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


The Blawg Ring welcomes In Re, its fiftieth member!


thus spake /jca @ 9:28 PM...

Page nine, all done!!, 12:07 am. Only missed my goal by seven minutes! Now for the real important part -- a good night's rest before Thursday comes rushing up to bite my booty in seven hours.

thus spake /jca @ 12:05 AM...


10:52, up to page 6. Just had to take a quick breather: current background music is the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and I can't listen to Enya singing Aníron without pausing, closing my eyes and picturing Aragorn and Arwen on the bridge at Rivendell.

I've seen the movie six times and cried at that scene every single time. I may not have much of a romantic streak, but when something hits it, it hits it good.

thus spake /jca @ 10:53 PM...

9:43 pm, up to page 4. Anyone want to make any bets as to whether I'll be done by midnight?

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

8:17 pm, roughly 25% done. Kicking up my Discussion section. Also got a kick out of the second-to-last sentence of this:

G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

Time flies when you're having fun, doesn't it? Lately the hours seem to fly by and leave you wondering where the day went. As planner and executor extraordinaire, you're too busy to watch the grass grow. New projects and ideas abound, and you can't perform your tasks fast enough. Not that you're complaining -- you love this fast-paced atmosphere. Doing research and other fact-checking type chores are especially productive this afternoon. At the end of the day, take a break and try to enjoy a moment of stillness.

Stillness? It's called finishing the memo and going to sleep!

thus spake /jca @ 8:16 PM...

Current time: 6:38 pm.

Tonight's project: 8-10 page draft memo. (Yes, we do submit two drafts before the final version this time.)

It. Will. Happen. Tonight.

thus spake /jca @ 6:37 PM...

There is a Halloween pumpkin contest being judged today in the cafeteria, featuring some truly remarkable uses for squash. On display are the entire Simpsons family, a Trotskyesque axe-embedded-in-head deal, a goth bride, Barry Bonds, a coiled rattlesnake, and a freakish painted gourd bearing the baroquely-scripted legend MY NAME IS LAW EXAM, I AM SCARY AS ALL HELL.

The one that gets my vote, though, is "The Birdcage": a completely hollowed-out pumpkin carved into longitudinal bars, in which is imprisoned a large black raven. The raven is fake, but the effect is real. You want to go break open the pumpkin and chase him away, flailing your arms and shouting "Go! Fly and be free!" but nobody gets out of 1L that easily.

thus spake /jca @ 10:43 AM...


Actual quote from a case I'm gridding for tonight/tomorrownight's memo:

Plaintiff-Counter-Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee Sporty's Farm LLC ("Sporty's Farm") appeals from a judgment, following a bench trial, of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Alfred V. Covello, Chief Judge) dated March 13, 1998. Defendant-Third-Party-Plaintiff-Counter-Claimant-Appellee-Cross-Appellant Sportsman's Market Inc. ("Sportsman's") cross-appeals from the same judgment.[1]

As many times as I read those sentences, I can't figure out exactly who's who. Sporty's was the plaintiff and Sportsman's the defendant in the original case, I think, but after that it just gets all acid-trippy. Maybe this is why clerkships are so heavily hyped.

[1] Sporty's Farm, L.L.C. v. Sportsman's Market, Inc., 202 F.3d 489 (2d Cir. 2000)

thus spake /jca @ 9:16 PM...

Maybe it's universal:

You are Sylvia Plath
No matter how much you struggle, you can't manage to shake off depression. You use symbolism to express yourself and have a knack for getting the most out of gas ovens.

Take the Which Poet are You? Quiz - brought to you out of boredom and pretention!

(Quiz courtesy of Becky.)

thus spake /jca @ 6:28 PM...

What is going on here??

Two of my sister blawgers, Nikki and Heather, seem to be having every bit as nasty a time of things lately as I've been. Heather's on the East Coast, Nikki's in the middle, and I'm on the West Coast, so it hardly seems to be a regional thing. Has fate just decided to stick it to the grrls this week?

thus spake /jca @ 6:17 PM...


Augh, this is just awful.

I'm caught up on all the reading that I wouldn't otherwise save for the train anyway. The one giant hurdle between now and Thursday is this final memo for El-Dubyar, eight to ten pages, first draft of which is due in three days. So I should clearly be working on it now.

It's awful. I can't do it. My attention span comes unglued as soon as I glance over at the manila folder full of eleven photocopied cases to brief and grid and pick apart in search of rules. The thought of spending yet more hours on yet more pages just so that yet more points can be deducted for phantom errors, leaving me feeling even worse about my prospects than I currently do...augh, can't do it, can't stand it.

No one is quite sure who got the high score in our section (well, I guess the person who got it obviously knows, but s/he ain't talking). My guess is that it's either L., who has her MBA and writes with an economy that is the envy of the rest of our study group, or K., a guy who researches solo and submitted something like three or four drafts of the memo.

I should take a page from him and do the same. I should pull together a draft now, now that all my reading is done and I'm not faced with an otherwise-crushing workload. I should revise it over the weekend, again next week, keep picking away at the damn thing until the instructor runs out of commentary and just gives me the points out of exhaustion.

But exhaustion is a problem on my end as well. If there's one lesson worth learning from the last memo, it's that your score is in no way proportional to the amount of work you put into it. It's tempting as hell to fall for the Boxer school of thought, believing that if you just work harder, if you can do and redo and discover as many things as possible, that it will pay off in the end. I commanded myself not to fall into that trap last week. If there's time, my thinking went, do more reading. do more outlining. review class notes. go buy a hornbook or a study aid and get cracking. exams matter. this doesn't.

I'm exhausted, tired of this, fed up with this, strung out and upset and probably annoying everyone else with my whining. But I'm at a loss. There's no good solution here. Working harder will waste more time and make me angrier when the numbers don't improve because the instructor's feeling peevish that day or particularly enjoys the color of her pen. Meanwhile, blowing off the final memo feels like throwing away a chance at improvement that may well be more than a mirage.

Fortunately El-Dubyar only meets three more times; my complaints on the subject should ideally abate soon thereafter. My late father once gave me some remarkable advice which sustains me in times such as these:

Three days is short. You can survive anything for three days. You can survive having toothpicks thrust under your fingernails for three days.

(At the time, I was three days away from my last day at a very very bad job. The toothpicks were real, if psychological rather than physical.)

This feels very much like toothpicks.

This too shall pass.

thus spake /jca @ 9:54 PM...

More pupating going on:

I came home this afternoon to a message on my answering machine from one of the agencies for whom I used to do contract work, back in the days when I actually was a consultant and didn't just have to pretend to be one for tax purposes. The agency was offering me a two-week graphic design contract in Palo Alto, which I probably won't be able to perform if it's needed any time before December 19.

Still, I wrote down on my scratchpad: "2wk K, Palo Alto."

Then I did a double take.

"You know," K., my outlining partner, had remarked yesterday as we plugged away at our Contracts outlines, "I simply cannot abbreviate 'contract' as 'K'. It's just wrong."

"Why is it wrong?" I asked.

"Because there's no K in contract," she replied.

"Maybe there is in Latin," I said, although my gut told me that there probably wasn't. (Maybe I'd feel more strongly about it if my name began with a K, like K.'s does.)

Does anyone know the origin of the K?

thus spake /jca @ 8:10 PM...

Today, as I checked my mail drop, I noticed a woman a few paces away carrying a baby in one of those carseat-with-handles deals. The kid couldn't have been more than three or four months old, and was blissfully quiet, smiling vacantly as her eyes roamed around the room. I waved to her and continued on my way.

The woman and baby caught up to me again at the crosswalk, at which point we actually started to converse. The baby's name was Isabella, she told me, and it was helpful to have her husband working just around the corner and plenty of family nearby since she was just a first-year.


"Wow," I said. "I'm a first-year too, but we decided to hold off on one of those" [indicating the baby] "so I could do this instead."

"We were thinking the same way," she replied, "and then -- oops!"

I admire her spunk. If oops had happened to me in the same timeframe, I would be entirely elsewhere right now.

thus spake /jca @ 5:48 PM...


Thank goodness for the end of Daylight Savings Time! I love gaining another hour to avoid working on my Contracts outline or my final El-Dubyar memo, damn thing.

