Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I learned my first year of law school

Tomorrow at around noon, I will officially be done with my first year of law school. It is a surreal experience for me. But I thought I would share some of the lessons I took from my first year of law school and share them with the rest of you.

1. Civil Law is more strict than I realized

For those blessed people who are not in law school, civil law is essentially our way of righting wrongs that are not socially repugnant enough to be deemed criminal. Or at least that is the story they tell you. The fact is that many of the things that are 'civil' wrongs are far worse than criminal ones. But then most criminal wrongs that you can easily imagine are just punished with small fines, such as A.I., jay walking, speeding, etc. Technically these are criminal.

So what is Civil Law? Well there is some overlap, but in general it is like this: Things we understand just happen in civil society, but we don't want to lock up the folks who do it. Think drunken fights. If you are a male, you like to drink, and you went to college, it is almost certain that you were either a participant or spectator in a drunken fight. Well lets say one of those dudes gets messed up a bit and needs to go to the hospital. The DA may pursue a criminal charge (if a complaint is filed), he may not. But either way the guy who got the shit knocked out of him can try to get the shit-knocker (often called a tortfeasor) to pay for the bills by suing him for battery. But you know what does NOT protect you in a civil claim?

"I didn't mean to do it"

Too bad. This is the law of negligence. We aren't JUDGING you morally, we're just holding you responsible because you're an ass. Or were temporarily an ass. Doesn't matter. People all the time think they can get out of trouble because they didn't mean to do something (hold this thought, criminal has something to say about that). That is a defense lawyers nightmare in many cases. Hell, admitting you were responsible is basically a death knell for a defendants chances at winning oftentimes.

2. Criminal Law is more philosophical than I thought

Perhaps I was biased when I got here because I had some interesting experiences with the five-o. I basically thought criminal law was just about tossing people in jail, "an eye for an eye" sort of crap. I wanted to do law enforcement or be a prosecutor to bring a more nuanced approach and perspective to certain situations.

But it's already there.

Criminal law (in theory) may be the most theoretical of all legal disciplines. And despite how I felt about my performance on the test, primarily because it was nut stomping hard, I loved the class. If criminal law was any biblical comment, it may be "judge not, lest ye be judged." We care about why someone committed a crime and what they were thinking when they did it. Now that is not to say that there aren't some harebrained prosecutors running around looking for old testament justice everytime a kid gets picked up for having a joint in his pocket, but the theory is very result oriented. Why do we punish? Why do we care what someone thought? Judge Clayton once said to us in a meeting that she had been a lawyer since the early 70s, and a judge for a long time. In all that time, she met "maybe three people" that were just plain evil. Criminal law judges your act, but who you are, the life you have led, and other things ALL matter. I love it.

3. Contracts - The art of boning strangers with pretty, pretty words

I did well in Contracts last semester, and I know I did well this semester. So let me share some wisdom with you:

If you are going to enter into a possibly life altering sort of contract (loans, etc), before you sign it get a lawyer. I REPEAT.....Get...a Common sense has no place in Contracts. It is about judicial economy and efficiency in the market. You have no idea what you are signing. How do I know? I led several study groups on the matter, got good grades in the class, and even received booze from fellow students for aiding them. And I still don't know SHIT. If you bring me a question about a contract (or anything legal pertaining to your personal life for that matter) I might slap you. Find a lawyer. A good. Find someone who is a transaction specialist and they could save you from a terrible deal, or find one that is fantastic.


4. Lawyers CANNOT get your dumbass out of everything

Some things are so clear cut against you that guess what, your dumbass is up a creek. Lawyers are officers of the court. Not the court itself. When someone walks in to a lawyers office and says,

"Hey man, I went to work right? And I got high there, and may or may not have driven my delivery truck into a group of school children and then they fired me....But hey look, I think they may have discriminated against me...."

People make a big deal out of the "Johnnie Cochran" type of lawyers. Yeah, that is overblown. No lawyer wins every case, and you know why? Because not every CLIENT is a winner. A great lawyer can maybe cut you a better deal or something, but not win. Guess what? You shoot a police officer in the face on video because he pulled your drunk ass over and didn't want to deal with him? It doesn't matter if your defense panel is Atticus Finch, Matlock, Perry Mason, and Jesus Christ, you are GOING TO GO to jail.

"But John, what about all those folks who get off on procedural stuff?" That is not because someone has a great defense attorney. It because either the authorities who brought them in, the judge, or the prosecutor is/are idiot(s). An average attorney can pick up on obvious problems with process etc.

