Law: Transition

May 18, 2008

So class ended Wednesday and now (assuming all classes are passed) I’m a 2L!  Yey!  Now that I’m done with 1L year, what am I doing?  Getting ready to start my job!  Today I flew in, met my family, and moved into my summer housing.  Its sort of bare bones but given what I’m anticipating the firm being like, I cannot see it mattering too much that this is bear bones. 

Monday I start work!  I still cannot believe that somebody is going to expect me to be able to do the type of work that real attorneys do!  I mean, I’m glad somebody is going to pay me what they pay real attorneys, but still.  This next week will be interesting.  I’m hoping they take it slow and help us get transitioned into our new life as “sort of lawyers.”  I read an email saying there will be a lot of orientation/training stuff the first week which is good.  I need to learn even simple things like how to bill a client.

On an unrelated note, I’m feeling healthy again.  My throat is all better and I’m feeling good in that sense (although I have a foot that randomly goes numb from time to time) so


Monday was my Contracts exam.  Overall it was a hair easier than expected, but that also takes out opportunity for differentiation.  Since our professor is theory obsessed and I focused on doctrine, I’ll guess this worked to my disadvantage.  Overall, I’m thinking I’m in the B/B+ range. 

The exam was six questions about issues with a real company.  The exam focused on doctrine but on a fairly shallow level.  Read one contract and answer six questions putting different spins on the same agreement.  Overall it was fairly interesting but not really a useful tool (as far as I could tell) to distinguish between different levels of comprehension.

The real fun was after the exam.  Turns out our section and another section had identical exams.  For our section, the exam fit neatly with what we were told it would look like, so we know our professor wrote the exam and we didn’t have any issues. Another section was told they would have two long issue spotters and looked at a lot of the professor’s old answers.  Needless to say, given the fact that this exam was totally different, they were angry.

This led to rumors flying.  The first rumor was that they got the exam by mistake.  Next up was the rumor that to fix this mistake they would be given the choice between taking their grade as pass/fail and taking their grade that they got on the exam.  Of course, time (and an email from their professor) revealed that neither of these were the case.  Our professor wrote an exam, their professor looked over it, thought it was interesting, and decided to use it.  Case closed. 

Tomorrow is my last 1L final.  International – joy.  So screwed.

Law: K’s Prep

May 12, 2008

Tomorrow (or later today) I have my contracts exam.  During the semester my general approach to this class was:  “Look, I can learn this form an outline, I’ll put in the time right before the exam.”  Well, now its right before the exam and (shock of shocks) I still haven’t put in the time.  So with the exam coming up tomorrow and about 3 hours of review left, I’m not sure where I stand.  Here’s the deal:

Parts of contracts make sense, its just applying the same three or four patterns to different questions.  Other parts are really tricky and rule driven.  I’m not really sure what to make of the class or the exam.  Add to this concern the fact that I’m not convinced the professor really knows what is going on (he is brilliant, I just don’t think he has much interest in teaching Contracts) and we end up with a scarey mix going into a final.

This exam is just as likely to be straight law and econ/risk allocation as it is to be doctrinally contracts.  Origionally we were told we would get a large number of short answer (half hour or so) questions.  Then that was changed to a “potential preference for long questions.”  Personally, I’m hoping for a few long questions as I think I do better in these situations, but I’m guessing 6 questions with a half hour to answer each.  This is about as scarey of an exam formal as there is in my world. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.  After the exam, I get to grab dinner, relax for two or three hours, and then move on to the joy of preparing for the exam that I am most afraid of – International Economic Law.

Lets see how this goes. 

A while back we wrote a few posts comparing law school to med school and noticing how they are in many ways similar but in some ways different.

Today I want to roll back the clock a half a decade (it sounds longer than 5 years if I say it like that) as a framework to talking about the differences between law school and med school.

Recently I read a few articles about how people go to law school for a lot of really bad reasons and how law students have much stronger regrets about their graduate education than others.  Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that the vast vast majority of students earn significantly less than they thought they would when they went into law school (Note:  As we have talked about before, if you did a modal 10K range, it would be 45K-55K). 

