Category: law school is not like the other rodeos


So an acquaintance at my old (now, as of less than an hour ago, closed forever) Borders job has started at Concord School of Law, an online law school in the Kaplan conglomorate.

And we are not good enough friends that I can say “WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU LOOK AT YOUR LIFE LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES.”

Concord Law School is a for-profit school, which makes it shady as fuck just for that. It’s non-ABA accredited, students can only take the California Bar Exam and according to Wikipedia, one has managed to sue his way into being allowed to take the Massachusetts Bar Exam.

The pass rate of the California bar is around 36%.

WHY WOULD YOU WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS SHIT.

I mean, however much the ABA accredation process is full of shit, and I believe it is, I still do NOT understand why you would waste three years and a shitton of money on a non-accredited school. Your job prospects are severely hampered, some states won’t even let you take the bar- okay, the non-accredited schools are a LOT cheaper, they’d kind of have to be.

But this shit- I don’t know what she expects to be able to DO with a “degree” from an online diploma factory. I don’t get it.

So it’s been AGES since I’ve posted- this semester kicked my ass in an annoying way, and I’ve been SO exhausted just going into finals, then doing the finals, then recovering… I’m finally at the point where I don’t fall into a nap-like stupor in the afternoons.

That hasn’t stopped me from watching a bunch of my Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs with some of the features and commentaries. Also I scrubbed the kitchen floor, so. I haven’t been shiftless, just… homebound. Oh, I made a skirt, too. well, mostly, I still have the hem to do.

So instead of writing about this semester, I thought I’d give you all a recipe. Well, a couple.

I adore the slow cooker more than is truly reasonable. And this summer I’m making an effort to eat better and to cook more- I have some time and stuff. And I really like cooking. So I also really like Stephanie O’Dea’s cookbook Make It Fast, Cook It Slow . She based the first book she did off of her blog, A Year of Slow Cooking. So I’ve done some of her recipes and they generally turn out pretty good.

(My biggest problem with cooking is that I am fundamentally incapable of cooking for less than 4. Which is fine, until I get tired of my leftovers).

Anyway, I had some sun-dried tomatoes leftover from a pasta sauce I’d made the week before, and I found a recipe for Sundried tomatoes and feta tri-tip. Now, that sounded pretty good, but I don’t really like feta. I do love bleu cheese, though…

So off to the grocery store I went, and got the other ingredients along with brocolli and some other stuff, and got to the meat. And I had NO idea what tri-tip was, and didn’t see any cuts that said it was tri-tip, and the roasts were kind of expensive, so I ended up getting 2ish pounds of shoulder cut, I think. It was on special.

Now, by the time I got home, it was 4 pm, (on Rapture day) and my roommate was like “you’re making dinner in the slow cooker when the end of the world is supposed to start in 2 hours? Nice!” (no, she was not serious. Neither of us were terribly concerned about the end of the world.) and I wanted to eat before midnight, so I cooked it on high for like, 4 hours.

I made one of those rice and pasta mixes for one side- the herb and butter one blended well with the sauce. For a veg, I made roasted brocolli with balsamic vinegar, which was AMAZING if I do say so myself (and I do, obviously).

The meat on day one was a bit tough, but aging it for a day or so as leftovers was AMAZING. I want to try this again with a different cut of meat, but the sauce was amazing.

(Or how I flumoxxed my clinical evidence professor with my kindle)

Two of the classes I’m taking this semester are Criminal Advocacy and Clinical Evidence. Both of them involve practical, hand on stuff- directs and crosses and arguments and the like. Criminal Advocacy is awesome, but it’s first thing Monday mornings, which is awful, and involves somewhat complicated things- dealing with directs and crosses for motions to suppress. I’m not horrible at cross-examinations in trial testimony, but working out what needs to be done on crosses for motions to suppress is something I’m weak on (but getting better- the case we’re working on has 4 suppression motions so there’s a lot of practice involved).

Now, after the semester started, and I knew I’d need to have prepared questions for each class, I really REALLY wanted an Ipad. I can’t even tell you how much. Because I hate paper, and I hate paying for printing, and constantly changing things and editing and jsut having shit on a hand held device would make me happy. But ipads are $500. I am poor.

