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finals

The semester has been stupid-busy, hence the lack of posting. (Admittedly, the release of the World of Warcraft expansion didn't exactly help.)

Four days a week, Monday through Thursday, has basically consisted of leaving the house at 9:30am, sitting in class until 3-4pm, then reading until 8 or 9pm -- wash, rinse, repeat. Papers and legal research (or now, reviewing for finals) have mostly eaten up at least one day of the weekend, and I've taken that last weekend day and whatever time in could squeeze in in the evenings to relax, spend time with G, and do whatever miscellaneous errands need to be done.

This is the last week of classes before finals, which is both liberating (no more reading assignments!) and terrifying (lots of studying!) There's a nasty juxtaposition of deadlines, too: there's a generally agreed-upon rule that nowhere will accept applications for summer legal work before Dec. 1, which means there's some pressure to get everything out the door on that day. In fact, some fellowships have deadlines as early as the first week of December. Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes to write lots of cover letters and application essays is taken directly from the amount of time available to review for finals. I haven't sent anything off yet, so the next few days promise to be extra-busy. (Who needs sleep when you have coffee?)

As a side note, it's pretty awesome to have a professor say: "This is an important Supreme Court case. Let me tell you what I did when I argued it before them." If there's nothing else I take away from this class, I'll have a bunch of amusing anecdotes about the SCOTUS.

week... 4?

Note to self: I cannot learn enough international law in one night to write a convincing case brief arguing for or against a country's criminal extradition rights.

Kennedy

So hearing Justice Kennedy speak? Pretty awesome. He's got a very good manner and sense of humor that makes him easy to listen to.

He asked that everything said in the class stay off the internet, so I won't say too much about the content of the talk. I will say that it's really amazing to hear him use particular phrases, and think, "Oh, I remember that phrase from the Supreme Court case we read the other day. Oh, wait -- that was HIS opinion I read." Right.

notes from the faculty

From an email from my criminal law professor, on why we aren't keeping pace with the syllabus:

"Cannibalism got us a little behind today.  It happens."

I love this class. :)

Also, Justice Kennedy is going to be visiting the school toward the end of the week, and apparently our normal constitutional law class is cancelled so he can teach it instead. I get to learn constitutional law from an active Supreme Court Justice! How cool is that? He's the one moderate on the bench, which means he's the swing vote in most of the split 5-4 decisions. It'll be really interesting to hear what he has to say.

law school: week 1

So. Law school.

Week before last was orientation, in which we met a small subsection of our year's students (the 1L class). The people I've met have been, by and large, pretty incredible. Most of them are younger than I am, but that's not exactly a surprise. About half the students live in the Lawyer's Club (the law student dorms), and I feel like not living in them may be a pretty significant disadvantage in trying to get to know people. Still, things have been going pretty well so far.

This past week was the first week of classes. The workload is intense. I've been through grad school before -- a couple of times, in fact -- but the volume just seems a lot higher here. Monday was a holiday and Friday was a light class day, but even with 'only' three days of class this week, I'm pretty worn out. Partly, it's just more classes per day than I'm used to. In both undergrad and grad school, I usually only had two or three classes a day, and often a day without any classes during the week. Here, I have 3-4 classes a day four days a week, and several hours of work per class each day. I've been averaging about 12 hours a day of legal study, between class time and homework.

The upside is that the material is really interesting. The courses for the first semester are all pre-assigned to 1L's.  First semester, we have four (really three and a half) classes, which are:
  • Tort Law -- A lot of people come into this class not even knowing what a tort is. A tort is essentially a wrong that one person commits against another that results in damage, whether it's hitting someone with their car or stealing their CD's. Lawsuits in which one party is trying to recover damages from another are pretty much always torts.
  • Constitutional Law -- Covers balance of powers between the branches of government, the constitution itself, and major decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Surprisingly, this has been the least interesting of the courses so far (I say, with three days of class under my belt.) A lot of the decisions hinge on historical context that's not at all apparent when reading the cases, which makes some of the rulings unintuitive.
  • Criminal Law -- Surprisingly fascinating. I didn't expect to care about this material at all, really, but the text we're using is heavy on  theory, using cases primarily as examples to illustrate principles. A lot of what we've covered so far has been theories of punishment, why we (as a society) punish people, and similar topics, so it's been more of a philosophy of law course than applied law.
  • Legal Practice -- This is the half-class, since it only meets two days a week and is more of a seminar on applying legal knowledge. We cover using resources like LexisNexis and WestLaw, and do a lot of writing and editing exercises. Apparently some people make it through law school without ever really learning how to write legal documents, which (coupled with research) is about 99% of the legal profession. 
I'd hoped to write a bit each day, but unless my workload changes drastically, that's probably not happening. That's really a shame, because there's so much interesting to write about! I had the impression much of law school was just memorizing cases, and it's a pleasant surprise to find out how wrong I was. Reading statutes and cases is a big part of it: you can't be much of a lawyer if you don't know what the laws are. But much of our legal system is based on common law, which is composed of the judgments issued by courts in the process of deciding cases. A lot of what we've been covering is the guiding principles in those cases and the philosophies of the judges, which is a pretty critical element that's hard to learn without a knowledgeable teacher.

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