Thursday, December 20, 2007

First semester finale

It's over! Yesterday morning's civil procedure final marked the end of the first semester for 1Ls. For many in my section in particular, it was the most dreaded of the three. It's all done now!

For me, it was definitely the most painful part of the day. But I did go from the final to the surgery center, where I finally got this awesome piece of metal out of my knee. As you can see, it's about four inches long (almost twice the length of a AA battery) and comes with a washer, to boot. I elected not to have general anesthetic, so I got to watch the entire procedure. I think the best moment was when one of the nurses asked me which final I'd taken. I said, "Civil procedure," and she asked, "What kind of law is that?" I said, "How to sue somebody." Immediately the anesthesiologist looked up with wide-open eyes as if to say, "Oh, great." I told him I'm not into medical malpractice, then I laughed.

The whole thing was much less painful than the first surgery, and my knee feels so much better already. I should be running again in a few weeks! I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friend Cabell, who waited for more than three hours in the surgery center lobby to take me home. She's the best.

So that was my excitement yesterday — not the kind of day I hope to repeat anytime soon, but as Nietzsche would say, "What does not kill us makes us stronger." I couldn't agree more.

I have a lot to do in the last few hours before this afternoon, when I fly home to Iowa. I thought I'd at least post my second semester schedule, so I can remember what awaits (in just 2 1/2 weeks).

  • Property, Prof. Ronald Rosenberg—M, Tu, Th, 10-11:15 a.m.
  • Constitutional Law, Prof. William Van Alstyne—M, Tu, W, Th, 2-3:15 p.m.
  • Contracts, Prof. Angela Banks—M, Tu, W, 3:30-4:45 p.m.
  • Legal Skills, Prof. Fred Lederer—Tu, 8:30-9:50 a.m.
I'll also be taking Advanced Research for two weeks in March, after spring break. The class meets on Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

So, 16 credits, compared to the 14 I had this semester. At least now I have some idea what I'm doing and how to get ready for finals. I'm definitely looking forward to next semester. See you all in January!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting testy around here

Two down, one to go. We can't really discuss final exams and as I've quickly learned, it's better that way. There's enough stress circulating here already. At the same time that we're taking our first law school finals, deadlines are approaching for summer jobs and Moot Court tryouts are just on the other side of break. And of course, most everyone I've talked to is very excited for break. That Civil Procedure final can't get here soon enough. In the meantime, a lot of people (including me) don headphones each and every time we enter the law school, hoping not to catch that inexorable panic that seems to radiate from the back of the first floor of the library, spreading to every corner where it will be heard.

"Is that really your outline? Really? That's it?"
"I probably should have done the reading."
"I don't know anything about civil procedure."
"Honestly, your first semester 1L grades are the only ones that matter for getting a job."
"The good firms couldn't care less about people with straight B's."
"Oh, you're just doing public interest law. Well, I guess your grades don't matter then."

I wish I were making this stuff up. I can't imagine what it must be like at more competitive law schools. For all the stress that emanates here, it must be nothing compared to a place like Georgetown or Harvard.

Anyway, I'm happy to be done with two finals. Oh, and a fun note about Wednesday: after finishing Civil Procedure, I'll drive straight to the Surgery Center, where I'll finally get the screw out of my knee. It's a fitting bookend for my first semester, which began at the same Surgery Center, where the screw was installed. On this trip to Iowa, there will be no trips to the Field of Dreams.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The final push

This might be my last post before exams, which for my classmates and me are just 10 days away. Just one week of classes remains — three hours each of Criminal Law and Civil Procedure, and four hours of Torts. (We've gotten so far behind in Torts that Prof. Meese is attempting to schedule a last-minute make-up session.) Of course, that's strictly the class schedule and doesn't factor in: 1.) two more teaching assistant review sessions, which last an hour and tend to be productive; 2.) an optional 1-hour exam preview with 2Ls and 3Ls from my Legal Skills firm, Lederer & Posey; 3.) two optional hour-long Civ Pro review sessions with Prof. Green; and 4.) an hour-long Crim review session after class with Prof. Marcus.

Aside from those, there are study group sessions and a ridiculous amount of reading, outlining, reviewing, flow chart drawing, copying, printing, labeling, and practice exam-taking in the 10 days ahead.

In the end, however, we'll all gather at the scheduled times for our first three exams. We will take them, and we will not have any idea how well we did for about 45 days — well after we have started our spring semester.

Crunch time is here. Om.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fall in the Burg

Fall has been extraordinarily beautiful in Williamsburg. The temperature has hovered in the 60s and 70s until yesterday, when it dropped to legitimate sweatshirt weather. At right is a tree near the law school, just before dusk.

Admittedly, I've been lax in keeping up with this blog the last few weeks. A few highlights:

• At a fund-raiser for the Public Service Fund, which raises money for law students pursuing public interest summer jobs, I sang a duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," with a 1L friend of mine. The whole night was a blast.

• My friend Tori invited me to her parents' home, in Dumfries, Va., (near Washington) for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to have a place to go, and nice to take a break from studying.

• There are two weeks of classes left before finals, which start for me on Dec. 12. My exam schedule looks like this: Wed., Dec. 12 — Torts; Sat., Dec. 15 — Criminal Law; and Wed., Dec. 19 — Civil Procedure.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Of competitiveness and law school

As final exams loom ever closer, the need to study has completely engulfed the 1L class at W&M. Study groups are rampant. I've never heard or seen the word "outline" so much in my entire life. One of my friends posted this away message on Instant Messenger today: "Outlining ... ugh." That about sums it up.

Yet a surprising number of my classmates are hungry to do exceptionally well on these exams. It's as if we all truly believe that we are bound to be in that Top 10%. Of course, by the time we're done, we'll be in some Top 10% — as in, perhaps, the Top 10% of most educated people in the United States, or maybe the Top 10% of wage-earning potential, or some other ridiculous statistic that doesn't really mean anything. But of course — and this is what seems so impossible now — 90% of us won't be in the Top 10% of our class!