Instead, I got a Kindle, because you can put PDFs on them, and its only $139. I was resisted the ebook revolution for a while- I got the kindle app on my ipod, but that wouldn’t do for having my notes, questions and outlines. (I’m totally sold on the kindle, now. It’s paid for itself a couple times over at this point.)

Anyway, yesterday, I did my first direct examination in Clinical Evidence. I was tweaking my questions up until I got up to go, so I uploaded to the kindle, and off we went.

Now, sometimes we got notified in advance who will be your witness, and sometimes it’s catch-all, whoever volunteers. In this case, it was not pre-assigned. I had practiced with someone (of coruse I practiced- sometimes things written sound stupid when you say them out loud. And going through the examination with Tony meant that I could see how the whole thing shaped up), and Tony did try to volunteer to be my witness, but the prof chose someone else.

(Theoretically, she should have known the entire testimony backwards and forwards- she was also prepared to direct the same witness, but life doesn’t work like that.)

Anyway, things were going well, except for two things- first, since I hate paper and don’t print shit out unless I have to, and Tony left his printouts at the Law Review office, I didn’t have the 3 exhibits I wanted in to hand. So I introduced one, and laid the foundation for the other two (to prove that I could, and didn’t actually put in the other two. Second, she kept getting important details wrong. At one point I stopped and asked if I could impeach my own witness, and the professor was like “…what is that thing in your hand?”

I said it was my Kindle- it had my outline on it.

He said, “…but what is it?”

I said it was an ereader.

He asked, “what brand?”

I said Amazon.

He wanted to see it and I said I would show it to him at break. He was suitably impressed. He aslo said he would be leery of putting all his trial documents on one thing- your opposing counsel might dump water on it or something.

There was also a bit of a discussion on judges allowing people to use something like a Kindle or an ipad in trial because of the ability to communicate wirelessly, which… maybe? I don’t know. maybe someone will have an idea.

(oh and I finished my examination, and someone else did the cross. The comments I got was that I was calm, relatively unflustered by my witness not saying what I wanted her to, laid the foundations for the exhibits really well and handled the hearsay objections well, so YAY GO ME.)

This week has been the first week we’ve actually had all the classes happen as scheduled. It’s so weird.

This is week 5, and there’s been no routine, no pattern, and things are in utter chaos. We’ve only had three Clinical Evidence classes so far, and three Law in the Ancient World (which is my Nerd Pride class- I love it so much but will love it MORE when we get to Roman law. Because I am a nerdy nerd who nerds).

So there’s been a lot of uncertianity on if classes will actually happen. And a lot of uncertainty about which version of the syllabus we’re working off of in all my classes (except Criminal Advocacy, which is my ONLY class that’s met every time it has supposed to) (it’s also my very favortiest class- I’m just sad it only meets once a week).

This week I’ve also been fighting a cold. I stayed home Tuesday morning because I truly felt utterly shitty, and missed Criminal procedure (which I ALSO love. Seriously my schedule this semester is awesome). I did the reading the night before, with a fever, and then decided not to go when my alarm went off. I got the notes from a friend, and also found out that my row was “on call” for Thursday’s class (this morning).

(To which I responded “….shit” and she said “Well, you might be able to hide…. no, not with your hair. It’s too bright.” Which, yes.)

So I did the reading that was assigned today, carefully, and then discovered that we hadn’t finished everything up from the last class. Including a case I know I had read, but couldn’t remember anything of, because, well, fever.

Of course, I got nailed on that case, and made the call that bullshitting would not end well, so I just admitted that I could not remember anything about it. Now, I salvaged myself later on on one of the later cases, and then apologized after class, so I think it’s okay, but still auuuugh.

Augh.

Some weeks ago, on my LiveJournal account, I admitted to be a huge worrier (which I am), and that sometimes I worry that law school was a huge mistake. Not so much in terms of “do I want to be a lawyer” because I do. I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for a long time- it was only in early 2009 (you know, when i took the LSAT) that my desire to be a lawyer was higher than my desire to NOT go to law school.

What I worry about the cost- not just the money, because it’s just money, but the stress and the hair falling out, and most importantly, the friends from not outside school I’d sort of let fall by the wayside. I keep in touch with them by internet – LJ mostly, I only grudgingly use Facebook anymore except for Zuma Blitz and Twitter is something else entirely – and will spend time with them when I can.

Anyway, my LJ friends (who are mostly SCA friends) assured me that they would still be there when I was done.

