Thursday, December 20, 2007

. . . And then there were four

Exams are finished and I'm now on break until the first week of January. Depending on what elective I take in the summer (still undecided), I am down to four exams left in law school, and only seven more required courses. If I can swing it, next summer I will have no exams (my last term of class work) from my four classes.

Pretty exciting stuff - I can see the end of law school and the beginning of the "actually working as a lawyer" part. Over the break I am working on my resume, cover letters, writing samples, and job searches. I need to find an internship for next fall on the west coast, no easy task. If everything works out I'll either work on criminal appeals for a public agency, or work for the court of appeals directly. fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Step one complete!

Part of the bar exam is a separate test called the "multistate professional responsibility exam" or MPRE, which is a test on the model rules of professional responsibility. Essentially, it's a test on the ethical rules all lawyers must abide by - lawyers policing lawyers. In many ways, this is what sets the legal profession apart from other professions, except perhaps the medical profession.

This test can be taken anytime within two years of taking the bar exam itself. I took it last month and a couple days ago I found out that I passed. Very excited am I! This is, essentially, part one of passing the bar itself, and I'm finished with it (assuming that I actually do pass the bar when I take it). It's strange how quickly time seems to be moving, I'm literally only a year away from being finished with school, and only about 9 months from finishing classwork (my last term will be entirely devoted to an externship). Soon I'll be out there actually practicing, so watch out!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Oh boy

So I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up with my blog, but as the saying goes, I'll soldier on the best I can. I have decent reasons for my neglect however. My law school carreer has crossed a threshold and I now find myself on the downward slope toward the end. A few observations, at this point in my law school carreer.

I am now a retired moot court competitor. I made it pretty far - won our intra-school tournament, won best brief for that competition, and was selected to be on our school's national team. That means that I was one of four people (out of nearly 2000 students) selected, quite an honor. We competed at the regional tournament a couple weeks ago, and although I made the best arguments I've ever made, we did not advance. So endeth this chapter in my studies. It was a blast while it lasted, and I'm still involved in our school's moot court program - I help out with the first year competition, I judge/help with practice rounds, and next term I will be a TA for the intra-school class. But for all intents and purposes, I'm finished with moot court. Now I can focus on the classes I have left - in a way, a relief. Moot court is very time consuming. I'm glad to have had the opportunity however, and I know how great it looks on my resume.

I only have six exams left in my law school carreer. Two this term, four next term, and my last term I will be taking classes with no exams. The end is near!

I met this week with a carreer counselor, and over winter break I will be working on my resume, cover letters, and beginning a job/externship search. I'm looking for an externship 2000 miles away from where I'm going to school, so it will be difficult. My carreer counselor wants me to make a list of 40 possible employers, and put together resumes/cover letters/writing samples/recommendation letters for all of them by January. Yikes! The end is approaching fast! I have three professors who will write recommendations for me, so that's good.

I will have 55/90 credits after this term. After next term, I will have 69/90. I'm almost done!!! Frankly, I'm ready to be finished and get out there and find a job. Law school has been a blast, but I am getting bored with classwork, I want to do the real work.

So here I am, at the crossroads, ready to move on. It's exciting and daunting at the same time. I welcome it either way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Am I getting old?

I confess, I have a little bit of a TV weakness. when I'm not studying, I tend to watch the idiot box, and I've noticed a trend on commercials... why is it that the great, old, edgy punk rock tunes of my youth are now becoming mainstream on TV? why is Devo the theme for Intel, the Clash the theme for Pontiac, etc? Am I the only one irritated by this phenomenon?

and another thing. . . I was helping judge a moot court practice round for a local undergrad university a couple weeks ago, and one of the competitors had this shaggy hair hanging down in his face, and my first thought was "get a haircut kid"... and then, oh boy, it was like a slap in the face. I am my parents.

in other news, we leave this weekend for Cleveland for our regional moot court tournament. wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


2500 hits on my blog, and strangely enough there have been over 400 just this month. By far the busiest month ever.

And. . . I have only posted once. who is reading this? I admit that I have neglected my blog for some time now, but I intend to keep this up and write more in the near future. The strange thing is, I enjoy writing. My favorite classes in school are always the writinig classes, and I seem to have no shortage of things to say, so why the dead air here? I don't have an answer. I will attempt to pick up the pace, perhaps I will even break my own personal rule and blog about social and political events... who knows.