The study I was reading mentioned two large factors that they blamed for this other than inflated income expectations (perhaps more accurately, the article noted to factors that make not earning what people thought they would earn different for a law student than for every business graduate from an average school).  The first factor it mentions is that a lot of students go into law school because they don’t have any particular skills, consider themselves smart, and think law school is a good way for a smart person to make a living.

In some ways, there might be some truth to this, just with a much bigger adjustment to what defines “a living.”  If you are somebody that does well in liberal arts classes that are not stats based, odds are your “smarts” come in the form of reading, writing, and talking.  These skills could make you a gifted manager in a corporation one day (depending on your overall ability to get things done/manage people) but that would require an unclear path and some luck, not to mention a “low” starting salary.  No no, if you consider youself “smart” (remember this is a realative term, over a quarter of my high school was on some honor roll and considered themselves smart) then law seems like an appealing fallback.  For these people, I’ll just say that law school is tough and from what I can tell, practicing law is definately not a cakewalk.  There is “smart” relative to the population and there is “Smart” relative to law school applicants and the bar for the second is higher (the same holds true for any graduate school).

The second “all too common norm” in the article was a path that combines the two topics of this board:  A student wants to go to medical school and either can’t hack it in undergrad science, can’t get the MCAT, or realizes they don’t like the site of blood and decides they now want to go to law school.  I know a couple of people like this.  I’ve thought about this for a while and I must say, if I was an admissions rep, I would take this as a HUGE sign that this person is going to law school or all the wrong reasons. 

Not to sound judgmental (although I am judgmental) but if you say you “discovered a love for the law” in the middle of college, you are so full of fertilizer that its coming out of your ears.  Look, law and med school take two completely opposite types of people.  The only thing these folks have in common (on the whole) is that they both do really well on standardized tests.  If you were pre med and ended up pre law, you either 1. think you are entitled/should/need to make a lot of money/have a prestiege job and as a result took what you thought (wrongly) was the next best path or 2. Have parents telling you these are the only two acceptable jobs.  This is complicated by the fact that just getting into ANY med school is hard but if you are willing to pay 30-40K and are dumb enough to believe that it doesnt matter where you go, then there is certainly a law school that will take you.  Either way, you are a fool for making this decision.  If you “I’m not either of those” then I refuse to believe you, you are in the first group and in denial.  The only people I believe are the ones that are actually MD/JD’s.  These people were able to hack it in med school and still moved onto law school.  If you have the skills for both, be realistic, you’re going to elect to be a doctor (or at least go to med school and then change later).

How can I be so sure of this?  How can I so strongly assert that these are polar opposite skills/personality types?  For starters, because I’m opinionated and a post full of hedging doesn’t make for a good blog.  More importantly, I’m thinking back among all of the now law students or doctors I know (by the way, I cannot think of a single person that I graduated with in high school that is now a law student, if any of you can, please IM me).  From here out, I’m going to focus on myself and Kurzman because its easier than generalizing and the specifics definately hold true. 

Med School types (at least the ones that are going to be successful) like answers.  They know answers, they know how to get answers, and they can think logically to other anwsers.  “Now Clegal, isn’t all school about knowing answers?”  Why yes, but there are different types of answers. 

Guys like Kurzman learn the facts, the verifiable, one right way, answers.  “What is the shape of this molecule.”  “How do you calculate the relative speed of this reaction?” “Is this a one way or two way reaction?”  “Integrate this multivariable equation.”  These are the things guys like Kurzman can do, and they can do them very well.  Not only that, but they can think from one situation to another to use the answers they know to figure out new answers.  “Given what you know about covalent bonds, what will this look like?”  Even their “BS” questions are tricky, usually have objectively right or logical answers and can be verified “if thats the case, why does hydrogen do this?” Yes I realize I’m using Freshmen level chem and math concepts, but this is what I know ok, so back off.  Guys like Kurzman work hard.  They get stuff.  The understand the value of figuring out a right answer, they ususally know it, and they understand how they got there.  If you have those skills, you can perhaps do anything, I don’t know, but I do know that you need this to be a future med-student (at least from my non-med student perspective).  I base this on the fact that now, Kurzman is expected to learn answers.  Right answers.  And when he is in practice, he will be expected to take the right answers he knows, apply them, and get more right answers. 