(I’m gonna stop here a minute and stupidly apologize for getting messy. I’ve been doing a lot of self-editing lately pretty much everywhere for various reasons and that’s not gonna hold for much longer. One of the reasons is that while writing for an audience might help process my grief and emotions, I didn’t want to add to the pain of other people. Which, while that seems noble, it’s also kind of dumb.)

So.

Those of you who follow my Twitter saw that a friend of mine had passed away late last week. The official announcement went out while I was in CrimPro, and while I knew it was coming, it was still kind of a punch in the head. (My notes from that day are horrible. HORRIBLE.)

She’d been sick for a while, and I made time to go visit, but not as much as I should have. I visited once in the hospital on the last day of classes fall semester, and once when I and a network of people across Twitter had to move a small mountain. I’m really glad I followed my gut that day, instead of sticking with the original plan to go see her the next weekend, because it would have been too late.

It’s so easy to say, “I have all this reading. I just can’t right now.” “I’ll see you when I have a break.” “Look, July 2012- I’ll be done with the barzam then, it’s a date.”

This weekend, I either curled myself up at home, doing not a lot but watching the last season of The Tudors (I know, I know) or grouping together with friends in our shared grief. Three times I gathered as we ate, drank, cried, drank, laughed, and oh yes, drank. It was what I needed- both the hibernation and the social.

So really, the thing here is that law school will take as much time as you give it. You can always find more to do- more to read, more MCQs to practice, more outlines to outline. But just because you can do more doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Even though the guilt you have when you’re not studying is intense sometimes. Life on the outside is important, too.

Sometimes they aren’t there when you’re done. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just life.

But it sucks.

I got briefly embroiled in an internet discussion yesterday about the attorney who is representing Jared Lee Loughner (we know he’s really bad because they use all three names). On a discussion board, someone mentioned that Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke, had previously represented the Unabomber and Susan Smith

Someone else responded with “THIS BITCH.” Happily, even though this is the internet, most people responded with “….” And the commenter backpedaled a little (not a lot) and was like “Well, I understand that everyone gets an attorney, but I wonder what kind of person would WANT to defend those horrible people.”

I said,

Speaking as someone in law school looking to do precisely that….

First, everyone gets an attorney. And high profile cases deserve good attorneys to make sure everything is followed to the letter to avoid the knee jerk “hang ’em.” (How on EARTH they’d pick an impartial jury…. holy shit that’s just not happening.) By protecting the rights of the most reviled, that means that everyone else’s rights are safer.

Second, high profile defense attorneys get the high profile cases- I would not want to saddle some kid fresh out of law school with this case- it’d be a nightmare for everyone involved, especially the shiny new attorney.

Third, and less altruistically, high profile cases like this tend to have private attorneys working pro bono- it’s GREAT exposure, and clients with money will be happy to fork out huge amounts of money for the privilege of being defended by the Unabomber Attorney.

Now, surprisingly enough for The Internet, the original commenter had honestly not thought it through. And admitted those were all things they’d never thought of, and thanked me for responding.

In my Criminal Advocacy class yesterday, we were practicing opening statements (first class, hit the ground running flat out. Life after law school is going to be SO BORING). And most people introduced themselves and their client (or the State of Nita) right off.

The professor, who is AWESOME (and told me to be very very careful when deploying the Sarcastic Eyebrow), said that you do need to do that, but you don’t have to do it straight off. And sometimes, because not all criminal defendants are good clients, and the jury can TELL, associating yourself with a really bad defendant can be hard or even not great strategy. So instead, you say that you’re there to represent The Constitution.

That’s what it is, and what got me into law school in the first place was working for the unit in Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services that defended people who were being classified by the Sex Offender Registry and being committed as Sexually Dangerous Persons. It’s easy to write off sex offenders. God knows most people do.

But, beyond the studies of what may help prevent recidivism, and what actually makes people safer from sex offenders, there’s the idea that you have to make SORB prove itself. In 2006, there was someone running for… Middlesex County Sheriff, I think, who was saying that he wanted to expand the Sex Offender Registry to include everyone convicted of a drug offense.

Do you see where that starts getting even scarier? It’s a horrible idea. (He lost, btw). By making SORB at least pretend to go through the motions (and sometimes it really is like pretending) (sorry), they can’t just go trampling on the rights of everyone else. If sex offenders still have rights, if Jared Lee Loughner still has rights, that means you do, too.

