A year out

A little over a year ago, I wrote about my decision to quit law school. I’m glad to say I don’t regret my decision to quit law school — yet. This is a relief to me because prior to quitting I feared that I would deeply regret it if I quit. Now, my fear is that 5 years from now I may be at a point where I’m frustrated with my career or life and then start regretting not finishing law school. There’s nothing I can do about this now, but it’s not pleasant to think about.

Currently, I am very happy with my decision to move on to something else. Law school is like a vague nightmare for me. I have only a few good memories from my 9 months in Salem. And the few good memories are so overshadowed by the bad memories that they don’t seem worth the trouble. If I had my druthers, I think I’d just permanently blot that whole 9 months of my life out of my memory.

Many people have said that it was probably a good thing I went anyway. It’s easy to agree with them, but I often wonder if this really is true. Sure, I may have learned a few things, matured some as a person, and did something challenging. But those benefits are so intangible and vague, unlike the debt I owe and the regrets I shoulder. I am of the opinion that maturity and character building does not necessarily have to come at a high cost, and paying a high cost for these virtues should be minimized. Discovering my “path in life” would fall into this same category. Sure it’s great to find out that lawyering probably isn’t in my future, but it would have been awfully nice not to throw a lot of money down the tubes along with a good chunk of time to discover that.

At any rate, I thoroughly enjoy where I am at now. I love being in Seattle with most of my friends. I enjoy my job, and it pays my bills — and then some! Who knows what my life would have been like had I stayed in school, but I really don’t think I’d be as happy as I am now. Especially considering Salem is cooking in 100 degree heat these days!

Reboot

Happy Independence Day, everybody!

Time for me to get free of some cobwebs. First, I’ll start with something I meant to post about 2 months ago but never felt like posting. For many this is not news, but this is for me to clean some skeletons out of my closet.
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Shuffling Off the Legal Coil
. . .and it was a very constricting coil.

I’ve been debating how to write this post for close to two weeks now because there is a fine balance I want to strike between honesty, explanation, and privacy. As I mentioned before I have/had a lot of bile to spill about my first year of law school, but I’ve decided not to do that, mostly because I don’t feel the need anymore. I hope this ends up with a minimum amount of vitriol

I’m guessing for most of my readers and friends that it was no secret I grew to hate law school during the second semester. I don’t like using the word hate because it’s such a strong term, and I like to reserve it for when I really mean it. Well, I really mean it right now, so I think it’s appropriate. A lot (probably most) law students “hate” law school, but this “hate” is probably more like a strong dislike. In my experience, it is pretty common practice for the non-gunners (read: normal) law students to joke about quitting, asking why they’re doing this, claiming failure, etc. But none of them really mean it. It’s just a way of building bonds with fellow students by acknowledging and sharing a common misery. But for me, I wasn’t joking and I didn’t use the word with scare quotes. It’s very very rare I hate an academic endeavor. In fact, the only other time I felt this way during my mature life was with that whole foreign language debacle after I finished undergrad. I deeply despised that whole affair, and I still harbor some resentment towards SPU because of it. Anyway, my negative feelings towards school quickly eroded away the motivation I had to do the work. It’s tough to read boring law cases which seemingly have no point when you have no motivation. The last three months of school were a constant battle to get anything done at all. Let’s just say by the end it got pretty ugly.

It was also no secret that I had been considering quitting school for several months. I’ll be the first to say that this decision was often an embarrassing rollercoaster of whining, relief, and, well, misery. So many times I came up to the cusp of quitting, only to back down from it and resolve to persevere. This cycle had been going on for pretty much all of the second semester, and every time it was getting not only more vicious but more embarrassing. It got to the point where I tried not to talk about it at all and dealt with it privately. When people asked me how I liked law school, I was honest, but I did my best to make light of it. I didn’t want to seem melodramatic.

That cycle has ended. I’m not going back for a second year. I could probably write several pages explaining why I’ve made this decision, but I don’t feel that’s necessary. Ultimately it came down to this: I will not go deeply in debt to be miserable for three years of my life as I study material I care absolutely nothing about so I can go into a career about which I wasn’t sure. Of course, making this decision introduces a great deal of questions for which I don’t have sure answers. But there is one thing of which I am sure: law school is not for me at this point in my life. I suppose this makes me a quitter, and I think I’m fine with that. I’m not quitting because I couldn’t do it; I’m quitting because my heart is not in it.
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I wrote that back in early May, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it. One of the things holding me back deciding to quit earlier was that I thought I would regret it. Well, I don’t have a single regret so far. Indeed it has been a great relief. When I originally posted that I was pretty defensive about my decision and in a bit of a funk. That didn’t last too long, but I was put in a lame position for about 2 months in Salem as I waited for my lease to expire and took care of some other obligations.

