Monday, March 12, 2007

I turned this into a federal judge

I had an assignment from a federal judge in my non-graded one credit class. The assignment that the entire 1L class had to do was to write about a situation in which your integrity was challenged. The purpose was to foster integrity and to create a noble system free from lawyer jokes. Find this assignment ironic and hypocritical, so did I. Here is what I turned in:

My moment of integrity that I will discuss is this very assignment. We have been assigned to challenge ourselves to think of situations of integrity as an integral part of becoming a lawyer. This is a very difficult concept to take seriously, since law school and the profession rewards people for doing just the opposite. Lawyers who are more self-interested, less involved in the community, less interested in truth, and learn how to play the game at the expense of their own knowledge, categorically succeed more than those who don’t. People who are better human beings do worse in law and are constantly encouraged to compromise their morals. I thought it was an ironic choice to talk about disclaiming sophistry for the more noble Socratic pursuit of truth; what we learn and what helps us succeed as lawyers is to become good sophists. You mention how the few bad apples give lawyers such a bad reputation and are the ridicule of countless jokes. The problem isn’t stopping the rotten apples, but changing the system so that the bad apples aren’t constantly rewarded and propelled through the profession. My integrity is telling you that an assignment that most students take as a joke since there is no grade attached will hardly challenge anyone to have more integrity.

I find it even worse that this assignment comes from law school, an institution that has no justification for the hazing process of bottomless work. It is good to work hard for noble enterprises, it is good to test to see how far people can go, but it is horrible to put students in a system that balancing any other value besides law school will hinder their education and result in ridicule of classroom participation. To take away from values such as family, friends, moral enterprises, relaxing, community service and fun is to bereave us of what is most essentially human. The most hypocritical part of law school is in its testing methods. A student who happened to pick up the right testing method does better than a student who is far more knowledgeable about the law. The student who takes a three hour test well, with no instructions on how to take the test, gets six figure salaries in a few years; where the student who has the integrity to pursue a more genuine knowledge of the law will scrounge to get a third of the salary at the public defenders office. Personally, it is hard for me to accept that the system has integrity when the one sentence “Finish your exams” is more valuable to your career then 300 hours worth of studying. Especially when you are not informed on how the tests will be graded. Surely a huge problem such as this is answered by the integrity of the law school program? The Law schools in America answer to this problem is willful blindness and increasing every single thing that is wrong with the system so their US News ranking will increase.

I am constantly amazed that a subject that studies fairness, justice, and integrity has so little of any of the three. I apologize for the bitter rant between studying for my classes, but at least it is honest and has integrity unlike many of the papers in the stack that you are reading right now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Funny Conversation

Funny Conversation between two law students

Student 1: I hate her she’s so rude to me

Student 2: You should totally kill her

Student 1:But seriously I can’t stand her

Student 2:Just kill her, if you kill her that means you don’t have a soul

Student 1::::perplexed:: And that’s a good thing?

Student 2: Of course, if you don’t have a soul your grades will go up at least 10 pts per class. It may be your best shot to get into the top 10 percent.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

It is cold in the northeast.

I'm sitting in a writing class at 8:15 on a Friday morning.

I'm supposed to be asleep right now. Fridays are supposed to be my light day, academically speaking. I have one class at 1:40 in the afternoon, so I can sleep in, relax, and then wander over to school for an hour and a half, and then head out into the city with friends.

Three days a week I start at 8:30 in the morning. Wednesday is supposed to be one of those days.

This week, Wednesday was the first day that nature finally decided to show me what "winter" actually means. I grew up where there wasn’t a real winter, so this was a new experience for me. I was prepared, though. Heavy coat, check. Waterproofed shoes, check. Gloves, check.

So I wake up early Wednesday morning, fire up my computer, and check my email. Lo and behold, an email from my writing professor saying that, because of the inclement weather, she will not be coming in to class today.

Now keep this in mind: my school is not closed. I still have to go in for my class at 10:15, and I'm already awake. It is not worth going back to sleep, so instead I relax for a while in my apartment. I finally go outside and brave the cold, the wind, and the sleet, and make my way to my contracts class.

