Friday, December 31, 2004


By Stockton

This entry is largly concerned with Law Professors but from its pages the reader will learn little about this unique sub-species and much about the infantile mind of the writer.

The biggest drawback to attending law school is spending three years with 200+ people who want to be lawyers. The second biggest drawback is contending with that unique creature, the Law Professor.

Someone once said that there are only eight plots in fiction. This hold true for law professors. There are only eight law professors. Here are four of them.

Professor A

Professor A* spent too much time watching the 'Paper Chase'. He is always impeccably tailored and his facial muscles have atrophied into a perpetual frown that nothing short of surgery will correct. If Professor A ever laughs, it is at cocktail parties when a colleague utters a pun about the Erie Doctrine (so the first judge says, "I said Erie Doctrine, not eerie doctrine").

When Professor A is not lecturing, he is conducting research for his next law review article, 'Where to Place the Semi-Colon in Article 7(A)(1)(b) of the new Romanian Penal Code". Professor A is a tough grader, loves the Socratic method and is always male. Here's a typical exchange between Professor A and a 1L.

Professor A: Ms. Cooper! Is the decision in Hadley v. Baxendale essentially a product of historical circumstances, particularly the peculiar state of industry in the Britain of the 1850's?"

Ms. Cooper: Ummm...Yes.

Professor A: Then how do you reconcile the fact that the principles adopted in Hadley also appear in Pothier's Traite des obligations, first published in 1761?

Ms. Cooper: I need to poop.

Professor A's usual habitat is the Ivy League. However, scandal will cause Professor A to migrate to second and even third-tier schools.**

Professor B

Professor B is the young, hip professor who aches for tenure like a priest aches for an alter boy. He dresses casually, often has facial hair,*** ignores the Socratic method and will generally whore himself for good student evaluations. Initially, students love him, until they realize he's a dork. Professor B is invariably a male. In college, Professor B was an avowed Marxist until he learned there was no money in it.

Professor B has causes and not a class goes by that he doesn't drop hints about his political positions. Professor B's politics are almost always left of center. This annoys the clique of uptight ex-frat boys that are included in every law school class. Here's a typical exchange.

Professor B: The Clean Air Act was one of the most important and effective pieces of legislation to help safeguard our environment. Reagan and Bush have been dismantling it over the course of two decades. Mr. Scott, who hates clean air?

Mr. Scott: Reagan and Bush.

Professor B: Who else?

Mr. Scott: All Republicans?

Professor B: Exactly!

Professor C

Professor C is also an impeccable dresser. She looks stern but generally ends up being quite friendly. Professor C is always female and extremely classy and gracious. This professor has the rare ability to explain difficult legal concepts with clarity. She also speaks English when explaining those concepts. She conducts pre-exam reviews where the topics are spoon-fed to the students. She's a fair grader, and rare.

Professor D

Professor D is the spoon-feeding adjunct who actually works in the same field that he teaches. Professor D wants to get home, regrets having taken a teaching position that keeps him out until 9:00PM, and tells you exactly what will be covered on the exam. Professor D does not care about class participation. Professor D is popular and the class is always registered to capacity but rarely filled.

Professor D: That's all you'll need to know about stockholder derivative suits.

Mr. Jones: I have a question.

Professor D: You're kidding, right? You know I don't allow questions after 8:45PM

You will meet these professors, and four more, during your law school career. Many will seem hard and implacable during class and unapproachable outside of class. Keep contact to a minimum, study hard and obtain as many compromising photographs as possible and you'll be fine.

* Not his real name. Professor A merely represents a genus of law professor.

** Law schools are ranked by tiers in the United States and by height in Europe.

*** This is true even in the rare instance when Professor B is female.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


By Tweed

The U.S. Constitution is rightly regarded as one of the greatest political documents the world has ever known. It is, after all, written on enormous crinkly parchment with a wonderfully fluid cursive print. It is the basis for many of our laws and a thorough knowledge of this document is a necessity for any serious law student. We begin with a little background.

