if justice is blind... Sua Sponte
My law school odyssey: three years, three time zones and beyond.


Today's quote:
I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood. --Clarence Darrow

California residents attending a University of California school get something like a 50% discount in tuition (or maybe it's just the non-Californian residents who pay double tuition, depending on whether you're a glass-half-empty type). Makes sense; it's our taxes, after all, that fund the school. So I guess, by extension, it also makes sense that you have to jump through this many hoops and fill out all these forms before the magical tuition exemption/discount is bestowed upon you: why would they make it easy to not pay them twice as much money?

I'm mildly offended, though, at the supporting documents I'm required to submit along with my five-page-long Statement of Legal Residence form. If you're technically a California resident after you've lived here a year, and it's currently 2002, then why do they care whether I filed an income tax return in another state in 1999? For that matter, why do they need to see a copy of my 2001 federal return? Or my mother's, even though she's never claimed to reside in California (and even refuses to visit)?

Maybe I'm just more sensitive about disclosing this kind of thing than I ought to be. I had to report the value of a number of assets in the FAFSA form I filled out at the urging of my school's financial aid office (unsurprisingly, they gave me $0 in aid), and the thought of these numbers being bandied about across the desks of total stranger university bureaucrats gave me the willies. I don't relish talking dollar amounts with anyone except my husband, and even getting that far took me several months of marriage.

The form suggests (how kind of them) that "income data may be redacted" on my parental tax returns, which I take to mean that it's OK to white out the actual numbers. I wonder if I could get away with doing the same for ours, since this form ostensibly goes through the general counsel's office and not the financial aid one. I wonder if it even matters, if all they're looking for is that our income was earned, taxed, spent or saved within the borders of this state.

The Insurance Waiver form is balder in its goals, demanding a written letter of certification of insurance before they'll waive the mandatory insurance fee (something like $500 per semester). They couldn't even pretend this had anything to do with where I live. Instead, I either had to petition the human resources department at my husband's company to produce said letter, or pony up the extra money, Californian or no. *sigh*. I guess it would be unreasonable to hope that, with the standard physical and the health questionnaire I have to complete on top of all this, they'd conclude this to be none of their business.

Fortunately the HR folks were cool with it. I guess this must be old hat to HR folks in California.

thus spake /jca @ 6:42 PM...


I put in my second nonrefundable deposit at school yesterday, while on a day trip to San Francisco with Karen to see her school's spring show. One of my favorite pieces, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit, was a brightly-colored photograph of a well-built, completely naked guy pouring two gallon jugs of milk over himself -- very much the kind of thing I'd never even think to imagine. There were so many pieces there that I never would have thought to imagine, from a series of photographs of various pieces of hardware attached to various fruits to a self-portrait of a woman riding a rubber duckie in a bathroom sink. I was consistently, sustainedly intrigued.

I was additionally intrigued by the farmer's market on United Nations Plaza. Fresh vegetables on folding tables are uplifting at any time, but all the more so when you're in "this-is-me-going-to-law-school-in-San-Francisco" mode. Apparently the market sets up there every Wednesday; this particular Wednesday was gloriously sunny and unseasonably warm (summer in SF is usually a chilly, damp season), the homeless people were keeping to themselves, the vendors had cartons full of fava beans and Rainier cherries and strawberries the size of one's fist, and I found myself smiling wholeheartedly.

The guy in the admissions office was on the phone with someone whom he was reassuring "would receive a decision today, or tomorrow at the latest." A quick glance at his desk revealed at least one letter on an applicant's personal letterhead in a similar vein, begging for a decision on an app-complete several months old. Suddenly I was awash in cool chills that felt oddly like relief. Suddenly I felt lucky. I'd been what's called an "autoadmit" at this school, meaning that my numbers were such that they probably didn't bother reading the rest of my application before sending out a positive decision. And wow, was that a good feeling right then.

Karen and I wandered around the bookstore, finding such encouragingly-labeled shelves as "First Year Panic Section" and "Abandon All Hope." And yet I couldn't help but look forward to this fall. Some days it's daunting to imagine what I'm up against, how much ass I'm going to have to haul to get to where I need to be...and other days it looks like it's going to be a total trip.

I'm ready for it to be a total trip...today.

thus spake /jca @ 12:39 PM...