At this point, I would like to talk about sleet. Where I grew up, we did not have snow. Maybe once a decade, some snow would fall at the highest point in town, but it would never stick once it hit the ground. There would be hail occasionally, of different sizes, and it was fun to stand on the porch and watch these tiny balls of ice pound onto the sidewalk. Sleet, however, is a horse of a different color. Instead of balls of ice, sleet is frozen rain. And it STINGS. The street I live on has winds that alternate directions from day to day. Wednesday’s patterns meant that it was interesting to walk from east to west (towards school), navigating frozen intersections and snowy sidewalks. It also meant that it was painful to walk from west to east (towards my apartment), braving not only the frozen intersections and snowy sidewalks, but doing it all with sleet whipping in and stinging my face and eyes almost shut. I enjoy cold weather, but sleet is something else.

But back to the story. My writing professor tells us that we can make up our class on Friday morning, joining her 8:30 section that day. Meanwhile, another class has scheduled (and rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled) a training session for 9:00 Friday morning. A few more back-and-forth emails between my classmates and our writing professor gets the class moved back another half hour to 8, which is why I'm sitting here way too early in the morning.

So today, instead of just a Constitutional law class in the afternoon, I have a writing class at 8 in the morning, a training session at 9, and Con law at 1:40. On top of that, a leak in the roof above the fifth floor makes my fourth floor apartment smell like something between a wet dog and rotting wood thanks to the water that made its way down into my walls.

You've got to love winter in the northeast. At least I'm finally seeing a little bit of what I signed up for when I moved out here.

And fate has granted us a three day weekend to make up for this early morning suffering, so if I brave the weather it will be for something fun instead of to go to class. And it will definitely be after 11 in the morning at the earliest.

And before I sign off, my favorite quote from the semester so far, courtesy of my criminal law professor, talking about different theories of punishment:

"You understand 'eye for an eye' and 'tooth for tooth.' You may not agree with it, but you understand it. But what you get for 50 grams of coke doesn’t exactly come from the bible."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back to the grind

I got back to school two weeks ago. I did absolutely nothing over winter break, and it was wonderful! I have yet to do any reading for my classes, but for the most part I've been going. I've decided that this is the week I'll actually start working ... we'll see how that goes.

I've started on the job search as well. Hopefully I'll be able to find something back in California, but if push comes to shove I guess I'll just take a job I find near my law school.

Anyways, more updates will follow, I just wanted to let everyone know that I am alive, I've stopped napping all day, and new posts will be coming.

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Teachers, New Quotes

Here are some solid quotes from my first week back.

"There's randomness in all law school exams and we have no idea what were doing, but we try hard. "

"You have the affirmative right to use your property as you choose . . . most of the time. You can't throw your book at people"

"The fundamental basis of human activity is no one gives a damn"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Nightmare on Memo Street (Pt. 2)

Sorry for the hiatus, I was busy with something. What was I busy with? Oh, Yeah, FINALS!!! They are horrible, however the Nightmare on Memo Street must continue.

The good news about the first memo is that I did alright. The bad news is I did alright. I feel sorry for the chunk of the class that did worse than me, considering I started 18 hours before the paper was due. Some people put countless hours into the paper and did poorly. For a subject that studies fairness and justice, I am constantly amazed at how little law school has either.

The thing that pissed me off about the memo is my writing professor gives no constructive criticism. Maybe other students in the law school world have ESP, but since I happen to be missing that gene, it is very difficult to improve without feedback. An occasional ‘good’ or ‘improve’ on the paper does not help. With no collaboration, no constructive feedback, and ambiguous answers in office hours, improvement is very difficult. This is one of my biggest grievances against law school; not allowing people to learn and improve from their mistakes (more to come on that topic later).

After I got my first draft back I decided to be one of those stupid saps that spend hours on a paper. With some backwards logic, that I am in grad school, I better not hold anything back now. Needless to say it was stupid logic. Fear not slackers of the world, I will not make the error again. Study smarter, not harder. Overanalyzing is a mortal sin in law school.

The nightmare of the next draft did not begin to happen until the night before the memo was due. Believing that I could get more points from content than citations and style, I spent most of my time editing content (including the Questions Presented/Brief Answers/Statement of Facts). When I left the library to go back home at 11:30 the night before the memo was due, I had not put my citations in the paper yet. I figured midnight the night before is plenty of time. This would ordinarily be true except . . .

