And as the thing came through, I swear, it sounded like a train. -- Drive-By Truckers
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
And as the thing came through, I swear, it sounded like a train. -- Drive-By Truckers
Monday, November 29, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
So that's about where I stand at the moment and now I'm signing off. I have many contracts to read and it's starting to look like rain.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Whether by design or some kindly alignment of the planets, I ended up with a nominal amount of work for the weekend, a circumstance which gave me some time to reflect upon what I’ve learned. At this point, my body of legal knowledge consists mainly of some disjointed concepts, threads of what I’m told will eventually acquire some cohesion and weave themselves into a tapestry.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
- Combined weight of the books, binders and luggage-like conveyances that are either slung over my shoulder or trailing behind me for what amounts to several hours a day: 38.5 pounds (That does include a couple of arguably non-essential items like my water bottle and my Red Delicious apple, but does not include the 12th-edition torts volume by Prosser, Wade & Schwartz, which I did not have with me when I weighed the rest and which, incidentally, is the centerpiece of a potential claim involving a third-tier locker and a bruised hip.)
- Distance from the Third Street parking lot to the Brandeis School of Law, including the Eastern Parkway crosswalk I half-jog so the motorists at the stoplight will know I’m mindful that the light could turn green before I reach the curb: I’m calling it two blocks, even though it seems longer because it’s partly uphill.
- Number of steps from the foyer of my building to my second-floor apartment: 16
- Depth of each step: eight inches
- Number of pages read: 339 and counting
- Number of amateur case briefs completed: 18 and counting
- Number of near meltdowns: two
- Number of actual meltdowns: one
Friday, August 13, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
By this time next week, I may or may not have cut the price tag off the first suit I’ll have had on in 10 years. I’ll have submitted for scrutiny my first attempt at a case brief, loaded my new rolling backpack with the most expensive books I ever expect to own, vowed to uphold an established code of conduct and, at about this time of day, expect to be picking up trash along the riverfront to demonstrate my commitment to public service.
After that, so I’m told, things get busy.
I will be what’s know in law-school parlance as a 1L, my feet soundly planted on the first rung of a ladder that, barring unforeseen complications, each of us is hoping will lead to our being licensed to practice law.
When I consider the arduous nature of it all, I think of an encounter I had over the summer. I mentioned to a friend I was going to law school and he looked at me as if I were holding a knife to a puppy’s throat.
“You would do that?” he whined.
To be fair, my friend was fresh off the heels of an especially contentious divorce. But it set me to wondering why the legal profession is so often vilified in the public psyche and, given that it is, why any of us would want to be part of it. As someone who spent a couple of decades as a newspaper reporter, another job that often elicits a what’s-that-smell face from people who ask what you do for a living, I can draw a couple of parallels.
In both cases, people generally encounter you during the most stressful times in their lives. Secondly, for people who parse language with such fine distinction, practitioners of both professions have been known to muddy the waters a good bit. But that’s because asking hard questions and refusing to settle for surface, black-and-white answers is bound to stir up a little mud. Or, to employ another water-related metaphor, a boat that’s never rocked is bound to rot. It’s true that attorneys and journalists are among those in a position to effect positive change. It’s also true that to do so is to risk a certain degree of backlash.
The well-known line from Shakespeare’s “Henry VI”—“First, we kill all the lawyers.” – has evolved into an aphorism for what may or may not be a general frustration over the complexity of the law and the people who practice it. Viewed in context, though, the phrase can be interpreted as a paean to the legal profession. The character who utters the phrase, the villainous Dick the Butcher, recognizes that those who would guard the public trust are those most likely to derail his scheme.
I’m not naïve enough to think my high-minded ideas about the good things I can do with a law degree won’t be obscured time and again over the next few years by the arcane and tedious nature of actually studying law. But I like to think I’ll bear in mind the reason I wanted to do this in the first place, which is that, every now and again, you might get the chance to right a wrong. Occasionally, you might even get to do something bold, like, say, work to overturn an archaic definition of marriage.
So, if my friend still wants to know whether I would actually do that, here’s my answer: You bet I would.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The public swimming pool in my hometown had a diving board that loomed so far over my 7-year-old head it seemed to soar straight into a sunspot. I’d crane my neck and shield my eyes and watch the daredevil kids crash into the water with one spread-eagle leap after another. For a whole summer, that diving board and, more precisely, my wariness of it, was the scariest thing in my life. I don't remember ginning up the courage to climb the rungs. I don't even remember the tentative step forward or the gravity of the fall. What I remember is the dawning realization that the best way to exorcise fear is to stare it down.
I may have to reach farther back than most of my future classmates to tap into a childhood fear, but it's still not a bad analogy for what I've experienced in the 18 months since I started thinking seriously of applying to law school. After one career as a journalist and another decade or so as the primary caregiver for an elderly relative, it occurred to me that a dream delayed is not necessarily a dream denied. And so I approached the law-school admissions process in much the same way I approached that dive, as if it were a series of hurdles in which clearing one guaranteed me nothing about the next, sliding along an emotional continuum that still ranges from uncertainty and vague uneasiness on one end to guarded optimism and hope on the other.
Now, with orientation less than two weeks out, I'm installed in a downtown apartment whose dimensions I badly miscalculated, thanks to a group of friends whose capacity for shoving furniture up a twisting flight of stairs on one of the hottest days of the summer I also badly miscalculated and whose affection for me may or may not return in time. I've studied books on how to study, had conversations with attorneys both aspiring and actual and gathered wildly conflicting advice on how to develop law-school study habits, note-taking and time-management skills. That being said, I still have no clear idea of what to expect. I don't speak Latin and could use a whole team from tech support to help me operate my iPhone. But I know a couple of things about a couple of things and I hope I can add something to my classes. I'm still careening along that continuum with no real feel for where I'll be at any given moment, but here I am, hovering for the moment on hope.
I may not know with any precision what law-school life will be like, but the journey to this point has already delivered some humbling encounters. I've been awed by the generosity of a 2L student whose battle with catastrophic illness provided the impetus that led her to pursue her dream. I'm indebted to the staffer who conceded my dubious point that his having taken my sister to the prom a quarter-century ago obligated him to field questions on everything from laptops to living quarters. I'm still moved by the kindness of a friend who spotted an abandoned desk over the summer and threw out her back helping me drag it away from the recycling center.
My grandmother liked to repeat something my father said as a toddler. He'd been playing with marbles on the kitchen floor and sent one spinning and wobbling across the tile. When she went to trap it under her shoe, he stopped her: "Let'er alone and see what she do." I don't know how the year ahead will unfold or what my ultimate contribution to the legal community might be. I know I'm drawn to the law by much the same thing that drew me to journalism -- the prospect of becoming a voice for those who don't have one. I don't mind admitting to a sense of intimidation. I'll even admit there are days I question whether I have the smarts and the stamina for the whole enterprise. But I'm ready to stare it down. If it breaks me, it won't be because I was too timid to take the plunge.