Amazing how guilty I'll feel about slacking if I let myself. I think I'll go to bed instead.

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


I wouldn't have known about this if Yahoo hadn't told me so.

Not like I haven't been waiting for it for weeks, though...

thus spake /jca @ 5:46 PM...

If I'm reading the assignment sheet correctly, we submit two drafts of our last El-Dubyar memo before finally settling on a final-and-this-time-I-mean-it version.

For some reason, this reassures me.

It's an interesting topic this time: cyberpiracy. No tangled wiretapping statutes to unsnarl, no fence-sitting on the definition of clear and present danger of imminent violence, but law that actually would have occurred to me to wonder about before I even thought of going to law school.

Now, to make up those 48 points...

thus spake /jca @ 3:00 PM...

More on next semester's schedule:

I'm no longer going to be able to go to the gym on weekdays unless I start getting up really, really early. Given how often I've been going to the gym on weekdays anyway lately, this probably isn't much of a loss; it just feels like one. Now I won't even have the option to skip going to the gym on weekdays.

Thursdays, thankfully, are no longer a ten-mile sprint. Unfortunately, all of next semester's Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays are lousy at a less-impossible level. This semester I've got four classes on Thursdays plus a discussion group plus two hours of El-Dubyar; next semester, I'll have three classes on each of those three days, which is a prima facie improvement by any stretch -- but still makes for three tiring days.

A whineworthy problem, which I won't bother whining about past this single mention, is the stackup of classes on Fridays. Currently I have one class on Friday; half of my section has none, and this would have been awfully nice next semester. (Among other things, I could actually go to the gym.)

But the real substantive issue with the Tue-Thu-Fri scheduling is the sequence and timing of the classes. Each day starts with Contracts at 9:30, or would if we could all stay awake through it. Contracts is followed by Civ Pro at 10:30, and talk about something that doesn't go with breakfast. From 11:30 to 12:30 we break for lunch (at least until they schedule discussion groups to fill up our lunch hours), and then at 12:30 everyone settles in to an hour of their elective -- in my case, Employment Discrimination. Presuming no discussion groups are scheduled after class, the day is over right around the time I, if I had my druthers, would schedule it to begin.

Here's the practical upshot of this: three days a week I'll need to haul three casebooks, which cuts down on the maneuverability of the pullman bookbag (although from one viewpoint it might provide me with a workable alternative to the gym). I'll also need to catch the train at...[checks]...7:39 am.

By now I should really be getting into this morning-person thing. Folks around the world rise before the sun and work a normal day; why should this be so difficult for me? I guess the problem has to do with bedtime, not wake-up time. If I could actually make myself be asleep by 10 or 10:30 every night, I would ideally be fresh and raring to go in the morning. Unfortunately, maintaining this schedule means being done with work by 10 or 10:30 every night, something which happens infrequently at best. Any advice?

Mondays and Wednesdays are easier at least in terms of bookbag weight: two hours of Property, from 11:30 to 1:30. I'll get the 9:19 train on these days; too early to fit in a workout beforehand, but blessedly late enough that I can actually wake up with the sunrise instead of an hour before. Professor Property is a woman, my first female professor at law school, with a godlike resume and an endearing habit of introducing herself, when she mingles at section meet-and-greets, by her first name. She is also one of the most stunningly attractive people I've ever met in person. What better way to be enlightened to the rule against perpetuities than by the Muse of Property herself?

I'll probably pick a Moot Court section on one of those days, rather than further burden a Tuesday or Friday. Or maybe I'll go for one on Thursday, just to tease myself that Thursdays are still nicer than they were first semester.

thus spake /jca @ 2:06 PM...

I wonder if now is a good time to read One L.

thus spake /jca @ 9:32 AM...


Next semester's schedules showed up in our mail drops this week, and the news first and foremost is good: I snagged my first-choice elective, Employment Discrimination.

I'm not sure exactly when the Moot Court section assignments happen. As best I understand, some day soon we'll all be mail-dropped a packet full of potential sections, varying by day of the week, time of day, and topic to be addressed. First-come first-serve assignments mean that I'll have to make up my mind pretty much immediately and bolt upstairs to Records in time to get my choice.

St. Daniel and my husband independently concur that I should avoid the admissions-discrimination topic. "You'll be miserable if they put you on the wrong side," says my husband. "Just pick something vaguely interesting where you could argue either side and be totally academic about it." St. Dan agrees. "I could never do any work on, say, the Second Amendment," he says, arguing that there's too much risk of unprofessional emotional involvement in a case where you have a real personal interest in the argument.

Advice worth taking? I'd wager. The view from yesterday would indicate that I'm already spending too much time trying to internalize this year, drinking the Kool-Aid, inciting myself to care instead of just perform. I am so poor at self-mechanization. I need to take a page from my husband (but hopefully stop short of the stress-related health problems) and just crank.

thus spake /jca @ 5:47 PM...


All colors bleed to red
Sleep on the ocean's bed
Drifting in empty seas
For all my days remaining
Would north be true?

My first graded El-Dubyar memo was returned to me today. (Oh my heavens above, I used the passive voice in the previous sentence -- ten points off!! Nasty nasty evil *slap slap* passive voice.)

No letter grade; those only come at the end of the semester. Just a random number. Still, I was disappointed.

It could have been worse. Our instructor graded the papers out of 300 points; the high score was 274, the low 220-something, the average right around 250.

I snagged a whopping 252.

"Do not wallow," St. Daniel instructed me over my cell phone as I rode home on Caltrain, tomorrow's civ pro reading sitting untouched in my pullman bag. "You are absolutely not allowed to go home and listen to Nine Inch Nails."

"Can I at least get drunk?" I sniffled.

"Yes, you can most certainly get drunk. But you should really do something distracting. Go rent five or six episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, and eat some chocolate or something."

"Maybe I'll watch Empire Strikes Back again," I said weakly.

"Perfect!" replied St. Dan. "Send me the memo, I'll tell you if you actually did anything wrong. Just distract yourself tonight. Don't wallow."

Fortunately, I came home to a semi-unexpected package awaiting me outside the front door. (Isn't everything always better when you've got a package to open?) It contained a handful of things for which we'd exchanged a gift a few months back. I chose not to dwell on the guilt of having to send back a gift, but instead let myself enjoy the thrill of getting something I wanted. Anyways, I'm sure that an exchange for a gift falls under the transferred intent doctrine, and the goodwill that went into the gift is still manifest in the returns on the exchange.

The package contained a set of faceted quartz polyhedra for my husband, a marble mortar and pestle for me, a pair of Chinese jade wedding wine cups for us both, and most exciting of all, a black satin cheongsam dress embroidered in red cherry blossoms with a mandarin collar and frog closures for me to wear and my husband to adore. I immediately tried it on, only to find -- *giggle* -- that it was too big. I'm losing weight again since Ali, the cafeteria guy, talked me out of falafel wraps for lunch and convinced me to switch to smoked turkey wraps instead. Now, apparently, I'm going to need to get my fancy new chinoiserie dress altered. S'aright s'aright. It's so pleasant not to be overweight anymore that I'm happy to pay a seamstress to make my clothes fit me again.

"Close your eyes," I instructed my husband, in lieu of saying hello, as soon as he opened the door.

"Okay," he said.

"Now open them," I said, leaning against the wall in my fancy dress.

Total desired effect. "Wow," he said, "that is absolutely beautiful on you."

I successfully forgot about El-Dubyar.

Alas, that didn't last long. "Show me her comments," said my husband, picking up the paper and comparing it to the scoring rubric. "You lost nineteen points on trivia," he said. "You'd have been the second highest grade in the class, without a doubt, if you'd just nailed the question presented, the citations, the research..."

"I did nail those things," I started to sniffle again.

He looked at the memo, and after about five minutes, agreed. "You know," he said, "this is bullshit. Total bullshit. You need to go to her and ask her why the hell she took points off for this. You did this right."

"Fuck," I wailed, and started bawling in earnest. (Fortunately I'd changed out of the Chinese dress by this point and was wearing an oversized comfy fleece bathrobe, much better for bawling in.)

"Dude," he said, hugging me, "this doesn't matter. This doesn't matter. This grade doesn't hit your GPA."