At any rate, thanks for reading, whoever you are!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bank error in your favor. . .

My evidence prof made an error on everyone's grade, and . . . everyone's grade went up! that means that I went from a B to an A! suddenly, last term doesn't look so bad! (now if I could just do something about that gawdawful PR grade).

Friday, September 28, 2007


Yes, I passed all my classes last term, but this time I am going to appeal at least one, and probably two grades. For now I'll leave it at that, but once the process is over I'll probably post some comments. Needless to say, while I did fine overall, this was not my best term (outside of moot court).

I will have my bluebooks this afternoon, and will have about a week to file the appeals. stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two down. . .

. . . two to go. This means that I'm still waiting on grades for two of my classes. It's like this every term. Our grades are posted electronically, and they are "due" by the Monday of week four (which happens to be next Monday). This means that, between exam week, break, and week four, as many as seven weeks pass while we wait for our grades. Now that wouldn't be so bad if we just got a report card in the mail, but some grades are posted early (graduating students' grades are due on the Monday of week 1, for example, and other classes which don't have exams are posted pretty quickly too), which ends up teasing us into checking . . . every . . . day. Even though we know that they are unlikely to be posted.

The other problem is when a teacher tells us that he turned in our grades two weeks ago, but they just haven't been posted yet. That happened for Con Law I this term. I have the same prof for Con Law II and he told us the first week of class that the grades were in. That was two weeks ago Friday, and the grades were finally posted yesterday. So it takes almost two weeks for them to scan the page and post it online?

Which means we could be waiting even longer, for the grades are "due" on week four, meaning that's when the professor has to have them graded. as for when they are "posted"? who knows.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another day, another new term in law school

Here we go, today is the start of yet another term in law school. The nice thing for me is (assuming that I passed all of my classes last term) that I'm exactly half-way finished. After grades are in (by week 4), I will have 45 credits, half of what I need to graduate.

This term will be both fun and boring. I don't expect to enjoy Business Organizations too much, though I've heard really good things about my prof. I will have the same prof again for constitutional law II, which is a good thing, and of course I'll be neck deep in the moot court national team until about Thanksgiving (the regional tournament is nov 17-18; after that the national finals are not until Feb). ADR is the wild card for me. I've heard it's easy and very fun, however it is a practice area that I have very little interest in so we shall see. I plan on embracing all, like every term, so it should be fun.

To all others, good luck this term. (DJ, will I see you on Fridays this term?)

Friday, August 24, 2007


Yes, this is a post about something that is NOT law school. During break I actually have a little time to do something fun, if you can believe that. This is a post about a little movie, based on a little book, written by one of my favorite little authors.

Stardust is a little book by Neil Gaiman which was either a novel first and then a graphic novel, or the other way around (I have no idea). Either way, it is one of the few of his works that I have not read, so I was not overly tainted when I saw the movie yesterday.

A little bit first about Mr. Gaiman, for those who are not familiar. He is probably most well known for his graphic novel series The Sandman, which I believe is now up to volume 10 or so with a few spinoffs as well. However, those of you who are not graphic novel fans have nothing to fear, he has written a couple fantastic books of late - most notably American Gods, which received several awards and is quite possibly one of the better fantasy tales told in the last several years.

Anyway, back to Stardust, I am not interested in spoiling the movie, only in giving a few thoughts. If you want to find out what actually happens, go watch it. Don't worry, you won't be mad that you paid for it.

It's a little fantasy story told in that similar British style as The Princess Bride, (but of course, I'm not trying to compare this movie to the materpiece that is the Princess Bride, just trying to give some context). It's a happy-ending kind of story with that little quirkiness that keeps the audience entertained without feeding them an overdose of soft cheese. Probably the most important thing to know is that the trailers and previews do NOT do this film any justice at all. The bad witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) is, actually, a pretty bad lady (and very well played by Ms. Pfeiffer). The fallen star (Claire Danes) isn't just a pretty face, and the pirate (Robert DeNiro) is . . . well you'll have to go see the movie. DeNiro alone is worth the price of admission, and I'll just say that he is not what he seems. . .

