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Friday, September 24, 2010

Better or Worse

The second year of law school is both better and worse than the first year. Better because the process is old hat by now. Worse because there is way more shit to do than first year, and less time to do it in.

This week was rather rough. I spent last weekend preparing all my readings for this week so that I could spend my afternoons and evenings during the week writing my trade secrets memo. Normally I read half of my week's reading over the weekend, so doing it all meant I was working double time last weekend, much to Mr. E's neglect.

Then to make matters worse, the memo was just not coming out right at all. I spent three days writing it, and I can't say I'm too please with the finished product. I was struggling to organize my analysis while trying to answer all the questions posed in my scenario. It wasn't just a matter of assess the claims and come up with defenses, but also, what additional information do we need from our client, and how can we prevent the plaintiff from getting an injunction, and address all that in 1800 words. Not enough space to do everything justice. So organization was difficult because I needed to cram a lot of info into only 6 pages. We are graded on a curve, so I can't predict how I did, but if I were graded against my own ability to come up with sound legal analysis, I'd give myself a C. Yuck.

I have one more expertship for my sales contracts class next Tuesday, so I've got that to prepare for this weekend. It will be a doozy, too. I just spent an hour scanning the statutes I will need for my analysis, and there are many. Usually you need 3-4 per assignment, but this one has so many I lost count.

On top of that, it seems this week that each of my class readings is weighing on the lengthy side of roughly 30 pages rather than the usual 20.

Just... kill me... now...

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ode to my wooden pencil

My wooden pencil!
I lose you on my ear when
I need you the most.

Teeth crunching yellow,
I mark my territory
so no one steals you.

No one would steal you.
How horribly permanent,
those pens they prefer.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 3

I'm taking this ridiculously hard advanced sales contracts class. I think I bitched about it last week or so. As 30% of our class grade, we have to behave as "class experts" for 3 different classes. That means prepare the assigned readings and problems really well so that you can walk the rest of the class through it as the professor questions you. I'm not a class talker, so just talking in class is a bit of a stretch for me, but being responsible for talking a lot, and being graded for the effort, adds a little bit of stress to my already tormented psyche.

This Tuesday I did my first class expertship. It actually went ok. I stumbled pretty hard through my first question, because I had applied the wrong statute in my analysis.  My professor said that if we were under my chosen statute, my analysis would have been correct, then she explained why I chose the wrong statute, and why I should have chosen the right statute. Then she asked me to redo my analysis on the fly under the proper statute. I did ok with it. I was worried that I was looking like an idiot, and I was trying desperately to control my shaking hands that scrolled over the trackpad on my computer as I corrected my analysis. Luckily the tremor did not transfer to my voice, and after I picked myself back up from my fall, I felt calmer and the shaking went away. My professor has a way of not making you feel like a dumbass when you are completely off the mark. Not all professors who engage in the socratic method can do that. I did well with the rest of my problems, and breathed a big sigh of relief when it was finally all over. I'm doing it again next Tuesday, and the Tuesday after that, and then I am off the hook.

It is on-campus interview season. That's where all the hot shot firms around town come to campus and select a few students to interview for clerk positions next summer. They all set thresholds such as, we will only interview people in the top 10%, 20%, and, for a few firms, 25% of their class. Most of them also prefer candidates on law review or moot court. I am just under the top 25% of my class, so naturally I am not a worthy candidate for these on-campus interviews. I am not particularly keen on working at a large firm anyway, and I never really expected this to be the way I will get a job, but I can't help but feel a little envious of some of my classmates who have been selected for multiple interviews, while I was rejected for all but one, who put me on their alternate list. I guess that means if someone else decides not to interview, maybe I can. That's better than nothing, I suppose. But then I talked to my fellow classmate who worked at the same summer internship as I did and couldn't help but feel envious at her better luck. She had 5 interviews. I can't begrudge her that, as she deserves them. But there's really not much difference between her and me. We were both pretty equally capable at our summer jobs. We have similar experience levels career-wise. The only difference is she has better grades and is on law review. I know firms have to weed people out somehow, and I'm trying not to be bothered by it. If I were a hiring attorney for a firm, I'd have to use some selection criteria too, and I'm sure I would also gravitate first to the people who do well academically. But the envy remains.