Anyway, I’m back in Seattle now. I just finished the move last Saturday. I’ll be living with my little brother until the end of September. In the mean time, I’m going to see if I can find a job or something. If nothing works out here in Seattle, my lease term at my apartment is only 6 months. I have a bunch of friends in Portland who want me to come down there. Salem was not a good town for me in many ways. I’m glad to be back in Seattle. I just hope I can stay.

Right now I’m waiting to get internet at my apartment. However, since I have literally nothing else to do besides do job search stuff (anybody know of any job openings?), posting will probably be pretty constant as I hang out on the SPU campus and local wifi-ed coffee shops.

By the way, War of the Worlds is a darn fun movie to watch. I’d recommend it. I’d like to see it again.

Time to come clean

I have a confession to make, and I know this will shock many of you: I never was in law school. I never attended Willamette University. I’ve only passed through Salem, Oregon (I’d kill myself before living there by choice). So what have I been doing these past 9 months? Well, I executive produced a zombie flick (one of my favorite genres). You can watch the trailer for it here Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

I tell you it was a real pleasure working with Dennis and John. Dennis was a great guy and very candid about his box office successes and failures. I was amazed by his performance in Ticker, so I asked him about that constantly.

I hope you all can forgive me for my deceit over the past few months and go see the movie as I am very proud of it. I think it takes the zombie movie genre to a new, unparralleled level. It opens up the day after my birthday (I tried real hard to get the date to be the 23rd but no luck).

bridge under the water

Counting the final paper I wrote, I’ve finished 3 of 4 finals. Today I did my con law final, which it seems nearly everybody struggled with. I think I put it well when I bungled my metaphors, as I often do, and said, “It’s all bridge under the water now.”

That’s right. It’s a bridge under the water.

Only have contracts in a week. . .

from frying pan to fire

I still have two more weeks of school left. Three tests over two weeks. Sounds easy huh? I wish.

I turned in that paper with 5 minutes to spare. I guess I just started too darn early. I would have had even more time to spare if Word hadn’t crashed just as I was finishing up one last paragraph that I was adding for clarity. So, I had to retype that with only 15 minutes left to finish it, print it, and run it up stairs. It ended up being 27 pages long. The target goal was 25 pages, so this is one of the very few papers when I actually went longer than I had to. I consider myself to be a pretty concise writer, so it’s really rare I write more than the minimum necessary.

This was also probably one of the first persuasive papers I wrote that changed my own mind. Before writing this paper I thought the filibuster was A Good Thing and shouldn’t be changed. Now, I’m pretty convinced that it is a A Bad Thing, and there’s a very strong case to be made for a general filibuster reform regardless of the current partisan conflict over it. I’ll get a post up on what changed my mind and some comments on the common misconceptions plauging the current debate.

so stinkin’ close

Tomorrow is my last day of classes for the first year of law school. I only have one class, and it’s a review session that could be as short as 15 minutes, depending on student’s questions. Unfortunately, I have a long paper due at 5 pm tomorrow. Today my classmates who know about my severe procrastination habit were asking me if I had started yet. Of course I had! Though I didn’t tell any of them how far I had gotten (not very far). Somehow it got out amongst my classmates that I did all my memos the night before they were due, so they ask me how I did it. I just tell them I’m a slave to the last minute and I’m not afraid of all-nighters. I’m sure they all write me off as one of those who sets the low end of the curve. Yeah, well somebody’s gotta do it! Har har. Look, I’ve tried to do work early. I just cannot do it. It’s like an impossibility for me to get anything done before The Last Minute. I will do just about anything to to avoid doing the thing I’m supposed to do. I’ll do dishes! I’ll clean my room! I’ll tinker with my blog! I’ll stare at my computer! Anything! Anything but the Assignment! My parents did their best to instill in me the work ethic of “work before play”, but I think that part of my character was coated with teflon.

