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


Quick post, husband is calling me...

The job looks good. The view from my office (!) windows (!!) is incredible. And of course, one of the staff attorneys working for my judge just would be pregnant. She is now #7 on my roster of concurrently-expecting female compatriots.

Intel v. Hamidi came down today. Honestly, even though I represented Intel in Moot Court, I'm not really bothered by Intel losing in real life. Now they should sue for nuisance, like they mean it! :)

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


Pre-job blues. Vacation ends tomorrow and mommy I don't wanna go back...

It's almost nine o'clock. Twelve hours from now I will be walking in to the courthouse, getting whatever ID badge is appropriate for an unpaid extern, and -- *yolp* -- showing up for work.

I haven't had a job since 1999.

Rather, more strictly speaking, the last joblike thing I had ended in 2001. It was a full-time on-site engagement, one of those spun-sugar fictions of the Silicon Valley boom where you could show up to work, do an ordinary job, and miraculously get paid whopping sums of money per hour instead of a salary. Those days of air and light, alas, did not survive the market crash.

This, I suppose, will be kind of like that gig, but probably closer to the pre-consulting days when I actually held down a full-time job. Except that this time I'm not getting paid one red cent. In fact, between gasoline, miles on the car, and whatever a monthly parking space goes for downtown, this job is actually going to cost me.

Bah, that's OK. I would have spent the money on a summer class anyway, and from everything I've heard, judicial externships feel a lot like school.

Here's to hoping that mine feels more like Moot Court than Torts!

thus spake /jca @ 9:04 PM...


Without a doubt, the funniest opinion granting a summary judgment I've ever read: Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8962 (S.D. Tex. June 27, 2001).

"Despite the continued shortcomings of Plaintiff's supplemental submission, the Court commends Plaintiff for his vastly improved choice of crayon — Brick Red is much easier on the eyes than Goldenrod, and stands out much better amidst the mustard splotched about Plaintiff's briefing. But at the end of the day, even if you put a calico dress on it and call it Florence, a pig is still a pig."

(Link courtesy of Blue.)

thus spake /jca @ 12:10 PM...

Public Service Announcement:

Sick of telemarketers? Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry, which now exists. If you live west of the Mississippi, you can register over the phone (but make sure you call from the number you're planning to register) at 1-888-382-1222.

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


Homage to Adam:

[take the test] - [by krystaljungle.com]

thus spake /jca @ 12:07 PM...

Jeremy responds (hi, Jeremy!) to my ramblings of yesterday.

Jeremy, you should know, is a terrifically funny guy, and seems very much like the type of person with whom I would have been great friends, had we ever managed to be in the same place at the same time (not counting the blogosphere). I treasured folks like this in college, people who kept their own time and their own rhythm and were more than happy to make you laugh, kidnap you from your twenty-page paper for an enforced study break, and otherwise obliterate a bad mood or redeem a lousy day.

I know no one like him in law school, and the more of him I read, the more I think I understand why. He says, "I don't think law school is, or at least needs to be, "designed to change you as a person." It's school. It's teaching you stuff. Some knowledge, some skills. It's school. Not POW camp." It must be nice to go to Jeremy's school if this is truly the culture there. I have a strict policy of not talking trash about my school on Sua Sponte, but I can safely say this: no one would describe my school as a place that's simply there to teach you some knowledge, some skills, any more than a lemon reamer is designed to gently massage the fruit.

Lesson to learn from this: never, never underestimate the force of law school culture. Pay attention to culture when you're choosing a law school. It's every bit as important as the professors' pedigrees, if not more so: it will dictate much of how you feel for the next few months, and how you come away from them. If you're fortunate, you'll find yourself in a situation like Jeremy's, where your experience is as simple and enjoyable as just going to school.

thus spake /jca @ 10:23 AM...

I may be so late to this party that everyone else has already left (wouldn't be the first time in my life), but even if that's so, I'm happy to play cleanup crew (ditto).