The U.S. Constitution is written, distinguishing it from the British Constitution which is documented in a group of operettas by Gilbert & Sullivan. Americans decided on a written Constitution because the lack of a tradition of comic opera. Also, some of the founders wanted to show-off their great handwriting.

The story of the adoption of the Constitution is fascinating. After the American Colonists won their independence from Great Britain, they wondered what to do next. Some suggested joining with England. Others suggested forming a reunion committee. Finally, they decided to get down to the business of self-government.

At first, we tried a sort of loose confederation - kind of like a jazz quartet. But over time, it became like free-jazz, and everyone got bored and annoyed.* One of those who felt this sting was George Washington, known as "The Father of His Country," a nickname he acquired after asking Lord Cornwallis at the battle of Yorktown "Lord Cornwallis, sir. Please inform me of your paternity!" Another person anxious to see change was James Madison. Madison greatly desired the adoption of the Constitution so that his nickname, "The Father of the Constitution," would make sense.

At first, delegates from five states gathered in Annapolis, MD to talk about interstate commerce and nibble crab cakes. After a few beers and a half dozen soft-shells, Madison and Alexander Hamilton decided that the only way to get anything done was to have a convention at a city where there were no soft-shell crabs and beer.

A Constitutional Convention was convened in the City of Brotherly Love. No Republicans attended. Though billed as a gathering to goose the existing Articles of Confederation, Convention goers quickly realized that the organizers wanted much more - an entirely new document! This caused an uproar as the delegates figured out that they would likely miss every Phillies day game. Organizers placated the angry mob with free cheese-steaks and commemorative pens.

George Washington was the president of the Convention, primarily because he wanted to be President and it was the only presidency open. This looked great on his resume, but he didn't do all that much. Ben Franklin also attended, but he wanted nothing else than to have young ladies sit on his lap. Despite popular belief, neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams attended the Convention. Jefferson was too busy cataloging different types of ivy, and Adams didn't like anyone else who was attending.

The real movers and shakers of the Convention were Madison, Hamilton, Roger Sherman, Edmund Randolph, William Patterson, Henry Lee and Charles Pinckney. Pinckney was particularly brilliant as the Chair of the Refreshments Committee. Lee got off to a grand start until it was determined that he was not a delegate.

Due to a miscommunication in planning, nearly everyone brought their own Plan - Madison brought the Virginia Plan, Patterson brought the New Jersey Plan (which originally included only 1 mall in Passaic), Sherman brought the Connecticut Plan, etc. (Delegates from North Carolina left their plan in an inn near Raleigh but did bring a Scrabble board.)

It was the faux pas that changed the world.

Everyone wanted their own plan to be the adopted plan. Fortunately, some plans, like the Rhode Island Plan, turned out to be nothing more than seating arrangements. Nonetheless, the delegates were forced to negotiate what to finally adopt. This resulted in the Great Compromise: everyone agreed that because of Madison's nickname, his plan should at least form the basis of the plan adopted. Everyone also agreed that because Sherman had traveled so far (and because he bribed delagates with lucrative government contracts), portions of his plan should be adopted as well. Finally, everyone agreed that Franklin could eat as much pudding as he liked as long as he stopped quoting himself so much.

Everyone treated the New Jersey Plan nicely, but nobody really wanted to talk about it.

The delegates struggled with the great issues a nation of states must grapple with - the relative power of the states to the Federal government; the structure of the Federal government, the role of foreshadowing in contemporary novel. All of these issues were superbly handled and are all clearly and plainly settled by the text of the Constitution, so that every Constitutional question can be answered without reference to any other document or other material. Really.

After the convention, the delegates returned to their home states with their "Constitutional Convention" tote bags and "I Attended the Constitutional Convention and All I Got was This Lousy T-Shirt" t-shirts. Madison, Hamilton and John Jay decided that it would be a good idea if the Constitution were actually adopted, and so decided to convince as many people as they could to vote for adoption. They started drafting a series of essays (now known as The Federalist Papers) and threatened to keep writing these essays until the Constitution was adopted. The Federalist Papers so impressed everyone that all of the states ratified the Constitution and, to the relief of nearly everyone, Madison, Hamilton and Jay to stop writing their essays.

