R) to this discussion (D). You have eighteen seconds (18S). Go.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Five (serious) tips for taking law school exams. (I'm writing them down mostly so I can go back and read them tomorrow while I'm taking my Civil Procedure exam...)

1. Relax. Breathe. Eight hours is a long time. You don't need to rush.
2. The answers are there somewhere. Everything they're testing on is based on something you've learned. There are issues hidden in the question somewhere. All you need to do is find them.
3. Thoughts, not conclusions. Don't dismiss things because they're obvious or tangential. Mention them. Think about them. Deal with them.
4. Puzzle it out. The easy answer may not be the right answer. How is this the same as some cases you've seen? How is it different? What's the crux of the issue?
5. Relax. Breathe. Eight hours is a long time. You don't need to rush.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

New Saturday Night Live on in 15 minutes. Sad, but watching it may very well be the highlight of my day. I read on a website, a website, that they're going to do a parody of Joe Millionaire. If I was writing a law-school-related parody of Joe Millionaire... [dream sequence music, please]

[Lights up on a beach filled with female law students. And one man. Not a handsome man. Not a rich man. Not a charming man. But a man with a handful of paper.]

MAN: I'm Joe Final-Exam-Answers. And I have the answers to your final exams.

GIRL 1: Ooh! Joe Final-Exam-Answers! I love you!

GIRL 2: I've always dreamed of being with a guy... who had the exam answers. Joe, I can fulfill your every fantasy... if you can tell me how to test for personal jurisdiction.

GIRL 3: Joe, I'm a model. And you have the model answers. It's fate. Fate, I tell ya. Now tell me all about Hanna v. Plumer and how I can test the validity of a Federal Rule... and I'll make a brand new Federal Rule just for you, Joe...

[Another man enters, holding some more papers.]

MAN 2: I'm Joe Offer-Letter-for-Summer-Internship-at-Cravath. And I have a contract here that will pay you... twenty-five hundred dollars a week. [A stagehand whispers something in his ear.] Oh, we just got the Enron account. Three thousand dollars per week!

[The girls all run to the new Joe. Joe Final-Exam-Answers is sad.]

GIRL 1: I've always wanted to give myself to a guy... with an offer letter for a summer internship at Cravath. I'll make you stay up all night long... and not because you're Shepardizing cases. In fact, I'll let you Shepardize *my* case, if you know what I mean.

GIRL 2: You have offer letters for summer internships at Cravath... and I'm not wearing any clothes. It's fate, I tell ya! It's fate!

MAN 1: But I thought you all wanted me! Me! Joe Final-Exam-Answers!


[And, yeah, I know I need an ending...]
Mnemonic Devices for my Civil Procedure exam on Monday:

Rule: The four prerequisites for claim preclusion: Final judgment (F), on the Merits (M), same Claim (C), same Parties (P).
Mnemonic: FMCP. File Motions in Civil Procedure.

Rule: The three-part test for supplemental jurisdiction: same Transaction or occurrence (T), Allowed in section 1367 (A), court's Discretion (D).
Mnemonic: TAD. Tests Are Dastardly.

Rule: The discovery devices: Depositions (D), Interrogatories (I), Production of documents (P), physical and mental Examinations (E), requests for Admission (A).
Mnemonic: DIPEA. Did I Pray Enough Already?

Rule: The Rule 12(b) motions: lack of Subject matter jurisdiction (S), lack of Personal jurisdiction (P), Venue (V), insufficiency of Process (P), insufficiency of Service (S), failure to state a Claim (C), failure to join a Party (P).
Mnemonic: SPVPSCP. Some People, Very Productive Studiers, Can Pass

Friday, January 10, 2003

One exam down, two to go. And let's not kid around: taking a one-hour in-class closed book short answer exam (1/3 of my grade) immediately followed by the six-hour take-home open book essay portion of the exam (2/3 of my grade) is not so much fun. Where did the day go? Draining. Very draining. And an eight-hour take-home awaits me on Monday. Fun stuff.
First exam starts in about an hour. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Five Time-Saving Tips for Peak Performance on Timed Take-Home Exams

