backtrack

February 5, 2010

December 16th, 2009 – One of the worst days of my life.

Now, I will admit, making that sort of bold statement about the day I took my tax law exam does out me as sort of a lightweight in the tragedy/bad things happening department.

But just to compare, I would say the six hours that I labored in my apartment, five days past my due date with G, in the middle of the night, after having been sent home from the hospital following the two the most painful pelvic exams I have ever experienced (tmi?), were WAY better than the 24 hours I spent working on my tax exam.

My school’s tax professor is, to say the least, interesting. She’s a brilliant, rather young woman (for a professor) with two children who once told me she used to carry her baby to class in a sling too. The first time I spoke to her I told her I was interested in immigration law and she started talking about open borders and labor markets. I was intrigued, and enrolled in tax law almost solely based on one wacky conversation.

To demonstrate what is patently NOT a gift under tax law, we watched this video (highly recommend you check it out):

Bottom line: If Pontiac (or Oprah) “gives” you a car, it’s not out of the detached and disinterested generosity of their own little greedy hearts, it’s because they want something, ie. advertising. Thus, it’s income, not a gift. By the way, when you find $10 on the street – income.

Anyway, we also periodically talked about Survivor season something, where some contestant named Yau-man traded a truck he won to another contestant named Dreamz for possible future immunity. Later, Dreamz actually won the immunity (and according to his oral contract, owed it to Yau-man), but he breached and didn’t give it to Yau-man. Yau-man gets kicked off the show. Analyze the tax consequences of these facts. Riiiight.

So, while I’m not sure how a standard law school tax class goes, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t go like that. I found it interesting and quite challenging, and I loved the professor. I decided not to take the class pass-fail, even though about half the class was doing so, because I felt like I had done a pretty good job studying and could at least approach most of the problems. With 24 hours to complete a multiple-choice take-home exam, I figured I would at least pull an acceptable grade.

And while I did score an acceptable grade, it was only because the exam was so hard that reportedly people who got 40 percent correct were in the B range on the curve. By hour 12, I had so much left to do, including a truly diabolical multi-question problem which I had very little idea even how to begin to approach. I had not talked to anyone else, so I didn’t realize that many people (myself included) were finding themselves simply guessing at answers in the end.

At hour 18, I came home to eat real food and spend a little time with my boys. They went to bed and I tried to get back to it. I felt like my brain was paralyzed. I cried a little. I thought about the consequences of getting an F in law school. I tried to sleep for an hour, but I just lay there thinking about the first F (or D) of my academic life. Two hours before I had to return the exam, I filled in ten or so blank scantron circles at random and headed to school feeling an overwhelming sense of dread.

It was only after I talked about it with someone who also had to randomly guess on questions, and heard that a very smart peer had been cursing under his breath in the library, saying “What?” “Huh?” “Are you kidding me?” while taking the final that I started to feel somewhat better about the whole thing. In the end, I got my acceptable grade and put it behind me.

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and then there were six weeks…

July 21, 2009

Six weeks until I have a baby, six weeks until school starts again. Six weeks ago I was in the second week of my summer clinical experience, and that seems like just a minute ago.

As always, summer flies. Between working full-time, commuting each weekend and pregnancy in general, it seems to be going extra fast. At the same time, I feel anxious. I want to move into my new apartment NAO. Mostly because of the baby, we’re going to rent out our house in home-town and live in an apartment in college-town while I finish school. I don’t mind moving in general, but moving in the 9th month of pregnancy is not exactly ideal. Unfortunately, leases here tend to go from Aug. 15th to Aug. 14th, so I’ve got to wait until just two weeks before my due date to really let the nesting instinct run wild.