I had my last final yesterday, and now I am halfway done with law school.

Thank god, because, this seriously, was a kind of horrible semester. (I’m also at the psychotically hormonal stage of PMS, so… there’s that. Fair warning, and all.)

First, I had knee surgery a week before classes started. I spent the first month pretty much stoned on vicodin, and the rest of the time trying to catch up. As a rule I do not suggest this. (I also wrote two papers for my summer classes while high off my ass. It was a little awesome.)

I also lost my job at unnamed large bookstore because I dared to need time off to heal from some surgeon sticking crap in my knee and fucking around to make to work better. That sucked. A lot.

I spent an unreasonable amount of time at physical therapy.

I was not able to go to taekwondo ALL SEMESTER which is horrible, because the stress relief is the best thing ever.

My classes were, by and large, annoying. For those of you following me on Twitter, you saw some of the temper tantrums about adminstrative law, which was THE WORST THING EVER, or an annoying topic in legal writing. I never bitched about Wills Estates and Trusts because… well, there was nothing to bitch about, but it was SO DULL. Evidence was fun, and Wrongful COnvictions was fun, but both were SO. MUCH. WORK. Wrongful Convictions was a 2 credit class and usually had about 150 pages of reading, and the final paper was 20 pages, end notes, and… well I got more and more crazy as I was trying to finish the damn thing and we got to the point that I’d quoted both World War Z and Babylon 5, and said that prosecutors fucking up was why we couldn’t have nice things.

AND THAT WAS ME RESTRAINING MYSELF.

I did miss having the entire section together.

So it was a lot of work, and after coming from a graduate program which was All Crime, All the Time, and thus All Things I Gave a Shit About, having all the things that I didn’t give a shit about is hard. Next semester will be better- it’s Almost All Crime, All the Time.

So we got to the point where there’s finals to study for and I was kind of frantic, and stressed out, and not having much of my regular outlets for stress relief and some interpersonal shit that kind of boiled over right at the end just made everything worse.

However, it was not all bad.

I have been writing romance novel reviews for Smart Bitches who love Trashy Books, and people seem to like them. (Yup, I love romance novels. It’s true.)

I really did love Evidence, for all my bitching about hearsay.

My knee is doing very well, for all my bitching about that.

I discovered that if I take an antihistamine, I can drink beer. This is a new development and very welcome.

So there’s that. The semester is over, and I, for one, am very glad.

My roommate made an appeal to the Twitterverse for happy things after a day of RAAAAAAAAGE.

Someone sent her this (watch it with sound, there’s a song):

So we’ve spent the past thirty minutes occasionally breaking into choruses of “BABY MONKEY! BABY MONKEY! RIDING ON PIIIIG BABY MONKEY!”

Then she said, “This is so awesome, it should be ILLEGAL.”

I said, “no.”

“No?”

“NO.” The the part of me that has an admin law final in TWELVE HOURS said, “The notice and comment period at the FDA? That would be fucking INSANE. Because baby monkey. and there could be no coherent rule promulgated about that.”

There was a pause, and then she said, “You’re annoying.”

“You love me.” (and she does. I saved Christmas last weekend. And I feed her duck soup sometimes.)

“Those are not mutually exclusive things.”

Life with a law student in the throes of finals crazy.

(She is now trying to find something to mash up the Baby Monkey song with.)

I’m trying to get a good chunk of my Wrongful Convictions paper done (how inquisitorial systems of justice deal with some of the major factors that cause wrongful convictions in the US adversarial system). So naturally I thought I’d write a blog post instead.

Today’s topic is friends outside of law school.

I came to law school six years out of college, and two years out of grad school. I do historical re-enactment with the SCA, and that is where the bulk of my non-law school friends are from. I also have a group of friends from my tae kwon do school (who I haven’t seen is FAR TOO FUCKING LONG) and internet friends from all over the place- some local, some not. I also have a kick-ass roommate who is not involved in this law school crap at all. More about that in a bit.

And for real, I could not be doing the law school thing without them. The thing with law school is it eats your brain. And your life. And being able to go to people who knew me Before, and are not involved means I can go out with them and not be a law student for a little while. (That doesn’t stop me from practicing cross-examination skills on them, or discussing the various forms of hearsay exclusions, but they politely let me ramble or just say “Red, your mouth is moving. You might want to see to that.”)

