Yesterday, the prof mentioned below delivered a short but hot-blooded sermon in class about the perils of arriving unprepared, after discovering a few people had not done the reading.
Here are the topics this same professor has taken time out of class to complain about, or offer as an explanation for his own occasional lateness or less-than-100% class preparation through the semester.
Immune system disorder.
Favorite baseball team loses playoff game.
Favorite baseball team wins playoff game.
Child care issues.
Child transportation issues.
Use of new casebook.
Certain emails from students.
Recent move into new office.
Other law school faculty members.
The eroding pedagogical culture of America’s colleges.
Wow, my recall’s pretty good, too bad that won’t be on the exam.
01 Dec 04
Today is the first day of the semester I’ve actually felt really tired. Though I’m thinking that had more to do with staying up just a little too late playing GTA San Andreas. It may have been a mistake to bring that into the house prior to exams. I use it to run through crim law hypos. “Hm, if I pick up my gang members in the car, are they immediately accomplices?” “If I throw molotov cocktails near the gang house, is that attempted arson?” “Is there strict liability for possessing grenades?”
02 Dec 04
Here is the greatest procrastination technique ever. Prof CivPro confessed that after deciding he needed to take the California bar exam, he concocted the heroically absurd idea of getting legislation passed to automatically admit law professors to the bar. To spare him the trouble of actually studying for it.
But perhaps it makes perfect sense for a civpro teacher to attempt to find a procedural fix to a substantive problem.
02 Dec 04
From E! Online, my source for vital legal news: “A group of Greek lawyers upset over Oliver Stone’s portrayal of Alexander the Great as bisexual backing off threats to sue the filmmaker and Warner Bros to add a disclaimer stating it was not historically accurate.”
I believe they wouldn’t get past my favorite rule of civil procedure, 12(b)(6): failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Nor would they get past the hearty belly laughs of the judge.
03 Dec 04
Over breakfast today I told two classmates I expected the torts exam to be the most difficult, crim law in the middle, and civ pro the best chance of a decent grade. They said “uh, everyone thinks they’ll do well on the civ pro exam.”
That is true. Everyone enjoyed the civ pro professor so naturally we all think we’ll do great on that exam. But thanks to the curve, 20% of us, even if we are all civ pro geniuses, will nevertheless get C’s. And on the torts exam, though we may all dread it, 20% of us will nevertheless get A’s.
So in fact, the exam people feel generally most confident about will be the one that’s most likely to produce a grade below expectations. And vice versa. Man, I hadn’t thought I’d get a better grade in torts than civ pro but I’ve just convinced myself it could well happen.
03 Dec 04
ah, exams ... what can I say? I find the process of preparing for them more tedious than difficult. Actually that applies to taking them as well.
This is my theory, perhaps soon to be proven wrong. Performance on an exam (probably any exam) is a combination of three factors. Your preparation, your exam taking skill, and your natural aptitude for the material. The aptitiude you can’t do anything about. The preparation is under your full control.
The exam skill, half and half: you can take practice exams and hone your technique but are still people who are naturally better able to get out more ideas in unit time. So that really means only half of your total performance is under your control.
I started the semester with a pass/fail mentality, but as the weeks went on I could feel myself raising the bar ... “at least Bs” ... “at least one A” ... ugh, talk about inconsequentialities. I had to pause and ask, what do I really care? Like any good student I have been propelled through my academic career with a deep sense of responsibility to continuing earning the best possible grades.
But if anyone should be able to attest to the saying “grades don’t matter in the real world” at this point it should be me, and it’s certainly been true so far. For me there’s something about taking an exam that puts me back in that student/teacher inferior/superior dynamic. It somehow occludes the truth of the situation: the professors are doing their job, they don’t really like grading exams any more than I like taking them.
I’m back to a pass / fail mentality. The law degree is valuable to me; being ranked high in the class has extremely little incremental value to me compared to the work that would be necessary.