I had a good little chat tonight on this subject with a female classmate of mine who, like me, took several years off from school before deciding to embark on the law school journey. We compared the difference between those of us who came here straight out of college and those of us who worked for a while. I said that while one would think that we older folk would have a competitive advantage, the opposite seems to be true: the younger ones are still in school mode, and they're thriving. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out how to study 10 hours a day. So far, no luck.

But my friend made an excellent point, which I need to do a better job of remembering. She said that while those of us who came here straight out of college may make for better students, the rest of us know who we are as people. We have perspective on all of this. A lot of people are going to get wrapped up in this competition, they're going to obsess about grades and pushing to the top. Yet, when it's all over, will they be that much better off than those of us who got B's? Maybe, but I tend to think not.

Of course that's no reason for me not to study. After all, I'm bound to make it into that Top 10% — just like everyone else.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writing I like

Seems that I only get to blog on Thursdays lately. That is, after all, when all my classes for the week are finished and I actually have time to step back and breathe. At least for a few minutes, then it's back to catching up.

Excuses aside, I did actually do some other writing this week, so I'll use that as my post. The American Constitution Society is a national organization that is focused on preserving civil liberties like privacy and free speech. (This is not the same as the Institute of Bill of Rights Law, which is unique to William & Mary.) The local ACS chapter hosts a lot of great speakers throughout the year, and I've been able to hear many of them. The W&M ACS also has a blog. I wrote the Nov. 7 entry, which is about an upcoming speaker who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court on the issue of race and higher education.

But I've gotten a lot more attention this week for a letter to the editors that I wrote for the Advocate (the W&M law school newspaper). Here's a link where you can download the Nov. 7 paper on PDF. I also wrote the front-page story, but of the dozen or so people who've talked to me about this week's paper, 11 of them mentioned only the letter. Read it, and you'll probably understand why. The most common remark has been, "He had it coming."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Higher education

Law school is really quite unlike any other experience. It's certainly unlike anything I've ever done.

One can naturally draw comparisons to high school and college. First, take college. Where I went to college, people were paid to babysit me. Sure, they were called "Residence Life" staff, but they were basically babysitters. I should know, I was an RA for two years. If you screwed up, or if life wasn't treating you well, at least a dozen people who weren't necessarily your friends knew about it, almost instantly. Not only did they know about it, but they had to talk about it with their superiors — it became an issue for the whole building. In law school, you are most certainly an adult, and you're treated like one. If you have a problem, you go to the counseling center. (Advantage—law school.)

In the college classroom, at least at my small liberal arts school, professors knew everyone's names within the first week. If you didn't say something in class, people noticed. Here, it's when you do say something that you get noticed — and not necessarily in a good way. The more you talk in class, generally, the less people like you. There is no bonus for class participation. If you're talking, there's a good chance you're holding up the rest of the class. (Advantage—college.)

In high school, people gossiped about each other and made special friendships that lasted for a semester or maybe even a year. In college, people got drunk and hooked up on the weekends and people laughed about it. (Hmm, these two are actually the same as law school.)

In high school and college, there were popularity contests called student government elections, and the prettiest people won. In law school, they're still popularity contests but at least smart people win. (Advantage—law school.)

In law school, the professors have really, really big houses and invite you over for drinks and good food. In college, the professors live down the street in modest houses and invite you over if they like you a whole lot. In high school, you egg your teachers' houses. (Unless, of course, your dad is a teacher. Advantage—law school.)

In high school, you wonder why some people even bother coming because all they do is copy other people's homework. In college, you wonder why some people bother coming because all they do is get drunk or high or skip class everyday. In law school, everyone is incredibly motivated and people rarely miss class. There is money to be made. There is a world to change. Let's face it — if you've made it to law school, you actually enjoy homework. There's just no way around it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Obama speaks to Virginia

Tonight I travelled with three fellow Democrats from William & Mary to Charlottesville, Va., near the University of Virginia campus, to see Barack Obama. Governor Tim Kaine, who endorsed Obama many months ago, led off the event. Unbeknownst to me, they both went to Harvard Law School, both married women they met at Harvard Law, and their mothers come from the same small town, El Dorado, in western Kansas. 

Obama's stump speech, unsurprisingly, is the same in Virginia as it was when I saw him in Iowa, with a few tweaks that I'll discuss later. The speech is great because he hits all the major issues most Americans are concerned about — health care, energy and the environment, poverty, and of course, the dumb war in Iraq (taking his word from his excellent 2002 speech). He has incorporated a couple of personal experiences from the campaign trail, including a day he spent working with a social worker in Oakland, and he ends the speech with a story about a trip to a tiny town in South Carolina. In order to get the endorsement of a S.C. state legislator, the story goes, he promised to visit her hometown. He gets up at 6 a.m. on a rainy day, opens the NY Times to find a bad story about himself on the front page, then goes outside and gets soaked when his umbrella opens in the wrong direction. He rides an hour and a half to this puny out-of-the-way place, where only 20 people are gathered. He meets all of them but notices that the rain has affected their moods, too. He starts talking when he's interrupted by a short, elderly woman with a powerful voice. "FIRED UP!" she says, and the crowd answers. He turns his head and sees her standing on stage, behind him. "READY TO GO!" she continues. The crowd answers again. She repeats, and soon he finds himself joining in. This is how Obama ends his own stump speech — "Fired up!" "Ready to go!" with the crowd answering. After a few of these, he concludes, "Let's go change the world." However many times I hear it, I still get chills.

The tweaks to his speech include a couple of jabs at Hillary. He never names her specifically, but he talks about opponents who say they know how to work the system. Obama says it's the system that needs changing because it's not working for Americans. The other jab goes to Hillary's political calculations. Obama says that as president, he'll tell Americans what they need to hear — the truth — not what he thinks they want to hear. That's a shot at both Bill and Hillary, who've made their livings telling people what they want to hear — whatever statements the polling data support.