"Of course it doesn't matter," I sobbed, "but the problem is that I thought I did well, you thought I did well, and we were wrong. I have no sense of how well I'm doing. I could be totally screwed and not know it. I'm losing confidence in my confidence."

He dutifully supplied me with Kleenex and the proverbial shoulder.

I'm calmer now, after several glasses of wine, but I'm starting to agree with St. Dan: it may be time to pillage my emergency chocolate supply. Hell, my clothes are too big on me anyway.

thus spake /jca @ 11:32 PM...


Our weather has soured over the past week, to the point where the city is just a lousy place to be. San Francisco is prone to fog year-round, but as soon as the late-September "Indian summer" passes, the stuff blankets and adheres to the city like a massive sausage casing, sealing out dry warmth until the spring.

It's pretty, from the train, as the fog mounds up like whipped cream on the oceanward side of the greenhills and threatens to spill over into the valley. But once the train arrives in town, the attractiveness dissolves into a permanent chill, a uniformly gray sky and an atmosphere saturated with tiny annoying droplets that mist up your glasses and irritate your nasal passages, like so much particulate dishwater.

The San Francisco Chronicle, remarking the dampening (no pun intended) effect of the weather on the World Series crowd, said of yesterday: "Summer weather took a leave sometime last week, and with the fog, winds and charcoal skies forming a nasty combination, it might have been the coldest night of the season."

The Series, meanwhile, continues unabated. Pacific Bell Park is one MUNI stop before the train station, or after it, depending in which direction you're headed. You can usually pick out a game day, any time during the regular season, by observing the crowd density on the N-Judah line between Embarcadero and the ballpark stop at Second and King. A bunch of people frequently means that the Giants are playing that night. But when it's a World Series game to which everyone's headed, seats on MUNI are hunted to extinction, standing room is scarce, and breathing room is nonexistent. The good news is that you no longer worry about being late for the train; the bad news is that you instead worry about getting your pocket picked.

It's fun to watch San Francisco react to actually having a team in the World Series. All the MUNI trains and buses have posted orange GO GIANTS signs in their front windshields, which unfortunately resemble the signs they post in the same place to indicate a change in route. I've done a double-take the past few times I boarded a MUNI trolley, fearing for a brief snap that I might get rerouted out somewhere in the 95% of San Francisco in which I invariably get lost. (A thought which is even less appealing since I learned of a classmate getting mugged for his school laptop in the Inner Richmond. I couldn't even find the Inner Richmond on a map.)

People stand along the Embarcadero holding up homemade signs scrawled on corrugated cardboard. "Need 1 Ticket!" said one. You'd mistake them for homeless people, who tend to feature identically-constructed signs, except that homeless people normally don't stand along the Embarcadero down by the business end. It's too cold and damp, right up next to the bay. Thinking homeless people prefer the touristy areas up on the north side of the Embarcadero, while strategically thinking homeless people set up camp right by the cable car base station on Powell and Market.

Aside the crowds of obvious fans, though, it's surprised me how few San Franciscans are actually Giants fans. I'm obviously no expert on baseball, but it seems to me that the Giants don't suck any worse than a number of other teams whom no one I know loves to hate. Maybe it's because so many people in San Francisco are originally from elsewhere in California, which has more frickin baseball teams than a single state ought to be allowed. Or maybe the Giants just did something to piss everyone off while I wasn't paying attention. At a concert my husband and I attended on Sunday night, one of the opening acts called out "How about them Giants!" to which an audience member responded "They suck, man!" Um, aren't they in the World Series? Wouldn't that indicate that they don't suck?

I've been accused of being a fair-weather Giants fan, with which I take umbrage, largely because there is no fair weather in San Francisco these days. In fact I'm not really a baseball fan at all; sometimes it borders on entertaining for me, the rest of the time it's something I'm happy to leave to other people. Anyways, where I come from originally, the Giants are a football team. I hope they fired their trademark counsel.

All kidding aside, it's fun to be in a city where the local [pick a sport] team has made it to the [World Series/Super Bowl/Stanley Cup/etc.], particularly when the championship is happening right along your regular commute before your very eyes. You briefly forget about the barfulous weather as you notice all the people on the street wearing orange and black. You giggle at the people on beach chairs lined up outside the ballpark at nine AM. You bristle slightly when someone suggests that the home team sucks, because they're the home team, and this is your home now.

I hope they win.

thus spake /jca @ 7:01 PM...


I went to Professor Contracts' office hours today, in hopes of gaining some clarity on the invitation to offer/offer/counteroffer conundrum.

"What's a general rule to apply when you're looking to distinguish between an invitation to offer and an offer?" I asked.

"Well, on one hand, advertising has often been construed as an invitation to offer..."

"Because it's first come first serve?" asked another student.

"Because if I'm out of stock by the time you show up to my sale, I'm not breaching a contract?" I asked.

"Because it's targeted one to many?" asked a third student.

"Right, right," he said, impatient at being interrupted. (These Socratic dudes can dish it out, but when it comes to taking it...)

He went on to explain something to the effect of what we'd all just interjected, at which point I noticed a potential origin for many of the issues I have with Contracts. Professor Contracts doesn't have an unusual office in any way; and yet I was enthralled by all the books on his shelves, the printed-out briefs on top of his file cabinet, even the posters on his walls. His rather ordinary (if compulsively neat) office fascinated me in all its details, but not because it was inherently fascinating in any way. Anything seemed to hold my interest more than what he was actually saying.

Pay attention! I snapped to myself.

"So," I said, forcing myself to focus, "it's a safe rule to apply if I see an advertisement in a fact pattern -- that it's an invitation for an offer?"

"I haven't gotten to on the other hand yet," he replied.

At least his exam is open-everything.

thus spake /jca @ 9:53 PM...


I thought they'd gone and done it when I first tasted Altoids Sours. But now they've outdone themselves once again: ginger Altoids.

They taste rather like crystallized ginger would, if it came in tablets.

What next? Habanero Altoids? (Sign me up!)

thus spake /jca @ 9:36 PM...

You know the myth that all law school exams are open book?

It's a myth.

Or, I should say, it's a "rebuttable presumption." It's not safe to assume anything; you've just got to get up your nerve and ask your professor exactly what the deal is.

I don't know why I'm so sensitive about doing so; I usually have minimal difficulties raising my hand, or going to office hours, and candidly presenting pretty much any question that crosses my mind. But for some reason, discussing the exam feels taboo to me, much like discussing someone's age, or weight, or salary.

Thus it was only by accident that I found out that Professor Civ Pro gives closed-book exams. Perhaps this shouldn't freak me out, but it does; this is the professor who, by common admission, gives the best grades to those exams that deploy the most verbatim quotes from class. 'Course, maybe that's the challenge: not only mastering the subject matter, but also committing the exact verbiage to memory for the test.

Professor Crim preferred democracy; one day last week he announced to the class that we were, right then and there, without further ado, going to vote on the status of our exam. The options were closed everything, open book/open notes, and open book/open notes/open commercial outlines.

"I hope you voted for closed everything," said my husband.

"Actually, I voted for open everything," I said. I don't yet own a commercial outline for Crim, but wanted to reserve the right to purchase one and not have to retype it into my notes.

"No good," he replied.

"Why not?"

"You want everyone to be at as much of a disadvantage as possible," he said.

He's so much better at being competitive than I am. Something like this would never have occurred to me; I'm a charitable soul, I'd rather see everyone be at as *little* of a disadvantage as possible. But he, of course, is correct; these exams are graded on a curve, so it's certainly in my personal best interests to see as many classmates as possible relegated to the nether standard deviations.

I've never taken anything graded on a curve before. (Not counting standardized tests, of course, although I'm not sure if they're technically graded on a curve or not. I've never taken statistics. Erin would know.)

At any rate, the middle ground -- closed commercial outline, open everything else -- won the day in Crim. Now, as an obsessively conscientious student, I should find out what the deal is for Contracts and Torts as well. And yet something's holding me back. I like Professor Torts too much, and bear too much risk of upsetting Professor Contracts, to baldly approach either of them directly with such an invasive, aggressive question.