Anyway, I got this paper almost licked. Compared to my appellate brief, this thing is a breeze to write. Writing the appellate brief was like trying to squeeze blood from a brick, but the only blood that flowed was the blood I sweated. But for this paper, things are different. Earlier today I was pumping out about 2 pages an hour. Things have slowed down since then, but I basically know what I’m going to say for the rest of the paper. Besides, I have like 17 hours to finish it. Not a problem. Here’s a little known piece of our history I discovered during my research. I find it remarkable.

In 1908, Senator Robert Lafollete began filibustering a currency bill, which he suspected was a power grab by the rich. During his eighteen hours holding the floor in the stifling heat of the Senate chamber, including an all-night speech made necessary by a parliamentary ruling that prohibited him from using quorum calls to get a moment’s rest, LaFollette sustained himself with turkey sandwiches and eggnog from the Senate restaurant. After taking a large swallow from a particular glass of eggnog, he rejected it as adulterated. And indeed it was; the glass was laced with enough ptomaine to kill him. The ptomaine he had swallowed made him quite ill, but he managed by forcing roll calls to escape for a few minutes of respite, and he continued his speech for another eight hours. The filibuster was ultimately lost when Senator Gore, who was blind, yielded the floor as prearranged to a colleague, who, unbeknownst to Gore, had just stepped out to the cloakroom.

Earlier today I realized I’m going to have a huge rant post after I finish finals. I have a lot of bile to spill about law school, and, since this blog is my cathartic muse, it’s all going to end up here. Well, the stuff that’s fit to print will anyway.

IM your way through law school

Instapundit points to another law prof’s idea to encourage students to IM each in class:

What’s wrong with students pooling their expertise on the fly? The student doing the speaking is not rendered passive. He or she will still have to read the messages quickly and integrate them with existing knowledge. It could be lively and energizing. The students who aren’t chosen to speak will have some way to express themselves, which might help them listen to the student who is speaking, and a spirit of community and collaboration might take hold.

Though I like the ends I think the means picked to achieve those ends are a little naive. It would be great — fun even! — if students used IM in class to discuss the subtleties and implications of laws and policies. And it wouldn’t feel quite so lonely and dangerous when called on in class. However, students, even mature law students, are highly unlikely to do this. Here’s a more likely scenario:

ih8socraticmthd: ****!! I hardly know this case
lawgunner666: lol, sucker, bet you wish you didn’t get hammered last night
lawgunner666: like you did the night before
lawgunner666: and the night before
lawgunner666: and the night before
ih8socraticmthd: shut up and help me
lawgunner666: just say “due process”
ih8socraticmthd: yur an idiot
[ih8socraticmthd answers questions in class]
ih8socraticmthd: that wasn’t so bad
lawgunner666: are you kidding?
ih8socraticmthd: no
lawgunner666: ah, so naive. hope you know how to pump gas.
ih8socraticmthd: i’m gonna change my screenname to ih8lawgunner
lawgunner666: lol, sucker.
[a few minutes pass]
lawgunner666: i’m so good. I just beat minesweeper on expert.
ih8socraticmthd: that reminds me. let’s go drinking tonight
lawgunner666: smartest thing yu’ve said all day

Ladies and gentlemen, I sit in the back row in all my classes. I see scores of laptop screens. This is an accurate portrayal.

Disclosure: I wrote this in class.

Roe v. Wade

Yesterday in my Constitutional Law class we finally arrived at the most controversial Supreme Court ruling of the last 50 years: Roe v. Wade. I remember the class going silent when he announced the reading assignment the week before . Why did we go silent? We went silent because we knew blood was going to be shed. We knew after that day some of us would no longer would be friends. We knew passions would boil high, and our voices would be the piercing whistles telling others that we had reached the boiling point.

