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more ruminations

November 14, 2005

It hardly seems possible that we are nearly at the end of the semester. I’m astonished that the law school believes I know enough about, for instance, Civil Procedure, to let me not take it anymore. Surely there are a thousand things I don’t know about Civ Pro? And surely what little I do know is not enough?

But no. They think I know enough (or have had adequate time to learn enough) and, in just a little more than a week and a half, I will be done with Civ Pro. And Contracts, and Criminal Law. A few more days after that and I’ll be done with Torts.

Prof. Civ Pro said it best–even though he said it weeks ago. Someone asked a personal jurisdiction question and he turned it right back on them: “Well, how would you analyze that situation?” The student replied that he just wanted to know what the courts would say. Prof. Civ Pro replied, “You can answer that question as well as anyone; you’ve read all the important, seminal cases on personal jurisdiction out there. So what do you think?”

The idea that any of us are qualified to make judgments about this stuff is laughable. That I could be trusted to decide a legal question is ludicrous. And yet.

This week, I’m helping a friend out with a mediation scenario. I’m his client, he’s my advocate, and tomorrow, he’ll represent me in a mock mediation. As we ran through my case and my objectives, and as he analyzed my chances for recovery, I was amazed at how in touch I felt with what was going on. I understood the basis for the process. I was comfortable with the language. I couldn’t do what he’s doing–not now, at least–but I understood it. So maybe I’m not so unqualified to pass from my first semester to my second.

Our professors haven’t, as yet, begun framing their questions or comments to us “as lawyers.” And I’m glad; I don’t really feel like a lawyer right now. But if they started doing so today, it probably wouldn’t faze me. I’m still not convinced I’m thinking like a lawyer, but at least I think I know what that means.

Categories: 1L
  1. November 14, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    The first year basically teaches you where to start looking for material in any given area of the law. SO relax, you’ll be fine 🙂

  2. November 14, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    Kristine, one of my professors recently said something similar to us…kind of threw a question back at us and told us that we knew enough to answer it ourselves. It was kind of amazing, because we DID know enough to answer it.

    And I agree with you, it is hard to believe that it is really the end of the first semester already. It doesn’t feel like my head is stuffed with new knowledge, and yet when I look at practice exam questions I actually know where I need to go with the answers. It happened so quickly and relatively effortlessly that it’s almost like it happened when I wasn’t looking.

  3. November 16, 2005 at 12:11 pm

    What resipsacrap said. It’s not really about teaching you all of the answers, it’s about teaching you the foundations and giving you enough knowledge to know how to find the information you will need.

    For example, we were discussing the finer points of Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures the other night in Civ Pro, when my professor noted, “Only someone with way too much time on their hands has this memorized. That’s why good attorney’s and even judges have their rule books handy. What’s important is that you know *how to read* the Rules and be able to figure out what it means on your own.”

    Besides, you might be done with the _required_ Civ Pro, but you can sure take [State] Civ Pro, and Crim Pro, and Fed. Courts and… 🙂

  4. November 18, 2005 at 9:59 pm

    As an attorney for less than a month, I’m still coming to grips with this. You mean they BILL clients for the time I spend on their problems? Oh, my. What a thought. And yet – there is this realization that many (but not all) issues don’t have a black and white answer. I will generally NOT find that magic case – I can only use what’s out there and come to the best conclusion my mind will allow. Scary but true.

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