I lost my citations book. Where the book disappeared to is still a mystery to this day. Being that I am not one of those uber-geeks who memorize citations, this was problematic. So I did what any good slacker would do in the situation, went to bed.

There was no way to have a citations manual before 7:00 when the library opened anyway. However this put me behind schedule a couple hours and I had to work to the very end. I put the citations in with no problem and continued to edit. About 30 minutes before the paper was due, I found an error and corrected it. In correcting the error, it bumped down a section title line of the paper. No one wants a title line for a section as the bottom line on a page. So, I hit enter, to push it onto the next page and then went to the computer guys for advice. They could not figure it out and screwed around with my spacing, margins, and stuff. This made me rather frantic. I am pretty sure, but not certain, that I restored everything back to how I originally had it and the computer guy’s changes were not saved. I just hit enter and had a little extra space on one of the bottoms of a page. I did not have time to reread the paper for errors. So, with T minus five minutes I printed and turned in the paper.

To my horror, there was an empty line in the middle of a section. Normally I wouldn’t fret too much, but I am pretty sure I lost a significant amount of points for this (I think 4 points if its part of organization, more if it is part of style). This pisses me off because I lost points for something stupid and careless not for something that was legitimate. It’s even possible that the computer guy could have caused the error.

At least, I learned to leave an extra half hour to reread the paper before I turn the paper in.

I did do better on the final draft. Once again the good news is I did alright, and the bad news is I did alright.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Nightmare on Memo Street (Pt. 1)

Most 1Ls have a memo due sometime during the first semester. Unfortunately law school has this idea that you should be doing some of your work without the use of LEXIS and WESTLAW. This is a rather dumb idea, since we will almost always be using them in the real world and when we aren’t, my 5th grade library skills will probably do the trick.

Luckily for me I am a slacker. Sometime before the final weekend to work on the memo we got access to LEXIS and WESTLAW. My writing teacher figured everyone was basically done with their research anyway. Not me, I hadn’t really started and this was rather awesome! I didn’t have to do book research.

This is where the good part of my story ends. Since I had not started the memo the weekend before it is due I decided that it’s probably not a good idea to get wasted and go out. As you will find out I should have. I worked diligently and was making a lot of progress; I would even say the memo was good. AND then it happened, the memo writer’s worst nightmare:

I went into my writing professor’s office hours the day before the memo was due. I had some trivial questions. But then I asked her a content based question. In responding to my question, she revealed that I put the central balancing test in the wrong part of the statute and that I would probably do better if I started over to fix the mistake. I still disagree with her opinion and think it makes far less sense than mine, but since SOME of the courts agreed with her and SHE was grading my paper, I decided that at 3:00 p.m. the day before the paper was due, I needed to scrap most of the memo and start over.

THIS SUCKED BALLS. I do not recommend writing a ten page research paper in less than a day, especially when you need to redo the research.

I scramble to get the new cases together and start writing. I can’t honestly say this was my best work, but I needed to write something. Around 10:00 p.m., I have about six pages and decide that I need more cases. So I sign on to LEXISNEXIS on my laptop and find that LEXIS isn’t working. I try another computer in the library; LEXIS doesn’t work at this computer either. After consulting with some friends I realize LEXIS is down. Luckily LEXIS has a 24 hour support network. So I call them and they have no idea what’s going on. After being reconnected and trying get them to fix their service for 45 minutes, they tell me if I leave the library and go home LEXIS should work. I tell them that I will and not to worry about calling me about the library network.

I go home and finish the rest of the content without editing or putting the citations in. It’s 4:00 a.m. and I can’t think anymore. I decide to take a 2 hour nap and finish before it’s due at 10:30 a.m. the next day. I set two alarms and go to bed (sleeping through one, which I have done before, would be disastrous). Around 5:00 a.m., I get a call. WHO CALLS AT 5:00 AM? LEXISNEXIS of course, to tell me the library is now working. My two hours of sleep interrupted.

I woke up at 6:00 and put the citations in and edited to the best of my abilities before the memo was due. This was not my finest hour, but at least I had something that I could turn in. I thought the nightmare had ended, but the Nightmare on Memo Street continues with the revision . . .