It seems to me -- and this has almost become my catchphrase of late; it certainly seemed to be all I could say last Thursday after handing in my first graded El-Dubyar memo -- that nothing good can come of this. You don't ask, you don't know; you ask, you risk coming across as a hypercompetitive, single-minded numbers freak, or worse, as a slacker baldly seeking to avoid studying.

On balance, though, I prefer looking bad to remaining ignorant. Maybe I can just leave an anonymous note on the lectern or something...

thus spake /jca @ 8:18 PM...

Did anyone else have trouble with Blogger this weekend?

thus spake /jca @ 10:36 AM...


After another lovely productive Saturday afternoon at K.'s place, I now have a complete up-to-date torts outline.

Now it's time for me to get nervous that it's incomplete or missing things. K. and C. haven't finished theirs yet; they're being far more typological, including examples and hypos and all manner of subsections that I skipped. "I wish I could just get straight to the point the way you do," C. said, looking at my outline. "I wish I could be thorough like you and not worry about things I left out!" I replied. The grass is always greener.

Up next week: Contracts. Yippee.

Why is Contracts so worrisome? [The singular verb looks so out-of-place in that previous sentence, doesn't it? But I digress.] I don't have the issues with Professor Contracts that some of my classmates do, but there is definitely something amiss in that class. Waddling Thunder seems to be in a similar situation, in kind if not in degree, with his torts professor. Adam (where's your blog, Adam?) sums it up nicely: "They muddy the waters to make them appear deep."

Contracts, as a subject, doesn't [argh! singular!] seem like it should be particularly complicated. Either a contract is valid or it isn't. Even the goofiness over restitution and promissory estoppel shouldn't be so absurdly opaque; make some rules and then stick to them, right? But Prof. Contracts (whom we can blame quasi in rem as a co-author of the casebook) delights in giving us pairs or sets of cases with near-identical fact patterns and completely opposite rulings, and then leaving us to puzzle out the distinguishing factors ourselves. This irks me.

Professor Torts is fond of shouting at us: "I'm giving you the black letter law here! I don't hide the ball! Does anyone think I'm hiding the ball?" Professor Civ Pro will repeat entire sentences to make sure we transcribe his definitions verbatim (apparently precise choice of words on the exam is the difference between an A and a B). Professor Crim hands out his own outlines and has never obfuscated a rule -- not counting felony murder, of course, but he explained the whole time that it was the courts, not he, responsible for the snarl of felony murder rule exceptions.

Professor Contracts, meanwhile, is coy. His discussion section, run by a 2L who got an A in his class last year, features a similar flavor of coyness. The discussion leader passes out pages of hypos, asks "What's the issue here?" and then stops short of actually clarifying any of the rules. Is this an offer, or an invitation for offers? Is this an acceptance, or a counteroffer, or the acceptance of the invitation, which would make it the actual offer in the first place? "I don't know," the 2L blithely shrugs. It's less cute when Prof. Contracts does the same in office hours. "The best I can do is an educated guess," he'll say.

I can't imagine that Contracts is that much more complex or nuanced than any of the other areas of the law we're studying. If I bring a problem to Prof. Civ Pro in office hours, he invariably responds with a rule that either solves my problem or leads to a better question. If I pose a hypo in office hours to Prof. Torts, he may well be stuck making an educated guess -- but he'll explain the range of available guesses and then justify why he's guessing the way he is. Prof. Contracts is unique among my professors in that he seems to derive no satisfaction from making things clear to students.

Perhaps this is because he's old school (started teaching contracts in the 1960's), or because he came to my school from a Top 5 school back east and still carries with him some vestige of that mindset that the most valuable learning is done outside of class when you attempt to puzzle through yesterday's notes. Or something.

"I think Contracts is going to be our hardest outline," C. conjectured. "We can't just distill an outline from our notes and the book. We're going to have a lot more work to do before we come up with something useful."

I fear she's right. Unfortunately, that's all the more reason to start into it sooner.

thus spake /jca @ 6:50 PM...


And while on the subject of animals that fascinate me: maybe it was an albatross.

thus spake /jca @ 10:55 PM...

Those elephants at the pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay made it into today's San Francisco Chronicle. You heard it here first!

thus spake /jca @ 7:33 PM...

My school's bookstore has gotten into the seasonal-decorations craze in an unusually, and perhaps unnecessarily, macabre fashion. Outside the store's front door is a small collection of black Styrofoam tombstones featuring bas-relief skulls; so far so good, pretty conventional for Halloween.

The display also features a sign amidst the tombstones, with block letters that read: WELCOME TO THE GRAVEYARD OF YOUR BROKEN DREAMS.

Each tombstone, upon closer examination, has a sticky note attached to it, representing a particular broken dream: a job with a particular firm, an A in a particular professor's class, a judgment for $1,000,000 $100,000 $100.

From the beginning I'd thought that the bookstore seemed to be a bit off-kilter, with signs above the commercial-outline and study aid sections reading "Abandon All Hope" and "First Year Panic Section." Now I'm convinced: they're not kidding. They actually hate us.

thus spake /jca @ 12:41 PM...


Gaaah. This memo is taking much longer to rewrite than it took to write. My choice of background music isn't helping, either -- as much as I love Verdi overtures, they're not particularly conducive to picking something apart and attempting to reassemble it per someone else's specs.

Maybe it's time for the chanting monks again...

thus spake /jca @ 11:21 PM...

I've never been much of a publicly political person. My close friends tend to be aware of my views; my family less so; and random office- or schoolmates, little to not at all.

I like things this way. I've never had much of a talent for punditry, nor has political discussion ever particularly inspired me to heights of eloquence. I also enjoy retaining the prerogative to change my mind without having to explain why to anyone but myself.

So I'm kind of on the fence about some of the politics I'm apparently compelled to espouse at law school. I'm more or less convinced that the law school that waitlisted me somehow found me insufficiently liberal ("They could smell your voting record," suggests my husband), so a number of the activities in which I'm engaging this year are, shall I say, contrived to demonstrate exactly how open-minded I can be. This isn't a problem per se; I enjoy hearing both sides of an argument, and feel more educated and secure in such beliefs as I do sustain once they've been challenged. It's just that, in not publicly acknowledging my own political inclinations, I feel rather like an interloper.

Today I attended a training session by the innocuous-sounding National Lawyers' Guild. I'm all in favor of the First Amendment, and learning how to be a Legal Observer at a demonstration sounded reasonably interesting to me -- yay, I get to be officious!

The problem, I found out at the training, is that I don't particularly agree with the positions taken by many of the activists who are my "clients" as a Legal Observer. I agree with their right to freely assemble and express their views, and am happy to volunteer to defend same, but would really have to suspend disbelief before attending a protest alongside, say, Students for Justice in Palestine.

The training facilitator briefly mentioned a concern that "agents provocateurs" were infiltrating the organization. I suppressed a smile. If there's one thing I'm not, it's an agent provocateur; I could think of a hundred better uses for my time than inciting protesters to breach the peace. But the concept of infiltrating the organization pleased me. I'm a spy now [1], a non-sabotaging gatherer of intelligence, keeping my own intents and purposes to myself, gladly furthering both the other side's macroagenda and my own.

What I really should be doing right now, of course, is completing the final draft of my first omigawd-it's-actually-graded El-Dubyar memo. I got the instructor on her cell phone this evening with a final round of questions, the answers to which left me feeling well prepared to just knock this thing off and be done with it. It's time now; I'm off to do so.

[1] I here considered dubbing myself "Agent 358", the combination to my old bicycle lock in grade school, but figured that the reference was so arcane that not even my old friends would find it humorous. So I didn't.

thus spake /jca @ 8:43 PM...

Yet another reason to love Prof. Torts (notice how these keep proliferating?):

Today, as he was in the midst of posing a long, thoughtful question on proximate cause, someone's cell phone rang out loudly and clearly, cutting him off in mid-sentence.

It was his own.

"Well, isn't this embarrassing," he deadpanned, pulling the thing out of his pocket, silencing the ringer, and blushing bright red. Maintaining his rhetorical stride, he barked at the now-silent phone, "Mom! Not now!" before stowing it back in his pocket and picking up his question where he left off.

One of these days I'm going to cave and give him a huge rib-crushing hug.

thus spake /jca @ 12:09 PM...