Seven times have I despised my soul: The first time when I saw her being meek that she might attain height. The second time when I saw her limping before the crippled. The third time when she was given to choose between the hard and the easy, and she chose the easy. The fourth time when she committed a wrong, and comforted herself that others also commit wrong. The fifth time when she forbore for weakness, and attributed her patience to strength. The sixth time when she despised the ugliness of a face, and knew not that it was one of her own masks. And the seventh time when she sang a song of praise, and deemed it a virtue.

-- Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. --Hal Borland

thus spake /jca @ 10:50 AM...


A local buddy from the Princeton Review law boards got called off his first-choice waitlist today. While I wish him nothing but the best and am thrilled that things have finally worked out for him, I can't help but be...jealous.

Envy isn't exactly my favorite Deadly Sin. (Give me wrath or gluttony, any day.) But here I am, fighting like mad to avoid it, congratulating all the folks ahead of me on the [waitlist school] list and virtually hugging all of my online acquaintances who are getting lucky and succeeding where I didn't, glad that things have at least worked out for someone.

Ah, I just wish they'd worked out for me.

Just when I think I've accepted my fate and given up hope for sure, something like this will pluck my string and there I go again, resonating with the same old agony at having failed in this process. It's OK to start out at your safety school and transfer, I repeatedly chant to myself, the process isn't over yet, you've got a whole year to prove the naysayers wrong. And then, time after time, I encounter people -- good people, who indisputably deserve good luck -- for whom the process is over, who have received their desired closure and won't have to spend the next year walking barefoot across the same coals we've all been communally treading for the past few months. And I envy them.

Perhaps I'm just lazy (yeah, sloth is another good one), petulant and peevish that I'm now going to have to spend another year fretting and stressing and wearing myself thin towards an uncertain goal when all I really wanted was to coast, to close my eyes and sink into the glorious experience that I'd imagined the law school of my choice to be. Or perhaps it isn't laziness at all to balk at the thought of being forced to run a gauntlet again, forced to perform like a trained seal barking desperately for the one fish that may never be thrown your way.

The problem is, the only sense of perspective I've ever mastered is my own. Regardless of how many people would love to be where I am, I don't. I wish things were different. I wish this had all gone the way I'd hoped it would the first time, rather than making me run into overtime. I fear for my stamina. I panic that I may not make it. And that's the worst feeling of all.

thus spake /jca @ 9:41 PM...


One main problem with engineering my first year of law school toward the goal of eventually transferring elsewhere is that I can't really say where I'd transfer.

The local Top 10 would have been my first answer, several weeks ago: sufficient national reach combined with the inherent humility (and bargain tuition) of a state school. Sure, they're a bit far from our current residence in the south bay; sure, they waitlisted me. But I could look past all that if it was really the right place, right?

Then they spat in my face, ranking me more than halfway down the list behind people with far less competitive numbers. Only once thus far, in the entire law school process, had I just broken down and lost it entirely: when I found out my LSAT score and realized, to my chagrin, how uncertain my footing had become.

And now I was off the deep end a second time, collapsed in a heap in my desk chair, shaking my head and weeping messily all over the keyboard. A bug on the windshield at eighty miles an hour probably experiences something similar to my mood that day. "I'm in the third quartile of their waiting list," I howled in response to my husband's concerned inquiry after my mental health. "I don't stand a chance."

I wanted to hate them for this, to set my jaw and grit my teeth and glare northeastward with pure, cold venom. I wanted to regress back to my previous opinion of the place, before I'd fallen in love with it; I wanted to be able to blow it off once again as a politically correct hive of groupthinkers who would probably lynch me if they glimpsed my voting record. My waitlist experience, after all, seems a pretty clear indicator of exactly such disposition: why else would you overlook a woman with this kind of background, if not because you've already admitted enough lawyer's kids who don't flinch at the word "Republican"?

So I thought about the local Top 3 school, which would be a much wiser choice if I were really masterminding this instead of letting my solar plexus make the decisions for me. We live about five miles from the campus; it's not as cheap as the UC schools, to be sure, but a few extra bucks put toward a far stronger brand and more robust judicial alumni network is hardly a bad investment in my view.