Well, that’s what I thought would happen. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I was wrong. Indeed, the class was like a normal class except we spent more time talking about morality and less about constitutionality. Before the morality discussion began, the professor polled the class on when abortion is permissible: never, sometimes, or always. Obviously, the sometimes position, the fence sitter position, carried the most votes. About 5 girls (no boys) voted for the always position. Nobody voted for the never position. I found this interesting, and I almost voted for it just to have some fun. However, when he asked for a volunteer to defend the never position, I immediately volunteered. The professor said he’d be “gentle” with me the “sacrificial lamb.” I told him to cut the crap and “Bring. It. On.” See, I think the never position is a more interesting position these days, and I wanted to try out a few arguments I have been mulling over for a while now. The sometimes position is popular and boring. It’s essentially a discussion of when it’s okay to kill the baby. The always position may have an interesting legal argument, but it essentially permits behavior that I think is borderline morally bankrupt (e.g. killing a baby hours away from birth just because the mother wants to go to Paris for a vacation). I’m not sure I can bring myself to believe that our laws allows something that is so appallingly disgusting. Anyway, so I did my best to defend the never position, but the professor, like always, changed the question just before he let me answer, throwing me off of my prepared answer and forcing me to think on my butt (I do better thinking on my feet). I think I did okay, but he forced me into a position where to be consistent I had to say that state legislatures have the power to both completely outlaw or compel abortions. You know, as a guy who likes power decentralized and democratic that position has some appeal to me. The professor also thinks that’s the position one needs to take if one agrees with the dissent of Roe v. Wade.

He also had us read a rather long law review article where the author was making the case that even assuming the fetus is a human being with a right to life, the mother is still under no obligation to keep it to term. Here’s a hypothetical situation that I think gets to the general thrust of the argument. Suppose I lay dying of kidney failure. I will surely die unless I get an immediate transplant from you. You have the only kidney that will save me. Do I or does the state have a right to cut open your body, remove your kidney, and give it to me to preserve my life? It seems the answer is no. You can’t be forced to give me your kidney. Indeed, the state doesn’t take organs out of dead people without permission first. This hypothetical is meant to show that the right to life doesn’t automatically trump the right to bodily autonomy. Therefore, even assuming the unborn child has a right to life it does not immediately follow that the mother cannot have it removed from her body (most likely to its death). The author is clear that there is a distinction between the legal and moral issues. It may be completely legal to deny the kidney but that doesn’t mean it isn’t utterly despicable to do so. Personally, I’m not sure the argument works. In fact, even pro-abortionists in my class seemed skeptical of it. I still haven’t put my finger on why it doesn’t work. I think it might be that in the case of the mother and the unborn child there is an altogether unique and special relationship that forms an obligation which should be embodied in our laws. The author did make another interesting point that a consistent pro-lifer should also be an advocate for Good Samaritan laws.

Oral arguments

I was eliminated from the first year appellate competition at the quarterfinals. That isn’t saying too much because roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of each legal writing class makes it to the quarterfinals. During that round I was arguing “off-brief,” which means I was arguing for the case I had prepared to argue against. Luckily my partner was a pretty smart guy who was arguing “on-brief”, but, unfortunately, I think in the end he was probably too smart for his own good when it came to oral arguments. I could have butchered the other team on rebuttal. They gave me so much ammo to use against them I was practically jumping out of my seat in excitement. But. . .I didn’t do rebuttal. Not to sound cocky or anything, but I think I jipped when I was eliminated. I think I performed better than some of the people who advanced. On the plus side, I think I’ve overcome my two most persistent public speaking issues: going too fast and bungling words.

The stress and nervousness building up to each round was not that enjoyable. I always worried that I’d get nailed with a question for which I didn’t have a good answer. However, as soon as the round started, all the nervousness would go away, except for those few brief moments when I was about to begin my arguments. I genuinely enjoyed doing the oral arguments. It’s quite fun to stand in front of judges (usually lawyers), argue a case, and answer questions. I heard some horror stories about judges asking brutal questions and getting fiesty, but I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I think I will always be amazed by the human brain’s ability to creatively answer complex questions not only with coherence but with remarkable speed. Most of the time it seemed my answers were instantly springing fully-formed out of my mind. And that blows my mind.

Overall, it was an excellent experience. Not only was it good to be doing some public speaking again but also to be cross-examined on complex issues. I’d like to think that the practice will help me think more clearly and quickly on my feet.

Can you make a living by arguing?

I think I finally found something in law school that I really enjoy: oral arguments.

I just had my first round tonight. It was a practice round, so it didn’t count for anything. However, for basically just winging it after only a day to read the other side’s argument and prepare, I think I did pretty darn good. In fact the judge with the cowboy boots and large belt buckle described part of my argument as “f***ing phenomenal.” I think that’s a good thing.

Tomorrow I think I’m suppose argue the other side, which is the side I only know via reading my opponents’ brief. I’ll really be winging it then.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve found something that I can focus on here at law school.