The Daily Progress reports that more than 4,250 people turned out in Charlottesville to see Obama, which is 1,250 more than Clinton drew a few weeks ago in the same city. (It's also pretty good, considering that most of us paid $15 per ticket.) Many of the attendees were UVA students, which was evident because some of the largest cheers came when Obama said he would address the problem of HIV/AIDS and the crisis in Darfur. Few presidential candidates would mention those issues in rural areas but college students clearly care about them. 

After the event, I ran into Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor for, whom I'd met at the Supreme Court Preview at William & Mary last month. We talked briefly about Obama's speech, its length (50 minutes tonight) and the huge number of people who attended the rally. All Supreme Court reporters are cool, but Dahlia especially so.

If you haven't heard Obama's stump speech yourself, go see him. His demeanor, intelligence, biography and his experiences as a community organizer, constitutional law professor, civil rights attorney, state legislator and U.S. Senator make him uniquely qualified to be our next president. He wants to bring hope back. He can write books worth reading. I can't wait to caucus for him on January 3.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Broken leg, by the numbers

This morning I went to my penultimate doctor's appointment — one last check-up before I get the screw removed in early December. My strength is probably about 75 percent. My surgeon, Dr. Carr, said that I should be back to normal by about the first of the year.

So, one final assessment. Here's my broken leg, by the numbers:

Approximately $7,000 — total cost of a tibial plateau fracture.

$3,000 — roughly the amount I'll have paid out of pocket. 

1,067 — miles on the road from West Branch to Williamsburg with a broken leg. Way to go, Honda Accord.

56 — days without walking or driving. 

23 — different people who gave me a ride. This includes 6 in Iowa and 18 in Virginia; Dad is the only one who drove both places. 

15 — boxes Rebecca packed into my car for the trip. I'm guessing on this one, but the point is that she did a masterful job, getting in way more stuff than I ever thought possible. I could barely stand on my crutches at that point, so she did it all herself. Outstanding.

12 — X-rays so far, with at least two more to go.

11 — physical therapy sessions, all in Williamsburg.

10 — minutes inside a CT scan 

7 — different medical doctors. This includes the PA in Dubuque, an orthopedist and an orthopedic surgeon in Iowa City, the doctor who OK'd my CT scan in Iowa City, the initial orthopedic surgeon in Williamsburg, the orthopedic surgeon who actually performed the procedure (I saw him in both Williamsburg and Newport News), and the doctor at the William & Mary Health Center who signed off so that my new insurance company would continue to cover my preexisting condition. Phew. Of course, this does not include the numerous X-ray techs, nurses, physical therapy techs or Joe, my physical therapist. All wonderful people.

5 — days between my injury and the correct diagnosis. The PA at the emergency room in Dubuque told me the X-ray was negative, but she also recommended that I see an orthopedist. Good thinking there.

4 — tiny scars. Hardly even noticeable.

3 — bottles of prescription painkillers.

2 — insurance companies. I'd rather not try to count the phone calls to the insurance companies.

2 — crutches. I'll have to dig them out one last time for that day in December, but otherwise they're taking a well-deserved break in the closet.

2 — parents who took care of me in Williamsburg. I love you, Mom and Dad.

1 1/2 — hours in surgery. Thank you, inventor of general anesthesia.

1 — 4-inch screw, due for removal on Dec. 7. A date that shall live ... oh, nevermind. I'll just be glad when it's over.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My first legal clinic

I spent this morning with about half a dozen lawyers from the area and roughly a dozen other W&M law students, working at a legal aid clinic at Warhill High School, on the northwest side of Williamsburg. The clinics are held four times a year, to provide legal services to low-income residents of W'burg, James City County and York County.

Working with actual clients was a welcome break from outlining, writing memos and generally sitting at class. These are actual people with real problems, and someday soon I'll be in a position to help many of them. That feels good.

I've never experienced anything like this before, so I'll explain it a bit. The clinic is advertised at places like the United Way so that people who are seeking assistance in other areas can find out about it. The clinics are held on Saturdays, four times a year. 

We law students show up to do "intake," which means getting basic information about who the people are and what kind of problem they have. Once we have that, we hand them off to the lawyer who can help with that issue, whether it's bankruptcy, immigration, divorce, landlord/tenant, health care, etc. The range of issues is amazingly diverse.

I got to assist with three different clients on four different issues. Sometimes the issue isn't a legal one, but the person just needs to be pointed in the right direction. But as often as not, there's a legal remedy and the client has options. The lawyer presents the options and discusses the ramifications of choosing one or the other, then it's up to the client to make the final decision. 

If I could do this again I think I would, but it sounds like W&M wants to give all law students an opportunity to participate at least once. I was lucky enough to get involved on the very first clinic of the year. Good stuff.

Friday, October 19, 2007

How to suck at legal writing

When the assignment is an objective memo, try writing a persuasive one instead. Oops.

When the structure of the memo requires the following structure — Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion — try this structure instead: Conclusion, some cases, your personal opinion and the occasional reference to the facts of the case the memo is supposed to be about. 

When thinking that you might actually be doing something right, be sure to repeat yourself by rephrasing the same argument throughout the memo. This will erase any doubt on the reader's part that you don't have a clue.

Put your name in front of each page number, as if you're still writing college papers.

Demote yourself by saying you're a junior associate when you're actually an associate in your Legal Skills firm.

Number the cover page as "Page 1."

Finally, be sure to completely miss one of the primary issues of the case. This will erase any doubt about your miserable first attempt at legal writing.

Get 'em next time, slugger.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall break

We've reached the halfway point of first semester, which means fall break. Baseball fans headed home to Cleveland and Boston, while football fans traveled to Lexington, Ky., Nashville and even San Diego. Plenty of people have stuck around Williamsburg, including me, and have enjoyed the time off to do laundry, read books — real ones, not law ones — and work out at the gym.

To this point, I've written very little about how my classes work. Law school functions quite differently from college, so it's worth an explanation.

The entire first year of courses is mandatory. Our schedule looks like this:

1st semester:
  • Criminal Law
  • Torts
  • Civil Procedure
  • Legal Skills
2nd semester:
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Property
  • Legal Skills
Many law schools put Contracts and Property before Torts, and I guess W&M used to make Con Law a year-long course because it tends to be the most difficult. Of course, that's the one I'm looking forward to the most.