There has been much giving of law-school-related advice among the blawgs, both recent and older. On one hand, I'm tempted to join in; ever since my grades this semester didn't suck, I get the sense that I should puff up like a bull pigeon and share the magical secrets of my success with the craving eyes of the next generation of 1Ls. But on the other hand, everyone remembers the first rule of LSAT short-answer problems: correlation != causality. The magical secrets of my success, if I could think of any, might be entirely coincidental. I wouldn't know. Don't trust me if I say otherwise.

That said, I can at least provide some service to ye little grasshoppers: having gone through the psychological equivalent of the Ironman Triathlon followed by the 24 Heures du Mans and then the Iditarod for good measure, I can at least compare the advice other people give to the experience I actually had. Much good may it do you.

1. Doing What Other People Tell You

Garrett says: "Really, it's all a load of manure (my advice included)...even if you ask the ten top students in the class, you'll probably get about ten different answers. Reject slavish conformity to other people's lives, whether they are successes or failures."

Waddling Thunder says: "Jeremy has one method. I have a different one. I’m sure we both were equally prepared for exams at the end. And you, prospective 1L, are going to need to develop your own system as well, picking and choosing from what people before you have done."

JCA responds: Quite true. I tried to do the things you're Supposed To Do in order to get Those Grades, and wound up doing miserably. Correlation or causality? I changed this behavior second semester, and things got better. A one-point trend? Maybe. But I'll stick by my second-semester methods. It may feel grossly foreign to you, trying to fly blind when this is so different from what you've done before. But even though it might hurt like hell to break your own mold, doing so might be the only thing that works for you.

2. Talking in Class

Alice says: "Don't be the pompous windbag who speaks just to hear himself talk. Nobody likes that guy. Many law students operate under the conceit that they will be the one the professor bestows the slight nudge for class participation come grade time. Doesn't happen."

Garrett says: "Shut Yo' Trap. [F]or some reason all the people who are huge gunners early all end up doing badly. (You won't hear them talking much second semester)."

JCA responds: If you go to a school like mine, this won't be an issue. We had no gunners -- they were eviscerated within the first week. Professors had no truck with the long-winded; if your point wasn't made after fifteen seconds, you were coldly interrupted midsentence by the prof either cutting you down or calling on someone else. And those were the nice professors. The stricter ones maintained an obedient silence in their classrooms that bordered on monastic. "Browbeaten" is almost too charitable an adjective for my section, round about last October.

There were a few people who routinely said something in discussion, myself included, but none of us was ever permitted to indulge in the diarrhea-of-the-mouth that apparently goes unpunished elsewhere. If you had more than one thing to say, you took your little self to office hours and waited in line for your fifteen minutes' facetime with the professor. This, incidentally, was far more valuable to me than any in-class talking: you avoided all risk of public embarrassment at the hands of a professor who might mock your misunderstanding, and the professor would be approachable, personable, and actually interested in answering your question. Even if you feel you completely understand everything that's going on in the class (warning: when I felt this way, I was only ever mistaken), office hours bonding is essential if you're ever going need a letter of recommendation; it's tasteless to attempt to bond with your professor by talking in class, and ineffective to crowd up around the podium at the end of the hour. Go to office hours, talk there, and all will be well.

3. Balancing School and Life

Dodd says: "Make sure you always have a completely non-law-related book to read. [...] Schedule time to read said books (I read myself to sleep every night, so it was easy to maintain my reading in law school)."

Alice says: "Don't be the recluse. If the only place people ever see you is in the library, you're not doing too well on the social front."

JCA responds: First a bit of background. In the fall and early winter of 1998, I fancied myself a multitasker: I was taking four classes in graduate school, writing a weekly newspaper column, and planning my wedding in New York while working a full-time job that had me spending four days a week in Atlanta and Fridays in Milwaukee.

Turns out, I knew nothing from time management. Nothing. I learned the meaning of time management this year.

I guarantee that you will have an easier time of things if you (a) are single, (b) live within forty miles of your school, or (c) both. But according to the aforecited worthies (who, I assume, are unmarried and live(d) on or near campus), it's a challenge even so to make sure that you're spending enough time on your own needs when school seems to suck up every waking moment of your life. Time management is key. My solution was to reserve a day (and then an afternoon...and then a few hours...but always some time) for Personal Stuff. Force yourself to take time away from schoolwork, even if you feel you can ill afford it. Even if you only use the personal time to vent, eat bonbons, get drunk and feel sorry for yourself, at least that's therapeutic. School is quicksand. If you sink into it completely, you will suffocate. You will.