It has magic, good guys, bad guys, vaguely good/bad guys, a fair dose of quirky humor, and of course a happy ending. I give this movie $7.50 out of my $8.50 admission price, which means that it's definitely worth the price of admission, and a bargain at a matinee.

And, of course, check out the works of the author. I just finished Good Omens, a quite funny tale about the end of the world co-written by Terry Pratchett.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Exams and Skunks

My last exam was last night, and now I am finished for two weeks. What a relief, I don't have to take professional responsibility again! The evidence exam was pretty difficult but I think I did fine on all of them, so we move on, right? After grades are posted, I'll be exactly halfway finished with law school!

In other news, one of my dogs killed a skunk the other night, what a mess that was. she didn't get sprayed directly, but she got some in her mouth which really freaked her out. We bathed her, bathed us, washed all the clothes and sheets, and used Ozium to sanitize the air in the house. Worked like a charm! We bathed the dog/us in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, and that worked really well too. If you ever get skunked, I highly recommend both!

Anyway, enough adventure for one week. Now for a little time off before the national moot court problem is sent to us and I have to crack down and write that brief. It never ends!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time, or the lack thereof. . .

As the term winds down (two more weeks, including finals), here are some random thougts on school, etc.

First, it's time to brag a little. My partner and I won the intra-school moot court competition this past week, and as a result we have been selected for the national team. We compete starting in October at regionals, so it means that my 'break' won't actually be much of a break. Doesn't matter, this is a fantastic opportunity - there are only four students on this team, and we are two of them!

This, of course, means that I have to adjust my schedule for next term. No more five classes, no more scholarly writing. I'm actually relieved, as I haven't been looking forward to writing a law review article, nor have I been looking forward to law review in my future. I know, I know, It looks great on the resume. But to be honest, I'd rather write appellate briefs than law review articles. I do love to write, that isn't the problem, but I prefer the more practical side of writing. Now that I'm on the national moot court team, I don't have to worry. There's no way I can do both at the same time, and this is just as prestigious as law review (maybe more so considering this is exactly what I want to do for a living). Problem solved :)

Which leaves me with my three finals left for this term. Con law I, Professional Responsibility, and Evidence. I hadn't given the first thought to exams until yesterday. Fortunately, I don't miss classes, and I take excellent notes, so I have that going for me, and I have a good grasp of con law and evidence, but PR... well there's a class that pretty much everyone snoozes through. OK OK not exactly, but it isn't the most intellectually challenging, demanding, or interesting class. So people, including me, put very little effort into the class during the term. Considering how much moot court took up my time this term, I suppose I'd be happy with a B out of PR... but that means that I better get cracking. Time to study.

The result? well the frequency with which I have posted here lately will probably continue, for one thing. I will update and perhaps post something about the national moot court problem, which should be out soon. The SCOTUS is off term, so not much interesting coming from them right now, and the news from the world of politics is boring. so school it is, and for now I have to focus on exams and then the moot court brief that is likely due in September. Yikes! Either way, Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Future of the supreme court?

a good article on FindLaw here on the potential effect of the upcoming election on the makeup of the US Supreme Court.

definitely food for thought, considering the direction the court has moved in the past few years, especially with Bush II's appointments. . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Hello everyone. It's been awhile since I posted here. Sorry I have been quiet lately, between moot court and those other classes I'm taking, I've been rather busy lately. The rest of the term is shaping up to be rather crazy. Moot court competition starts this weekend, and if we advance it will continue for at least one more week. I also have to prepare for finals in my other three classes, but I still have almost a month to do that. At any rate, my life has been rather wacky lately, so I haven't had too much time to pontificate. Rest assured, however, that more will follow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thank you, Justice Breyer

Ever since the Supremes decided to overturn Seattle's school choice program, I've been rather too angry to post anything coherent. Thanks to Justice Breyer, now I don't have to. He summarizes his dissent here, and explains why this may in fact be one of the worst decisions in recent memory.

Thank you, Justice Breyer. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain

Yet more shenanigans from our erstwhile vice president. Now he's above constitutional muster. What is wrong with these guys? First we get Nero for president, now it becomes clear that our vice is Rasputin in disguise (please, forgive me for mixing my historical references). 2009 will not come fast enough.