06 Dec 04
This week, the week of his exam, one professor has canceled his ABA-mandated review session and all office hours due to family commitments. (?!) Though he’s offered to answer all email questions, he hasn’t answered either of mine, and I know he’s responded to other people. (?!?!!) What’s the story dude?
08 Dec 04
I am one of the people who is convinced Anonymous Lawyer is entirely fictitious, though I continue to meet people who disagree. If you haven’t seen it, it purports to be the blog of an overpaid hiring partner at a large law firm.
Thing 1, the guy’s personality encompasses every stereotypical element of the Lawyer Who is a Giant Asshole—it’s too good to be true. It suggests someone listed these fabled qualities and then made sure to work in evidence of each.
Thing 2, suppose the personality exists, because hey, stereotypes often arise out of some nugget of accuracy. Doing a blog is fully at odds with his personality type. I have met narcissists in positions of power. Believe me, a blog is not going to satisfy their yawning need for attention & approval, it’s too one-sided. Narcissists also utterly lack the capacity for introspection that Anon Lawyer displays.
Though, there is a lot of detail that has the ring of truth. While it may be based on a real person, I think it’s much more likely that it’s perpetrated by an associate who is in the radius of an Anon Lawyer-type partner who writes the blog as a form of caricature. And of course, a cry to be noticed.
09 Dec 04
It’s 75 and sunny in LA today ... the perfect day to sit indoors and write a torts final.
UPDATE: 5000 words and 4 hrs later, I’m DONE. It wasn’t so bad really. I think maybe the prof didn’t respond to my email since it referenced 4 different issues that ended up on the exam.
I had a momentary panic at the beginning because I put the exam software on my other laptop (we did this exam over the internet, from home) and it wouldn’t download the exam. When I switched to the original laptop it worked, but I deserved to get burned for violating one big rule of computers—don’t change your configuration on game day.
Otherwise, we were called upon to contemplate the usual vast tragedy and suffering typical for a torts exam. I felt pretty good about it, which just means there’s 79 other people who felt pretty good about it.
More usefully, I didn’t feel either overprepared or underprepared—the level & type of studying was just about right. Though I did, at the last minute, decide to go through and look at EVERY note case again, just to get all those odd little fact patterns juggling in my head ... sure enough a couple of them came up and I could say “yep, know what happened there”. Tomorrow, they will have flown away like so much pollen in the wind. Or dandruff.
10 Dec 04
As I’ve been preparing my crim law outline, I keep saying to myself “could it really be this simple? Because it sure didn’t seem this simple in class.”
Prof Crim maintained for 15 weeks that he was unusual in his refusal to “spoon-feed” us the material. Fair enough, but the cost of that style is that so much time & energy is spent apprehending the basic doctrine that there’s not much time to go into more sophisticated applications of the material.
I’m sure the prof would say the concepts only seem simple now because we’ve tangled with them for three months. Well ... maybe. It seems like there are plenty of hard topics in crim law however. Why not let the simple ones be simple so the hard ones can be hard. Instead of making the simple ones be hard, and the hard ones beyond the range of comprehension.
12 Dec 04
The professor has maintained through the whole semester that despite the complications of his lectures, his students routinely find his exam to be “simple and straightforward”. Having now done three of his old exams, I can’t say I agree. I would not say the exams are unfair, but I also wouldn’t call them simple.
In college, preparing for an exam just meant finishing the reading, reviewing your notes, etc. Most exams I had in college were closed-book, so you’d arrive, prepared as well as you can be, and take whatever comes.
In law school, most of the exams are open book, so part of the preparation is making an outline of your notes to take with you into the exam. The other thing is that professors all make past exams from their class available. So the good news is, since professors very rarely change the format of their exams dramatically, you know kinda what to expect.
The bad news is, taking practice exams becomes a core part of your preparation. So instead of taking three exams over 10 days, you’re taking more like 10 exams, 3 of which are graded. Joy.