Legal Skills is a two-year, pass-fail course that focuses on interviewing, legal writing, legal research and ethics. W&M's program (co-created by Fred Lederer, who happens to be my prof) has won awards for teaching these skills in such a useful way. While it's only a pass-fail course, people take it seriously and spend a lot of time on it. The writing, in particular, is extremely difficult at first. We're all getting used to it. Legal writing requires a great deal more discipline than newspaper writing or even academic writing, I think, because each word must be carefully chosen. The TAs who grade our memos are tough on us, which should help a great deal (even if it's frustrating now). 

In the three classes that are graded, final exams count for 100%. That's right — no chapter tests, no midterms, no class participation points. One test, signed with an anonymous number. Most exams are open-book, open-note, and last either four or eight hours. (Yes, eight hours of Criminal Law. Get excited.)

Open-book tests might sound great at first, but when you consider that our casebooks are anywhere from 600 to 1,200 pages long, the open-book part doesn't seem so helpful. If you don't already know what to look for, why it's relevant and how to explain it, you're screwed. The reading that we do all semester long is mostly cases. While statutes and the Constitution comprise a great deal of American law, judicial decisions can be enormously influential — and also difficult to analyze. The idea behind teaching cases in law school, as best I can figure, is that if you can understand judicial decisions, you can probably read a statute.

On a test, professors provide hypothetical fact patterns. (Joe stabs Billy. What crime should he be charged with, or What tort has Joe committed?) Though I haven't seen any exams yet, apparently the fact patterns can be long and quite detailed.

The way most law students cope with the final exams, besides alcohol (which apparently comes after the test) is to make enormous outlines. They range anywhere from 10 to 60 pages. The outlines, if they're done right, create a sort of map that shows how which cases are relevant for particular situations. Basically, the profs want to know how well we we know the law, and how well we can apply it. Sounds simple, but from what I hear about exams, "simple" doesn't mean "easy."

So, while I've been enjoying fall break, I also took the opportunity to spend all day Saturday in the library, working on my first outline — Civil Procedure. In eight hours of work, I created seven pages of an outline. One of my 3L roommates shared his outlines with me from his 1L year — he has at least 30 pages in each of the three classes. So you can see, I have quite a bit of work to do. Exams are less than two months away. Get excited.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Your job picks you

I have to promise myself not to write a post every time I attend a lecture. At least this time, I waited three days and I still couldn't resist.

On Friday a group of us listened to David Baugh, a criminal defense attorney from Richmond. He's a 60-year-old black man who's been representing accused criminals for many years, though he started practice as a prosecutor. He's semi-famous because about 10 years ago, he agreed to represent a man named Mr. Black, who just happened to be a Grand Dragon of the KKK. Mr. Black (isn't that ironic) had a habit of burning crosses on his own property. The Commonwealth of Virginia said that was offensive. David Baugh disagreed, and he took Mr. Black's case all the way to the Supreme Court, where he argued that the First Amendment protected Mr. Black's right to burn a cross on his own land so long as it didn't do actual harm to anyone else. Baugh won the case.

I can't say how dynamic this guy truly is. He spoke for an hour and a half without any notes, just going on with all sorts of anecdotes and his overarching philosophy, which is that the Bill of Rights is the most important thing about our country. If we fail to protect the free speech of others, we give up our own right to free speech. Baugh said he never became friends with Mr. Black but the more he listened to him, the more he realized how much it would help our country for people like Mr. Black to be heard — because Black's ideas are so stupid! It's kind of a funny argument, but I think it works. By constraining Black's speech, you make him and people like him martyrs for their racist cause. But by letting them burn crosses and talk freely, others are free to listen to them and decide for themselves how stupid the message is.

In his own words, Baugh's argument comes down to whether we can trust in the basic goodness of people. After representing hundreds of accused criminals, he still believes that we can. He says that our failure to uphold the Bill of Rights leads us down that horrible road to oppression, and that we should never sacrifice freedom — our own or others' — for security. He said that the Nazis made Germany extremely safe, but at what cost? Of course, they didn't make it safe for everyone. They had to exclude certain groups, like Jews, blacks and the people who sympathized with those minorities. 

If you truly believe in the rule of law, then the First Amendment is paramount to any concern about security. Now that doesn't mean that we can't prosecute criminals. Baugh was adamant that the person who hurts someone else (physically) has broken the law. So if you stand in front of me saying how much you hate a certain kind of person, and I punch you in the face, I'm the one who goes to jail. 

During the Q&A, Baugh had a great back-and-forth with this young conservative, who argued that all al-Qaeda members should be put in jail, no matter what it takes. He asked her if she were a doctor, and she knew the patient was a member of al-Qaeda, would she let him die on the operating table? She replied that she wouldn't. He said that shows that our society is hypocritical, in that it holds doctors and lawyers to different standards. If a doctor saves a person who breaks the law, he's doing his job. But if a lawyer defends someone who breaks the law, we think the lawyer agrees with that person. In fact, the lawyer is just doing his job, too.

Baugh asked that same woman, the conservative, if she would want that al-Qaeda member going to jail without a trial. She asked if he was guilty. Baugh said, "I don't know, there hasn't been a trial." She at first said that she would, but she later relented. The point is, we can't deprive people of their basic constitutional rights, no matter how bad we think they are. 

At the very end, I asked Mr. Baugh what a young lawyer who believed the same things he did might do for a living, if not criminal defense. He said the following: "Son, I wasn't always a criminal defense attorney. Before this, I was a prosecutor. You may try several jobs. But sooner or later, you'll look around and you'll realize that you're doing something better than everyone else. Then you know you've found your job. Son, you don't pick your job — your job picks you."

So, Mom and Dad, if you ask me what kind of law I'm going to practice, that's the story you're going to get. I'm waiting for my job to pick me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chasing ... furniture?