1. Put your lunch in a blender and suck it up with a straw, freeing your hands to continue typing even while you eat.
2. Spread the pages of your outline on the floor in a single layer of paper, eliminating the time-consuming task of turning pages.
3. Unplug your phone, TV, internet connection, refrigerator, hot water heater, lamp, and hairdryer. No reason to risk a fire during thr exam.
4. Have your parents tell your friends that you're dead so they don't interrupt you during the exam.
5. No need to waste time going to the bathroom! Use a catheter!

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

“Here They Come!”

I suppose I have no choice but to write about exams, given that it’s been hard to think about anything but for the past few days. “Practice tests” are instruments of the devil. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to make ourselves take practice tests. Are prisoners on death row forced to take “practice tests?” Sit in the chair… just for practice. Strap you in… just for practice. We’ll flick the switch… just for practice. Sit there, get some electricity through you… and we’ll let you out just before we’ve turned the dial up too high. But don’t forget to take a look at these “model results” of what it’ll look like when you get the real thing. It’ll make you sleep easier at night.

I’ve come up with a list of 25 things not to do the night before an exam. Other writers may have been able to come up with as many as ninety, some as few as four. The mean is probably around 15, but only answers that incorporated substantive policy discussion were able to reach beyond that and score in the 30s. Oops. I’m copying language from a model answer for a practice test. Forgive me. Here’s the list.

1. Install reverse-antivirus-software on your computer
2. Try a new antihistamine
3. Take part in a sleep-deprivation experiment
4. Watch any show on UPN (it’ll lower your IQ)
5. Smash your laptop to bits
6. Play with your roommate’s shotgun
7. Burn your casebook
8. Remove the batteries from your alarm clock
9. Rinse out your disk drive
10. Spray pepper spray in your eyes
11. Stop breathing
12. Begin making a course outline
13. Drink
14. Drink bleach
15. Drink bleach followed by fabric softener (remember, it’s fabric softener *before* bleach!)
16. Tie your shoes together
17. Forget how to read
18. Sleep under the stars (and over the ice)
19. Go orienteering without a compass
20. Undercook your chicken
21. Handcuff yourself to your bed
22. Swallow a bottle of laxatives
23. Learn how to use a chainsaw
24. Buy some invisible ink toner for your printer
25. Make a list of 25 things not to do the day before an exam in lieu of studying (shoot!)

It would be fun if exams were written in the style of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. “Annie Ames files a suit in federal court after being hit by a bus in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The bus was driven by Howard Dean, who in his spare time fancies himself a viable candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. It was a bus headed from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine. The long way. It was operated by United Airlines. Because their airplane business went bankrupt. If the court can exert personal jurisdiction, go to Question 2. If not, got to Question 3.”

“Question 2. Oops. Annie Ames has fallen into a manhole on the way to court. She lands in Panama City, and expresses an intention to remain there indefinitely. She marries Billy Backwoods, half-Brazilian and half-New Hampshirite. When they divorce, should the witch doctor who oversees the divorce proceeding use Panama law, or the law of Singapore, where the witch doctor was born and still owns property in. If Panama, go to question 4. If Singapore, you’ve been caned and your story is over. Hand in the exam or return to the beginning and choose a new path.”

That seemed like a funnier idea to me before I wrote it. Oh well. In any event, here’s 10 more things not to do the night before an exam:

1. Contract Lyme disease
2. Play hide and seek with your contact lenses
3. Begin outlining for your spring semester classes
4. Let a friend borrow your cerebellum
5. Do-it-yourself home enema kit
6. Translate your class notes into pig latin
7. Turn the thermostat up as far as it will go and try to sweat off those last few holiday pounds
8. Finally take that pregnancy test you’ve been planning on taking
9. Reformat your hard drive
10. Make a list of 10 more things not to do the night before an exam. Damn!