I’m also getting anxious to see this little person. For those of you who don’t already know this: pregnancy is bizarre. Feeling a mini-person kicking your ribs and hiccuping from inside your abdomen is one of the strangest and most amazing things ever. During the last 7.5 months I’ve felt indifferent, scared, paranoid and now, mostly – totally excited for him to actually be here in the world with us. I also can’t wait to just see what he looks like, considering how entirely different my husband and I are in appearance (mutt-American + mostly indigenous-looking Mexican = ?).

My internship is great. It’s a wonderful learning experience and  definitely the right choice for this summer. I’m also enrolled in professional responsibility, which is quite the cushy law school class. The reading is relatively brief and easy to understand – perfect for the summer version of a student’s brain – the professor is straightforward and accommodating, and it only meets once per week for two hours.

It’s also a bit frightening to take PR. You start thinking about all the serious responsibilities a lawyer has to other people. You start to internalize that in two years you will be a lawyer. You realize how much power you will soon have to either help or screw over other people. Then you learn all the different ways others can punish or discipline you if you screw up. You also (at least in my class) have to think a lot about unpleasant things – like the percentage of lawyers who are wealthy, but also dissatisfied with their work, or depressed, or raging alcoholics.

But let’s not get all pensive about the law profession, it’s time for dinner!


best and worst

June 8, 2009

This lazy Sunday evening is a good time to catch up on blog business. Although…. I think I’ll post-date this so I don’t end up with a ton of posts on the same day. Thanks to lawful living for the tag that inspired this post.

So let’s take a reflective look at 1L year. It’s been a wonderful and difficult and crazy year for many reasons, only one of them being the departure from my working life of six years to the start of law school. Among the many changes, experiences and events:

  1. I’ve lived an hour away from my husband around 60 to 70 percent of the time, yet our relationship has been at least as good, possibly better than ever. I attribute this partly to the fact that we have less time to get on each other’s nerves about crap that doesn’t matter, and partly to the fact that it’s easier (for us anyway) to appreciate one another when we see each other two or three or four days per week. That said, I’m certainly looking forward to being back together full-time in August, with baby not far behind.
  2. Eight months ago we decided to “see what happens” for the first time in our five-year marriage regarding having a baby. Two months later I found out I was pregnant. It was a little scary to consider pregnancy during law school (images of running out of class to vomit danced in my head last December) but I’ve been extremely blessed to not feel like crap except on the very rare occasion.
  3. A surprise for me this year has been genuinely enjoying the return to school and the study of law. Unlike many law students, I came here with a specific goal (to become a sole practitioning immigration attorney) which stemmed from my experience with my husband’s immigration process and my involvement in an online forum of people in similar situations. So I didn’t know how I would take to the study of contracts or property or criminal law. As it turns out, I really enjoy studying law, and almost all my classes have been interesting to me in one way or another. Being a little older and having had some life experience has definitely been a bonus in this way. I think I am well-suited to study the law, but had I done it when I was 22 or 23, I’m pretty sure it would have been torturous for me. Having a lot more connections to “real” life and being able to relate many areas of study to practical situations has made most subjects pretty fascinating. And the more fascinated I am, the easier it is to study and the better I do (usually).

That all said….

Best memory of 1L year:

This is strictly the best law school memory: Going out after my Civil Procedure mock trial in late November with my classmate/friends for mojitos and dinner followed by a series of strange blue-green drinks. Ha, I’m so old I didn’t know what they were, but they tasted like candy! That would actually be the last time I had much to drink for nine months. I guess it was a memorable night because we all felt like we had accomplished something intimidating and distinctly lawyer-like during our whole experimental civil procedure class, and it was great to go out, relax and just enjoy’s each other’s company before we all burrowed in to prepare for our first set of law school exams.

That memory is closely followed by completing my December 16th torts exam, heading almost immediately to hometown, packing, and then getting on a plane to Mexico the next morning to meet up with F. That memory is not first in part because while I know all that happened, my post-finals brain blocked out any actual memory of any of that happening.

