Saturday, September 16, 2006



Summer is over and it's back to school.

It is not uncommon for law students to let their legal skills atrophy over the Summer. This is especially true if you're interning or clerking for a law firm. To help re-acclimate you to the new school year, How to Law School has put together the following materials to keep you sharp.

1. Two trains depart Pittsburgh at 10:00 A.M. Train A travels west at 55 mph, Train B travels northeast at 62 mph. Train A and Train B collide outside of Baltimore. Using the Erie Doctrine, explain how collision occurred, who is at fault? The law of which state should be applied? How did each train end up in the Baltimore-Metro area?

2. Using thirty-five words or less, explain how the Eleventh Amendment violates The Eleventh Amendment. How would Roscoe Pound draft a revised Eleventh Amendment? How would Ezra Pound? Show your work.

3. Using nothing but construction paper, glue, gauze pads, cotton balls and pipe cleaners, create a Federal Court personal jurisdiction board game.

4. Discuss and distinguish the differences between traditional Anglo-Saxon contract law and the theories underlying magical contracts in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Pay special attention to the elements of offer and acceptance.

5. Rent and view Bend over Babes I - VI. Which films meet Justice Stewart's definition of obscenity? Do the 'Bent over Babes' films (I through IV inclusive) constitute copyright infringement of the former works? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

BONUS QUESTION: Pursuant to Aztec custom, the losing side in an appeal was ceremonially put to death. Should the United States revive this custom? What about interlocatory appeals?

Saturday, April 01, 2006


How To Law School has adjourned for Spring Break. We'll reconvene in a few weeks.

Friday, January 27, 2006


The lifeblood of any law firm is the time sheet. The time sheet is where, you, the associate, will record your billable hours, thoughts and dreams. This is the single-most important function you have as an associate. You and your time sheet will become inseparable. Some overly obsessed associates have even been known to fabricate laminated pouches so the time sheet can accompany them into the shower.

Up until this point, you may have measured your day in 55 minute blocks (a class) or 30 to 60 minute blocks ( television shows). Now, you'll measure time in .1 (or 6 minute) blocks of time. Get ten .1's and you'll have an hour, get nine 1.0's and you'll have a day, reach 80000.00 and presto, a career!

Time sheets differ depending upon your employment. Some firms demand minute detail for every entry:

.1 letter to client re: OSHA documents needed for responding to Plaintiff's 11/7/05 Supplemental Demand for D&I;

Others may require only:

.1 letter to client re: documents.

For larger projects, time sheets can come very near equaling humanities finest, most beautiful works of art. For instance, a partner once described my time sheet on a motion for summary judgment as, "easily surpassing the heights attained by Michelangelo or Donatello. I actually cried when I read it and it still haunts me."

As a new associate, your time sheet will make or break you. Craftsmanship is important.

Sample time sheet for new associate, week 5:

.3 - Drank three large coffees

.1 - Urinate

.1 - Letter to client re: Deposition dates

.1 - Receive and review letter from Plaintiff's attorney re: extension to respond to discovery

.1 - Urinate

.2 - Renew senior partner's subscription to Juggs Magazine for Gentlemen

.1 - Urinate

.1 - Make pot of coffee

.7 - Review NYT's On-Line

.2 - Check box scores

.8 - Re-arrange office

1.3 - Phone call from college friend

.2 - Spill coffee/clean up spill

.2 - Conference with partner re: upping billable hours

1.1 - Internet search re: untraceable handguns/murder for hire

1.2 - Phone call to student loan company re: deferment (1.1 for hold time)

.1 - Phone call from student loan company/ no on deferment

.9 - Research help-wanted ads/part-time work

.1 - Resolve to bill more than required time in order to make partner

.8 - Get high score in on-line Tetrus tournament

.2 - Conf/ office manager re: bill for Big Beautiful Women downloads

.8 - Conf with other assoc re: how much work you have

Thursday, December 22, 2005


It's the Holiday Season, the most wonderful time of year. Plaintiffs roasting in the witness box, motions nipping at your heels.

Many of you may not realize it, but Christmas controversies have enriched our legal heritage more than any other holiday with the exception of Robert E. Lee's Birthday. We're sure your family will hang on every word as you regale them with your knowledge of Christmas Jurisprudence during this, the most holiest of seasons.