4. Urban Legends about Law School

Garrett says to read The Bramble Bush.

Dodd says to watch The Paper Chase.

JCA responds: I know nothing of any of this. I never read any books about law school, nor saw any such movies (not even Legally Blonde, unless you count it being the inflight movie once on a flight where I didn't have headphones). I came into law school with no expectations. I imagine it would have hurt even worse if I had.

Don't buy into the urban legends. You will have your own experience in school, and no one else's. See #1 above.

5. Metamorphosis

Alice says: "Don't be "the law student". [...] Don't pick arguments with your friends just because you're in law school or become a law zombie."

Dodd says: "Try and remember that people who aren't law students will find you intensely boring for at least the duration of your first year. Please resist the urge to tell them about all the "terribly interesting cases" you read this week."

JCA responds: And don't be surprised if you find yourself at an utter loss for anything else to talk about. It's hard to invest so much of your time and energy into an experience designed to change you as a person without it having some effect on your identity. There are people, it seems, who can manage this, people who can cleanly maintain their law-school self and their external self in parallel. This skill is as mythical to me as shyness, or mathematical brilliance, or the ability not to take oneself seriously: all features that other people have, or claim to, with which I have no firsthand experience.

If you're lucky, you'll have lots of lawyer friends who find it cute that you're pupating. If you're extremely lucky, you'll have a significant other who's perfectly agreeable about sharing the experience with you, or at least tolerating the fact that you're growing antennae. Even if you're basically going it alone among a crowd of mostly nonlawyers, keep a journal or blog and do all your law-school talking there. You will need to get it out of your system somehow, and there will be things that you will have no desire to share with your schoolmates.

6. How to Study for Exams

Jeremy says not to bother outlining the way you're told to, but rather, collect an array of study materials that roughly maps to your professor's syllabus and make your study aids from those. (He says a lot of things about this, actually; it's a long post.)

Waddling Thunder says to limit yourself to one commercial supplement, do a quickie outline, then blitz on practice exams: first from other schools, then from yours.

Alice says: "Don't join a study group. They are usually time-wasters. There is always at least one person who expects a free ride (i.e., a copy of your outlines)."

JCA responds: More or less everyone agrees that exam prep is very much a personal thing. I swear by my Gilberts; I had little patience for any other supplements. My grades went up when I joined a study group. I also noticed a strict correlation between my highest grades and the outlines that I'd finished before the semester ended. I make big honking outlines, then cook them down to issue-spotting checklists and recurring-problem-resolution flowcharts. I also had to make sure that every single case mentioned in class, even the note cases, was duly integrated into the master outline; not doing this killed me in Torts, but there's no reason that it should have this effect on you.

I recommend using old outlines and old exams from your particular professor, if you can. I found that much of first year was a people exercise, learning how to track a professor's expectations. It's a game; sometimes it's a game like Mao where you're unearthing the rules as you go, but other times the rules are right there, clear in front of you. For me, this was doubly true in the classes where the professors were heavily policy-oriented. They made no secret of their views, frequently discoursing at length on something with which I couldn't disagree more. This might feel hostile during discussion, but not once you see it for what it is: they're giving you the rules. WRITE THEM DOWN. If you can talk through an exam answer with suitable eloquence, solid logic and sufficient citations, and reach the professor's conclusion of choice, you will make a friend right when you most need one. (It's not intellectually dishonest, it's not selling out, it's lawyering -- making your client's argument rather than your own.)

But that's my experience; your professors will not necessarily be anything like mine. Experiment. Play with outlines, play with supplements, play with study aids. If something is a waste of time (i.e. briefing cases once you've gotten the hang of it), quit doing it. You don't have time to waste, but you do have time enough to get things right.

And you can. You can. The one piece of actual advice that I feel I can give with certainty is this: you will learn to know yourself, learn to know your limits, and, if you can keep from shattering altogether, discover an elasticity of soul that you didn't know you had. And don't worry: the psychological stretch marks will fade. You, however, will endure.

thus spake /jca @ 12:01 AM...