Worst memory of 1L year:

I really didn’t have a terrible experience this year. I’m too old and wise — or maybe conservative (in a personal sense) — compared to many law students to have partaken in any regrettable evenings of boozing or done anything else I really wish I hadn’t. The worst moments were any day in the early fall semester when I showed up in contracts not completely prepared, or just not really comprehending the material, hoping to god the professor wouldn’t call on me. I came into law school hanging onto a deep anxiety about talking in class and public speaking in general. I’ve gotten over a bit more of it this year, but I’m still not someone who thinks really well on my feet, so it always makes me nervous to be unprepared and have to answer complex legal questions.

The other thing that comes to mind (and its definitely more of an experience, not a memory) is the regular sense of dread about the state of the economy and the decision to return to school, necessitating far more student loans than I had ever contemplated before law school. That will be with me the next two years as well, but on at least some level I’m confident things will work out all right in the end.


It moves! and other updates…

April 16, 2009

I’ve been a blog slacker. I haven’t felt much like writing. And I’m busy.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I tend to slack a bit in the start of the semester and start the real learning later. It worked surprisingly well in fall and so far so good this time around. The goal is to not feel overwhelmed on April 30, the last day of class, a few days before exams begin. I’ve gotten most of my property and constitutional law outlines done, but I’ve worked hard on those the last two weeks. Next, I need to tackle administrative law, which of all my classes, I find very confusing and difficult to grasp. I’m hoping once I start reviewing there will be many moments of clarity.

In other news, it is finally real spring! True to college-town form, as soon as the temps rose into the 50s and the sun came out, the kids started wearing tank tops and flip flops and laying out in various grassy open areas. I have to laugh, because in F’s hometown, this is like the winter weather, and people wear hats and parkas and down hot beverages from sun up to sun down. After many months of dark, cold weather hell, though, it’s nice to be outside with a light jacket.

Back in my apartment, enjoying the sound of birds and natural light that actually lasts past seven, I’m relaxing after completing my oral argument this afternoon. I didn’t even suck. It was much better than last semester. That had a lot to do with: 1) already having done an oral argument once, 2) not being intimidated by my professor and 3) not being in the scary court room at the law school. I thought I was well prepared last fall, but my nerves really got the best of me. My co-counsel, who was literally shaking the whole time, didn’t exactly help. It’s a sad day when I have to encourage someone else not to be nervous about public speaking. This time around, I knew better than to trust my own skills (well, lack of) at talking off the cuff and wrote the entire argument out. I didn’t need it all, which was good, but it was there for reference.

Last but not least, just five days until our ultrasound and we find out what our baby is! I’m excited and nervous. Nervous only because we’ll also get information about how he/she looks and if there are any problems, but excited definitely to attach a gender to it, now that it moves around and seems more realistically like a living thing. I’m feeling very lucky to have a lot of energy and feel really good, now let’s hope that will last into the third trimester, also known as, when I get huge and it’s hot outside. Stay tuned!


craving and reading

February 23, 2009

It’s still a little awkward for me to mesh my pregnant and law student statuses into any sort of coherent written product. I’m not sure how to incorporate my dislike for property law with the fact that all my favorite jeans no longer button (Bella band to the rescue!) Or that some days I surf the baby section of Target.com for a while, and then go over to Amazon and look for readable history books that will help me understand constitutional law in context. Something about all that just doesn’t quite flow.

But you’ve got to start somewhere. Every Friday I take the bus back to hometown where F picks me up, usually around dinner time. Last week, for nearly four days straight, I craved fish fry. It was ridiculous. I do live in prime fish fry country, I mean, REALLY prime, but it’s not something I ordinarily eat. I am not Catholic, and I would almost never order a fish fry at a restaurant, despite them being available almost anywhere almost any time. Still, last week, for hours on end, I could think of nothing but lightly breaded cod, potato pancakes with a side of applesauce and perhaps some marble rye.