This morning, as I was walking up to the train station, I heard pounding footsteps on the pavement behind me. I stepped aside, letting the runner pass me. He was a nicely-dressed man with a briefcase, and his suit coat and tie were flapping in the wind like sails as he bolted to catch the departing southbound train.

I thought about how absurd we must look, otherwise-ordinary people gasping and flailing down the boarding platform in pursuit of the impatient train like so many geese. Take a man in a suit, make him run in a panic, and instantaneously his Businessman Presence evaporates. Or similarly, take a woman with a pullman bookbag, make her heart leap into what the exercycle calls the "cardio zone" when she hears the crossing bells start to sound, and then watch with amusement as she attempts to pick up her pace and the pullman backpack starts to wobble and weave and grind against the sidewalk, unbalancing both itself and its driver.

It takes so little to deprive a serious person of gravitas. Maybe, at our collective psychological core, we're all just that silly to begin with.

thus spake /jca @ 10:26 AM...


Back a few months ago, before school started, St. Daniel teased me about watching me turn into a lawyer before his eyes. I blew him off at the time, but lately I've been noticing how right he (as usual) was.

I noticed something odd this weekend when I overheard half a conversation being held between two of my fellow furniture-lifters, while we were recuperating from the move at Outback Steakhouse. A. was finishing a sentence: "...need to sue people." I perked up: "Did you just say sue people?" Cue the lawyer jokes. "Hey, there's an ambulance for you to chase," A. remarked with a wink.

The proprietor of a web server featuring tarot card art chastised me this morning for linking to one of his/her images in yesterday's post. (It was actually kind of funny -- the tarot image was changed to a picture of a horse expressing a conjecture as to the size of my male anatomy, which, safe to say, was a bit off, since it presumed something nonzero to start with.) I removed the offending link as soon as I got the message, but found myself wondering: is linking to an image a fair form of copyright attribution, assuming the original host held the copyright? Is duplicating an image on one's own server to preserve the other's bandwidth a violation of copyright? Is linking to the image, and the subsequent use of bandwidth, an act of larceny? And so forth.

This afternoon, as MUNI lurched down the Embarcadero towards the train station, a guy holding an open cup of coffee failed to grab a handhold in time and spilled much of his drink on a nearby woman wearing a white turtleneck. "I'm so sorry!" he apologized. "It's not your fault," she replied, "I saw what happened, don't worry." I thought, negligence? Did the guy with the cup have a duty toward the woman not to spill coffee on her white shirt? Did he breach a reasonable standard of conduct by not holding on to a handhold while riding MUNI?

But the best lawyermorphosis moment by far came when I heard the story of the now-famous Negligence Beer. P., the homebrewer friend whose refrigerators we hauled upstairs on Sunday, had made an Oktoberfest brew a few weeks ago. He'd left some on the desk of a coworker, who happened to be out of the office, so the beer sat out at room temperature for several days. Surprise: the yeast in the bottle was still fueling such intense fermentation that one of the bottles exploded (foreseeability?), spreading beer and broken glass all around the desk. No one was injured, nor was there any significant property damage; still, now I've got a real life torts exam fact pattern to play with as I grind away at sine qua non and proximate cause.

This must be what pupating feels like. I can't wait to grow wings.

thus spake /jca @ 6:57 PM...


Waddling Thunder discourses on complaining law students. (He makes an exception for me, bless his heart.)

Despite his generosity of adjective, I can't help but disagree with WT on this one.

His description of the complainers in question, and their complaints, made me think of Sylvia Plath's aristocratic hotelmates in The Bell Jar (note: first semester 1L is a really bad time to reread The Bell Jar, if you're considering it):

These girls looked awfully bored to me. I saw them on the sunroof, yawning and painting their nails and trying to keep up their Bermuda tans, and they seemed bored as hell. I talked with one of them, and she was bored with yachts and bored with flying around in airplanes and bored with skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and bored with the men in Brazil.

The complainers I encounter aren't jaded by the surfeit of a good thing. They're complaining because they got three hours of sleep last night, or missed another meal to attend a study group or discussion section. They're complaining because they're wearing themselves down to raw stumps fretting over all the things that they aren't nailing, over the fact that they are failing to nail things for the first time ever. Today I encountered a friend wearing sunglasses in the elevator; it turned out she was wearing them to hide the fact that she was crying in a panic, afraid that she was going to flunk out.

There are all manner of overworked metaphors for the plaintworthy situation in which we find ourselves of late, many of them circular: a treadmill, a log rolling competition [with obligatory waterfall in eyeshot], a hamster running in a wheel, even being spit-roasted over an open flame. But I'll stick with the tried-and-true classic

and the fundamental truth

that manage to explain and console at the same time.

thus spake /jca @ 9:13 PM...


Mike at Method to the Madness, while teasing me for briefing in Microsoft Access (dude, it's what there was on my laptop!), has a terrific idea for a web-based open source legal research tool. I am 100% wholeheartedly in favor of such a concept. Go for it, Mike, and let us all know what we can do to contribute!

thus spake /jca @ 11:10 PM...

Note to all friends of highly mobile folks: don't ever agree to help them move unless you know in advance exactly how many truckloads of stuff you'll need to help haul.

I think this must just be a feature of Silicon Valley: people who rent, and who move whenever the rent or the landlord becomes unreasonable, but who have still collected a good household's worth of stuff. Unlike highly mobile urban renters in other parts of the country, our friends P. and V. had a china cabinet, a wet bar, a sofa, an entertainment center with a 36" TV, a dining table with six chairs, a queen bedroom set, three bookshelves, a Bowflex exercise machine and not one but two refrigerators. (P. and V. are homebrewers, the same friends whose steam beer won Best in Show at Norcal last month.) This stuff, plus dozens of boxes and bags and piles of clothes on hangers, had to be loaded into a U-Haul, trucked up to South San Francisco, unloaded from the U-Haul and then hefted up a bunch of stairs.

At about five PM we were ready to quit; I'd gotten back my marked-up draft memo in email this morning and was hoping to take a crack at it today, and my husband had just cut a huge, heavily bleeding gash in his left shin with one of the bookshelves. Alas, it turned out that we were only halfway done; and we've only just now gotten home, plastered with exhaustion. P. and V. treated us all (they'd recruited five lucky souls to help them relocate) to dinner at the Serramonte Outback Steakhouse, where the Bloomin' Onion disappeared in what must be record time.

No memo for me tonight. Gotta sleep. Tomorrow, productivity.

So much for this weekend...although, in a way, it reminds me what it used to be like to have a life before school.

thus spake /jca @ 10:46 PM...


Speaking of perfect timing...

G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

You're part meteor and part glacier. You blaze bright, bold trails that won't fade away any time soon. You push mountains of accumulated rubble out of your path with steadfast, unwavering power. Even though you're not about to stop moving, you can spare the occasional backward glance even as you forge ahead. Looking both ways lets you review your monumental career even as you plan your next conquest. But you also know that empire-building can be hot, thankless work. A cold beverage or dessert would be a small, refreshing gesture of self-appreciation.

thus spake /jca @ 8:33 PM...


This whole work-Saturday, play-Sunday thing has worked out reasonably well to date, so of course we had to go mess with the formula today by deciding to squeeze some play time into Saturday. (Tomorrow we're helping some friends move from San Mateo to South San Francisco, which, while a good deed in my book, hardly counts as "play time.")

We couldn't avoid the Saturday indulgence, see; today at 4:30 was a long-awaited event at Fuki Sushi. I'm a huge fan of wine-tasting, beer-tasting, scotch-tasting and pretty-much-any-good-quality-alcohol-tasting, so I couldn't have been more thrilled when I picked up the little promotional card advertising Sake 101: a sampling of eight premium sakes from Japan, complete with hors d'oeuvres.

I wasn't disappointed. Three of the sakes were of the junmai type, the Sake of the Common Man. Junmai sake smelled and tasted, for the most part, the way you'd expect sake to smell and taste. (With one exception: an item called shusen, which was pale yellow and smelled horrible. Tasted OK, though.) Further up the food chain were a pair of ginjo sakes, one of which was apparently designed to please women drinkers. Ironically, I preferred the other one, as did both of the other women at our table.