That’s all, folks…
Public service announcement in case there are any other Harvard Law students who've found my weblog... if your e-mail hasn't been working today, go to Harvard Law School ITS and click on Network Status in the yellow box on the right side... then click on the "e-mail service restored" link and it'll tell you how to re-configure your e-mail program to get e-mail again. That I found this page is evidence that I should be spending more time studying.
Found something funny at one of the websites I find myself visiting way too often for my own good -- Baseball Primer -- basically a message board about baseball news and articles. There's a thread about yesterday's Hall of Fame election of Gary Carter and Eddie Murray, and someone posted a quote from Eddie Murray:

He had just gotten glasses, fairly late in his career, and someone asked him if he'd noticed anything different since he began wearing them, and he said something like, "I noticed there's a lot of ugly people in the stands."

That's pretty funny.

And in case you're looking for a couple more websites to make you less productive:
Television Without Pity and TV Tattle -- recaps and forums about TV shows at the first, news about TV at the second.
Law School's Scariest Voice Mail Messages (these are fake -- I don't mean to imply there are people who actually have these messages -- I just think it's a funny concept...):

Two Weeks Before Exams:
[BEEP] Hi. Sorry I can't come to the phone right now. Leave a message at the beep and I'll get back to you. [BEEP]

One Week Before Exams:
[BEEP] No phone. Studying for exams. Leave a message. [BEEP]

Three Days Before Exams:
[BEEP] Library. Caffeine. AHHH! [BEEP]

One Day Before Exams:
[BEEP] Having nervous breakdown. Talk after exams. [BEEP]

During Exams:
[BEEP] What's wrong with you, calling me during an exam? Are you nuts? Do you want me to fail? Moron. (pause) If this is a potential summer employer, please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. [BEEP]

After Exams:
[BEEP] Sleeping. Message. [BEEP]

After Getting Grades:
[BEEP] Was mad. Ripped phone out of wall. Voice mail not working. Don't bother leaving message. [BEEP]

...these could be so much funnier, I know... it's just not working this morning... maybe later I'll fix them and make them funny...

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

To the tune of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease...

“Study Group Dropout”

Your story’s sad to tell
A law school ne'er do well
Most mixed up law school student of them all

Your future's so unclear now
What's left of your career now
The Law Review will never come to call

Study group dropout
No perfect outlines there for you
Study group dropout
No one to meet with and review
Well you started out excited but the meetings got too long
But now that you’ve quit, the answers on your finals will be wrong

Study group dropout (study group dropout)
Now you’ll be lucky with a B
Study group dropout (study group dropout)
Seems like you’re asking for a C
When you said you thought that meeting every morning was too much
Then we guessed you wouldn’t be happy when we also meet at lunch

Study group dropout (study group dropout)
Don’t come here asking for advice
Study group dropout (study group dropout)
You want my outline? Pay the price.
We’ve got perfect model answers for the last eleven years
We’ll be celebrating A’s while you are drowning in your tears

Study group dropout (study group dropout)
Guess we misjudged you from the start
Study group dropout (study group dropout)
We’ll replace you with someone smart
Should have known because your undergrad was somewhat less – selective
That your study habits would be just a little bit – defective

Study group dropout
Give us back files that we shared
Study group dropout
You’re never gonna be prepared
Though we always seemed polite we hated you from meeting one
If you see us right behind you, trust me, you had better run

Study group dropout (study group dropout)
We do not need you
Study group dropout (study group dropout)
Our grades’ll exceed you
Study group dropout (study group dropout)
We’re back in high school

Monday, January 06, 2003

Three quick thoughts to ponder:
1. Starbucks is really in the whipped cream business, not the coffee business. (Actually, they're really in the real estate business...)
2. Trent Lott will run for president in '04 on the Dixiecrat ticket.
3. Snow is prettiest right before it hits the ground.
E-mail sent by Career Services:

Charting Your Legal Future For First-Year Students of Color
Tuesday January 28, 2003. Refreshments will be served. Topics will include life as a lawyer, practicing in Boston, job search and more. Interested students can sign-up....