Evil Magician v. Frosty et. al. 28 N.Pole 123 (1964)

Plaintiff brought suit in Chancery to recover a magical hat that he had voluntarily abandoned in a fit of pique. The court ruled that abandoned property, even of a magical nature, enures to the party that recovers said property. In dicta, the court also noted that it lacked jurisdiction over Defendant Frosty as he, "was not a natural person under the law but rather a precipitation-generated event."

Kringle et. al v Winter Warlock (Sombertown City Court)

Plaintiff sued for declaratory relief seeking an easement over property owned by Defendant in order to further his commercial endeavors. The court dismissed the suit noting it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over suits involving inter-state commerce and the issue was moot because defendant Warlock was now a "good guy".*

Rudolph v Clause, Individually and as President of Clause Co.

This suit tested the constitutionality of the Reindeer with Disability Act (hereinafter RDA). Plaintiff sought "reasonable accommodations" for his workplace where, he alleges, he was treated in a hostile manner do to the luminosity of his nose. The court decided, sua sponte, in favor of Plaintiff. In an uncharacteristically harsh ruling, the court stated:

"Defendants actions are inexplicable and they have failed to raise a question of fact on the issue of a non-discriminatory basis for their actions. Plaintiff's disability in no way interfered with his employment responsibilities. Indeed, Defendant himself begged Plaintiff for assistance when Plaintiff's disability proved useful during inclement weather."

Kringle v Burgermeister & Town of Sombertown

Plaintiff sought a writ of Habeas Corpus after being imprisoned for "distributing toys" in contravention of a local ordinance. The Court found that the Defendants ban on toys for health reasons was rational and designed to achieve a legitimate municipal interest. **

Herbie v Clause Enterprises and the United Toymakers Union

Plaintiff sued, challenging the North Pole's rigid closed shop laws, whereby elves could only seek employment in limited fields, all related to the toy-making industry. Plaintiff sought to open a dental practice but was denied a zoning variance. The court never reached the merits when it was established that Plaintiff lacked a dental license.

* In a separate proceeding, the Defendant Warlock was later arrested and convicted of possession of magical acorns with intent to distribute.

** Ironically, Defendant Burgermeister instituted the ban after tripping over a toy and fracturing his ankle, thereby establishing the legitimate, health-related interest.

Friday, November 25, 2005


By Stockton

This post is part of our continuing series on famous judges. For those of you entering law school, some background on the men and women who wrote the opinions you will soon be reading is essential. We hope you find this series educational, entertaining and useful as you embark upon your law school careers. Feel free to utilize the information presented to impress your professors.

Oliver Wendell Holmes is likely the single most famous Supreme Court Judge. His opinions are legion and many of his dissents would ultimately become the law of the land in later years.

Holmes is probably most famous for his mustache. Holmes detractors claim his facial hair lacked the robust jocularity of Stephen Johnson Field's beard but many saw a sly, sardonic intelligence in Holmes' finally coiffed and dangerously sharp mustache. Indeed, in later years, Holmes would shellaque the ends of his mustache to a razor-sharp point and continuously jab Justice Moody until the latter ran from the bench. Later in life, when palsy caused his hands to shake, Holmes would use his mustache to spear his food.

Holmes served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was wounded three times but friends began to take the injuries less seriously when they noticed how his sling shifted from arm to arm depending on the day of the week.

Holmes opinions are a model of judicial clarity and economy. Holmes spent hours honing his opinions, trimming unnecessary words until the writing was clear, concise and as short as possible. Eventually, Holmes would actually draw his opinions, depicting facts by using stick figures. Holmes became so obsessed with the economical us of words that his last opinion was merely a blank sheet of paper which he proudly showed off to his bewildered brethren.*

Holmes most famous opinion is often misquoted, a constant source of frustration for the justice. In Schenck v United States (1919), a landmark First Amendment case, Holmes wrote, "You cannot falsely shout fire in a crowded theater." After a series of theater fire tragedies Holmes issued a press-release stating: "If there's a friggin' fire, shout fire all you want! If there's no fire, sit back and enjoy the show."

Image hosted by
In later years, Holmes posed as
a centerfold for Playjudge

Holmes died in a theater fire in 1933.

* Three other justices concurred in Holmes' final opinion

Sunday, October 02, 2005


By Stockton

The field of Products Liability is a subset of the Tort, only lower in fat. Products Liability was developed in the 1950's and served a number of purposes:

1) Attorney employment;
2) Allows redistribution of wealth to the logic-challenged.