There is now a Facebook group for all graduate students at William & Mary, which has given me the irresistible urge to write columns again. Here's my first post. We'll see how well it's received before I try another one:

OK, so this may be a law school-specific topic, but it'll give people at the other graduate schools an idea of the high level of dialogue that goes on at Marshall-Wythe. Today we were blessed with new lobby furniture, having gone without for the first five weeks of school. It has upholstery, cushions and flat surfaces on which we can place things. However, some law students — and by some I mean virtually all — have taken today to express their contempt for the new furniture. The following criticisms pervade:

1. The red chairs clash with the maroon carpet.
2. The red chairs clash with the preexisting mahogany woodwork.
3. The colors of the chairs — red and blue — have absolutely nothing to do with the school, the carpet or anything else visible in the lobby.
4. The tables are shaped like eggs.
5. The tables look like eggs.
6. The tables, unlike eggs, are not a nearly perfect food and cannot be eaten for breakfast.
7. The couches are not comfortable.
8. The chairs are not comfortable.
9. The furniture, taken as a whole, does not match the pretentiousness of a place called Marshall-Wythe, and should generally reflect a more "colonial" style.
10. There is too much furniture, which makes for clutter, and it will be difficult to move when the lobby must be cleared for social functions.

Once again, these are criticisms I heard in the first 6 hours or so that people had to react. I'm sure I'll hear more tomorrow. With the exceptions of #6 (the furniture is not edible) and #10 (the amount of furniture will make it difficult to clear the lobby), I have little sympathy for any of it. As a 1L, I am grateful to experience, for the first time, a lobby with places to sit. Despite all the criticism, my guess is that a 2L friend's hypothesis is accurate: in three years, the administration will not be able to pluck this furniture from us.

Unless, of course, they agree to sell it to us for "sentimental" value, in which case we will offer a steep, tax-deductible donation for the chance to put one of those egg-shaped tables in our $2 million condo in the City. It will be the talk of our litigating friends, and some jealous associate will offer to buy it for far more than it's worth, so that he can be the talk of the law firm.

But enough about school ...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Plodding mediocrity

Reading judicial opinions comprises a substantial part of my waking hours these days, so I've begun to develop a few favorite Supreme Court justices — among them, Benjamin Cardozo, who served in the 1930s. In a strange coincidence, Cardozo was appointed by none other than my favorite West Branch president, Herbert Hoover.

Here's a quote from Cardozo, which gets to the root of my feelings about the first semester of law school: "In truth, I am nothing but a plodding mediocrity — please observe, a plodding mediocrity — for a mere mediocrity does not go very far, but a plodding one gets quite a distance. There is joy in that success, and a distinction can come from courage, fidelity and industry."

One of the realities of law school is that everyone is just so darned smart, and everyone wants to succeed so much, that if a person has any modesty at all, one can't help but feel mediocre at least some of the time. Especially at this school, where I like virtually everyone I meet, it would just be foolish for me to think I'm going to excel in the same way I did in high school or college. 

Fortunately, though, while we're all taking the same classes this year, we're not all headed in the same directions. Most people here want to work for big law firms, where they'll make six figures. That's not my path. I don't know yet where my path is leading, but it most likely is not headed toward a six-figure job. Government, perhaps, or a non-profit firm where I'll be working on causes that matter to me. Those seem far more likely.

After I read Cardozo's quote again, two more things struck me. First, here's a man who was nominated to a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land, and he still believes he's mediocre. Second, he's plodding. "Plod (v.): walk doggedly and slowly with heavy steps." Sounds all too familiar to me these days. I'm off to plod some more. Perhaps I'll go quite a distance. After not plodding for two months, I've found there's quite a bit of joy in it.

(Oh, and speaking of plodding mediocrity — the Cubs start their playoff run tonight. Go Cubbies.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Five weeks and counting

I've finished my first month of classes — add the week of Law Camp, and that brings us through five weeks of law school. So far, I like it. I don't think that's going to change (at least until exam time, and maybe not even then). 

Yesterday one of the preeminent scholars on human rights and the war on terrorism gave a lecture at the law school. Jordan Paust teaches at the University of Houston and has published more than 150 articles and books. His latest is titled, Beyond the Law: The Bush Administration's Unlawful Responses in the "War" on Terror. It's due out in November for those of you who might be interested. His basic thesis is that the Bush Administration has violated just about every kind of international law possible by detaining people at Guantánamo Bay and in secret CIA prisons in Europe. He started his talk with a brief explanation of international law and a strong argument that the U.S. Constitution does, in fact, recognize it. Basically we have signed and ratified a bunch of treaties (the 1949 Geneva Conventions among them) which we are currently violating by prosecuting this "War" on terrorism. Paust argues that it's not actually a war (hence the quotes) because it doesn't meet any of the definitions of war that we agreed to when we signed these treaties. (By the way, the only country in the world that hasn't signed the Geneva Conventions is Taiwan, Paust said, which has a little to do with the fact that Taiwan just declared its independence two weeks ago.)

For those of you who read the personal statement I sent to law schools last winter, you know that I mentioned the war on terrorism generally and the secret prisons specifically as reasons I wanted to attend law school in the first place. So what I learned yesterday is that I need to take international law next year. One of Paust's co-editors and good friends, Linda Malone, teaches the course at William & Mary. (My brother Dan noted earlier this week that Linda, who also teaches Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, was quoted in a CNN story about Michael Vick.)

This week I discovered the best grocery store in Williamsburg — Ukrop's. When I went there Wednesday night, I ran into at least eight of my classmates. Williamsburg has about three times as many good grocery stores as Iowa City, even though it's less than a third of the size. There's Ukrop's (think Hy-Vee + Co-op), Fresh Market (Co-op), Farm Fresh (haven't been to one yet, but I hear they're great) and the half dozen or so Food Lions, which have all been under renovation since I got here. The Food Lions are in the worst shape (think Aldi/EconoFoods), but they're getting better, slowly. Anyway, I like the options.

