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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do the math

Because I believe it’s more effective to quantify one’s condition than to report some general state of being, I’ve compiled a few figures from my first week of law school:
  • 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
In matters more directly related to the study of law:
  •   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 
Minor frustrations aside, I now hold the distinction of having been the first incoming Section 2 student subjected to the Socratic method this semester. Perhaps because I was first, my Property professor lobbed me the softball questions – identify the parties, recite the facts of the case – before he moved on to someone else. His having mocked my nervous enunciation of the word “inviolability” notwithstanding, my performance emboldened me to try for similar affirmation in Torts.
“Foreseeable risk!,” I volunteered. The words had barely escaped my lips before my professor made a face and dismissed them with a wave of his coffee mug.
Turns out that’s the way it is in law school. One day your professor nods approvingly, the next he swats you away like you're a gnat.
We spent a day or two considering the case of Garratt v. Dailey, a case commonly taught in first-year law classes for its usefulness in illustrating the nuanced meaning of “intent.” In that 1951 case, an elderly, arthritic woman named Naomi Garratt sued Brian Dailey, a 5-year-old boy who pulled away a chair in which she was about to sit. I won’t go into detail. I will say that, having once made a living as a wordsmith, I’m used to parsing subtle distinctions in language. But analyzing myriad variations in syntax and applying them to a sliding scale of subjective terms like “reasonable,” “substantial” and “ordinary,” is something new.
I’ll also say that all this heavy lifting means I could develop some impressive biceps by semester’s end. I hope so. It may be too late to get even with Naomi Garratt, but Brian Dailey could conceivably still be among the living. If he is and if I ever find him, I intend to beat the daylights out of him.


    1. Haha. Oh my goodness Sharon, I loved this post! I weighed by bookbag the other day and it came in around that weight too. We will be so strong in a few months!


    2. Hey Sherrie, love it. Keep up the good work!

    3. Looking forward to following your journey; I'm also the Guide to Law School so feel free to stop by from time to time, ask questions, whatever :)

    4. Being the first target of the professor is great, because now you know you are free for a few classes. Upper-level law student tip #37: if you are ever really unprepared for class, be the first person to raise your hand and offer a comment, even if the professor isn't asking a question. You will almost always not be called upon again during the rest of the class.