To understand Products liability a fact-pattern may be helpful:

P works for E, a corporation. P has worked for E for twenty-two years. P's job is to remove cream from stale cream donuts so the cream can be reused in fresh donuts. To perform his job duties P must operate a sophisticated piece of machinery weighing well over 500lbs. The machine is equipped with an hydraulic scalpel as well as siphoning equipment.

One day, P's car breaks down and he must take the bus to work. He arrives fifteen minutes late and is told he'll have to make up that time at the end of his shift. During the last ten minutes of his shift, the machine jams. P carefully reads the sign on the machine: "WARNING, if machine jams turn machine off and contact the manufacturer or distributor. DO NOT attempt to repair machine due to the potential for serious injury! For God's Sake, make sure you never soak your feet in water while attempting to repair machine!" P, having been on his feet all day, fills a bucket with warm water to soaks his feet. While soaking his feet, P sees a panel secured to the machine by 45 bolts. A sticker on the panel says, "DO NOT remove panel under any circumstances. Don't say we didn't warn you!" P reads the sticker four or five times. Additionally, P's employer has used duct tape to secure a note to Plaintiff's forehead. The note reads, "If machine breaks, don't do anything. And your wife called, something about the rash not being contagious."

P spends the next five hours soaking his feet and trying every method available to remove the panel. His co-workers tell him to go home and let the shift supervisor call the manufacturer. P ignores them and finally gets the panel off the machine. P immediately sees that a donut is jammed between two sharp, metal parts moving slightly faster than an airplane propeller at full throttle.

Hours later P is recovering in the hospital from a mangled left hand and severe electrical shock.

Determining what causes of action P has and against which defendants will help you grasp the theories underlying Products Liability. Under current Products Liability theories, P has approximately 276 causes of action against 93 potential defendants. Well discuss a few of those below.

Defendant(s) No. One & Two: Automobile Manufacturer and Seller

P has causes of action in Product Liability and Warranty against those who manufactured and sold his car. If the car had not broken down, P would have been on time and not present at his employment when the machine jammed.

Defendant(s) Three, Four & Five: The Designer, Manufacturer and Distributor of the machine

This is a no-brainer. P will sue all three for Product Liability, Failure to Warn, Strict Liability and simple negligence. The design defect allowed the machine to jam. The manufacturer did not place adequate safeguards on the machine. The access panel was not adequately secured against someone attempting to remove it as 70 or 80 bolts should have been used to secure the panel. Finally, the defendants should have placed more warning signs on the machine in less ambiguous language.

Defendant(s) Six: Employer

If P's State allows suits by employees against employers then P has a claim against his employer for negligent hiring practices. To wit: If the employer had not hired P then P would never have been hurt.

Defendant(s) Seven& Eight: Water Bucket Manufacturer & Seller

The manufacturer and seller of the bucket P used to soak his feet failed to place adequate warnings on the bucket advising P not to soak his feet in the bucket while using electrical equipment.

Defendant(s) Nine: P's School District

P has a claim for educational malpractice against his School District, which gave him a substandard education and failed to prepare him to deal with life.

We hope that this example has made the field of Products liability come to life so you can better understand the complexities surrounding this growing legal field.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


By Tweed

In my last post on the Constitution, I briefly described the history of the adoption of the Constitution. In this post I will briefly describe how the Constitution found its biological parents.

The Constitution is chock full of nifty concepts and rules. There is the "balance of power" concept, the "checks and balances" concept and the "Great Sandini Balancing Act" concept. All of these concepts are buried deep within the text of the Constitution, which has guaranteed their departure into the world of irrelevance and obscurity.

Welcome to the World of Irrelevance and Obscurity.

Part I - The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch of the Federal government is described in Article II of the Constitution, but it has nicer bathrooms than the branch of government described in Article I. Article II provides that the executive power of the United States is vested in the President. This gives the President the authority to enforce the laws of the country, spare one Turkey from the oven each Thanksgiving and not get out of bed to go to work.

The President is empowered to make deals with foreigners, subject to Senate approval. This makes the United States a lot like that nerdy kid you grew up with who had to check with his mom before he could do anything (and she usually said no). Historically, presidents have attempted to circumvent Senate oversight, usually without much success. In 1852, for example, President Filmore tried to enter a trade pact with Spain by pretending to be sick and signing the pact when the Senate went to work that morning. But the Senate found out that evening, and punished the President by re-naming him Millard. Over time, presidents have gained the trust of the Senate, which has rewarded the president with greater freedom of action in foreign affairs under special circumstances, such as when Britney Spears is performing at the Albert Hall.