The weather here is unbelievable. For those of you who might be mulling a visit, right now it's 72 degrees and sunny, with a high of 86 expected today. The four-day forecast looks like this: Sunny all four days, with a high of 76 tomorrow, 78 on Sunday, 77 on Monday and 80 on Tuesday. I've heard that the leaves start turning in mid-October but it hardly seems possible with this weather. Some of my friends have a regular sand volleyball game every night near the law school, and my friend Ed is working on an ultimate frisbee game each Sunday. I hope to join both soon.

Which brings me to that leg again. Two weeks ago today I was using both crutches and barely putting any weight on it, now I won't even use the handicapped sticker the college gave me, because it feels so good to walk the same distance as everyone else. On Wednesday I got to make my first trip to the rec center, on the undergrad campus. As soon as I'm back to normal, I'll be able to dig out my racquetball game for the first time since I played my friend Kyle in college.

Oh, almost forgot the most exciting part of my week. Yesterday in the law school lounge I was warming up some coffee in the microwave. As I was talking to one of my friends, I looked over to see an orange glow. It seems that my coffee mug, which apparently is made of metal, had started a nice little fire. I opened the door to find billowing smoke and bubbling plastic. (Note to Dad —I did start the fire.) Thankfully there wasn't much damage to either my cup or the microwave. From now on, I'll stick to warming my cup the old-fashioned way — getting refills. I'm due for one now, in fact. 

Life is good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Two feet

I couldn't take the wait until Tuesday, so I started walking today. It's slow but it feels so much better than being on crutches. It's going to be a while before I'm running again but walking and driving feel pretty darn good. Can't wait to get back to physical therapy next week!

Also, I bought my plane ticket home for Christmas today. We only get about 2 1/2 weeks off, so I'll be arriving Thursday, Dec. 20 and leaving Saturday, Jan. 5. I confess I've been a bit homesick lately. Missing Evan's 1st birthday party probably had a lot to do with that. Can't wait to see everyone at Christmas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My first client interview

OK, so it wasn't a real client but still the first one I've interviewed at law school. Yesterday I interviewed Client A for Legal Skills. The other interviewer and I had to wear suits and the whole bit. The whole thing took about 40 minutes. We immediately got feedback afterwards. For next time, I need to remember not to use a clicky pen, as I tend to click it without even thinking. Also, I need to remind the client of attorney-client confidentiality earlier in the interview. Other than that, we did alright.

My leg has made great strides this week (as always, pun intended). I'm down to one crutch and should be rid of it in the next few days. I go back to physical therapy on Tuesday to work on strength and balance. I could use some of both. I'm getting around much better but walking on my own will take some getting used to. 

I wrote two stories for the upcoming Advocate. There's a 2L here that is almost universally disliked and it seems he's in line to be editor-in-chief next year unless someone else steps up. Several people have encouraged me to do just that. There's not much precedent for a 2L editor but the people who talk to me don't seem to mind. I haven't really met the rest of the Advocate staff yet. If I like most of them, I might give it a shot.

I had another interview this week, this time for Honor Council. William & Mary has an Honor Code, which we didn't really have at Cornell. It's pretty simple — don't lie, cheat or steal. People feel comfortable leaving just about anything in the lounge or library, knowing that when they return 5 minutes or an hour later, it will still be there. A violation of the Honor Code can get you expelled, so people take it very seriously. Anyway, the Honor Council is there to investigate possible violations of the Code, and to let people know what the Code is. Of course, law students are eager to volunteer for leadership positions — I was one of 43 1Ls who interviewed for five Honor Council spots. I'm not holding my breath.

Monday night I got my first chance to see our chancellor, Sandra Day O'Connor, in action. She was one of three panel members at a forum on Democracy, which was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS. It was part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown. Anyway, at 77 years old, she's still on top of her game. I heard that she only retired from the Supreme Court because her husband is ill. She was a lot of fun to see in person. She'll be back several times this year, including to give the keynote at law school commencement.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Preview Wrap-up

The Institute of Bill of Rights Law's 20th annual Supreme Court Preview officially concluded about an hour ago with the panel of Michael Gerhardt, Jeffrey Rosen, Dahlia Lithwick, Carter Phillips and Michael McConnell discussing the apparently over-hyped concept of judicial modesty. They described why — at least in the sense that most journalists, academics and politicians think of judicial modesty — it is at best, meaningless, and at worst, a terrible philosophy for a judge to use. The discussion is a poignant one, considering the ascension of Chief Justice John Roberts, who told the Senate two years ago this week that judges must assert humility and modesty from the bench. Couple those comments from Roberts' confirmation hearing with the criticism he got from fellow Justice Antonin Scalia last term in the political ad free speech case, called Wisconsin Right to Life: "This faux judicial restraint is judicial obfuscation." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Roberts' "modest" style.

I've tried to make that all as simple as I could, but it gives you some idea of the level of academic discussion here for the last day and a half. These are some of the brightest legal minds in America, and they all willingly assemble at William & Mary once a year to glean as much insight as possible from one another. 

I've been assigned to write two stories about the Preview — one about a talk yesterday afternoon by Erwin Chemerinsky and Pam Karlan, two of the best liberal constitutional law scholars in the U.S. The other story is about the Moot Court last night, a fantastic simulation of what it's like to argue before the real Supreme Court. I had a front-row seat, and I was blown away by how smart and talented these people really are. The whole weekend has been a humbling reminder of how far I have to go before I could ever think, speak or write on a par with the best of the best.

The conference unofficially concludes tonight with a dinner for the participants at Professor Van Alstyne's house, which I happily get to attend. 

I've only been through three weeks of classes but I can already feel the semester flying by. Time seems to disappear so much faster these days, no matter how well I budget it. Soon it will be fall break (a four-day weekend), then the rush to finals. Yikes. Slow down, world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Down, but not out

I didn't win the SBA election, which was held yesterday. Although no final tally has been released — just the winners' names — one of the vote counters told me last night that the election was close, and that I should consider running again in the spring. There were 14 people running for three spots. My campaign (which I couldn't write about on the blog, due to election rules) was primarily a series of posters with cartoonish pictures of me on crutches, paired with a letter to my classmates (and some delicious brownies, until the ants attacked). A bunch of people said I had the best poster, but of course that doesn't always translate into a victory. Que será, será.