Two points: (1) Are topics like "life as a lawyer" and "practicing in Boston" really different for "students of color" than for "students of no color" (or whatever the appropriate opposite term is) If they are, I think that would make a more interesting discussion than the topics themselves. (2) Is "students of color" a term that people are happy with? It seems like it's just trying way too hard to be non-offensive, at the cost of being fairly vague and silly-sounding.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

My short study break to get dinner has turned into my short study break to get dinner, watch a fascinating (yeah... sure...) 60 Minutes segment on the guy who edits the NY Times crossword puzzle, motivating me to go online and try (and fail) to do the free NY Times crossword puzzle from the archives, watch "Becker," perhaps the least entertaining show I've seen... all day... and now I'm halfway through the "King of Queens." And "Andy Richter Controls the Universe," which is actually funny, is on at 9:30, so I won't be returning to my short issue-spotting contracts outline until after that.

To justify that paragraph of relatively self-absorbed uninteresting details of the last two hours of my life, I need to write something really funny now so you actually return to the weblog tomorrow for more. How about... a brief Choose Your Own Adventure law school story.

Chapter 1: Harold is a law school student with exams coming up soon. He opens his contracts casebook. If you think Harold should study, go to chapter 2A. If you think Harold should throw it in the fireplace, go to chapter 2B.

Chapter 2A: Harold tries to study, but falls asleep from the boredom. He dreams of a happier time, when he was studying Astrology at Vassar. He wakes up and looks at the clock. If you want the clock to have moved ahead by 1 hour since Harold opened his book, go to chapter 3A. If you want the clock to have moved ahead by a week, and it is now 5 minutes before Harold's contracts exam, go congratulate yourself on screwing Harold's future... and go to chapter 3B.

Chapter 2B: Harold tosses the book in the fireplace and it catches fire. The fire alarm goes off. The fire inspectors come and arrest Harold. Then they realize they're not really police officers, so they let him go, but they issue him a $50 fine. To pay the fine, Harold sells his Criminal Law book back to the university bookstore. But that only gives him 71 cents. To get the rest of the money, Harold takes a job with a corporate law firm specializing in international interjurisdictional interpleader cases. I don't really know if those three words make sense together. Neither does Harold. Two years later, he throws himself into the fireplace. The end.

Chapter 3A: Harold can't believe he's only been asleep for an hour. He decides to make up the time by spending $6 on a venti vanilla latte at Starbucks mixed with Red Bull and Mountain Dew so he has enough caffeine to stay awake all night. His brain explodes. All over his contracts book. So even if he could still read without his brain (and he thinks thats probably what he was doing before anyway), the pages are all dirty. He sells the book back to the bookstore and gets 71 cents. And fails his exam. And, now brain-less, goes on a reality TV show and wins the fame and fortune that all reality TV participants are after. The end.

Chapter 3B: Harold runs to his exam, but trips and falls in the snow. Oops. As he tries to get up, his classmate Susan, also running to the exam, trips over him and falls. Their eyes lock. It's love at first sight. They decide to skip the exam, drop out of law schooll, get married, and live happily ever after. Working at Starbucks. The end.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

A conversation I've been having too much since I got back from break:

ME: How was break?
OTHER PERSON: Awful. Really awful.
ME: Oh.

Guess they did more studying than me. Or at least found the studying they did to be more distasteful. It's kind of disarming to ask a friendly question about how someone's break went and get such a strong answer. Like if you ask someone how he's feeling and he tells you something really personal about his sinuses or his gastrointestinal system.

ME: Hey. How's it going?
OTHER PERSON: Constipated.
ME: Oh.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Working on an optional practice exam question for my Criminal Law class -- the professor gave us the option of answering a sample question, sending him our reponse, and we would get feedback. It certainly can't hurt -- the more practice, the better. And hopefully the feedback will provide some sense of what a professor is looking for in an answer to an exam question.