5. Brace for the hate

Lawyers have some unfortunate stereotypes, and for the most part I believe that these stereotypes are not deserved. But that is not the only thing that is going to slam up against us. A person that I briefly knew posted a story about how the Supreme Court overturned someone's sentence for selling dog fighting videos. The story seemed to indicate that the reason the court did not uphold the man's sentence was because of the first amendment. I didn't think that this was the whole story, so I found the actual opinion issued by the court. The court really overturned his sentence due to the poor wording in the statute, which 8 of the Supreme Court justices thought had the possibility to end up giving people who distributed images of animal cruelty worse punishments than the offenders themselves. In other words, their reasoning may have been based in protections of free speech, but the HOLDING itself did not even mention the first amendment. I weighed in on her wall, and said that it was probably a temporary setback for the dog-fighting issue due to the statutory problem. I assure you I did this in a very respectful way.

Her response was to say "thank you" and then point out that just because she was not in law school did not mean she was not aware of that (I suppose she has access to Westlaw), and that "[she] did get into law school, I chose not to go." And then she said that she was just expressing her opinion, and didn't have to agree with the court (which I didn't say she did), which was what the case was all about, the First Amendment (which it wasn't, incidentally, it was the guys ticket into court but barely played a role). She then posted a status about being tired of people insinuating that teachers were stupid. Wow. Can I have a serving of self righteous indignation with a side of sanctimony? I have related this incident to two lawyers, who both said that in so many words, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Here is the difference between the Law and something like Medicine. Most of the general public does not think they know anything about medicine, with the exception of holistic medicine folks etc. But almost every asshole walking down the street thinks that they know the law. If your none law school friends start talking about the law, and they are wrong, be careful about weighing in. Both of the lawyers I told about this said that unless you are invited in, you will almost definitely get accused of thinking that they are stupid. And it doesn't matter if they are wrong. And I mean like, Glenn Beck wrong.

6. I couldn't have made a better choice

I seriously love it here. And I would recommend law school to anyone....Anyone who doesn't mind your entire grade being one test or paper, doesn't need professors constantly telling you how smart you are, don't mind looking like a dangerous retard in front of your classmates at least once a semester, likes beer, hates sleep, loves debt, and knows how to look like you're paying attention while you space out. Oh yeah, and if you want to make a difference in the world while making good money, this is a good choice too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Open Letter to the Tollbooth Guy at the YMCA Parking Lot

You are fucking me bigtime. What's more, I KNOW you are fucking me bigtime. This is starting to become a serious problem. At first when you overcharged me, I figured it was an honest mistake. No big deal. Not the kind of thing worth getting riled up about. However, this has now happened several times.

Tollbooth Guy, you charge me $4 when I know I owe you $2. You sit there and smile at me like a 3 year old child who insists they didn't eat the last cookie but was too busy revelling in their presumed victory to wipe the goddammed chocolate off their face. What was it that made me a target for your economic scheme? My impeccable dress, often consisting of clothing made by fine designers like John Deere? My flashy car, which has two broken mirrors, smells like burning and dust, and has enough of my shit in the back that I could camp out for a week in it if I ever got stranded on the highway? Perhaps my mannerisms, which have often caused me to be confused with New England socialites, or employees of Bass Pro Shop.

Tollbooth guy, you are not my intellectual superior. The fact that I haven't busted you and unleashed a verbal barrage of my utter disdain for your bullshit shenanigans is the fact that there are 10 people behind me that you are also preparing to give a human booster shot to on their way out the door. If I don't pay you, I hold them up. You are in a position of adhesion; a retarded chimp without the slightest ability to form a single thought could also overcharge me for my parking with the same efficiency, albeit in a far more interesting way.

Why can't you be more like tollbooth ladies? The tollbooth ladies are always nice, and I go out of my way to be nice to them. We exchange small talk about vacations and school, and one of them even went out of her way to tell me how to avoid the rush at Thunder Over Louisville! I used to make a point to try to talk to you. I would try old timeless classics like, "Good Morning!" and "How are you today, friend?" You response would always be to stare back through your glasses, with cold and vacant eyes, revealing a life of wasted opportunity, countless hours pursuing meaningless temporary pleasures and self-hatred. And then you charge me four goddammed dollars.

The times they are a changing, tollbooth guy. All things must end. This too, must end. There will come a day where you charge me $4, and I break up into that tollbooth like Shaft and free the beast all over you. All the fuck over you. People will be leaping out of there cars cheering, as I wail on you with great vengeance and furious anger. I will rejoice in your defeat, and the city of Louisville will thank me. Thats right tollbooth guy.....Keep doing it.....Just 4 or 5 hundred more times....

Friday, April 16, 2010

An idiots guide to Dueling

(Note to Kentucky Bar Asssociation: This is all a big joke)

For those of my followers who are not familiar with the Kentucky Bar Association, you are not allowed to participate in a duel. Or be a second. Southern culture was (and in many respects I wish still was) very much honor based. Think samurais with mint juleps.

You sir, would do best to keep my name out of your mouth. I'm packing.

