Friday, September 3, 2010

Gone, Baby, Gone!

These past few days, I have taken to sorting through all of my garbage and cleaned out most of my law school papers.

Admittedly, I'm a bit of a pack rat, but I felt a particular need to keep the wonderful lecture notes, note cards, supplements, and even unsold textbooks because I had bought into a crazy concept that all of these notes would be useful in my future law practice. After all, juicy tidbits of law that were previously chewed, semi-digested, and regurgitated by great legal minds for the nourishment of younglings in the nest sounded like a goldmine.

It especially sounded good whenever professors would encourage us to call them with questions during our subsequent law practices about the actual law. It sounded better than any court on this land. They got a ruling from Professor Schmidt on non-conforming use, which is like waving a cross at a vampire on the opposing side.


The funny thing about calling up professors with questions to basic legal concepts after you've passed the bar is that it demonstrates the worthlessness of law school if they can't even spend more than a semester teaching you how to research, or that more than a few non-gifted people slip through the net who are either too lazy or just don't have the ability to spot a basic issue (or just don't have access to a thesaurus if their favored search terms aren't working). If you don't know how to schmooze with a judge or make your filings conform with the local rules, you obviously need the help of another attorney since it is all the unwritten social context that nobody wants to really admit exists. If you're 3 years out of Property I, and still need to call Professor Dumbledore because you still can't figure out Google enough to explain a basic legal concept....


"So, there is like this thing where some guy didn't mean to cause an accident, but he wasn't paying attention to the road because he was reading a magazine and drinking a beer while he was driving, and he forced my client off the road and into a ditch. Can you help me out? I tried searching Westlaw for terms like 'all over the road,' 'ditch,' and 'magazine' but I just can't find any case law that explains to me if my client has a good case. I don't think the courts have tackled this issue yet, so this one might be turned into a movie like Amistad."

The funny thing about calling the professor is that sometimes it could backfire. You never know if the professor you are seeking to talk to is actually the expert witness for the other side.

So, I cursorily looked at my notes. Not only can I not tell you what I had written anywhere (which would make my search that much more difficult than just typing the phrase in Google), I realized that cobbled bits of law from God knows where do not make the current law in my state. They might make a general concept, sort of like how high school teaches you "standardized" German and Spanish, but it's nothing I can cite to any court.

Yes, see My Stack of Old Torts Lectures on Contributory Negligence that I condensed into flashcards, Fall 2006.

Besides, after taking BarBri, I began to realize that law school made the law much more difficult than what it is. I guess they had to do something to explain why we were in law school for 3 years instead of 6 weeks.

When you look at what law school accomplishes, why not make it a 6 week program? All the core curriculum of law school does is teach towards the bar anyway. Sometimes, the school is successful in brainwashing the students into believing that this method is in their best interest and they shouldn't burn any of those precious 90 hours taking clinic and instead use that time to take a random class that will consist of a grand total of 1/2 of an essay on the bar exam. You may not know how to go to court and are hobbled out of the starting gate, but you really overkilled that Secured Transactions question that an examiner spent 30 second reading.

I can fault many programs for taking the approach of making the coursework "cost effective" to the point of being useless by using outdated equipment and methods that aren't actually helpful in the working world. However, law school is so much more expensive and the practice of law carry many more demands on the employees

I'm sure that about 1/4 of my notes have question marks written beside them. In my first year, the question mark was a result of a genuine "WTF?" because the way they teach law, it is sort of like bringing an elephant into a darkened room and you having to guess that it's an elephant from touching its tail. In my second and third years, the question marks appear in the margins because my mind wandered and I snapped back into focus somewhere around prong 3 of a 4 prong set.

The good old days of memorizing "three prong tests." It's funny that I had to learn that stuff when judges were constantly misapplying the standards even with a book open in front of them.


Tons of paper is in the recycling bin. In a few short months, somebody will be wearing a paper hat made from my old law notes. There will be a smile upon the face of an innocent child as he plays with his origami giraffe made with UCC notes. I had a brief spike in hope that companies were still making toilet paper made from recycled paper like they did years ago, but that brief hiccup of caring for The Last Rain Forest has passed quietly away in the dead of night somewhere around 1994. Damn. No more biodegradable trash bags or paper towels made of recycled paper and their brown, course texture wiping away pizza sauce that you spilled on the counter. Back in the day, it could have been possible that somebody was going to literally wipe their bottom with "last shot doctrine" lecture notes. Yes, that was their last shot at being useful for anything.


  1. Hard not to want to hold on to that stuff. You put so much "work product" effort into it.

    Then you realize (1) it's worthless, anyway, (2) it's full of demons of the past, and (3) it takes up a lot of wasted space.

    One match later yields sweet liberation. It is a healthly mental ritual, I think.

  2. Toss all that crap. I kept a few things, but most of it got dumped. I took a lot of notes on my labtop, so some of the stuff was saved, but the hardcopies went bye bye. Buy a hornbook or treatise on an area of your future practice and READ the book. Just my $0.02.

  3. I finished Law School in 1996... by 1998 I had gone on to grad school, and subsequently a more interesting (and better paying) career.

    My Folks sold their house in Summer 2001 and I took that opportunity to shred my boxes and boxes of notes, casebooks, etc. It was extremely cathartic! I kept a very few books, but I have not even looked at them in the last decade.

  4. "Besides, after taking BarBri, I began to realize that law school made the law much more difficult than what it is. I guess they had to do something to explain why we were in law school for 3 years instead of 6 weeks."


    While it is useful to know how to synthesize cases and distill the law from convoluted opinions, the most powerful tool you can have in your ability to understand a complex case or issue is a really deep understanding of the black letter law.

    What they do in law school is like debating when a quarterback should pass, throw, or handoff, without first teaching you offensive and defensive formations.

  5. This is VERY therapeudic. I recently tossed out tons of papers, legal research and outlines. And I was able to get rid of several boxes of junk. Yes, all of that hard work and sleepless nights amounted to waste.

    Now, I have more room for things I actually enjoy, such as non-law books, my baseball mitt, and my cat's toys. In fact, the cat's litter box is more important to me than those goddamn law casebooks.