I have been given my first memo assignment for my IP class. It is on trade secrets, and also somewhat on non-compete agreements. I've spent most of today looking like I haven't gotten anything done, but in reality I am working out the trade secrets problem in my head. Once I heard that Charles Schultz, of Peanuts fame, used to doodle at his workbench whenever people came by so that they would think he was working. In reality, he said, most of his work involved him staring off into space, imagining, working things out in his head. When he started to draw, most of the work had already been done. That's how I do legal analysis. I spend a lot of time thinking. Once I work things out in my head, the writing usually goes pretty fast. That's why I prefer writing memos to writing a final exam -- I get more time to give the problem due thought. Besides, creating a memo is much closer than a law school exam to the type of work I will actually have to do in legal practice.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The second year they work you to death

The saying about law school goes, "The first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death." I can vouch for the first year bit. I was scared. I was very, very scared. Maybe in a lot of ways I still am, although as I reported last week, the second year existence so far does feel much calmer than the first year. Been there, done that, got the grades to prove it.

As for the second year, from what I see so far it must also be true. I am underachieving this year, but even so I feel worked to death. I am taking 15 credits - the minimum full time amount (although the maximum adds only one class; but I don't like burnout, you see, so I opted against that). I am also not doing anything extra, such as law review, moot court, or any type of school group. Oh don't get me wrong, I would have been great on law review. That shit is right up my anal-retentive, grammar-nazi, scholarly-writing alley. I am positive that I could have written onto one of the reviews. But I chose not to. I didn't do the write-on competition. Maybe it will prove to have been a poor choice in this career field that is so snobbish in how it rewards pedigree, but it's something I felt like I didn't want to do at this point, which probably precludes my doing it ever. My reasons are hard to articulate. I know, because I just had three or four false starts on sentences trying to explain why I didn't want to do law review. I just... don't want to do it.

So anyway, despite that I'm at 15 credits and doing none of that fancy resume boosting stuff, I still do feel like there is so much more work to do this year than last. The reading is still averaging between 20 and 30 pages per class, but in a few classes, that is just for starters, and then after that you either have to read statutory text or work through complicated role-play problems, or both. It's a lot. Besides that, there are two writing requirements at my school that you must get in order to graduate. One is the writing intensive experience, and one is the capstone paper. I am doing both of those this semester. Maybe unwise, but that's just the way my schedule has seemed to work out. I have two courses that will cover those requirements for me. The good news about those is that I won't have to do a regular final exam, but just the writing. And I am better at paper writing than final exams. So though it will be more work up front, it may pay off on my transcript. Of course, after last year, I know better than to count those chickens before they hatch. It may look grade A from here, but you never know when you might get a rotten egg.

Man, this was the longest short week of my life. I wasn't at school on Monday on account of Labor Day. I did still labor that day, however. I read assignments during most of it. It was also the last day that we had Ian's parents in town visiting. As much as I love having visitors, it is always a challenge having people in town during the semester. People, I think, just really don't understand how much work is required in law school. I tell people that I only go to school Monday through Thursday, and somehow that gives people the impression that life is pretty smooth and dandy. E's folks got in on Thursday, and they counseled me to just study as much as I could on Friday so we could spend the rest of the weekend having fun. Nice thought, that, but it's dreaming. I spent the first half of Friday reading, until we got together with E's folks in the early evening; did a little reading Saturday while E and his pop grilled some mighty fine steaks; read during the five hour round trip car ride to the coast and back on Sunday; read up until dinner on Sunday. We did other things too, really. I distinctly remember at one point going to the farmer's market and Saturday Market downtown, and then there was the jaunt to Lake Oswego, and I seem to remember eating out a few times. But it blurs because you read and you read, and you can't hold much in your head because you are always cramming something else in there. That's why this week has felt so very very long.

So anyway, it's a lot of work, and luckily, I live with a man who is extremely understanding about how much I have to bow out of life in order to get everything done. I neglect E constantly when I am in school, but he understands. He says he just can't wait for me to be done. You and me both, Mister. But I fear secretly that things won't change after law school. (Ok, not so secret anymore.) I fear that I'm going to get one of those jobs that sucks my life away and makes me work 90 hours per week, including Saturdays and maybe the odd Sunday. And that's if I'm lucky enough to get a job, right? Oh god. If that's what it's going to be like, I may as well slit my writs. In reality, I do know that those jobs are usually reserved to the big law firms that pay people their weight in gold per year to become wage slave zombies, and in order to get those jobs, not only do you have to get stellar grades, but you have to be on law review (perhaps I am aiming low for an unconscious desire not to get into big law). I don't want that job anyway. I know there are alternatives. Alternatives that mean I will never pay my loans off in my life, sure, but alternatives no less. God, the cynicism that follows the first year of law school!

