Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Free Speedy and other dispatches

“It’s not a system where we get together and hug.” – Professor Smith, on the adversarial nature of litigation

One of the frustrating things about law school is that you live or die in any given course on the basis of your performance on a single exam.

With four weeks’ worth of material swimming around in my head, I’m a gardener tending newly planted seeds. You fertilize, you cultivate, you do what you can to coax them out of the earth, but in the end you find yourself praying for rain. In my case, there’s an added layer of pressure in that the stakes are higher for me than for the 23-year-olds who occupy a majority of the other seats and who can still afford themselves a margin of error. Still, judging from hallway mutterings and classroom inquiries prefaced with the words “So, for the test we’ll need to know . . . ,” the youngsters are as cognizant as I am of those gathering thunderheads known as final exams. So I guess I’ll get my rain, one way or another.

Until then, there’s no real barometer to tell me how I’m measuring up, aside from my grades on two brief research assignments and general feedback on some ungraded exercises in Basic Legal Skills. As an aside to all of you who left me standing alone on my side of the Speedy Gonzales matter, I still say he’s not guilty of speeding. Reckless driving, maybe, but we can leave that discussion for another day.  My position is that what’s right isn’t necessarily what’s true. Clients don’t come swathed in seamless cloaks of guilt and innocence, full liability and flawless conduct, and a lawyer doesn’t always have the luxury of turning up her nose at an inconvenient fact pattern. But the real nugget of truth I gleaned from that experience – what my torts professor would call the “takeaway” – is that neither conclusion is right or wrong. In law school, it really is journey over destination.
Meanwhile, the consensus seems to be that Civil Procedure is the most confounding of the first-year courses. I can see why. It’s a byzantine set of rules that governs the way judicial proceedings are conducted in this country but that makes little sense in the abstract. Every rule has exceptions and even the exceptions have exceptions. Here’s the rule, but it applies only on every other Wednesday and only if the respondent is wearing green socks when the sheriff hands him the summons. All right, that last part isn’t in there as far as I know, but sometimes it seems that arbitrary.

That being said, I’m going to break from the pack again and call Contracts my hardest class.

Like so many elements of the law, the contract has a misleadingly simple face. Two parties hash out an agreement in which each gains something and each gives something up. But unlike civil procedure, which is a dense but relatively static body of rules, the contract is a shape shifter governed by myriad, often contradictory, principles. The point at which you can be held to a promise, for example, depends largely upon whether the judge who decides your case looks to what you said, what you meant to say or what he thinks you meant to say.

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.


  1. Hang in there Sharon. I know you can do it!

  2. Look at the bright side: at least 10 percent of the students in your class will be thrilled with the fact that their entire first semester performance is based on one set of final exams. Another 20 percent or so will be OK with it, and, well, uh, I'll stop there.

  3. Thanks, Alex. That's really ... great.

  4. You write an explanation very well. You are so descriptive, picturesque and make me laugh as well. You are going to be very successful...I hope I will be also. xoxo! Gemma