However, the perennial problem remains: we are living in California on borrowed time, with the full intent to relocate back to Massachusetts after my husband's company goes public (or does whatever it's going to do in a parallel vein), which could happen as early as next fall. And here the top 10 school has something the top 3 school lacks: a third-year exchange program with a major East Coast school.

Transferring to the local Top 3 would mean that I'd spend all three years of law school right here in the Bay Area. Transferring to the local Top 10 would open up the option of us moving back east after only two years, leaving me to spend my third year networking in the environment in which we will theoretically ultimately wind up.

This is all theoretical, of course. I have no idea whether the local Top 10 school even lets transfer students participate in the third year exchange (particularly fiscally conservative transfer students who are the spawn of lawyers themselves). The value of taking my third year to get to know the legal system in Massachusetts may be a lot lower than I'm imagining it to be, if it's true that all postgraduate hiring decisions are made well in advance of one's third year anyway.

So maybe I'm best off just aiming for the local top 3 school and hoping that the cachet will carry me where a combination of state-school unpretentiousness and third-year physical location might not. Or maybe it might be more fun to truly treat the law school experience as a game, the way I'd wanted to at the beginning of the application process...a year at my current school, a year at the top 10 school, a year on the East Coast, and there's my J.D. right there. Three years of skipping about, sampling different community styles, dabbling in law and exploring approaches to it with no career pressure whatsoever.

Or is such a thing even possible?

thus spake /jca @ 11:45 PM...


Yesterday I bought my first law book: a legal style guide by someone named Garner, which looks like the type of tome to which I'll eventually refer by the author's name alone, à la Strunk & White. "Oh, that's in Garner." "Check Garner on that one." And so forth.

I also picked up a nice hardcover copy of the Federalist Papers, on sale for $10. If I'm going to be compelled to read and produce and think in the dense, snarled prose that seems to be so prized in the legal industry, it's never too soon to start the immersion, and furthermore it's always hard to say no to a good cheap book.

I'm getting scared of this process, perhaps unjustly so.

I'm going to law school this fall. Scary thing number one: The school I will be attending was the only area school to which I was accepted. I know this has been a record awful year to apply to law school, but can't imagine that people ten years from now will know or care. I thought my stats and resume -- an Ivy League degree cum laude done in three years, a master's with a 4.0, an LSAT score of 169 and six years of work experience -- were good enough for the nearby Trinity law school; I was certain they were good enough for the nearby top 10 one; but it turned out that they were good enough for this one school and that was it.

Beyond the Bay Area my school's reputation fades over distance like a radio signal. Scary thing number two: This probably means that I should transfer, given that even if we do settle in this area eventually, we will most likely spend at least a half-decade elsewhere first. But transferring is reputed to be a nasty endeavor, screwing you over in grades and recruiting and journal placement at both ends.

So I'm scared. Scared of being stuck at a local school and relegated to second-string intellectual status in our eventual non-California home. Scared of escaping my local school only to find that I'm worse off than if I had stayed.

On the other hand, my legal ambitions are embarrassingly sparse. I'm embarking on law school primarily for the sheer intellectual experience of studying something so fundamentally useful and interesting, and secondarily (for at least two out of the three years) for the thrill of being surrounded by uniformly brilliant people. Job options are a distant third. I have no interest in working marathon hours as an entry-level kissass when I'm thirty and pregnant, nor is money a consideration. So maybe transferring will only "screw me over" to the extent that I'm only considered desirable for the kind of job I'd want anyway. I'll gladly forego the six figure salary in exchange for the assurance that I'll be home in time for dinner.

The problem is that at this point, this is all conjecture, worth roughly nothing.

thus spake /jca @ 5:22 PM...


Because my law school saga was monopolizing my general-purpose soapbox...

Because if I wrote one more journal essay bout the application process, I would have choked altogether...

Because my previous blog took up space on someone else's server...

I hereby establish Sua Sponte, on my own motion, wherein I will chronicle (in as few words as possible -- promise!) my continuing experiences in applying to, attending, mucking-about in, and (hopefully) eventually graduating from law school.


thus spake /jca @ 12:14 PM...

more final thoughts...

sua sponte
transferring law schools
on the moblog
the short list
otherwise of note
recurring themes
fellow travelers
other blawgs