Thanks to Waddling Thunder for discovering this excellent article on surviving a long commute.

My advice is simpler: don't drive, if you can avoid it. On a train you can at least sleep, read, or stare out the window and glaze over.

thus spake /jca @ 9:43 AM...


You've heard by now, of course. (If not, here's the quickie: "Supreme Court Upholds Affirmative Action.")


Prof. Yin's reaction
Prof. Balkin's reaction
Prof. Volokh's reaction and thoughts on the dissent

thus spake /jca @ 9:58 AM...


Google search of the day: "externship judge first day work wear suit."

For the record, when mine starts a week from tomorrow, I plan on wearing a long, sleeveless navy silk dress with lapels and buttons down the front. Of course that plan may change.

thus spake /jca @ 10:04 PM...


My phone rang at 9ish this morning; it was, as anticipated, FedEx delivering the guilty pleasure that I am far from alone in savoring today.

I did not put Harry Potter down, except to drive back and forth to the gym, and only just finished it about a half hour ago. Husband immediately snatched it up and is already up to chapter two, although he would never admit his own fascination with the stuff. It's so formulaic, after all, so predictable...etc.

Without giving too much away for people who haven't yet read the whole thing: I had to get up and walk around during the chapter on O.W.L. exams. Dizzying. I know they're supposed to be a send-up of British-style midhighschool exams, the likes of which we fortunately lack on this side of the pond, but they felt just a bit too much like law school to me.

thus spake /jca @ 9:06 PM...


I'm an avowed spicy food enthusiast, so this was a no-brainer. But even if I didn't already collect hot sauces, I still couldn't have resisted Lawyer's Breath:

Detail of label:

Apparently there's a whole product line of "judicial flavors," which I'll now have to sample!

thus spake /jca @ 7:23 PM...


G R E E T I N G S Capricorn

Creature comforts are particularly satisfying, and you're in just the mood to appreciate them. But in the mood you're in, just about everything pleases you. As an added bonus, it seems as if others are bending over backwards trying to make things even better than they are. Examine your situation carefully. These moments are what life is all about.

thus spake /jca @ 10:03 PM...


"Pinch me," I told my husband over celebratory dinner at Benihana last night. "Sooner or later I'm going to have to wake up."

It is obstinately refusing to sink in, this -- this -- success of mine. I've been resigned for so long to the fact that I probably blew it that I simply can't convince myself that I didn't blow it after all. But no matter how many times I blink at the transcript, it's still there, looking just as I had hoped and dreamed and prayed it would. My incurable Torts grade from last semester, cause of so much angst and lost sleep, now sticks out like ragweed on a neatly manicured lawn. Hopefully I can spin it as an icebreaker, a conversation piece.

I should say this: Nice numbers are nice, but only part of the real victory here. First of all, these grades mean that I can now proceed more or less unhobbled on my major project of this summer (details to follow at some point), something that has been very important to me since before I began this blog. But secondly, and even more importantly, these grades dispel almost all of the wholly destructive depression and self-doubt that resulted from my miserable first semester. I had no idea who this person was, getting on this train and going to this law school and getting these grades. I knew myself, and it wasn't me.

For this reason in large part, I'm almost wishing that I'd adopted a pseudonym to sign my blog posts instead of just a string of initials. It would have been easier to look down from the narrator's foretop into the life of some semi-fictional character as she went about the business of 1L than to go through the whole mess myself. Ah well. Live and learn. My next blog, or at least the next blog I keep during a negativity-ridden time in my life, will be fully anonymous.

But I, now, finally, am regaining confidence in my own character, the nonfiction flesh-and-blood one. I'm still here, it seems. I did not completely shatter, back a few months when it sure as hell felt like I did. I'm not sure who was in my skin for most of this year, but right now, I'm pretty sure that it's me again. I'm glad. I missed her.

Before my first year of law school began, I had nine Xanax in a bottle in my medicine cabinet.
My first year of law school has now ended, and I still have the same nine Xanax in the same bottle in my medicine cabinet.
Inclinata resurgit.