At the top of the sake totem pole were the dai ginjo sakes -- neat, pure bliss in a glass. A dai ginjo, according to our tasting guide, is supposed to slip straight through your mouth and down your throat. This sounds absurd until you taste one and realize that that's exactly what it does...a wash of flavor rolls back over your palate and disappears as you swallow, leaving no aftertaste. The best one ($100/bottle!) bore the poetic name of suirakuten, which the tasting guide, after a moment's thought, translated as "heaven of tipsy delight."

That's where I am right now. And I have to brief.

Background noise of the moment: ear candy, the Pergolesi Stabat Mater. It goes well with suirakuten. I should make that my new motto, or username, or something.

thus spake /jca @ 8:01 PM...


On the southbound train this afternoon, I came to the end of my Torts reading for Monday and peeked ahead at the next case. It's Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, one of those cases that demonstrates to your cocktail-party interlocutors that you went to law school.

Two professors so far have shared different versions of the urban legend where a bum approaches a lawyer and says "Hey, I went to law school too!" The lawyer rolls his eyes and tries to disengage himself from the conversation. The bum continues: "No, seriously! Pennoyer v. Neff!"

There are a few cases like these that reorient my worldview. Suddenly I'm no longer some random woman on a train with a big book in her lap. Suddenly I'm the next link in a massive gleaming chain, exulting in the commonality of the law school experience. There's not a lawyer in practice today who hasn't read Palsgraf. And now I am more like them.

I tried to explain this sense of commonality to someone, although I wasn't feeling so up on it at the time. "Think about graduate education," I said. "Look at medicine, business, engineering, even the humanities. Huge changes in the way they're taught now from a hundred years ago -- not just the technology but the teacher-student relationship, the levels of interaction in class, the responsibilities people have. The law school model, on the other hand, basically hasn't changed in the past, oh, five hundred years, except that now they use *less* Latin."

(And presumably offer training in and access to Lexis and Westlaw, although at this point I only know this secondhand.)

Think about it: a hall full of folks, being grilled on readings by a Socratic professor. Sure, there are now female students (and professors). And we've also evolved admissions criteria that pre-empt much of the flunking that happened in earlier law schools. But how different would the discussion of Pennoyer really have been, a hundred years ago? Particularly compared to the differences in a class in neurology then and now?

thus spake /jca @ 8:54 PM...


I came away from El-Dubyar today in a minor lather, suddenly afraid that the cases I'd chosen as the meat of my memo left my argument full of holes. This is our second memo, but the first one on which we're graded, and while Bill Altreuter is very kindly (and repeatedly) counseling me to quit obsessing over making the numbers (*hugs* to Bill), it's much easier to agree with him in theory than in practice. There are few things as fragile and battered as an embattled 1L's sense of confidence, and mine seems to have a Kick Me sign tattooed across its shoulderblades. I made the 7:00 train, landed in my seat, looked in the window, and saw the reflection of some strange old exhausted woman glowering back at me.

Another Thursday down.

People are starting to wear down, get sick, burn out all around me. A flu is apparently circulating among our section. Attendance at discussion groups is fast waning, and empty seats are beginning to stick out even during actual classes. I think I'm the only person left in my study group who hasn't yet gone into monomaniacal sleep-deprived overdrive, for the simple reason that I can't; the commute and the workload would fast overwhelm me if I didn't get my eight hours a night and my four workouts a week. I'm frayed and peevish enough these days; the last thing I need is to attempt to spread myself any thinner.

I got off the train at about eight-thirty, noticed I was good and hungry, and then realized in a wave of despair that I would probably have to drag myself home and cook something, which in turn would entail defrosting some ingredients or other. Some days the thought of inventing dinner would be inspiring; alas, not on a Thursday.

Instead I walked to Florentine, a little Italian takeout place on Castro a block back from the train station. Their pasta is middling, but it's ready for carryout in five minutes and is served by actual Italians, who are rare as hen's teeth in Silicon Valley. Italian is a language I haven't tasted in far too many years; speaking it again felt like sliding into a hot bath. The guy asked where my family was from. I asked where his was from. He told me about how he'd had to learn Spanish to communicate with the kitchen staff. I told him I went to school in the city and commuted on the train every day. He said he probably planned to stay here another year or two tops before heading back home. I agreed.

I left the restaurant clutching a comfortingly hot paper bag full of tortellini and ravioli and foccaccia, luxuriating in the sound of Italian vowels and imagining the fun I'd have in a summer abroad program in Italy. (A quick googling informs me that several such programs exist in Modena, Siena, Rome, and Bologna, although whether any of these programs would accept someone from my school is unclear.)

Of course, it's unlikely to happen; ye olde spouse isn't particularly portable, nor would he relish me skipping town for six weeks. Still, the sound of the language in my ears made everything feel warm and fuzzy and infinitely possible if I wished, and just dreaming about going back to Italy was medicinal as I trundled the few blocks back down Evelyn Avenue to my patient parked car. Even a Thursday isn't so horrible when it's a giovedì.

thus spake /jca @ 10:52 PM...


I finally alighted on a suitable background noise solution: chanting monks. (No, not these monks; these monks.)

thus spake /jca @ 11:56 PM...

I'm more than halfway through my second memo (and my second glass of wine) and have hit that annoying point where every background noise is suddenly inordinately distracting. My husband is off in the study playing No One Lives Forever 2, but it isn't even his gunshots that are bothering me; it's my own choice of music. The current CD is a deliciously scratchy compilation of antique opera recordings, and while I was more or less able to focus through Lotte Lehmann's rendition of Komm O Hoffnung, a young Pavarotti is now singing Rigoletto and risks entrancing me to the point of total immersion.

Time to switch the CD. I'm way too close to finished to lose my train of thought now.

thus spake /jca @ 10:27 PM...

It's elective decision time! (If only to defer, for another half hour or so, the draft memo I need to produce tonight.)

I'm down to a tossup between Employment Discrimination -- great professor, potentially nasty exam, subject matter of personal interest -- and Immigration Law -- professor whose lectures you can supposedly miss, required practicum, take-home exam, acknowledged lax grading policy.

I can't help but sense at this point that I'm going to Do The Right Thing and not aim for the easy A. It's just too opportunistic, even for me, even when I know I need to make the numbers. If I'm really made of the stuff that I hope I am, I ought to be able to make the numbers even in a class not known for its liberal distribution of good grades. Ref. the old guidance-counselor saw. Question: Which is better, A's at Rutgers or B's at Princeton? Answer: A's at Princeton.

(Of course, the real world answer is that A's at Rutgers will get you into better law schools than B's at Princeton, assuming a constant LSAT. But it's a good illustration of a particular value system, anyway, one to which I'd say I subscribe.)

Plus, there's no guarantee that it's even really that easy an A: I don't guess I'm going to have twenty-five spare hours lying around in May to invest in a takehome final, and I'd hate the thought of potentially blowing it by giving it less than it required. A practicum would be nice on my resume, but one skippable class isn't such a valuable thing when you're a commuter student and you know you'll be trekking up to the city anyway -- you might as well just go.

Fortunately, my other scheduling dilemma is far simpler: Moot Court vs. Legal Analysis. El-Lay looks like nothing more than El-Dubyar II The Sequel, which I would gladly skip. Meanwhile, we're granted the boon of actually selecting our Moot Court sections, based in part on which case that section is scheduled to argue. As soon as the director mentioned that the Michigan admissions case would be one of the options, I fell in love with Moot Court. Couple this with simultaneous coursework in discrimination statutes, and I'm suddenly full-on engaged in my own personal cause célèbre. An easy plan to love, no?

(Potential drawback: you can pick your case in Moot Court, but you can't pick which side you're assigned to argue. So this could, of course, all blow up in my face.)

thus spake /jca @ 7:34 PM...


Grist for the rumor mill: More students took the LSAT at this past Saturday's administration than had ever sat for a single administration of the test before, ever. (Source: office hours with Professor Civ Pro, formerly a board member and currently on an advisory committee at LSAC.)

So if you've ever wondered whether you'd have been better off waiting a year to reapply rather than starting out somewhere with the intent to transfer: you wouldn't have been.