One conservative writer at Slate wants Cheney impeached, and even the British think Cheney is really running things. I have no idea if we'll elect anyone better, I'm not sold on any of the candidates for either party, but at this point I'm of the opinion that anyone is better than this bunch.

Monday, June 25, 2007

No More Bong Hits 4 Jesus

The supreme court today voted 5-4 to uphold the school's authority to limit speech when it believes that the speech is promoting illegal drug use. Story here. I am sure I'll have more to say about this later, but let me first say that I'm not surprised at all, given the makeup of the court, although I was hoping that Scalia would surprise us and side with the rights of students.

ahh well. for anyone interested, the full opinion is here.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Appellate Briefs

I haven't had much time to come up with a new, clever, witty, or memorable blog post lately. The biggest reason is that I'm up to my ears in writing my appellate brief for moot court. It's on the 5th amendment, and in particular what the police need to specifically include in the Miranda warnings given to suspects before interrogation. If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to go into greater detail about the subject matter (suffice it to say that I've done plenty of research on it).

For now I'm simply here to make a cheap excuse for not updating my blog... It's a ton of work (writing a brief) and it's rather complex, so I'm trying to do something completely new without reinventing the wheel. We shall see how it comes out . . .

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Irony, Bork Style

Well known tort reform activist Robert Bork is suing Yale University, for compensatory and punitive damages after a slip and fall on campus. One conservative blog takes great pains to call Bork out for the apparent hypocisy - that a leading tort reformer should not be seeking punitive damages.

For me, I hope he wins his suit; after all, Bork's kind of tort reform would cripple the system, and what better way to send that message than what's happening to him right now. However, the irony is rather tasty either way.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Church Signs

I am not a 'church going' person. However, I have always enjoyed creative, funny Church marquees. This one struck me as funny:

for a pretty good article on them, click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's official

Grades are in and I am now officially a 2L, which means I passed all of my classes and now have 33 credits. In fact, I earned my first certificate of merit this term - in research and writing, no less. Very happy am I.

Now I can stop worrying about grades and focus on this term.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wish I had taken a picture

Two nights ago, we were visited by a bat. Sometime around midnight my dogs started to go nuts, and it didn't take long to figure out why. I am pretty sure that it was a little brown bat, based on its size - it was about the size of my hand, maybe a 7 or 8 inch wingspan. After a few moments of 'what the hell do I do' while my dogs futilely try to catch this thing flying around in my hallway, the bat helped me (and herself) out greatly by flying into my bathroom. I shut her in, opened the window, and she was gone by morning.

I did get a good look at her once in the bathroom though. She sat perched on the wall above the window, and with her wings all folded in she was about the size of my cell phone. When I opened the window she flew around a bit more but not for long, and I noticed that her body was very small, so she must have been a juvenile. Now I wish I had grabbed a camera and taken a picture or two. Oh well, maybe she'll come back and visit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


With a few exceptions, our grades in law school are entirely dependent on a three-hour exam covering thirteen weeks of material. The notion itself is rather daunting, and becomes even moreso when we think about the subjects we are being tested on. The only way to survive and thrive is to do two things: pay attention to the material during the entire term (cramming at the end of the term is a recipe for failure), and create and maintain an effective outline as a study aid.

After talking with a friend who is now a lawyer about outlining (and disagreeing with him on a couple things), I was inspired to make a post about what I think the form and purpose of an effective law school outline should be. These are my "dos and don'ts" of outlining. Keep in mind that the most important 'rule' of outlining is that it be made BY and FOR you, nobody else, so it has to be tailored to how you think, how you study, and how you learn. This means that MY rules work for ME, and may help others, but are by no means universal. Everyone learns and thinks differently, so read the following with that in mind.

Nevertheless, I have found that there are some things that work, and others that don't, when it comes to making an outline that will be an effective study aid. That is, in reality, the first important point - the outline is your study guide in your words. Many people make these huge outlines that they don't really use because they are too unwieldy, they just do it because they think they are supposed to do it. So. Keeping in mind that you are creating a study guide that you should use during that 1-2 week period before finals, here are my suggestions.

*Too long is too long. There is no rule of thumb, but if your outline is hundreds of pages, it's not only 'not impressive', it's completely useless as a study aid. In my opinion, your outline should be no more than 15 or 20 pages, and even that is probably too long. Last term my longest outline was 11 pages. Why? because you want to recall your entire outline during the exam, and if it's too long you can't do that.