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


After a long phone conversation this morning with Adam, I lost my nerve and realized that I was no longer detached and blissful and enjoying life on the outside. I was in denial. My grades were sitting untouched on the web, and it was no longer comfortable not to know what they were. I was getting winded at the gym after five minutes because I just wasn't breathing.

"I think it's time to look," I told my husband, who's back to almost-full health but is still working from home.

"Are you sure?"

"I'm not calm anymore," I said.

I checked the schedule page, which informed me that Property still had not been posted. No matter. I logged in to the private-access system, left my mouse positioned over the Transcript link, went over to my bed and huddled down over my teddy bear as though protecting him from a hurricane.

My husband clicked the link.

Dead silence.

Dead silence.

I tried to inhale and found that I couldn't.

Then, in a neutral-pitched guttural voice, my husband said: "Your Property grade is here."

I managed a choking gasp of air.

"And you kicked ass."

I sat bolt upright; the teddy bear slumped forward in my lap. "In Property???"

"In everything."

In an instant I was clinging to his elbow, on the floor in front of my desk, jabbering breathlessly at the monitor. My Edie grade was exactly what I had prayed for it to be, on my knees by the radiator in the Abigail the night before I took the exam, solid and perfectly respectable, same as last semester's Crim grade. My Contracts grade had slipped ever so slightly from last semester, but if that's the worst effect chronic exhaustion and a panic attack could cause, I'll take it. My Civ Pro grade was the best it possibly could have been given my midterm grade, which meant that I'd aced the final beyond all hope. And Property: it was simply not possible. But there it was.

I cannot believe my luck.

"God did this," I squeaked to my husband.

"God didn't do this, you did this," pronounced my husband, who incidentally deserves mad props for coaching the hell out of me this semester.

But I've got to give credit where it's due. I learned last semester exactly how little it mattered to work one's ass off. There is no luck without work, but there is work without luck, so much work without luck. I did the work, but that in itself is meaningless except as a prerequisite. I have, quite simply, been blessed.

To everyone who supported me, everyone who sent waves my way, everyone who read my blog and posted words of encouragement and thought happy thoughts in my general direction; to every train that wasn't late, every electronic appliance in my possession that didn't break, every homeless person that didn't bother me when I walked to MUNI after dark; to every penny I found on the ground, every thread of good karma that clung to me, and particularly to the Source of all luck: thank you. thank you. thank you.

thus spake /jca @ 4:21 PM...

I felt so big and strong, spiking my casebooks into the bookstore's giant recycling bin last month. But I was a mere flyspeck compared to this, a disposal method that -- admit it! -- we've all dreamed of trying.

thus spake /jca @ 11:23 AM...


Make that six (6) simultaneously pregnant friends. Gaaaaah!

Three out of four of my grades have been posted, according to the master schedule. I still haven't looked at any of them. Think I'll just get pregnant instead. Er, I mean go to the gym.

thus spake /jca @ 11:43 AM...


Tonight at Il Fornaio, hubby and I ran into P. from my moot court class. She's working this summer at a local law firm and staying up the peninsula, having a nice time and settling comfortably into the nonschool lifestyle. She told me that as of this morning, all of her grades had already been posted.

"And how do you feel?" I asked her.

"Good," she said, unemphatically, but with a humble smile and a notable ring of relief in her voice.

"Good for you!" I replied, and meant it. But at the same time I worried: how far back in line am I, really?

"I can look for you to see if your grades are posted yet," my husband told me on the drive home.

"No," I said, emphatically, unrelieved. And then, five minutes later, in a much smaller voice: "I am so tired of being scared. I don't want to be scared any more."

I may just be in denial now, but I refuse to chew on that fear again for as long as I can avoid it.

thus spake /jca @ 10:32 PM...

Bekah nails it, again, as usual. If you don't read her blog regularly yet, I highly recommend starting.

Still no update on the master have-they-posted-those-grades-yet list. Tomorrow morning maybe there will be news.

thus spake /jca @ 8:41 PM...

Welcome the Blawg Ring's 200th member, KC Lawyer!