PS to anyone who is studying for the LSAT—- yep, taking old 3-hr exams repetitively without losing your mind is yet another LSAT skill you can take to school.
14 Dec 04
The crim exam is done. It was not so bad really. It was one of those exams where you get a a little confidence going in the first few questions, but then later in the exam you get questions where you think “hm ... this seems totally simple and obvious ... but I must be missing something ... "
Probably one of the worst things you can do in an exam situation is distrust your intuition. After days (weeks?) of preparation and sample-exam-taking, to get to the exam and be like “I’m pretty sure it’s X, so I’ll write Y’ is a bad bet. I found myself doing it at one point, looking at a note on my outline and wondering “maybe that’s wrong ...”
Then the little voice says dude it’s in the outline! The outline was triple-checked with the notes & textbooks! Don’t be hatin’ the outline! OK, fair enough.
I did improve my outline format a lot from torts to crim. My torts outline was quite detailed and printed quite small. It ended up consolidating a lot of information I had memorized, so about half of it was useless as note material. For crim, I just made big checklists so that I wouldn’t forget any of the necssary elements of certain defenses.
Right this minute I have a greater-than-normal interest in taking the day off but ... our last challenge awaits, the civil procedure exam.
16 Dec 04
In all the spam we get from UCLA admin (“Come join us for a presentation by Random Professor from East Coast on Thursday ... pizza will be served”) nobody noted that UCLA law alum Kelly Perdew had advanced to the final round of the Apprentice, and last night won.
I have seen three episodes of the Apprentice in my life, including last night’s finale. All of these people seem like feckless dopes who should not be given responsibility for anything more complicated than opening their lunchbox. Not a single person on the show seemed to have anything approaching a calm, professional demeanor. But I guess they don’t select the true pros to go on the show. They want the people who are severely unpolished, it makes better television.
17 Dec 04
... whoops, I mean undocumented foreign nationals. This is a sort of big ongoing issue here in California and LA in particular, given that we’re the 2nd biggest latino city in the world. And we have a lot of cars on the road.
While I hate to agree with republicans, I have a hard time understanding the argument in favor of making these licenses available. I don’t have a problem with immigrants coming to LA and becoming legal residents. I don’t have a problem with them NOT becoming legal residents either—let’s face it, it’s like teens having sex, you cannot preach abstinence. It’s just part of the mix.
But a driver’s license is a privilege granted by the state in exchange for all the taxes you pay for the road maintenance, for the cops to patrol the roads, etc. It’s not some inalienable right that the state is recognizing with a plastic card. It’s a quid pro quo.
I don’t think any illegal resident who needs to drive is sitting around thinking “gee, I wish I had a license so I could get to work”. Believe me, they’re driving.
And I don’t think that driver is in his car thinking “the greatest problem that faces me as an undocumented resident is my lack of legal driving status”. We have a problem in the theory and reality of our immigration policy, that’s for sure. It seems like the driver’s license issue is mostly a feel-good measure that doesn’t change any fundamental realities about the undocumented immgrant’s life.
Meanwhile one latino activist is calling for a boycott of gas stations on Mondays. That reminds me of that email hoax that used to circulate about boycotting Texaco and driving all the prices down. So people will buy gas on Tuesday instead of Monday. The gas station still sells the same amount of product for the week. Who does this send a message to?
17 Dec 04
My education is put to work every day when I read vital entertainment news. From E online:
“A California woman is suing the producers of mega-bomb Gigli, claiming she fell after being “temporarily blinded” by sun reflectors on the set. The filmmakers allegedly set up the reflectors so that paparazzi wouldn’t be able to get shots of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez kissing between scenes.”
Thanks to civil procedure I know that most courts use “notice pleading” which makes it very easy to get a lawsuit started. You don’t really have to make any showing that your complaint is true or meritorious, you just have to scribble down a few lines of a complaint and boom, you’ve got a lawsuit.