*Rules. That's all that you put in your outline. Just the rules. Make them your own words, don't just copy the rule from the cases or what the prof said, re-write them in your own words.

*Some people advocate putting hypothetical examples in your outline to help illustrate the rules. I am mixed on this notion- if it is the only way to help you memorize and learn the rules, then go ahead. If you can learn without them in your final product, then my suggestion is to leave them out. One way to get around this is the 'rewrite' method - that is, you have an outline with hypos in it, then as part of your study regimen you re-write your entire outline omitting the chaff. It's a good compromize.

*Things to NOT put in your outline:

**Don't put cases or case names in your outline. Rules ONLY. If the rule is named after the case (like Miranda) then go ahead. You have a casebook, your own case briefs, and your notes if you need to look up info on a case. **Excpetion to this rule is for professors who expect you to be able to cite cases on the exam. In those cases, use the case names but boil the case down to one phrase or sentence. You want to be able to recall this information during the exam, and long descriptions get lost.

**In code classes (civ pro, evidence, etc) don't put the rules verbatim in your outline. You have a codebook to look them up if you need to. Refer to them (IE rule 26 - discovery in general), write a brief description and move on. Again, it's best to use your own words (just make sure with the code classes to get it right). For this kind of class, you have to use your code book to study, no getting around it, so there's no reason to write the rules verbatim in your outline. Write them in your own words, summarize them. After all, that is what you'll do on the exam!

**Don't get overly caught up in how your outline is organized. I made this mistake in my first term - I kept moving sections around, re-organizing this and that, and I ended up spending way too much time. The important thing about your outline is that it has all the rules/information you need for the exam in concise and readable format; that it's easy to recall. For me, I actually only use main headings (usually roman numerals) and one sub-heading (A, B, C, etc). Under each sub-heading I just list the applicable rules. I outline in the order the class was taught (use the syllabus), and that's it. No stress.

*Finally, a pretty decent trick that I learned from one of my student-colleagues. It's very helpful to re-write your outline (verbatim or not it doesn't matter) before the exam. The exercise is an excellent way to develop recall. You've written it once, write it again. The act of writing helps the (later, more important) act of recall. You can also create what one of my professors called an "attack outline" - a 1-2 page version of your outline that you intend to memorize and reproduce at the beginning of your exam (with the purpose of aiding your ability to recall the rest during the exam - sort of a 'reminder outline'). I don't do this but I don't think it's a bad idea for those who get really nervous during exams. It can be a very good 'calming' exercise during the beginning of the test which can only be a good thing.

Notice I use the word 'recall' rather than 'memorize'. See, if you are diligent, go to class, read the material, brief the cases, take notes, you will know the material. You will know the material backwards and forwards, you just might not realize that you know it that well. The trick is recalling it during that three-hour exam. That is what your outline is for - to help you recall - NOT to learn the material. this is the primary reason why a long outline is in my opinion completely useless. If you want a long outline, go buy a Gilberts. It takes much less time and effort than making your own (unless you plan on selling yours, in which case it might be worthwhile). A long outline (like those commercial outlines) is a learning tool, a short outline is a recall tool. Your self-created outline should be a recall tool.

Hope this helps, and of course I welcome any comments.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Two things that don't often happen, happened today. The first, I'm making a political post in my blog. Second, I caught a clip of Boston Legal that makes my point for me.

So without further adieu,

Boston Legal on Gitmo

Friday, May 11, 2007

I Kant, seriously

Okay, I understand completely. It's a legal ethics class (professional responsibility), and it make some sense to know a little about what some prominent ethical philosophers had to say. What I don't get is why we had to read JS Mill and Kant, excerpted, in a law school course. Why not just make a quick summary of the idea, and maybe attribute it to Mill or Kant? After all, they were relatively short excerpts, they barely captured the essence of what Mill and Kant were trying to say, and they were written in that wonderful (sic) arcane style that all of us love to read so much.

And. The only point was to introduce the idea that there actually is an ethical basis for what governs the behavior of lawyers.