Anyway, this was definitely a fashionable way to handle a dispute. So fashionable in fact, that it became a major problem in a lot of Southern states. Duels were a big spectacle. It hurt productivity, messed with the ability of legislative bodies to plan, and etc etc. Oh yeah, and a lot of people got killed doing it. Anyways, dueling wasn't a simple thing. It wasn't like the cartoons where a you have some people slap each other with a glove and all of a sudden its on. On till the break of dawn. I stumbled upon a dueling codex, called the Irish Code Duello. These are 26 provisions that governed thousands of duels. I will share a few of these.

Commandment 1: The first insult requires the first apology, though the retort may have been more offensive than the insult. Example: A tells B that he is impertinent (editors note: this translates to "a dick" in modern times) and B retorts that A is a liar; yet A must give the first apology, because he gave the first offense, and after one fire, B may explain away the retort by apology

Now, lets break that down. In other words, once you are in this, someone is shooting. A must apologize before a shot is fired. If you find that to be counter-intuitive, welcome to the club. The point of the whole affair is not determining right and wrong; it is proving yourself as an honorable person. That means saying sorry for something that you are willing to die for. Now, if one shot is fired, no one is hit, both sides apologize, everyone goes home happy....Or fuck that right?

Commandment 2: But if the parties would rather fight on, then, after two shots each (but in no event before), B may explain first and A apologize after.

Summary: You CANNOT apologize until you shoot at each other. Twice. Bare minimum. See -

Commandment 7: But NO apology can be received in any case after the parties have actually taken their ground without an exchange of shots.

Summary: We came to see a show, bitch. If everyone makes it to the dueling ground, with their seconds, and guns in hand there will be shooting. There was no backing out at this point. You were going to GET IT THE FUCK ON. And in case you are wondering, here is the best commandment:

Commandment 12: No dumb firing or firing in the air is admissible in any case. The challenger ought not to have challenged without receiving offense, and the challenged ought, if he made the offense, apology before he came on the ground; therefore children's play must be dishounorable on either side.

Summary: Shoot to kill. No one has come out to watch you puss out at the last second. The interesting thing to me about this is the caveat saying basically "hey, if you aren't pissed enough to kill a man, shut up." This reminds me of an old Friend family saying: "If you aren't mad enough to bareknuckle box, you're not mad."

Dueling has a long history, and nearly every culture has some form of mortal combat to settle a dispute. In some aspects, I have to respect this. I mean lets be honest; how many of you have been so gravely offended you would be willing to exchange gunfire with someone for it? But that was how highly people used to think of their reputations. And like I said, it's not unique. For example:

Anyways, I bring this up because I think it is a fascinating discourse. I know so many people who get so upset about so many thing. This should put into perspective some of the things we get angry about. Next time someone pisses you off, ask yourself: Am I mad enough to die? Because in the 1700s in Kentucky, that was a real honest to god issue. Good night sweet readers.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Big Day for the Kentucky Wildcats

Considering that the last three posts have been *total downers* I figured it is time to throw something out here with a happier note to it. So as I sit here downing a bowl of Cap'n Crunch, because I am actually an 8 year old child, I am going to breakdown the recent recruiting news. Accompanied of course with my usual soapbox ranting.

I know a lot of my followers do not follow UK basketball - I apologize for this one

Brandon Knight - #1 in Rivals 150

This was a big get for the cats, but I want to put Cats fans on notice about a few things regarding this young man.

He is not John Wall/Derrick Rose/Tyreke Evans

This is my biggest concern with our fans. Brandon Knight is not the dominating athlete that Rose and Wall are. He is not the physical specimen that Evans is. Knight is a 'shoot-first' point guard with a great stroke and a nose for the basket. This means that almost inevitably, he will have some early season struggles. It is easy to shoot over a 6'0 defender in hs. A 6'6 one in college is a little tougher, so expect some issues here. He sets guys up by getting in a dribbling rhythm and then shooting from deep going to the right. A college coach will scout this out and tell anyone who is on him to force him left, and make him get bye you. He won't have the same space that he is used to to get his shot off, so its going to be an adjustment.

I say all this because our fans have a bad habit of expecting too much too soon. Don't expect this kid to come in right away and blow everyone's doors off. If he does, more power to him. But let's let him adjust, give him support, and come what may. I wouldn't be shocked if he stayed 2 years due to a lot of the things he has to work on.