Other than that, it's cold in Boston. But I expect that will be the case for a few months now...

Five Signs That It's Cold Outside
1. The pile of snow is wearing a winter coat.
2. Instead of hot dogs, street vendors are selling gloves.
3. Santa Claus is wandering around looking very lost. And shivering.
4. Mugger: "Your money... or your hat."
5. You don't notice that the bowl of hot soup you're eating is actually a bowl of ice cream.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

If I was writing a stand-up comedy act:

"My grandmother went to a New Years Eve party with some of her friends -- they ate dinner at 6 and she was home by 10. She didn't understand when I told her that sort of defeats the purpose of a New Years Eve party."

I'm reading the latest issue of Harvard Magazine, available free in a big stack near the law school mailboxes. Here's a brief tour of the highlights.

There's an article about a recent academic conference regarding chimpanzee rights: "[Several speakers] compared the chimpanzees' situation with that of slaves in nineteenth-century America. Going even further, [one speaker] drew an analogy to Nazi Germany: 'We abuse animals to make ourselves feel better, and we justify it,' he said -- just as the Nazis justified their attacks on Jews and the mentally retarded." Uh… okay…

Four pages later, from an article about a lawyer-turned-food critic: "What we need... is a system of graduated fines and perhaps short jail sentences to discourage the production of totally depressing baked goods." If I was a professor and I read that quote, I’d really be tempted to turn it into an exam question. “The legislature in the state of Ames has decided to make the production of inferior baked goods a crime. Starbucks sues the government, challenging the constitutionality of the law. The only other cases in the jurisdiction are Hawkins v. McGee and Erie. Discuss in 700 words or less.”

From an ad: "Yoshiko offers hand fabricated jewelry." Does hand fabricated mean it's all in your hand's imagination?

From another ad: "The combination you’ve been waiting for. Single-family style living. For age 62-plus." Not the combination I've been waiting for. In fact there are ads for at least five different “elderly housing communities” in the magazine. I guess that’s the readership of Harvard Magazine. They all call themselves different things: "retirement community," "accredited life care community," "assisted living retirement community," "life-care retirement," and, "where you go when you’re done with all that being alive stuff."

The Harvard Calendar announces a "Mineral Madness Family Festival" at the Museum of Natural History along with a "drop-in winter scavenger hunt." Mineral madness? Ooh! Sign me up!

An interesting article about liberal political essayist Hendrik Hertzberg that has not one line in it that I can take out of context and make seem either stupid or funny. A very good read, actually. In all honesty, Harvard magazine seems like a great example of what an alumni magazine can be. The Princeton Alumni Weekly, which I get in return for my four years of undergraduate tuition, is a less great example, usually featuring a cover story about Princeton's new Director of [Fill in the Blank -- Public Safety, Financial Development, Janitorial Services, Undergraduate Binge-Drinking, Cafeteria Waste Distribution], an article about some big lacrosse game that took place eight months ago, and pages upon pages of death notices.

But back to the Harvard magazine. "When I conceived Barbie... I believed it was important to a little girl's self-esteem to play with a doll that has breasts." I swear I am not making that quote up. Page 47, if you don't believe me.

"Harvard's fiscal year 2002 revenues and expenses yielded the $70.4 million surplus... given the immediate situation, said [the VP of finance], Harvard's schools are 'very conscious of the need to moderate expense growth tremendously.'" I guess $70.4 million isn't enough?

"Though she calls him 'an inspiration and role model like no other,' [female basketball player] Hana Peljto's uniform number [23] was not chosen to match Michael Jordan's." And in related news, the forty-three cents in my pocket has no relation to the fact that George Bush is our forty-third President.

In an advertisement for Harvard's Office of Gift Planning: "One really can't help being caught up in what's going on with Harvard's libraries." Is that really the best they can do? I can think of at least ten better reasons to give money to Harvard than to help make the libraries better. In fact...