Guys like me, not so much.  In high school, I didn’t really “figure out answers.”  I wasn’t dumb and I didn’t do poorly grades wise, but there was a big difference between the way I got through classes with “answers” (Math, Science, Etc) and the way someone like Kurzman did.  I was fine at memorizing a process and repeating it over and over.  Thankfully, if you can do this, you will do well in public high school.  High school calc and chem, even at high levels, is “monkey work.” Memorize and repeat.  Just learn the formula, know what all the letters mean, and be able to solve a basic algebraic equation (which is really just more memorizing).  I could get the answers, do fine in those classes, but I never really got it.  Ask me to think creatively in a chem or math class and I’m lost, always was.  I was a step and a half behind the kids like Kurzman and a step ahead of the people that just didn’t have the ability to memorize and repeat. 

So what is “lawyer smart?”  What kind of answers do we have?  Simple, we construct arguments.  We take situations that are similar and we twist them.  We push things to the edges to break them and we put them back in ways we like.  Better yet, we understand that similar words and sentences can have different meanings and we can think quickly on our feet.  By we, I dont mean all law students, I mean people with skill sets like me.  We are the ones that are having the BS conversation about something in high school and take somebody’s logic, exagerate it to the ends, perhaps make an analogy, and attempt to show thats a “silly” line.  We frustrate people and they don’t end up agreeing most of the time, but they just don’t poke that hole in the logic.  We will argue fringe things and leave the other side feeling like they were just robbed.  Our place of excellence isn’t the chem lab, its the lunchroom debate or better year, the essay exam.  Not the “what were the causes of the american revolution” essay, but the “analyze X and Y using the themes of this course” types.  We play with ideas, put them together, and make conclusions.  The things we think we know are usually things that aren’t facts but opinions.  Or skill isn’t the ability to get the right answer, its the ability to constuct an argument so you think our opinion is the right answer. 

Flash forward a few years.  Last week Kurzman took a series of exams where he was expected to know things about certain body processes.  How they worked, what they did, in some cases what they looked like, and how they interact.  His creative thinking was connecting concepts.  Tomorrow I’ll take my second exam.  I’ve been studying hard and I’m running into problems because, in all honesty, I really don’t know anything.  There are facts and rules I’m supposed to know that I don’t because I just don’t learn those things well.  Hopefully it will work out, maybe it wont, but even if I knew them all perfectly, that wouldn’t be what this exam was about.  This exam is about taking those “facts” and “rules” (not the same as science facts) and applying them to a situation.  Play with the situation on both sides. Push and pull it, look for a path then try to build a wall to block it off, then climb over the wall you just built. 

The hardest part for me on this exam is that I don’t have the full knowledge base I should going into this exam.  In Kurzman’s world, not having the knowledge base would be the ballgame.  You can’t get a D without at least a strong knowledge base.  If I took a med school style exam about this material, I would fail.  Thankfully, lawyers don’t work on “these facts what result” they work on “these facts, what arguments.”  In this situation, with a last minute hail marry, I still have an outside shot at getting through this because even though I don’t have the full knowledge base, if I can figure out the general category, I can look up the rules and come up with an argument.  This would be like Kurzman going “well, I dont really know what muscles does that, but i know its in this broad family.  I’m hoping for a B and anticipating a B-.  Please wish me well. 

I have a sinking feeling about this exam, and the scarey part is, this is the one I’ll be best prepared for.  We’re not in high school anymore Rex (I didn’t wanna say Todo because 1. I don’t know how to spell it and 2. Rex sounds more manly). 

I’ve always been a “small victories” person.  I don’t mean that I celebrate small things or make silly excuses to feel good, I mean that I try to break things up and work towards one thing at a time.  Ever since I started getting some control over what goes on in my life (around middle or high school) I’ve always been a “baby steps” kinda guy. 

When I was young, this didn’t matter much because I didn’t really take any steps.  In high school I was…. hope do you say……. lazy.  I don’t mean like Kurzman and I talk about being lazy now because we only study a few hours a day, I mean lazy lazy, like, Union employee lazy.  We’re talkin’ the Denver Nuggets on Defense or Barry Bonds running out a pop up to short lazy.  Even then, I still had “baby steps.” 