Having the internet and social media has helped a great deal, too. I know what’s going on with them, even if I don’t have time to actually spend TIME with my friends. My posting has gone way down on Livejournal and Facebook (but not Twitter- though Twitter is the Law Kid’s Support Group, so….), but I at least skim.

It’s very easy to lose yourself into the morass of law school, and if you’ve moved to a new city where all you know is your classmates, it’s hard to not go out with them and just eat each other’s stress. I absorb other people’s stress- it’s very annoying. When I came back after Thanksgiving break and had lunch with some of my classmates, I came back home a stressed out mess and my roommate was like, “….you were FINE until you went back to school.”

Oh, empathy.

Anyway, while it is important to keep your old friends, they won’t always understand why you can’t hang out, or why you’re a bundle of stress, or why you keep muttering about all that Pennoyer crap, or why Palsgraf is a stupid case. Some people will get mad and take it personally, when really it’s just an artifact. But they probably would have gotten mad no matter what you did with your life. So it is important to also have friends who know what the hell is going on with you.

I know my section last year really came together after the Contracts fall final- it was horrendous and the essay didn’t seem to have a THING to do with what we had learned. And going to the bar afterwards was really a time of bonding – I wrote in my LJ that, “Here’s the weird thing (or maybe not so weird) after the post traumatic exam bar run, we’re like, all besties now. People who I didn’t think knew my name were letting me huff their drinks and fist bumping as I left. It was kind of awesome.” (and the hungover faces in the library the next morning were also kind of funny).

(One thing I love about my friends- law school and non-law school alike, is that they are mostly used to and very tolerant of my grabbing their drinks, taking a big huff, and giving them back. Last night at Bar Review, I did that to someone new, and impressed him that I was able to identify the beer he was drinking straight off. heh.)

The thing that’s great about my roommate not being in law school is that when I come home, I only have to deal with what ever I bring with me. Sure, her life is crazy, and she has her own stresses, but having “home” and “school” be two very distinct places is enormously helpful. (That’s also one reason I generally try to not study at home, and when I do, never in bed. Bed is for sleeping and bed-related activities. Studying is not a bed-related activity.) She will also listen to me blather, and sometimes I study by explaining things to her and she’ll nod politely, ask questions, and declare that Pennoyer is a stupid name. Which it is. And by explaining it, that means I understand it better.

I do compartmentalize my life an awful lot- to the point that there are different names involved with which group I’m with at any given time (though “Red” tends to cut across all boundries). And even though I would much rather be at an SCA event right now, I really should get cracking on this stupid paper.

Want a nickel’s worth of free advice?

Finals are coming up. For you 1Ls, it’s hellish. I won’t lie. It will suck. But you will survive.

First, study. Make sure you know your shit. If you haven’t figured out the best way to outline for you, it’s okay. A friend of mine last year said she wasn’t sure what worked best, so she tried “everything.” Then she wasn’t too happy with her performance at the end of the semester- I think she was working hard, but not working smart. She calmed down a bit in the spring and was much happier. The E&Es saved my ass in Contracts and Civ pro last year. Use them.

Second, relax a bit. Going into finals exhausted and burned out isn’t going to be helpful. There is plenty of time during finals for that.

Third, food. Try to eat as best you can. When we got into the final stetch last year, I got a huge food order delivered from Peapod, and spent a day listening to BarBri lectures on my Ipod while cooking several meals- I made a huge pot of chili, a lasagna, and bbq chicken in the crockpot. Kept me fed for the week and a half I did not have the time or energy to spend on cooking, and did not have the money to spend on takeout.

Fourth, exam week. GET SLEEP. All nighters will only kill you. I stop studying for the next day’s exam around sundown. As my grandfather said, “I always liked the nights before exams. I didn’t have to do anything.”

Fifth, the exams themselves. Most of my exams were mixed multiple choice questions and essays. I learned in the spring that the best method for me was the read the essay question first, jot down a few ideas, and then do the MCQs. Once i was done with them, I would then do the essay questions. That gave the essay time to percolate, I worked through the issue spotting on the subconscious, and I did a LOT better on my exams.

Now if you will excuse me, I have an Evidence outline to deal with.