Ten Better Reasons to Give Money To Harvard Than to Help Make the Libraries Better
10. The 2002 surplus of $70.4 million makes you worried about Harvard's future.
9. The Rockefellers refused your help and you were looking for an equally impoverished place to give money to.
8. Coming soon: The "In Memory of John Smith" handicapped bathroom stall.
7. If only the water fountains dispensed champagne...
6. No more room under the bed for your wads of cash.
5. Better return than the stock market.
4. Yale rejected you. This is your form of payback.
3. No real passion about giving money to help doctors find a cure for anything.
2. Already sponsoring every child in Africa. Now just need a college for them all to go to.
1. Meant to write "Heart Association" on check; bad penmanship made it look like "Harvard"

In the classifieds section: "Cambridge furnished apartment. Two bedrooms, two baths. Perfect for visiting professor." Huh? Too small for a tenured professor?

And, finally, the personals. "A younger dark-haired more radiant Jane Fonda. Thin, smart, stunning... stands out in a crowd." Doesn't say modest. Another ad: "...written children's book for 9-11 families..." Yes, I know what she probably means, but wouldn't it be funny if she actually meant her children's book sold about 10 copies?

Okay, that's all I've got today. Hope this was at least semi-entertaining.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy New Year!

My plan was to write a quick limerick about heading back to Boston tomorrow to finish studying for exams. But the best I could up with was:

I go back to Boston tomorrow
The best rhyme for this line is sorrow
I will ride a big bus
Perhaps the driver's name will be Gus
And get ready for my exam horror.
And pretend that horror and tomorrow rhyme

And that's not very good at all.

But fortunately I read the Jan. 1 post of a fellow law-student weblog writer (see this other weblog) and it strikes me enough that I can probably just write a paragraph or two reacting to it. So, after this long introduction, that is what I will do.

In case you don't want to click over and read his post, basically he says (and I apologize if I'm not doing his post justice -- it contains lots of big words like "chimerical" and "ephemeral" that, to be perfectly honest, I don't really know exactly what they mean) that most people he's seen have been panicking over law school exams but he's not because he sees exams as big fantasy monsters who scare people but only if they let themselves be scared. And I suppose I certainly agree with his conclusion -- that everyone who came before us has survived and there's no reason to panic -- but I'm really not into this whole "exams as monsters" analogy. Exams are exams. Everyone who's gotten to law school has taken lots of exams already and has probably done pretty well on them. Of a world of glib responses I could choose to give when people ask me how law school is, my favorite is "school is school." Because I really believe that's true. Law school is not terribly different from undergrad. You read, you write, you go to class, you do extracurriculars, you make friends. And you take exams. We've done all this before, we're good at it. They're just exams. So you study, you do your best, and they're done. They're not monsters, they're some questions the professors have written to see how well you know the material. If you learned the right stuff and have a good day, you do well. If not, you do less well. But everyone coming out of law school has his or her pick of jobs, and no one has to live in a cardboard box because he got a B-minus in torts. So calling them monsters -- even if you say you're not really scared of them and they're just pretend monsters -- I think just feeds into the whole idea that exams are somehow these awful things we have to conquer and overcome. They're just exams. I'm not denying that I've been spending time studying, or that I'd rather do well than do poorly, but really everyone here has already taken enough exams and done well enough academically over the course of enough years that we should all have enough self-worth to know that no matter what we get, we're all fairly bright people, and a B-minus doesn't mean anything except you didn't write a particularly good response to this particular set of questions.

The last sentence of his post reads "I’ll leave my panicking for the workplace, when large sums of real dollars are at stake, and I’m responsible for them." Sigh. You know what, I'll leave my panicking for when I find myself falling out of an airplane without a parachute, or I have a wife and kids and they get sick.

I'm imagining that for most jobs that deal with large sums of real dollars they feel like abstract sums of fake dollars anyway. Sigh.