And that's how the Constitution was adopted.

* Further, Mr. Livingston of New Jersey hogged all the solos.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


By Tweed

You think you'd like to work for a law firm, preferably a prestigious one. But, how do you know if law firm life is for you. A Summer Associate Program (or SAP) will help to determine whether a law firm is for you. A SAP will give you a first-hand look at what it's like to work at a firm. Meanwhile, you'll perform all the tasks that new associates perform. Wait - I can't believe I got through that without laughing.

Actually, summer associate programs are invaluable and give you the opportunity to experience and observe a lawyer's life and to flee before it is too late. Think of it like a combination sleep-away camp/root canal.

Here are some simple rules to remember about Summer Associate Programs:

Summer Associate Program Rule #1: If Satan is enticing you to hell and damnation, do you think he's going to show you the torture chambers?

This rule had greater application back in the heady days when associates were feverishly sought after by law firms suffering from internet boom dementia. Then, getting a job required something like a law degree and a pulse. These days, with a gimpy economy and too many lawyers, law firms are more picky. This difference can be seen in these examples of interview transcripts, one from the internet boom, and the other from 2002:

Internet Boom:

Hiring Partner: David Gorman?

Candidate: Could be.

Hiring Partner: Welcome aboard.


Hiring Partner: Phi Beta Kapp. . .

Candidate: I was president.

Hiring Partner: . . . B.A., London School of Economics, M.B.A., Harvard . . .

Candidate: I graduated cum laude and summa cum laude respectively.

Hiring Partner: . . . spent time at Coopers . . .

Candidate: I worked on the Price Waterhouse merger internally.

Hiring Partner: . . . currently ranked 3 at Columbia. . . law review. . . honor board. . . moot court. . .

Candidate: I may be able to graduate a semester early and teach for a semester at NYU

Hiring Partner: . . . considering clerking at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Yeah. . . see. . . if it were the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals we might be able to work something out. . . but with the 5th. . . . Thanks for coming by.

These days, firms are a little more willing to show you the soft under-belly of firm life. So be prepared to bill, bill, bill.

Summer Associate Program Rule #2: In the eyes of the partners you serve almost no useful purpose 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of your time will be spent photocopying.

It's true. Sure, you may think that doing that 50 state survey of the rules on 'what constitutes transacting business in a state' or updating a partner's text on utility easements provides a valuable service. Well . . . in fact. . . it does provide a valuable service - but you'll never get a partner to admit it.*

There is a famous billing code that sees more use than Paris Hilton's headboard. It's called "Document Production and Distribution." It used to mean photocopying and mailing. It now means helping a partner figure out how to send an email with 27 PDF attachments.

Summer Associate Program Rule #3: Do everything you are asked to do well and on time. This is very important.

You shouldn't become a lawyer if you need this reminder.

Summer Associate Program Rule #5: Don't disturb the mid-level associates or the senior associates.

Mid-level and senior associates bite; and because they are subject to periodic mass-extinction level events, they are very aggressive, defensive and suspicious. Don't be alarmed by their presence; but don't make eye contact either. Move slowly, and show deference. They will usually leave you alone if you act in this way - although some have been known to assault summer associates seemingly without provocation. Generally, scientists believe that these assaults were actually provoked by behavior not previously known to be provocative to senior or mid-level associates (such as smiling or complaining about getting fat from all the liquor and food offered by the firm). On occasion, mid-level associates have been known to cull the herd of summer associates by separating the weak SA from the pack. Don't let this be you.

By following these rules, you can have an educational, fun and safe experience as a summer associate. Alternatively, you can spend the summer driving spikes through your head. Both options are equally enjoyable.

* Try and wear dark clothing, blacks or dark greys. It is difficult to get toner out of whites.