Anyway, I'm not saying don't come visit me while I'm in school. Not at all. I'm just saying that you'll have to understand that I gotta read, and I gotta read a lot, and it usually takes me 3-4 hours to properly read and brief a 20-30-page assignment. And I have about ten 20-30-page assignments per week. It's only going to get worse once I start my writing assignments. That will be soon.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

One is the loneliest number

Finished my first week back to school. It's really hard getting back into the groove of studying when you really haven't been in that groove for... over 3 months. Sure, I did legal work during my summer internship, but it was much lower pressure. I didn't have to read an average of 250 pages of dense legal material per week during the summer. I actually never had solid deadlines during my internship, so the pressure was completely off. That clearly was not a good thing, because it didn't keep me in practice.

You get so efficient in your studies by the end of each semester that you hardly bat an eyelash when you have to read for three classes in one evening. Trying to read my assignments for my first day back was very slow-going. I had to keep going back and forth between assignments to keep myself interested, whereas I usually just plow through one assignment at a time. My attention span is lax.

For the most part I like my classes so far. My intellectual property class is very good, I think. About 40 people, and I will get to do several short papers instead of a 3-hour exam at the end of the term for my grade, which should hopefully play to my strength as a writer. I have a copyright history seminar class, which I think will be very interesting from an academic standpoint. The only problem is there are about 13 people in the class, and I have such a hard time getting myself to participate in classroom discussions, but it will be necessary in that class. I joked with a friend of mine who is also taking the class that I'm going to need to drink a beer before class each Wednesday in order to loosen up enough to participate. I was only half joking. I really am kind of contemplating walking up to the pub during the 1.5 hour break before that class and downing a pint so that I can feel like a regular anxiety-free person. How sad is that?

I have one class in which the professor is painfully boring. He has a verbal tick of saying "uh" between, oh, every word or two. I can't concentrate with that. So already, after only two classes, I have taken to only partially listening to him lecture. I have even rearranged my schedule next semester to avoid a class that would have been taught by him.

I have this advanced contracts class that is going to be absolutely killer, in the ridiculously hard type of way. The course is very focused on the statutory texts that govern sales contracts, most prominently the UCC and CISG.  I have been pretty lost in the discussion so far, and asked one of my classmates what he felt about the class. "Do you find yourself even just a little bit lost?" I asked. "Of course!" he said. That made me feel better. But I am going to have to buckle down hard to get through that one. It is different working with a very statutory-based body of law, because most first year courses focus on case-based law (i.e., judicial decisions and precedent), and only cursorily examine statutory or regulatory codes. Precise linguistic awareness is much more important in the latter. You would think this shouldn't be too challenging for me, but the thing is, I've always been a "gist" kind of person. It is not as easy to glean a gist from a statute as from a case.

As a second year law student, I feel a little bit invisible. (Ok, I always feel a little bit invisible, but more so.) I think the whole law school experience is very focused on that first year. Everything caters to first years. The buzz is all about them. I feel like I am a ghost walking around and everyone looks right through me. I don't mean that to sound like a melancholy thing, because I actually rather enjoy not being noticed. It's peaceful. There is much more of a calm atmosphere amongst myself and my classmates. There is not so much frenzy and anxiety. Alright, so I still have anxiety, but it's different. It's personal, and not a result of the general restlessness and uber-caffeination that accompanies the first year experience.

I have ridden my bicycle to school 1 out of 4 days so far. The first three days it was rainy and cold. The fourth day there was sun, so I rode. It was hard, but not as hard as I feared it might have been after a summer of not riding. I had to rest halfway, but did so further along than usual. I showered at school, and my hair looked ridiculous all day long, which made me feel self-conscious. I can never get my hair to look right when I do it at school. Next time, I bring my hat.

FYI, I'm writing this blog post as a sort of journal entry. During my summer internship, I was required to keep a weekly journal of my experience, and I actually found that doing so helped me process my experience better. Sometimes a little metacognition is called for. So maybe I will post little weekly recaps like this all semester long. Maybe. I don't expect anyone to read and like them. They are really more for myself. Over and out.

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