This weekend is the Supreme Court Preview. A 2L named David and I have to pick up a federal judge in the 10th Circuit from the Norfolk Airport this afternoon, then I'll be working all day Friday and Saturday. There are some nominally famous people coming, so I'll do a little name-dropping — Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer winner from the NY Times; John Yoo, who helped write the PATRIOT Act and the so-called "torture memo"; Dahlia Lithwick, who writes for; Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at Duke and probably the best known constitutional scholar in the U.S.; Stuart Taylor from the National Journal, who will speak about the book he's published on the Duke Lacrosse Case; and Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic, who wrote a fascinating article about Justice Anthony Kennedy a few months ago, which I read with astonishment. It turns out that even Supreme Court Justices — the weak ones, at least — are subject to their emotions when deciding critical cases. 

All in all, the weekend should be enormously informative. Tomorrow night is the "main event": a Moot Court on presidential war powers during the War on Terror. Some high-powered lawyers will argue two cases that will come before the Supreme Court this term, and nine "justices" will decide the cases. I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let the healing begin

Yesterday's post was the reflection of a bad mood. Best to get that off the top of the page. Don't get me wrong — I still mean it, it's just time for some better news.

This morning I visited my surgeon, Dr. Carr, for the first time since the surgery (four weeks ago today). Everything's healing great! He was really impressed with my range of motion and with the lack of swelling. He said I didn't really need my brace anymore and that I could put physical therapy on hold until I start walking again, in another two weeks. Also, I'll be able to have the screw removed sometime in December. So, two more weeks on crutches and I should be back to getting around on my own!

Monday, September 10, 2007


My Torts professor believes strongly that the solution to legal problems lies largely in economics — that we ought not care about fault or fairness, rather about the cost of things, and how those costs should be distributed. Today was the first time that this truly angered me. At some point, justice does matter when we're talking about who is liable for certain wrongs. Of course I'm at a disadvantage in arguing against his ideas because he's been teaching Torts for quite some time and all that I know about the subject is what he's taught me in the last two-plus weeks. Still, I cannot and do not accept that economics always holds the best solution for determining legal responsibility.

While I'm riled up about cost-benefit analysis, let's talk about health insurance, shall we? The final bill for breaking my leg — speaking only of dollars, here — is going to be around $3,000. There are all sorts of directions I can take with this but the one I'm most concerned with is: Does health care need to be this expensive? From the numerous conversations I've had with others, who see my crutches and immediately express their sympathy, I know that many of us break bones, tear ligaments, get into all sorts of accidents. Our bodies are fragile. Must we all bear these costs individually, or shouldn't we prepare for them better as a society? Why do we let insurance companies decide how much individuals should pay for health care? Instead of this system that causes so many people so many headaches (and so many bankruptcies), why don't we say as a society that we are willing to bear the costs for all, and enter into an agreement that allows us all to foot some of the bill? Decent health care should not be a privilege, it should be a right. I have received tremendous health care throughout this experience, and eventually I will pay for all of it. But what about the people who can't pay? Are they any less entitled to good health care than I am? I don't believe they are, and I'd rather help pay for their broken bones than have each of us fend for ourselves.

My experience with my insurance company has got me fomenting. If there's a law practice (maybe it's politics) that allows me to battle insurance companies, I want to know what it is, so I can make sure I'm taking the right classes next year.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Two weeks in the books

My housemate is cleaning the wax off his surfboard outside. Did I mention I'm from Iowa? I can't help but notice the strangeness of living in a place where people go surfing on the weekends. I haven't made it to Virginia Beach yet, but I hear that's where it happens.

This week wasn't a great week for my leg. It wasn't particularly bad, it's just that last week was so good that I couldn't make a whole lot of progress this week. A week ago my physical therapist, Joe, could safely bend my leg to a 120-degree angle. We were hoping it would go to 130 degrees today but it stopped at 120. All the people at the clinic say that I'm moving as fast as anyone they've seen, and that I'll be back on my feet before I know it. Still, it seems hard for me to believe because I'm just as unable to walk as I was a month ago. Joe said today that it typically takes about six weeks after surgery for the bone to heal enough that a person can walk on it. So, I'm just past the halfway mark. I return to the doctor on Tuesday for the first time since the surgery. He'll take some X-rays to check my progress. I just hope that somehow I didn't re-break it! Joe reassured me that as the bone finishes healing in the next three weeks, the swelling will go down in my foot and around my knee, the two places it's most noticeable. I look forward to that — and to walking again. I've developed so much appreciation for people who go through life with physical injuries or disabilities of any sort.

As for classes, this week has really helped me get into a routine. Many of my friends and I agreed that we're starting to understand what we're in for, and that it's not so bad. Civil Procedure doesn't seem so daunting anymore. If I had to say, I think Legal Skills is probably my least favorite class at the moment. It's a little intimidating, in my first two weeks of law school, to think about things like attorney-client privilege, malpractice lawsuits and what can get a lawyer disbarred. Yikes. Otherwise, though, it's a little sick how much I like going to school.

I finally got called on! Yesterday in Criminal Law, Prof. Marcus said, "Mr.  ... Poggenklass? Am I saying that right?" 

"Yes, you are."

"Which crime would you like to talk about, arson or larceny?"

"I'll take arson."

I then made an attempt at answering what kind of defense a person could raise if he burned down a bunch of old sheds that he thought were his own, but which were actually someone else's. I made a few missteps, but generally I got it right. The whole thing definitely got my heart beating. At 75 people, the classes here are three times as big as any I had at Cornell — that's a lot of eyes and ears. Glad to have that first time out of the way.