My husband has become quite accommodating recently (I tested this by asking him the quintessential pregnant wife favor a few weeks ago – going out in the cold for a carton of ice cream), and was completely willing to accompany me to a somewhat smoky pub reputed for having a delicious fish fry. We waited way too long, but the meal was totally worth it. For the sake of my post-pregnancy waist line, I hope this craving does not reoccur often. On the other hand, I eat quite healthy and inexpensively during the week, so I feel okay about an occasional weekend splurge.

In the other world, constitutional law is slowly becoming more clear and comprehensible. I’m clinging to the hope that like last semester, once I start outlining and preparing for exams I’ll have many “aha” moments that will pull all this stuff together. I’m learning a lot about the federal government in administrative law, which is fascinating and alternately alarming and encouraging. I really wish my dad (conservative who rails against “big government”) and brother (recently turned radical libertarian), could sit in on this class. As if our occasional family dinner conversations aren’t heated enough already.


re-adjusting

February 3, 2009

Weeelll, it’s a little more difficult than I thought adjusting to semester two. I thought with one semester under the belt the readings would be easier to do (since many law terms are no longer foreign), but my classes are substantively much, much different this semester. The texts are shorter but denser, require more outside knowledge, and just generally seem to involve more historical perspective.

Constitutional Law is not nearly the interesting subject I thought it would be. It’s a lot of history. I don’t mind history, but my professor is not the most effective lecturer to begin with, and her random droning is not helping me learn.

Property is pretty terrible so far, as I should have expected. My professor has mixed reviews, some great, some terrible. I was hoping I would love him, but not yet anyway. In fact, I sort of want to beat my head against the desk in class sometimes.

My elective is Administrative Law, which usefully deals with a lot of the topics I think we are supposed to learn in Con Law, but so far it’s sort of going over my head. The professor loves to spend half the class talking about current events that relate to the federal government, and how things are changing and happening with the transition from Bush to Obama, which is interesting. Actually, Admin Law is pretty great.

I have the same Legal research and writing teacher I had last semester, who I adore, so that is great. I have to write a pretty lame memo this week, but I know how to write for her already, and I know I will learn a lot more from her this semester, so that’s good.

Finally, I have Criminal Procedure. I have the same crazy teacher I had last semester, but right now, all I feel for him is love. I hated his class last semester, but this semester I have so much less love for my other professors that he almost seems effective. AND, despite skipping his class at least once a week last semester, and not really paying attention to the class discussion when I did go, I still got a good grade in he class, which is alarming, hilarious and great. I attribute this partially to an old friend, who sadly transferred out of my school as a 2L as I started as a 1L. Early last semester, he gave me some great advice about this professor. I kept that nugget of wisdom in my mind all semester and truly, it was very helpful, I believe, in doing well on the exam.

Well, back to complaining (formally) and memo writing.


contracts contracts contracts

December 12, 2008

Tomorrow morning is my contracts final. With the exception of the LSAT, I can’t say I’ve spent this much time studying for anything in my life. I started the week before Thanksgiving, struggling to put my massive amounts of notes into outline form. I finished my outline last weekend, after not working on it for a while, and have since been reviewing, taking practice exams, and talking through topics with classmates.

Examples of how this has taken over my life: I rode back to hometown last night with an old friend who commutes to college town while working on her Ph.D. I shared examples of contract law for 75% of the car ride. Luckily, she’s an enormously curious, intelligent and patient person, so she was neither bored nor annoyed (Bonus!). This morning, I was typing a post on immigrate2us.net (aka the online immigration forum I obsessively participate in) and had to use the word “contract” and typed “K” (which is the legal-world shorthand for “contract”) and it took a few seconds to realize why that was unacceptable.

I’m amazingly not very stressed right now, perhaps because I feel I’ve really done as much as I reasonably could to get ready for this final. I’m even a little sad to bode this surprisingly interesting class farewell, but tomorrow around 12:30 will nonetheless be a wonderful relief.