Now I know it seems rather childish of me to complain about 20 pages of moral philosophy. After all, I have had to read 300 year old Queens Bench opinions in Contracts and Property class; I've had to absorb the rule against perpetuities, selected parts of the uniform commercial code, and Pennoyer v Neff. So what's wrong with a little Kant and Mill?

Here's what's wrong. I've read these guys before, back in college. I have a good understanding of Mill, and at least a working grasp of Kant. I have happily forgotten the old philosophy that I read in the past, and would have been perfectly content never to think about them again. Re-reading just a short excerpt simply reminded me about the self-flagellation that is moral philosophy. Moreover, the excerpts in my PR text barely scratched the surface of both, and in the case of Kant, they actually got it wrong, at least with regard to the conclusion the authors were drawing (In reality, it was a gross oversimplification rather than actually getting it incorrect, but I digress, the result is the same). So not only did I not care, I actually got angry at the errors. It's the same mistake people make with Nietsche - they read one passage and believe they understand him. You can't do that with Nietsche, and you Kant do that with Kant either.

But at this point, it's behind me. I just had to vent. We're done (hopefully) with the misapprehension of the categorical imperative, and I can shove that bit of torture back to the deeper recesses of my brain and continue to (hopefully) focus on more practical matters. Like exceptions to the hearsay rule (gee, there are only 28 of them)!

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Classes begin again on Monday, starting for me with Constitutional Law 1. I've put this class off for two terms now so it's time, and I'm actually looking forward to the class. I am (probably) one of the few who actually enjoys reading the opinions of the supreme court justices, and the debates among them over the many controversial issues that are raised in their court. I will be taking Evidence and Professional Responsibility as well. Both classes are very practice-oriented; one detailing the rules of evidence that govern court rooms, the other the ethical rules and codes that govern the behavior of attorneys. My final class this term will be Moot Court, which is an intra-school program where I prepare an appellate brief and an oral argument in front of a mock-supreme court. The competition will be at the end of the term (late July/early August).

All in all I am more relaxed today than I have been before any of my previous terms. Am I getting used to this law school business? Probably. Either way, I am looking forward to this term because all of my classes promise to be very interesting (even PR). Next term will be a different story (I'll be taking 2 or 3 classes that I have no interest in, but they are required so I must take them sometime), so I guess there's no time like the present.

I have made a commitment to myself to keep up with my blog more, so my pledge to all 3 or 4 of you reading this is to update at least once a week, probably on Sundays. I will make every effort to update more often if possible. Either way, I've been getting more hits here lately so I feel a bit of an obligation to update more.

Good luck to all starting this term anew, it should be an interesting summer term.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do we need to worry?

There has been some talk, after the supreme court recently upheld a ban on partial-birth abortions by a 5-4 majority, that the five Catholic members of the court are making judicial decisions based on their religion. While the argument certainly can be made on its face, there is no evidence that this is true in any real sense. To me, the split in the court is not on religious grounds, but rather on differing interpretations about the scope of privacy allowed by Roe v Wade. To wit, 5 members of the court believe that a ban on partial-birth abortions is allowable under the framework set by Roe, and 4 do not. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, if you read the opinion, it surely doesn't look that simple (and it isn't), but at the very least the decision was made arguably on constitutional grounds, and any debate is based there, not on religion.

There are certainly some troubling elements in this decision; the fact that at least part of the reasoning is based on the notion that a woman might later regret her decision certainly bears no resemblance to constitutional doctrine. However, to say that the 5 Catholics are toeing the Roman party line makes no sense... The court does not support Rome's just-wage initiative; the court (and in particular its Catholic contingent) is decidely pro-death penalty (which the Church is decidedly against); and the court has upheld the rights of homosexuals to engage in consensual sex. Justice Kennedy (a Catholic) also upheld abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v Casey.