In high school, I would set small goals like “during commercial start working and work until you finish three homework problems.”  Needless to say, this approach wasted more time than it saved, but wasting time wasn’t really the fear.  You see, in my teenaged mind, every point above a 90% was a titanic waste.  If I was going to get a B, every point above an 80 was effort that was better spent doing something else (like making fun of somebody, I know, mature).  

Oh, wow, Clegal, you’re sooooo cool, you were a slacker in high school.  Suburban kid doesn’t take school seriously, get the news stations out here.  Aren’t you so cool.

Now, I didn’t do that long lead in for the sake of showing how little I cared in high school (but seriously, when the kid that failed out of NIU is sitting next to you getting the same grade and trying not particularly hard, what is the motivation to put in any effort) but rather to demonstrate why I screw myself every finals season.

Today I started to do really hard nosed work.  I sat down just me and my outline and I started to work.  I was cranking through cases using a template I borrowed from a friend and moving along just fine for about 10 minutes when I started to get this “itch.”  Clegal, what do you want to accomplish today? I began to wonder.  “You aren’t really going to try and go through this whole course, are you?” I found myself daydreaming.  Of course not.  So I stopped and set a goal, something logical (I wanted to get through all of the legislation stuff in my Legislation and Regulation course). 

Great, I had a goal.  Back to work I went and I started cranking through things until eventually I was at my goal.  The problem is, I hit my goal sooner than anticipated, but my goal for the day was reached so I packed up and went home to waste the rest of my night.  Now, this isn’t a huge problem per se, after all, sometimes you overestimate and sometimes you underestimate, so who cares.  Well, the problem is, I always underestimate.  In my desire to always be done and put things off, I always shoot too low, so when I hit my target, I’m still not as far as I could have been if I set my sights higher. 

With this in mind, I’m decreeing now, I want to get through half of the Leg Reg course tomorrow.  Not half of what I have left, Half.  I want to get through all of the administrative law stuff and into the stuff that combines the two (deference to agency interpretation and whatnot).  So there it is.  I set a big, fat, hairy, difficult to achieve goal.  Lets see if I can achieve it.

Today marks another in a line of “should that really appear on this blog” type posts. 

In the middle of Fall semester, or section leader held a section meeting to talk about what Interntional electives we wanted to take.  This was a generally pointless meeting, he told us how all the faculty were superstars and all the classes were great.  At the end, I raised my hand to ask what would be the most practical course.  You see, my logic was, all of these classes are going to be like pulling teeth for me.  I don’t like international stuff.  I don’t find other countries interesting and the only “interplay between nations” that I am really captivated by will take place this year – the olympics.  Heck, I even picked a college largely based on the act that I would never have to take a foreign language class.  In undergrad my “non western civilization” course would have ruined my semester if I didn’t take a joke of a class with four fraternity brothers.  All I remember was my professor making some anti-Israel comments and saying “Middle of vhat, East of vhat” 5 or six times per class period.  Basically, I am disappointed that the school added the international elective and figured if I had to suffer through it, I might as well take something useful. 

So I raised my hand and in my uniquely smart-assed way said “Can you talk a little about which of these courses would be the most practical, I assume not Duncan Kennedy’s course but beyond that could you offer some insight?”  Duncn Kennedy of course is best known for deciding that current methods of analysis in legal academia were not far enough left and seeking to fix this by inventing an entirely new legal paradigm to the EXTREME left (nope, not a conservative bias at all in that sentence).  To quote paradoy:  Duncan Kennedy knows things nobody else knows….. because he made them up……. and published them. 

Anyway, when I asked that question, my professor launched into some off topic rant that basically said “this is HLS, you will get enough practical stuff and you will be well prepared, take something fun.”  When I followed up with him about this late, he noted “take a little dessert with your veggies,” meaning do something fun.  Sorry sir, but nothing Interntional is particularly fun to me.

