It’s been so long blog…

November 6, 2010

Waaaay back in 2008, when I started law school, I decided to start another blog, mostly to be anonymous. I enjoyed some snarky law student blogs, and I thought I might try my hand at that. I blogged for a while, but there were still issues with anonymity, and then I mostly stopped blogging.

School was busy, and I was no longer in transition to law school anyway. I had settled in and had surprisingly few rant-y type outbursts to share anyway. I know it’s sick to some people, but I like law school.

The other reason I stopped writing is that I had a child! Any extra time for casual, cathartic, introspective writing has mostly been absorbed by Gabriel, a tiny and adorable person who makes other people want to have kids. (I know, I’m so biased but seriously, it is TRUE). 🙂

But more than a year after his birth, Gabriel just feels like a normal part of our lives now now. And, more importantly, it’s transition time again, which I will explain in another post. But that nagging voice in my head says I need to write And the law school blog, eh, it was never that good. I want to reclaim my laurafern voice. I like having six years of history in my archives, and someday I think I will go back and review so many things that I wrote about here. It’s the modern version of reading one’s old diaries, or even looking at an old photo album…. These old entries trigger memories of so many important thought processes, events and transitions in my life.

I think I just successfully imported the posts from the law school blog into this one. I don’t expect anyone to be especially interesting in reading them, but I want that continuous history.


wrestling with life experience and learning law

September 24, 2008

Yesterday in contracts, my professor contrasted the deductive reasoning typical in legal study with the inductive reasoning of the scientific method. Lawyers study statutes created by legislatures. They also study important cases, which make precedents which sort of trickle down and make up the common law. Scientists do experiments. After they have a lot of experimental results, they analyze and form theories. Social scientists conduct surveys, then consolidate the opinions or experiences of a great number of people in order to draw conclusions.

As he was talking, a small light bulb went on in my crowded brain.

I realized this inductive approach fit the way I have learned immigration laws for the past two years. Basically, thousands of people, including myself, gather on the forum seeking a way to reunite their families in the midst of harsh and often unforgiving immigration laws. Over time, someone like me, who reads most of the postings, draws conclusions from the experiences of all these people. I draw conclusions about the process itself, potential pitfalls, and what sort of things, for example, most effectively prove hardship for a waiver.

This is how myself, and many other experienced non-lawyers there, feel comfortable sharing our opinions in the forum. When one of us errs, someone else will catch it. The collective experiences, and our rudimentary knowledge of narrow sections of immigration law, makes us pretty useful for lots of people who simply cannot afford to hire an attorney. We also have the benefit of a few attorneys who volunteer their time for free chats and occasionally answer questions, but the vast, vast majority of the postings come from non-lawyers. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I started actually studying the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unfortunately, it’s just so much less engaging than the real stories of families.

Since becoming an official law student last month, I’ve joined a listserv called the National Immigration Project. Every day I receive dozens of e-mails correspondences between attorneys looking for assistance with matters of immigration law. PC (potential client) is substituted for real names and only the cold, hard, relevant facts make it to the e-mail. This summer, at the American Immigration Lawyers Association conference, I felt and inkling of the transition that was ahead of me. This is what lawyers do. I’m learning that every day. It’s about analyzing where a person’s actions or situation may or should fit into the law. It’s about arguing one side of that, regardless of what you think about it on a moral or human level.

This is the struggle for me, as I adapt to discussing legal matters in class, and also as I daydream from time to time about applying all this to immigration work. So as much as I have become endeared to the stories of families and the experiential view of these issues, I have to adjust. I have to become a lawyer without losing my soul.


August 21, 2008

I got them!

I think I saved $500-$800 on textbooks.

Here’s how I did it:

1) Roommate’s fiance is a recent law grad who owns and will happily loan me the book for Contracts.

2) 1L mentor offered to give me the book for Civil Procedure for free.

3) Bought two books needed for 1st and 2nd semesters of Criminal Law through a facebook book swap for $75.

4) E-mailed the torts professor about what book would be used. She promptly replied that it was the same book as last year. Purchased via for about $100.

5) One of the books I need for legal research and writing is Bryan Garner’s “Legal Writing in Plain English,” which I have already read most of this summer.

6) Earlier this summer I bought an Examples and Explanations book for each course I have first semester for $10-$30 on

So… I’ve spent max $300 on books for semester one. I have heard that during orientation, 1Ls will be led to the bookmart, which is like a closet where they sell books, and handed a huge stack of books for a hefty fee of around $800. I’m not sure if I’m missing something, or if these books are really like $200 each new. Most people don’t figure out what books they will need until orientation, and at that point it’s just days away, so there isn’t time to get used books mailed. All in all, I’m very happy with my thrifty judgment. So unlike me!

Introductory legalese

August 3, 2008

Is there a course in this? I’ve been going through “Legal Writing in Plain English” by Bryan Garner for months with my two blog-buddies KEL and Lisslo. It’s an activity-based book, with short passages and exercises on methods to avoid wordy, confusing and boring language. (As I wrote that sentence, I took out an offending “of” phrase, which I practiced this week).

The exercises contain sentences like this: “In the absence of any proof to the contrary, the court should presume that the administrator’s functions have not ceased.”

Seriously, I had to re-read like five times to figure out what it actually described: “Without contrary proof, the court should presume that the administrator’s functions continue.”

In a way this summer has been about re-calibrating my brain for legal language. As Mr. Garner explains, law students spend years learning to comprehend legalese, and then must battle to avoid spewing more of it into the world.