It seems, then, that the recent concern that the nine are allowing their religious convictions rule their decisionmaking is much ado about nothing. Is that to say that the justices are not influenced by their moral or religious convictions? I think it would be foolish to claim otherwise. However, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks of the current members of the court, it's safe to say that they are not agents of Rome, intent upon forcing Catholic doctrine on American jurisprudence. Whatever motivates them, it's far more complex than that.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Supreme Enigma

Ever since Justice O'Connor retired, the makeup of the Supreme Court has been a bit of an enigma. Some consider the court packed with hard-line right wingers, minus a few stalwart centerist holdouts. Indeed, when Justice Stevens is now the most liberal member, it's clear that the court is predominantly conservative. But is it really? We already know that Scalia, Thomas and Roberts are the conservative foundation, with Alito probably squarely in their camp as well (although I am not yet sure what to make of him). We also know that Breyer, Ginsburg, and Stevens usually find themselves at odds with the other four (although I will not concede that they are, as a result, 'liberal'). Souter seems squarely in the middle, and much like Stevens was in the 70s and 80s, Souter seems to be the apolitical moderating force on the court. Nevertheless, Souter seems to be much less conservative than expected when he was nominated by Bush Sr., and many consider him part of what is now the liberal side of the court. Despite this movement to the right, there still appears to be a 4-4 faction; still much room for contention on the supreme court.

An then there is Kennedy. What to make of Justice Kennedy. Indeed, he is a bit of an enigma on the court, sometimes siding with the liberals (gay rights), and other times siding with the conservatives (abortion). In the wake of Gonzales v Carhart, it seems that Kennedy may indeed take O'Connor's place as the swing vote on the court, such as it is.

A very good article on this subject from can be found here. I don't necessarily find it troubling that our supreme court has become more conservative over the past 20 years or so, as long as there is some balance. There are good arguments that the very liberal Warren court may have done more harm than good, even if I do find much of their activism attractive. A homogenous court is probably much more dangerous than a balanced one, and right now, such as it is, we seem to have some balance left. I do hope that Stevens can hold out for at least two more years. The thought of Bush nominating another member of the court makes me shudder (it's not a republican thing, mind you, it's a Bush thing).

Friday, April 27, 2007

You know you're crazy when . . .

Despite the fact that I have two weeks off, I still can't get away from studying law. I have been reading my appellate advocacy book, off and on, and (for no reason I can think of) taking notes for my upcoming evidence class (which should be pretty demanding).

On a lighter note, I have discovered yet another great TV series from HBO (via netfix, of course).

All I can say, is that it's too bad this series will only run two seasons. Again, HBO shows why they have the best programming on TV.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


This week I finished my first year of law school, my last exam on Thursday. While I won't have my grades back for several weeks, I am pretty comfortable with how I did and I'm sure I passed all of my classes, which means that after this term I will have earned 33 of the 90 credits for my degree. I have spent the last few days contemplating my experience so far, and looking forward to the next set of classes and beyond. I have to start thinking about my future now, but I think it's useful to reflect on this past year. Here are some of my observations.

First, law school isn't that bad. Now that sounds strange, but there is a prevailing opinion that law school exists somewhere in the lower rungs of Dante's inferno; that the law school experience is painful, and results in a degree that many find worthless. It's odd, but many point to the fact that there are more law students than practicing attorneys as evidence of the futility of attending law school to begin with.

I don't look at it that way, at least not after my first year. I find the method and the madness enjoyable and stimulating, and I know that I have accomplished more (academically) this past year than ever before in my life. I am not worried about work after school because I am confident in my own abilities. But that's besides the point. The bottom line is, law school isn't nearly as hard or as torturous as people say. Yes it's difficult, but it's not impossible. Yes teachers can be hard on you, but they can also be supportive. The law student who works hard will typically do pretty well, I really believe that.

I do know that there are plenty of people who can't handle school. I started in a very small class - 16 people (keeping in mind that I started a small branch campus that's now growing... my actual class size, including all campuses, is closer to 300). Of those 16, 8 are still in school, with a 9th currently on leave (we're all pretty sure she'll be back though). 5 dropped after the first term, the other three after 2nd term. The attrition rate at my school is over 50 percent (by the end of the first year), and I think nationally it's somewhere in the 40% range. Keep in mind that some people drop because they discover they don't want to be in law school, not because they can't hack it. I know that's the case for 3 people who dropped out of my class (they got perfectly fine grades). Others drop because they flunk out. Law school isn't for everyone, that's for sure.

Second, law school culture is, pretty much, exactly what people say it is. It's funny, but there are really only three kinds of people in law school: the student in it for the money, the student in it because he or she "loves the law", and the student who is in law school because they're unsure what else to do (IE "a law degree is useful, right?").