Today I went for a little dessert with my veggies.  I had been studying all week, so today some friends and I went out and had some legit fun – we went to a Red Sox game.  Now, for a hardcore baseball junkie, Fenway is the place.  Cubs fans things Wrigley is the place to be, but thats Midwest arrogance (which is still nothing compared to East Coast arrogance).  Wrigley is an interesting museaum, Yankee stadium is a great cathedral, but Fenway…. thats a great ballpark.  The fans know the game and cheer.  Chants and excitement start from the field and work their way up (no PA announcer “clap clap” or rally meter, just fans that want to cheer their team on).  I always thought the 8th inning sing-along was somewhat silly but when you are actually there and do it, it is a really good time.  Overall, the whole game was a blast. 

I still prefer Comisky the Cell, but only because the White Sox play there.  This was an awsome experience and one I hope to repeat when friends come in from out of town.

Today marks the first of my four Spring finals.  Todays final is in analytical methods, a court that functions asa survey of accounting, finance, game theory, economics, and stats as applied to the practice of law. 

At first our exam was going to be two long questions which I thought was awsome.  Give me a couple of questions and a lot of time and I feel like I’ll come up with something good.  Unfortunately, the professor announced today (yes exam day) that it will now consist of 9 shorter answers.

I am extremely uneasy about this exam – historically it has not been that difficult, but the homework in this class has been an extremely random game of “guess what I’m thinking.” 

I’m predicting a solid B+ and that the exam will be about 1/3 econ, 1 finance question, 1-2 accounting questions, 2 states questions, a game theory quesion, and one that is sort of “across dimensions.” 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Law: Ames Debrief

April 16, 2008

Today was Ames.  There was a little bit of stress stemming from my partner not showing up, but I legitimately understand how she could have made the mistake she did and at this point I just feel bad for her. 

On the plus side, Ames is done and it was 100% painless.  There was a point in the middle where I believed I might have made a mistake and told a judge he was wrong, but opposing counsel agreed with my interpretation so all was fine.  Overall I thought things went well.  The judges asked a lot of questions and although they didn’t agree with my initial position they were an almost impossible read given the fact that they peppered both sides with many many questions.  They seemed to take it as a given that a majority of circuits were incorrect. 

I won’t be winning best oralist, but I didn’t embarass myself.  In an scarey and odd turn of events, I must say that I believe if a group of people I generally enjoyed came up and asked me if I had any interest in participating on their Ames team, I would be strongly tempted to say yes.  Then again, its easy to say that now when 2L year looks like gumdrops and cupcakes from where I’m currently sitting. 


Tomorrow is my Ames oral argument.  After this, I will have officially completed First Year Legal Writing.  Unfortunately, my grade for the course is still up in the air.  Why?  Because my partner caused our brief to be turned in 20 minutes late.  Oh well, just is life. 

Anyway, in preperation for tomorrow I reread both my brief and my opponents brief.  Additionally, I outlined what I want to get out and what the cases stand for.  Now its just a matter of putting together a competent presentation. 

Word around the grapevine is that a friend of mine absolutely killed with her oral argument yesterday.  I don’t like being outdone and I didn’t do well AT ALL in practice, so it will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow.  Hopefully very well, only time will tell.

I’ll let you know how it goes and after that I promise to attempt to resume regular posting.

Law: Rush?

April 12, 2008

I was never particularly gifted at “rushing” dudes.  I did what I was supposed to – replaced myself with someone, and I helped out along the way with a few others.  Overall, I added to our size overall.

Why am I going back down greek road?  Well, today was part of admitted students weekend.  More specifically, today was the day where Harvard puts a bunch of student organizations in a room for admits to go talk to, then says “we’ll give you $20 a kid, anybody that wants to go eat with you, take them out and have fun.” 

So I stood there and talked to some people about one of my journals, played nice nice, and had a generally good time.  When it was over, we had one guy, and a friend and I took him out to eat.

Why is this awkward?  Well, for one, you have to fill several hours of converstation.  Furthermore, you have to fill this time of conversation and come up with a good way to finally end the chat.  This is much easier said than done.  After 20 minutes at the fair, a full dinner, then an hour and a half at a bar, lets just say the conversation ran a little thin.  Finally he decided to pack it in and head home.  I left shortly thereafter.

Anyway, so much for a relaxing Friday.  That much BS is a lot of work.  Hopefully I can get my reading cranked out tomorrow so I can focus on Ames the rest of the time.  Oh, and some R & R would be nice too.