Things have a way of working out for the best.

thus spake /jca @ 7:12 PM...


I have just briefed my hundredth case.

Lucky number 100 is Herskovits v. Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, which raises the question of whether a doctor's negligent failure to provide a timely diagnosis of lung cancer resulted in actionable damages when the patient's chances of survival fell from 39% to 25%. You know you were wondering this yourself, weren't you?

This ought to feel more momentous than it does. The only reason I even know it's my hundredth is because I use a Microsoft Access database for my briefs, and this is record item #100.

Ah well, it's worth a toast. Salute.

thus spake /jca @ 9:45 PM...

Today's mail drop yielded three noteworthy items:

1. That awful alarmist LEEWS pamphlet that so upset Nikki last month. Now I understand why. I had to put it away before I started to cry.

2. A flyer for a blood drive next Monday. Hey, law school is all about bleeding. What was my old joke? "It beats the extraction of a pound of flesh." (That, presumably, comes later.)

3. My statutory elective lottery number. I was "randomly" assigned #106 out of 560, which puts me in a decent position. I think.

My study-groupmate S. wasn't so lucky; she's #552. "Don't worry," a 3L told her, "a low number now means a high number next year."

I had two simultaneous reactions to this statement: one, that a random assignment of numbers wouldn't be random if it were inversely proportional to some precedent, and two...next year?? This is my first experience with a state university, and I'm already struggling enough with the concepts of grading on a curve and ranking everyone in a class. Now, if I'm understanding correctly, we're assigned lottery numbers that limit our course selection every semester henceforth, extending beyond one 1L elective throughout the entire J.D. curriculum.

Not we. They. Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the prize.

The helpful 3L also gladly dished on the statutory elective professors we'll be facing next semester. Apparently neither of the Tax professors is particularly well-esteemed among students; meanwhile, the Employment Discrimination professor has a reputation as a terrifically engaging lecturer...who gives killer-hard exams (*oof*) including multiple-choice sections (*oof*). So much for the lesser of two evils. In fact, according to this 3L, the actual least evil among the stat electives is Immigration, even though it has a take home exam (*OOF*).

Now I get to see which is more fun -- groveling opportunism or renunciation of my modus operandi in defeat. Bleah.

thus spake /jca @ 7:03 PM...


No teahouse excursion today; I just didn't have it in me to schlep all the way back up to San Francisco, fret about parking, etc. If they ever start running the trains on the weekends, I'm going to have to find a new excuse.

Instead, we drove up over the greenhills to Half Moon Bay to watch the sun set over the ocean from the patio at the Moss Beach Distillery. En route we passed a pair of elephants -- actual live elephants! -- on kiddie-ride duty at a pumpkin patch off of the 92. Half Moon Bay is locally renowned for its pumpkins, but apparently just selling good-quality pumpkins is no longer enough of a draw to set one pumpkin patch apart from the competing pumpkin patches on either side of it. Now you've got to have a gimmick, preferably one that weighs three tons or more.

"Where does one get elephants?" I wondered aloud. "Like, if I wanted to rent an elephant, how would I find one?"

"The circus?" my husband wondered. "The zoo?"

"Elephants specifically trained to be led around in a circle with kids on their backs?"

My husband gave up. "The Yellow Pages," he concluded, "or the Internet. Under Elephants, Rides, Rental."

"I want elephant rides at my next major life event," I told him. I'm sure he thought I wasn't serious.

The elephants caused a minor traffic jam, which left us fifteen minutes to hightail it up the 1 to the distillery before the sun set. Fortunately the 1 is a coast road, and we saw most of the sunset from the car.

I'm not an ocean person; well, maybe I am. I can't conscion the thought of living more than a half hour's drive from some extraordinarily major body of water in which I can theoretically swim. I grew up on the Atlantic, now live on the Pacific, and will probably permanently settle on one of these simply because that's just where one lives, near an ocean. It's such an unconscious necessity for me that I don't consider myself an ocean person any more than I consider myself an electricity person or a toe person; these are things that I take for granted as required.

My husband, on the other hand, is an avid ocean person. He too grew up on the Atlantic coast, but unlike me, his fascination with the water never abated to the point of passivity. He loves nothing more than to go to the beach and just stare at the water as the waves come in, one after another after another. Over my moans of protest, he even plays a CD of ocean waves throughout the night to help him sleep. No music, just whooossssshhhhhh, whooooosssshhh.

I don't get it. It sounds like trucks driving by outside our apartment to me. The Pacific itself has its pretty parts -- really remarkably incredibly pretty parts, to give it the credit it's due -- but the part of it by Half Moon Bay and Montara looks to me like nothing so much as a giant ocean of mercury, silver where the sun hits it and black on the undersides of the waves. The Atlantic at Sandy Hook is a friendly green ocean with yellow sand, but the Pacific at Half Moon Bay is angry, gray, smashing itself into shards over nasty sharp black rocks.

Still, it's an ocean, and I need to live near an ocean, and my husband is mesmerized by oceans, so it'll do.

I like watching him watch the ocean. He's a terrifically high-strung guy -- imagine someone who makes me look mellow -- but put him in front of a giant body of water with loud crashy waves, particularly during a gold-orange-red sunset, and he's someone else, somewhere else entirely. I'd like to go there too, if I could figure out how to find the magic in the ocean that he sees there.

Meanwhile, I enjoy the sunsets all the same, all the more when viewed from the distillery patio over a dungeness crab quesadilla and an Anchor Steam. What Californians we must seem, I thought, here in California eating Californian food and drinking Californian beer, snuggled in our Californian fleece jackets on Californian green plastic stackable chairs, while the sun sets over the Californian ocean.

Wherever you go, there you are.

thus spake /jca @ 10:22 PM...


Here's a first: today Sua Sponte got a hit from brunet.bn, as in Brunei Darussalam. Maybe it was the Sultan himself!

Today occasioned excellent progress on the outlining front; I've actually started one. K., who lives halfway between here and San Francisco, hosted an outlining fête around her kitchen table this afternoon. C. drove down from The City and I drove up from home, and together we munched on blue-corn-sesame chips with hummus and compared notes on intentional torts.

Four hours later, I have a pretty nice overview of intentional torts, or at least the ones we'll need to worry about for the exam. I have another one or two to go before I'll call the outline done for the day and go back to briefing all the contracts cases I snoozed through, er, read yesterday. I just might need to reread them. Man, studying prone on the living room couch is such a bad idea.

Interestingly enough, C. completely disagreed with me on the competitiveness issue, as did K. to a certain extent. "Oh, it is so competitive here," C. said. "Our El-Dubyar instructor is actually ranking our ungraded memos."

I thought that might actually be helpful; my own first memo is afloat in so much red ink that I'm hard pressed to guess how my instructor would actually have graded it. "Did you guys ask for that?"

"No," said C., "she just assumed that we'd all want to know."

"That's different from people being competitive," I said, and shared some of the stories people have posted here about nasty cliques and people actively insulting each other in discussion. C. and K. both shuddered at the thought. That wasn't what they'd meant.

It was also interesting to trade notes on the admissions process; K. had really wanted to go to the top-3 school in the area, and I obviously had had my heart set on the school that waitlisted me. "That's another thing," C. added. "You know that everyone at [our school] applied to both of those schools, and didn't get in to either."


On good days this is easily forgotten, and we're all just random people at any old school, people who happen to be interested in the law and are having fun studying it. But on bad days, you remember exactly who you are and where you are, the comfortable shadows everywhere are dispelled, and you're glaringly reminded once again of the turn in your luck that you'd love to just shed and forget.

Must finish the outline. Must work. Must work.

thus spake /jca @ 8:51 PM...

The second season of my first semester is already beginning.

We've been in law school for six weeks now. Professors who enjoy teasing inexperienced students -- "And how would you decide this case differently, now that you've been in law school for ten whole days?" -- don't do so with nearly the frequency they used to. This week, we handed in our midterm evaluations for El-Dubyar (mine gleefully read "Unreasonable workload for a non-GPA course"). And the academic support department has moved from offering workshops on briefing and notetaking to offering workshops on outlining.

I need to start outlining.