Thanks to torts I know that this kind of suit, which makes people roll their eyes in wonder at the court system, is likely to fail. The woman has to show the fillmmakers had a duty to protect her from injury based on a specific risk created by the reflectors. Even then she needs to show that the reflectors were the cause of her injury, and not just her craning her neck to get a look at Ben Affleck.
18 Dec 04
I had my last exam this morning. I woke up at 4am and couldn’t really get back to sleep, I think it’s time to admit that the Long March through the last month of graded memo and final exams has taken a bit of a toll. I expect to pass out tonight at about 7pm.
The exam today was the most merciful and kind of our graded assignments—very similar to past exams, and quite a bit shorter, a 45 min section that had been promised simply did not appear. Most people seemed to feel pretty good about it afterwards. Of course, this means grade expectations will start high and only go down.
But, as the spring semester tuition bill arrives in our email boxes on cue, we are all reminded that despite whatever worst case scenarios we could envision, everyone is going to pass, everyone is going to be back in January, everyone has gotten through the period of law school with what I’d assume is the most stress per cubic inch across the whole 3 yrs. We’ve completed one semester, the rest are variations on that theme.
[ no more posts until spring semester starts next month ... have a good holiday everyone ]
20 Dec 04
Several people wrote to tell me Anonymous Lawyer has been unmasked in the NY Times as a Harvard 3L named Jeremy Blachman. Thank you for confirming my prediction. If you didn’t believe that lawyers can be world-class whiners, I enter the following as evidence:
“I’ve turned down the opportunity to make having gone to law school make sense,” he wrote last month, announcing that he had passed on a $125,000/yr job offer from the Manhattan firm. “The law doesn’t inspire me,” he wrote, adding that he had had to wrestle with his fear that his yearning for fulfilling work was a “stupid, childish fairy tale.”
“Look, I want to write,” he went on. He said that after graduation in June he might move to Los Angeles and look for work writing for television. “I could possibly write for a law show, given my legal education,” he said.
It’s so perfect in its world-weary entitlement that I would almost be persuaded that Jeremy Blachman is fictitious, but alas I fear he is not. Dear Jeremy: everyone in LA county who read the article knows that “move to LA and look for work writing” is 20-something code for “spend another 5-10 yrs living off my parents”.
Statements like “the law doesn’t inspire me” are the work of a limp, uncurious mind. The law is a huge, huge field. Pretty much any topic a human being could be interested in has a legal angle that can be mined for fun & profit. I think really what young lawyers mean when they say that is—“I didn’t know I’d have to work so hard to earn that top-tier salary. [long sigh]”
29 Dec 04
Poor Anna Nicole. The 9th circuit reversed her 2002 judgment of about $85M from the estate of her dead hubsand, J. Howard Marshall, so now she’s back to zero. What I like are passages in the opinion such as this:
Vickie Lynn Marshall [Anna’s legal name] argues that we need not consider the applicability of the probate exception because it operates only where the federal court has diversity jurisdiction and not in federal question cases. She relies on the 11th Circuit’s decision in Goerg v. Parungao...
I just like imagining her in her heels & nails, explaining the subtleties of the probate exception to a panel of federal judges.
The funny thing is, this case has a potential basis for a Supreme Court hearing, since it turns on an issue that has been decided differently by different federal appeals courts.
31 Dec 04
Epilogue 8: Buy my book
Epilogue 7: Recessionaires cont'd
Epilogue 6: Schill quits UCLA
Epilogue 5: recessionaires
Okay, I lied. Epilogue 4
Epilogue 3: The End (really)
Epilogue 2: Nov 2007
The eagle has landed
Seduced by the dark side
You've been in law school too long when...
I have only five more class days
The lone gunman
The last spring break is over
Someone saved your life tonight
Dean Schill & the Pussymobile
Help me yet again