the denouement

December 5, 2010

Friday and Saturday the snow fell, accumulating for the first time this year. When we got up yesterday, I opened the blind so Gabey could look outside. He went: “Ooooooooooohhhh.” Super adorable. We went and looked out the porch window, overlooking the chilling lake, black ducks huddled together, snow very gently falling. He wanted to touch the snowflakes.

This little bit of snow really had to fall. It’s the universe effecting parallelism. During my 1L exam period, we had a huge snowstorm. There was talk of campus closing, but I don’t think it happened that year. I remember trekking to school for my first law school exam, enjoying the quiet morning, the snow falling, the solitude of walking alone. Last year, we had the biggest snowstorm in years during the finals period. The campus and the city basically shut down for a whole day. No buses, no work for most people, everyone in the streets, digging out, making snowmen, enjoying a real, old-fashioned snow day. We put Gabey in a big, furry, aquamarine bunny snow suit. We left our car in its curbside snow cave and walked a mile to meet some friends for brunch. It was fabulous.

This year, just a little snow. And it did not interrupt anyone’s finals. It just made things a little prettier. In Wisconsin, snow is generally beloved in December. It’s in February that we resent it, restless for the next season.


This morning I took my last law school final ever. I have never been less prepared for a test. At least that’s how I felt. Still, I took it pass-fail, and though I had my doubts about this last night, I do feel at this point like I passed. I have been doing almost nothing but writing for the past month. First I had a 30-page research paper draft, then an eight-page memo, immediately followed by an appellate brief that ended up being 30 pages. I also wrote probably 30-4o pages of response and essay-type papers this semester. I mean, I like writing, but come on. Scheduling fail a little bit. Ahhhh well, it is really almost over now.

There’s just rewriting the memo, revising my research paper, arguing my appellate brief and then, lord help me, another six-page reflection essay. But it’s nothing compared to the insanity of the last few days. Which is why, waking up yesterday morning and watching the snow with Gabey was extra sweet. I should have been working all day again, but he was with F or the babysitter most of the week. So yesterday we just got to hang out, playing, watching some cartoons, reading books, enjoying the view.



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.

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.


June 7, 2009

I did not intend to take a hiatus, it just happened. First for a law school update, then maybe a pregnancy one, then maybe one about my summer job.

Exams were hell this semester. So much so that I didn’t even feel like writing about it. I got very lucky fall semester to only have one exam where I had to write a full-on outline. We have an unconventional criminal law program at my school including a closed book exam that was a LOT more about using your intuition and applying your moral compass to different scenarios than trying to answer substantive questions about the law. We could only bring in two sheets of paper for torts and there were relatively few cases to learn in that class, besides they weren’t that complicated, so it was relatively easy to study for. I made a standard 40-some-page outline for contracts, the class I enjoyed the most and spent the most time on, only to get my worst grade. And my civil procedure class had a brief due in place of a final.

So…. I wasn’t altogether prepared to write three longer outlines on more complicated subjects this spring. I started early, but was burned out and distracted well before exam week. I had gotten behind in con law and admin, so it was extremely time-consuming to catch up, learn everything and feel prepared for the exams.

That said, May 16th was an incredible relief and I’m glad to officially be a 2L. I had more than a week off between my last final and the start of my summer clinical program back in college-town. I used that time to resurrect my garden, hang out with friends I had neglected far too long, and generally enjoy as much Midwestern spring as I could.


January 21, 2009

Four out of five of my grades are in. Who knows when the last one will show up. That professor is… special. His office is a 10 x 10 box of almost solid papers stuffed inside various file folders, stacked one on top of another, endlessly. His cell phone occasionally rings in class, and instead of grabbing it out of his back pocket and silencing it, he lets it ring through, staring at us both embarrassed and helpless, clearly unfamiliar with the silencing concept, pausing the class to wait for all the ringing and the inevitable voicemail notification. Then he usually says something like: “That’s probably my son. He’s got firsthand experience with the criminal justice system.”

I have him again this semester. Today he walked into class several minutes late in his parka. He took off his hat and the few strands of hair atop his head (they constitute a world-class comb over) stood almost straight up from the static. He took off the coat and revealed an oversize, sage-colored sweater that looks like something a 15-year-old girl would have bought at Express sometime in the late 90s. I wanted to hug him. Last semester, I sort of hated his class, even though he’s clearly a nice man. This week though, a little familiarity was much appreciated.

So grades. Yeah, I can’t complain. For the non-law readers: law school presents a highly competitive and strange atmosphere, where every class has a curve and class rank and GPA mean a lot for your future job prospects. Personally, I never felt this way as an undergrad. I didn’t have any special aspirations to go to graduate school or pursue anything where my GPA would matter. I did well as an undergrad, but I wasn’t obsessed with getting As, and certainly didn’t receive them all or even most of the time.

That said, because of “other factors,” like a decent LSAT, life experience and writing skills, I attend a very respectable law school. So many of my younger classmates were, quite literally, at the top of their undergraduate classes, especially those who went to smaller private schools or any of the other 4-year universities in our state system. They are used to being at the top of everything, and here here they are all forced to duke it out for the very few As and multitudes of Bs and B-s.

Since grades are almost certainly irrelevant to my future legal plans, I really tried not to stress about them. But honestly, it’s tough in this atmosphere to not care a little. So I do care a little, maybe a little more than a little, but I know my career doesn’t depend on it. There were times last semester where I was sure I would get Cs in everything (which would definitely put me in the bottom half of class) and other periods where I wondered if I might be a surprisingly brilliant legal student, proud and shocked by a set of As.

Neither is what actually transpired. But so far, I did a little better than I really thought I would do, and that makes me just a little bit happy.


December 17, 2008

I’m completely done and off to Mexico. Torts went well I think. Just 3 hours and 3000 or so words on an environmental tort and a personal injury case. It was exhilarating exiting college town yesterday. I went home, while the snow fell and did a last read over of my Civ Pro brief before sending the final draft. (Sigh). Now I’m at O’Hare – my frequent departure airport – waiting to get on the plane. Hasta luego.

Countdown: 1 exam and a brief re-write to go

December 13, 2008

Feeling good in the snowy Midwest!

Why? You ask…

  1. I leave for Mexico in four days.

  2. I definitely didn’t bomb my Contracts exam today.
  3. Not to say I did great, but I felt good after it was over.
  4. It’s sort of satisfying to study really freaking hard for something, and then do at least a decent job regurgitating it all on paper, and then being done with it. That’s sick, I know. I don’t think we are supposed to really enjoy or appreciate the “legal bulimia” (Professor Civ Pro’s take on law school examination)…
  5. I leave for Mexico in 84 hours.

  6. I just completed the nitpicky and annoying task of re-doing the citations for my brief, meaning just a half a day or so of re-writing left for tomorrow.
  7. Then a little torts review (outline is already done).
  8. Then the torts exam Tuesday and….

  9. … before I know it, I’ll be in 60 degree weather, hiking the hills, enjoying the small-town market, spending some quality time with F… I can’t wait.