Enes Kanter 5 Star on Rivals

For whatever reason, Meyer hasn't figured out where to put him yet, but I imagine it will be high. Now this one right here is worth getting pretty wacky about. I can't wait to see him in the SEC. A big advantage of playing in Europe for club teams is the fact that Enes has been playing (most of the time) against grown men. Which is why in age division competitions, he has been crushing people. He killed in U-17 in Europe, and dominated American prospects in the Hoop Summit game going for 34 and 13 against Jared Sullinger (currently rated as the third best player in the nation)

Demarcus v. Enes

Unlike Knight, who doesn't bear much resemblence to Wall, Kanter bears a close resemblence to some of Demarcus Cousins' game. He is a ferocious rebounder, has excellent footwork, and can finish through contact. But thats about it. The biggest difference is that Kanter can shoot the hell out of the ball. From just about anywhere. Expect the Turkish phenom to shoot around 80% from the line this year. Kanter is shorter than Demarcus, which may be a bit of a problem for him in the SEC, but I think he will adjust pretty easily.

Stacey Poole Rivals 4 Star

This is kind of the darkhorse guy at the moment, but I have a feeling we have a four year guy here. The downside is that he doesn't seem to think of himself that way; bad sign. Poole is a decent shooter, decent athlete, decent ballhandler, decent rebounder, good defender. He didn't blow me away at the Derby Classic, and honestly he was outperformed by Elisha Justice and others pretty badly.

If he commits to work hard and be humble, we are looking at a nucleus type of player. If he doesn't we are looking at a future member of the Florida International Fightin' Zekes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Law School Rankings and how much I care

This morning law school rankings were released for the past year. Louisville Brandeis School of Law has dropped from #98 to somewhere in to 100s. Of course, they don't keep track of where outside of the top 100 you are, so we just know that we are a third tier law school, at the moment.

The shit hit the fan during torts, which of course means that it immediately got everyone's attention because maybe 1/4th of the class is paying attention at any given time. I saw consternation. Confusion. Anger. Sadness. Indignation. Finger-pointing. Essentially the same six things I saw at my junior prom. Let's be real about a few things:

#1: No one who goes to a school outside of the Ivy League is getting a job based on their J.D. alone.

I know that I am only a 1L but ask any lawyer if this is true. It doesn't matter if UL is ranked 99th or 15th or anywhere in between, you will NOT get a job by walking into an office, laying down your J.D, and say "whaddya think about that?" Sure, it can be a factor in getting you an interview, but so would being able to shoot laser beams out of your ass. That would make you a pretty handy person to have around the office.

Now, if your life's ambition is only to work for a massive firm, become a partner, make shitloads of money, but otherwise be completely miserable maybe this is a temporary setback. But again, go ask an attorney what matter more after 3 years on the job market: Your J.D. or how you performed at your first job.

#2 The Collateral Bitching Effect

Go and look at what happened recently at Mercer Law when the students shat themselves over the rankings. I'm serious, look it up, I'll wait. Yeah thats right. It became such a "to do" amongst a minority of students that prospective students went elsewhere.

This is what I like to call "The Collateral Bitching Effect." People HATE negativity. We do not gravitate towards negativity. We have a ton of applications coming in this year and I am pretty sure that the first thing they want to hear about is the 3 spot drop in the rankings.

Remember that guy in college who could never stop talking about the worst things in the world? And that group of people who hung out with him? That also could not stop talking about disasters, minor annoyances, or that professor they hate? Remember how much you hated that guy? If you don't, you are that person. I would work on that before you irritate the living hell out of everyone.

#3 Just what the hell are you going to do about it?

There is no point.....And I mean....NO worrying about anything you can't control. So a body with a subjective set of criteria has decided that Pacific U in now number 98. Want to write them a letter? Circulate a petition?

If there is one thing that is a DEAD SET FACT in life: The only thing you can control is your reaction to events. There is no chance that I will let where UL is ranked when I graduate control what I want to do with my life. Maybe because I am not into working at a big firm I'm not as worried about it.

But that piece of paper does not, and will not, control me. Don't let it mess with you either.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I am, indeed, blogging

Why am I doing this?

For a few reasons. First and foremost I had been running a de facto blog with facebook notes for the last two years, and just never made the shift to a 'grown up' format. Another is that there is a discernible and unfortunate lack of Appalachians expressing themselves online. It is not that the mode is considered unacceptable back home; we tend to ask 'why would anyone care what I think,' and kind of keep things to ourselves. Well someone has to break that mold. I have always been an odd guy in that respect, so it seems natural.

The final reason is that it seems there are a number of people who have genuinely enjoyed reading my facebook notes, editorials, and my sparse published pieces. And considering that as a law school student I need as many distractions AS POSSIBLE, it seems only natural.

This blog will contain -

Political and social commentary

My observations as an Appalachian who lives in a place where most people do not quite understand my behavior. Which may be a colossal understatement.

The occassional satirical piece

Rants about college sports, because I am a huge sports fan

Anything people want me to write about, really

Anyway, I am going to go to the gym. I will be in the library all day, so at some point during my break I will post about something I have wanted to write about for a few days.