The first kind of student quickly comes to the realization that law school is work, and that the 'money' may or may not actually be there in the end. It is this student who quickly becomes disillusioned by school, often pointing out how much hell they have to go through just to pass their classes. They never realized that the reward they were seeking does not match the work they put in. This student either drops out or ends up in corporate or tax law, hating life. Not to disparage that kind of law, but it takes a special kind of person to be a tax or corporate attorney - someone who genuinely loves that kind of law.

The second kind of student tends to do pretty well in law school. This person is in law school because the law is what he or she wants to study. Much like the person who becomes a teacher because they want to, this person isn't motivated by money or status, but instead by an idealism that has driven him or her to law school. This student can become disillusioned, after all it's a lot of work, but this student can just as easily thrive. I would place myself in this category, and thankfully I haven't lost any of my own idealism (despite having to trudge through contracts).

The third kind of student is probably the most common, and in many ways the most perplexing. This is the person who did well in undergrad, but isn't sure what they want to do. Maybe parents pressured them into law school. Maybe they 'planned' on law school all along, but aren't sure why. Maybe they just didn't want to get a job after college yet, but didn't want to go to business school either. At any rate, this person can succeed or fail but it all depends on motivation. Some of these students are rock stars - that is, fantastic students who have a flawless work ethic (not to mention the brains). These students do very well, even if they aren't sure what they want to do. Often they find themselves somewhere along the way - that is, they find what they're good at and dive in. More often, however, this student goes through the motions, passing their classes but not standing out, and it is this student who graduates and has a really hard time finding a job. This is the person who ends up cynical and will characterize law school as a complete waste of time. Usually they end up working somewhere other than in the law.

Finally, I'm actually enjoying myself more now than I have in a very long time. I'll close this post here, but to all of those who think law school is a waste of time I have a message: don't go to law school. It's as simple as that. To all the rest, my message is also simple: do what moves you. It has taken me 15 years or so to take my own advice, and now I'm finally reaping the rewards.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kill All Lawyers

This will be a short post. I came across a very worthwhile article written by Gerry Spence, a famous lawyer who represented Karen Silkwood, Imelda Marcos, and the Ruby Ridge boys, among others.

The article is an argument in defense of trial lawyers who represent plaintiffs and criminal defendants; that the public ire toward them is wholly misplaced, and the media blitz against them is wrong. He makes the argument much better than I, so I simply urge you to read it and come to your own conclusions. It's relatively long (42 pages), but well worth the read.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Last week I competed in the first year moot court competition. It's part of the criminal procedure class, so our problem naturally centered around a search and seizure issue. My partner and I were respondents, and in this case we represented the defendant. I have to say that we both had a great time, strange as that may seem.

Moot court is a competition that is, essentially, a simulation of oral arguments in front of the supreme court. At that point, there has already been a trial and at least one (and sometimes more than one) appeal. Each side (petitioner and respondent) has two "lawyers", each person gives a ten minute "speech" in front of the court. But it's far from a speech because the judges are constantly asking questions. My partner and I each prepared about ten minutes worth of material, and each of us maybe got through 1 or 2 minutes. The rest of the time we were answering questions from the judging panel. There is no interaction between the two competing teams, the interaction is with the court.

Good judges will ask pertinent questions, meaning I actually did get to present most of my argument (to the good panels). Bad judges will ask ridiculous questions, and sometimes even be rude. Those are really the hardest ones to deal with because the entire time I had to be deferential to the court, and still respond quickly (even curtly) to irrelevant questions. I have a friend (an old debater - you know who you are if you're reading this) who would go nuts watching the "yes your honor" and "no your honor" in response to some of the questions I was getting. For those who have done any academic debate, moot court is like a ten minute cross examination period without the combat - that is, the judges ALWAYS have the upper hand, and the lawyer has to be crafty in response. I must say, in retrospect, that it was far more fun than debate because it's so much more challenging.

We did well. Out of 30+ teams my partner and I made the quarterfinals, and were both pre-selected for early entry into the moot court program. That's essentially step-one if I want to compete on the national team (which, of course, I do). I'll be taking the class next term, so perhaps there will be more to blog about after all (heh heh).

So. . . stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It has been too long since I updated this. I will make an effort to be more attentive and post more articles. Stay tuned!