I’m a bit afraid of what law school will do to my writing. It’s important to be precise, but just as important to be understood. Working through the exercises in this book, I’ve noticed there are many bad habits I naturally avoid, but several that I regularly participate in. There are other phrases, like the use of many negatives, that I just have a  hard time wrapping my brain around.

So please, if I ever use the phrase (from Garner’s $^it list) “during such time as” or “are in mitigation of,” please gently remind me to return to planet earth.

it’s all happening so fast!

July 30, 2008

Just when I was feeling that my tenure at my job would never end, that the summer was crawling by, that I would never get to law school, it all snuck up on me. Last week I was busy planning a bridal shower for my dear friend Jen. I got my class schedule thursday night, which inspired a few not-so-productive hours of trying to find information about my professors on the internet. The weekend, with the shower and a family barbecue on a perfect Sunday, flew by.

Sunday night I decided I should do myself a favor and take a week off between finishing up at work and starting law school orientation. So August 15th will be my last day at the ‘Mart, and I’ll have a full week to get stuff done around the house, pack whatever I’ll need in Madison, and get somewhat settled in Mad-town. Suddenly, the the 15th seems alarmingly near. I have lots of things to do to transition out of my job, but chances are I will save most of them until next week and those last five days. My customers are in very good hands around here, so there’s no reason to worry. Not that I would worry… okay maybe I would. For a few weeks. It’s in my nature. The same way I wondered how my Qdoba was doing in sales for a few months after I quit.

The saddest part will be not spending eight hours a day sitting between my work buddies Jenni and Joel. I will especially miss participating in our ridiculous chats about work, life and vaccines. And also, most importantly, laughing silently but hysterically when we find the perfect random image to express ourselves from the internet:

Yes, that is an inside joke. No, I will not explain to you.

In other news, I’ve gotten a few bits of good news regarding my schedule. The first is that I received an e-mail from my 1L mentor (who knew such a thing existed?!), and she had the same Civil Procedure professor I will have. The report: “very unothodox” and “very fantastic.” Excellent. I’m also starting to adjust to the idea of afternoon and evening classes. My plan is to join a class at the SERF pretty early in the mornings, and once I get up and work out, I will be up for the day. I’m hoping this will help me fight the nature to start sleeping late again.

my first case (that I understood, not handled)

July 14, 2008

For the last several months I have been acclimating myself, bit by bit, to the language of the law. I started by skimming a few library-lent ‘nutshell’ books on broad legal topics like contracts and torts that I will tackle as a 1L. Then, I hooked up with two other pre-law bloggers and began working through exercises and discussing the concept of legal writing in plain English via an excellent and practical book on the subject. I bought a pocket Black’s law dictionary and looked up words and phrases I came across. I sat through session after session of the American Immigration Lawyers Association conference, at times wondering where on earth I was, at other times totally following the legal discussion of immigration law. At times, I even appeared to know more that an attorney or two.

During the conference, I heard a discussion of a certain recent case, which, without getting too technical, altered a common way of determining what constitutes an admission to the U.S. for purposes of adjusting one’s status. For an example, like countless Mexicans and other Central Americans, Fermin entered the U.S. back in 1998 “without inspection.” He had no visa, he was never stopped at a border patrol checkpoint, he was never inspected. Generally, people who enter this way, cannot adjust their status from within the U.S. even if they marry a U.S. citizen and are eligible for an immediate visa. This is why he had to have his visa interview in Mexico, despite being married to me. And upon leaving the U.S., his unlawful presence triggered a 10-year bar which required  the I-601 waiver.

If Fermin had entered the U.S. ten years ago on a tourist visa, even if he had overstayed it by 9.5 years, he could have adjusted his status within the U.S., never needing a waiver. There are, however, legal questions when it comes to determining if a person has entered legally, “with inspection,” and was “admitted.” What if Fermin had entered the U.S. at the border with someone else’s green card?  Is that with or without inspection? That is the question, as I understand it, in my non-lawyer, not-even-law-student view, in Orozco v. Mukasey, which I have been meaning to read since the AILA conference and finally did tonight.

Thus it becomes the first legal case I have ever read with any hint of understanding. And frankly, I understood all of it. The decision is clear and well-stated, yet unfortunate for many people who once were eligible for adjust their status despite a fraudulent entry and now may not have that opportunity. I know someone in this situation, and I don’t envy her awkward limbo right now… but this is not supposed to be another sad post, it’s more of a triumph – I read a case, and I got it. It wasn’t even a challenge. I have to do all the hard work so that one day I can be a great lawyer.

On to contracts, civil procedure, torts and criminal law!


July 10, 2008

I cannot believe it’s July. The summertime is flying. I had an agreement of sorts with my department manager to give my notice at work after I came back from Vancouver, and I did so Monday. It wasn’t any surprise to the company president as various people already knew I had been accepted to UW and probably assumed I would go there over Marquette. Still, it’s a relief to have people know what is going on. No more awkward evasions of certain people and questions.

In seven weeks I’ll be in the midst of law school orientation. I’m giddy right now, but aware that in 10 weeks I’ll probably be up to my ears in books and cases and new terminology. Yesterday I received an e-mail from the admissions office asking for my shirt size to order my t-shirt for the orientation community day. I had to write a short bio to introduce myself to my classmates. I’ve got loans taken care of, but I need to deal with student health insurance, changing my car insurance and doing something with the money in my 401K.

Being at the AILA conference, however, really gave me a vision for the future. Meeting and spending time with attorneys Laurel Scott and Heather Poole, I felt even more confident that, although it will be daunting, I can run my own practice one day. If I have to start it out of my living room, so be it. But I know I can do it.