There's also a Vice President, who gets to bust prostitutes and gamblers.

Part II - The Legislative Branch

The Legislative Branch is described in Article I of the Constitution and consists of two houses, both alike in dignity, in swampy Washington, where we lay our scene. The House of Representatives is larger than the Senate, and consists of 439 representatives, 4,874 staffers and 25,773 interns. The House of Representatives is famous for being the only house of the Legislative Branch with the word "house" in its title. It also makes a great barbecue sauce.

The Senate, consisting of 97 Senators, 7,984 staffers and 487,933 interns, used to be the more dignified house, until the senior Senator from Ohio began making fart noises whenever his colleagues sat down. It is now considered to be closer alligned with the mood of the people.

The chief job of the legislative branch of government is to right the law - an important function, because the law is prone to frequent capsizing.

Part III - The Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch of government is the Supreme Court and is described in Article III of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, which explains the massive orders for pizza and potato chips from the Supreme Court building. The Justices of the Supreme Court hold court in the their hands or in the Halls of Justice. The current members of the Supreme Court are Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Robin, Aqua Man, the Flash, the Green Lantern and the Wonder Twins.

The Supreme Court's function is to interpret the Constitution. This is a very difficult job, because there are many theories on how the Constitution should be interpreted. Conservatives generally prefer the Constitution with some fiddle and spoon slapping, while most liberals prefer a dance beat and some sythesizers. Strict constructionists prefer theirs with a strings and light woodwinds.

Part III - Make Law, Not War

Correct me if I'm wrong, but both houses of the Legislative Branch must vote to pass a law. Every law starts as a bill, only a bill, sitting there on capital hill. Bills usually end up in committee, along with everything else known to humanity. Occasionally, some things pop out of committee - like yesterday, when old Ms. Schuyler's shawl that she lost on her trip to Washington back in 87' popped out of the House Sub-Committee on Frozen Waffles and Urban Infrastructure.

Once out of committee, everyone gets to attach ryders to a bill. By law, each ryder must (a) be wholly unrelated to the bill to which it is attached, and (b) be designed to either (i) destroy any chance the bill has in being approved or (ii) give a congressman's girlfriend $400,000 to build a beutician museum in downtown Akron. Once a bill is sufficiently weighted down with ryders (the Constitution requires at least 36 ryders), the bill is thrown into a large body of water, traditionally, the Potomac river. If it floats, it passes; but if it sinks, it was never a good idea to begin with.

If the bill floats, it is immediately presented to the President for drying. If the President likes the bill, he signs it and it becomes law. If he doesn't like it, he throws it back into the Potomac.

But here's the big problem: we have to wait for a controversy before the Supreme Court weighs in on any law's constitutionality. Here's an idea - what if Congress or the President could just ask before hand and save everyone some time?

Part IV - The Great Sandini Balancing Act

The founders of the Constitution understood the importance of balance. Accordingly, laying in wait for the unwary are a series of balancing acts.

Until the adoption of the 17th Amendment, the principle of the "balance of power" required that, at all times, the weight of the President and his cabinet had to be within five pounds of 75% of the aggregate weight of the members of the Supreme Court and within 15 pounds of the combined weight of the members of congress divided by 13 - which explains why Grover Cleveland's cabinet consisted of two midgets and a slight gay British national and Howard Taft's cabinet was made of balsa wood.* But this concept became cumbersome (no pun intended).

With the advent of the 17th amendment, the "balance of power" was dropped and quickly replaced by the "checks and balances" concept before anyone could get a good look at the Constitution naked. The checks and balances concept requires that upon assuming the office of President, the President's wealth must be equal to or greater than 40% of the wealth of the aggregate wealth of the members of the Supreme Court and equal to or less than the combined wealth of the five richest members of Congress. In the event that this requirement is not met, the President, members of the Supreme Court or members of Congress, as the case may be, write a series of checks until the proper balance is achieved (hence the name of the concept).

Tune in next time, as we discuss the Consitution's first date - the Bill of Rights.

* During Taft's tenure on the Supreme Court there was a mad rush to create additional cabinet posts to achieve balance, which explains the short lived, but much sought after post of Secretary of Chocolate Ice Cream.