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

The website featuring professor/course/date filed listings has not yet been updated with the grades filed today, a.k.a. the deadline for doing so. I could cheat and go straight to my personal report (thankfully, the school has done away with the big honking lists of grades posted publicly; now we can log in as individuals and keep our results, however ignominious, to ourselves); but that would be cheating. I'm happy to wait another day.

thus spake /jca @ 12:52 PM...


Google hit of the day: "options for people who fail law school."

One of my spring-semester grades has been posted, but the other three haven't. I haven't looked at the grade yet. I'm going to continue my protest against misery by postponing mine as long as possible and continuing to be happy and enjoy life until then. Incidentally, I should probably apologize for the sparseness of posting here. So it goes when I'm otherwise occupied enjoying life.

thus spake /jca @ 11:25 AM...


Look what Amazon.com recommended for me...

thus spake /jca @ 4:45 PM...


In case anyone is wondering, no, my grades still have not been posted. Monday the ninth is the deadline. I don't really mind waiting, to tell the truth. Right now, things could still go really, really well.

On a slightly tangential note, does anyone know when the Michigan slip opinion is due out? Any day now, right?

thus spake /jca @ 11:13 PM...


No copyright class for me. I let time make the decision for me and cooked dinner for my groggy husband instead. Now that school's out I should make things that are fancier or more involved, but this recipe is one of his favorites and also happens to be a completely cheap and easy throw-together for all ye law students in search of dietary variety on a budget:

Don's Original Salmon Cakes[1]

1 can salmon, the cheap kind (about the size of a can of soup), bones removed
17 (yes, 17) saltines, put through the food processor to yield about 2/3 cup cracker crumbs
2 eggs beaten
Dried onion shaken over the beaten eggs -- use your judgment, we like a lot
Paprika to taste -- we like a lot

Combine everything in a mixing bowl, making sure you mash up the salmon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so that the egg softens everything -- letting it sit the whole day is OK for the commuter students out there. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Make little patties out of the mixture and fry them 4 minutes to a side in the oil. (Make sure you have enough oil going, since otherwise the patties will blacken before they're done cooking.) Pat the oil off the finished cakes with a paper towel and serve with spinach sauteed in the same skillet after you're done with the fish. Makes 8-10 cakes. Mmmmmm.

[1] Don is my stepfather. He did not actually invent this recipe, but did introduce it to us, so they'll always be Don's salmon cakes to us. Plus, whatever the original recipe called for, the paprika is definitely his innovation.

thus spake /jca @ 5:33 PM...


Yet another of my pals has just gone pregnant, leaving me with a grand total of 5 women friends simultaneously in the family way. I'd conjecture as to the contents of the water except that these ladies live all over the country. Maybe 'tis just the season.

That was one good thing about law school -- the distraction value. Suddenly I'm seized with a last-minute urge to take that copyright summer class. Yes, the same one I decided not to take last week. It's so frustrating not to be able to stick to a decision! But things just keep rebalancing...

CON: The class isn't cheap.
PRO: We can afford it.

CON: It's law school again, and I could use some time off.
PRO: If I get too far out of the groove I may never go back.

CON: I can just take it at my own law school next year.
PRO: It'll help me for September on-campus interviewing to have some IP coursework under my belt.
CON: But am I even going to bother with September on-campus interviewing, with all my time caught up between Moot Court and whatever journal I'm on?

CON: It's an evening class, but the exam is on a morning when I'm supposed to be working by the judge.
PRO: The grade doesn't have to count toward my GPA if I don't want it to.

CON: Today is the first class meeting and it might be too late for me to hop on the bus anyway.
PRO: There might still be room in the class, and the university is unlikely to say no to my money.

Spinning wheels...got to go round...

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


Back on duty: this time, rather than grinding away at the same old grind, I'm playing nursemaid to my convalescing husband (he's so cute when he convalesces). Many people say that untimely biological-clock-type urges are best addressed by getting a puppy. I personally prefer mothering someone who's only just dopey enough to still appreciate it.

Besides, our landlady wouldn't allow a dog.

thus spake /jca @ 5:12 PM...

more final thoughts...

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