It seems so odd to me, how students in pretty much every American law school sustain the conventional wisdom that the best way to study for law exams is to condense your class notes into an organized outline. The concept seems efficient to me, but strange in its unanimous adoption: where did this come from? I never outlined classes as an undergraduate, and while I may be an anomaly (most of my classes had final papers instead of exams, and the exams I did have were largely designed to test my fluency in a language rather than my command of a particular subject), I don't recall any of my friends outlining either.

"It makes sense," says my husband. "For an open book exam, you want the best cheat sheet you can get."

It is true that having an open book exam is a largely pointless endeavor when the book in question is a casebook. Unless you book brief -- and I still don't -- there's virtually nothing in your casebook that you'd bother referencing on an exam. Still, I'm slightly unnerved by the fact that most professors blithely call their exams "open book" without indicating whether that term also implies open notes.

"So you copy your outline into the margins of your book," several of my fellow students agree.

Now that just bothers me. I am very fussy about my books. I refuse to highlight or mark them up in any way, preferring instead to call out memorable passages with Post-it flags. Populating these books' blank pages with handwritten cheat-sheets seems not only grossly inefficient, but an unnecessary mess that would immediately obviate all the efforts I've made so far to keep the damn things clean. And then there's the issue of my horrendous handwriting.

I'd be perfectly happy if, at the end of a semester, I had condensed everything of note into an outline -- printable if necessary, but completely digital -- and was able to dispense with my casebooks altogether. No more thick sharp-cornered faux leather covers to be shredded by the zippers on my pullman bag! A few dollars back to offset next semester's outlay! Why the heck not? What's the value of these things outside of class? It's not as though they're textbooks that will retain their value as reference tools. All the cases they feature, without exception, have been published elsewhere in their entirety. Why hang on to a bookful of snippets and excerpts?

I deliberately bought new casebooks back in August since so many of the used ones were marked-up, inked and highlighted and margin-scrawled to the point of uselessness. I never gave much thought to highlighting until now, but I'm finding that I'm actively opposed to it: it defaces a book permanently, is useful to you only in the short term, and is useless to everyone else thenceforth. Making your own outline, even if it's similarly useful only in the short term, doesn't involve ruining a work already in print.

I need to start outlining.

I've attended discussion sections religiously since Day 1, have kept up my reading and managed so far to stay more or less on top of things. This shouldn't be a problem. I just need to sit down, quit procrastinating, and do it.

thus spake /jca @ 11:05 AM...


My husband isn't home yet, and the simmering pot of white bean soup on the stove will need to continue simmering for another 45 minutes before it becomes officially edible. (Mad props to Professor Civ Pro for canceling class today, enabling me to actually *gasp* cook dinner.) I, meanwhile, have the munchies.

Last week, on our excursion to EPCOT in Cupertino, we found ourselves simply unable to resist the snacks aisle in the Ranch 99 market. My husband chose one of his perennial favorites, a peanut-brittle-esque confection made with black sesame seeds; I decided to experiment, and grabbed a bag of something I'd never tried before.

I don't read Chinese, and the people who translated the packaging apparently are scarcely better at English. Still, I was able to deduce that these things were called Broad Beans, and that they were probably awfully fattening.

They're delicious, in case you're wondering. A quick googling informs me that Broad Beans are in fact fave, the beans first made famous as Hannibal the Cannibal's preferred contorno alongside human liver. These particular beans are deep-fried in palm oil until crunchy, then seasoned with something vaguely garlicky and a whole helluva lot of salt. They are virtually impossible to stop eating once you've picked them up, and horrendously guilt-inducing if you haven't been to the gym since Monday morning.

I should put them away now. Really.

thus spake /jca @ 9:00 PM...

Afloat in a mess of Latinate suffixes -- promisor/promisee, offeror/offeree -- I find myself wondering if the victim of negligence is a negligee.

thus spake /jca @ 6:23 PM...

Ever since my undergraduate days, I've wished for a twin. (Preferably a twin brother, one who sang bass and beat up people who were mean to me.)

thus spake /jca @ 4:04 PM...



thus spake /jca @ 10:59 PM...


Next semester, we lucky lucky 1L's are granted the unprecedented boon of actually being able to choose one of our classes. (Just one, mind you, from among five potential choices rather than the whole catalogue. They don't want to give us more options than we can handle, you see.)

These are Statutory Electives, which purportedly teach us to parse out codified law the same way our current courseload teaches us to parse out common law -- by reading a stack of cases. (After all, why change the way law's been taught for 700 years just because someone finally got around to writing some of it down?) We are presented with the following array of options: Environmental Law, Food and Drug Law, Employment Discrimination, Immigration Law and the ever-popular monosyllable, Tax.

I was momentarily mortified by the selection process upon hearing that it was a quasi-lottery, where we're all given randomly-assigned "registration numbers" which are considered in numerical order when actually assigning people to classes. If your number was too far back in the pile, it stood to reason, your elected elective just might close out before they reached you. Thankfully, the dean reassured us that 95%+ of last year's class got their first choice, which fell within my no-cause-for-alarm range. I quit being alarmed accordingly.

So now I have to come up with a first choice elective, by next week. The Tax guy made no bones about how his course (the only one being offered in two sections; alas, the other Tax professor wasn't presenting at today's discussion) was designed to be difficult, even as far as -- the horror! -- a multiple-choice section on the exam. Normally I'd think, hmmm, tax, that's something awfully useful that I'd really like to understand better. But then again, I've been vengefully curious about discrimination law ever since my waitlist experience, and that professor made no mention of his desire to rake exam-takers over hot coals. 'Course he could just be saving his thunder.

And then there are the requirements, the plans, the mold I'm going to need to fit, the standard against which I know I'm going to have to measure up. It disgusts me that I may have to postpone taking an avowedly difficult class until a year when my grades don't matter, but right now, that's exactly the situation I'm in. I hate it, but the only way I can make it go away is to just do it. (Or drop out, which isn't an option. Yet.)

thus spake /jca @ 5:10 PM...


The Blawg Ring's newest member, Elizabeth, has this insight on the subject of law school cliques.

Perhaps I'm just lucky, but such has not been my law school experience (all 6 weeks of it) in the least. No one has ever insulted a classmate in my section, or shot any fellow student down with the slightest bit of malice. People disagree with each other's arguments, of course, but it's all done with a civility bordering on Victorian politeness. And while we've all started making the circles of friends with whom we'll probably wind up doing the most studying, there's no exclusivity; anyone is invited to sit down at anyone else's table at lunch, for example, or join a crew of Shepardizing El-Dubyar sectionmates upon whom one has happened in the library.

My school has a reputation for being highly competitive, and based on what I've seen so far I couldn't imagine why. Perhaps earlier generations of 1L's were meaner to each other than we are. Or perhaps this rumor has been spread among prelaw circles so as to keep the number of applications down and increase an individual's likelihood of acceptance. I don't know. But I haven't yet seen any ill will manifested, not even toward the frequent handraisers (myself included). It's a reasonably intense place, to be sure, but I can't say it's anything other than supportive in general. 2L students are brimming with advice they're dying to give you, the academic support department offers a profusion of don't-panic workshops, and adversarial professors are all but extinct.

Last Friday, my El-Dubyar study group headed over to the 'brary to start the research haul for our second memo. Remarkably, we found another study group from a different section researching our same fact pattern. Rather than shrug at the unavailability of books or complain in any other fashion, we instead sat down with them and all did the research together. One volume of the Federal Reporter 2d had a page missing from one of our cases, which had been restored to its proper place with Scotch tape. "You know," I said, "I heard all these rumors, about how people here were so competitive that they ripped pages out of library books."

"I heard that too!"
"Me too!"

"It's not an urban legend," I giggled, showing everyone the book. "Here's the evidence."

"Are you kidding?"
"No way!"

Segue to a discussion concluding pretty much what I concluded above. None of us had experienced this mythical competitiveness anywhere outside the realm of hearsay. And meanwhile, here we were, eight people from two different sections who didn't even know each other by name, looking things up for each other and cross-checking things we'd already found. "You know," someone said, "these books are old. Pages probably just fall out."

"Yeah," someone else added, "and that's probably where the urban legend came from."

We all nodded in unison, agreeing with each other wholeheartedly.

thus spake /jca @ 8:00 PM...

more final thoughts...

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