In addition to getting the hang of our classes, we've all been introduced to the dozens of activities and opportunities. In addition to my fellowship, I've become a News Editor at the Advocate, the law school's newspaper. There's also an Election Law Society that I'm interested in. Others are getting involved in the Public Service Fund, a great group that puts on a series of fund-raisers throughout the year to raise money for W&M law students who work at unpaid internships or unpaid jobs during the summer. Last year PSF raised more than $42,000 which it then paid to the students who qualified for the money. Pretty great, if you ask me! The Institute of Bill of Rights Law, which will get 8-10 hours of my week for the next three years, also has a volunteer student division. In addition to the Supreme Court Preview, the IBRL puts on the Hampton Roads Project — an effort to teach local middle school students about the U.S. Constitution. There will be a group training seminar, then in February, a bunch of us law students will talk to 6th-8th graders. I think it'll be a lot of fun.

Other than a ton of homework, my big adventure this weekend will be to find a new backpack. I'm a little sad because I got mine as a high school graduation present more than eight years ago. After three weeks of toting gigantic law books and a laptop, however, I've lost the tabs to both zippers and the covers of both straps are coming apart completely. Perhaps that means I'm carrying too big a weight on my shoulders, or that this law school thing is pretty heavy. Or maybe I just need a new backpack. That's probably all it is.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Opening Convo

Yesterday was just plain great. I may not have done much homework, or had any classes, but I was happy to be alive nonetheless.

W&M President Gene Nichol hosted the Opening Convocation yesterday on the back steps of the ancient Wren Building. It was built in 1695 — 65 years before Thomas Jefferson first attended class here and 93 years before George Washington became chancellor of William & Mary.

One of the better speakers was Michael Powell, a W&M alum whose work as FCC chairman I admit I detested. Nevertheless, he spoke without notes about the new generation of "YouTubians" who, having developed an "extra appendage" the rest of us know as the cell phone, may in fact have evolved into a new species. His talk produced a lot of laughs from the incoming class of undergraduates, who put away their appendages long enough to listen to him.

But the most unexpected and enthralling part of the convocation was the walk through the Wren Building. As we entered the back of the building, my friend Lindsey and I started to hear loud cheers coming from the other side. As we got halfway through, we discovered what the commotion was: the bulk of the W&M student body, thousands of them, cheering wildly and applauding each and every new student as we walked, one by one, down the front steps. Each of us took a turn shaking Nichol's hand, then descended into the mass of humanity where high-fives and slaps on the back awaited. 

I soon realized what an event this would be for me, as I'm still using two crutches to get around. I paused to set one of them down to shake Nichol's hand, and he wished me luck. As I readied to descend the 7 or 8 steps, several W&M upperclassmen ventured into the middle of the sidewalk in front of me, waving their hands upward so that the cheers and applause would be even louder for me. Clearly this was going to take a while, and they didn't want the excitement to die. I could only look down at my feet — I had to make sure I didn't fall — but I'm sure my face was red with humble appreciation. I couldn't do many high-fives as I proceeded through the crowd, but I got plenty of pats on the back and a whole lot of cheers, just like all the other entering students at W&M.

Last night a large group of us gathered to celebrate the end of our first week (yes, that's two nights in a row, but who's counting?). A fine week it was.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Week 1 — done!

I survived the first week of classes! The rest is easy, right? A group of us are going out for margaritas to celebrate in a little while. I think it's well deserved.

Much like college, class has quickly turned into my favorite part of school. I enjoy all four of my professors, though they're all quite different. Because each class has about 75 people, personal interaction with each prof is limited. About an hour ago I stopped in to introduce myself to Michael Green, my Civil Procedure prof. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has published a book on Nietzsche. So, if I ever want to discuss Twilight of the Idols, he's my guy. Philosophy majors are actually well represented here. It's refreshing. I also told him that Civil Procedure is starting to make sense and that I think I might actually like it. He seemed reassured by that. He said that a person who doesn't like Civil Procedure — which is really all about how the civil, or lawsuit, side of our legal system works — should probably consider a different profession.

My work at The Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL) began yesterday. Professor Neal Devins, the IBRL's director, talked to us a little bit today about what we'll be doing and the kinds of opportunities we'll have. My first real jobs relate to the Supreme Court Preview. Of course I've been assigned to write a story for the law school newspaper, The Advocate. Also, Amanda (the other 1L IBRL fellow) and I will be doing a display for the lobby. A man who wrote a book about the Duke lacrosse rape case will be coming to campus the weekend of the preview, so I'm going to try to track down a lacrosse stick for the display. For the part of the display that includes the Supreme Court justices, I'm thinking I might find that page from Jon Stewart's book that shows them all naked, with mix and match robes. Of course I'd be respectful to the Hon. Sandra Day O'Connor — she is our chancellor, after all. Prof. Devins says it's fine with him, so long as I run it past the appropriate dean. Oh, the red tape.

My new laser printer arrived today. Initially I didn't think I'd need to buy one but after two weeks, it became quite clear that I needed one ASAP. Printing in the library costs 5 cents a page, and the amount of paper we consume is unbelievable. Once interviews start for summer positions — December 1 for 1Ls — I'll be printing hundreds of cover letter and resumes. A laser printer isn't a nice alternative; it's more of a necessity. I found one for under $100, Mom and Dad, so don't worry, I haven't broken the bank yet. Actually, I think you'd be quite impressed with the tiny chunk of change I've had to spend so far. Books, groceries and the printer have been my only real expenses. Oh, and beer, but that's a given. 

Leg update: Physical therapy session #3 was easily the best so far. I rode a stationary bike for eight minutes. Last week I wasn't even able to make a full rotation. Progress! Unfortunately, it's still at least two weeks before I can get the doc's clearance to start putting weight on it again. While Emily's been great for getting to class, finding rides to the law school for my IBRL work and to various social events has been a drag. To further my cause I've made a promise to my friend Leslie that I'll be her personal chauffeur once I can drive again. I'll just be so glad to be useful to other people again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 1

Although my first day is not yet complete, tonight will almost certainly be consumed with tomorrow's reading assignment for Civil Procedure, which easily promises to be the toughest of this semester's courses. Thus, I'm writing while I have at least today's reading done. In a few minutes, I'll start on tomorrow's, then head to Criminal Law, my final class of the day.

I've yet to be called on in class, an event I'd like to dispense with as soon as possible. Prof. Meese must have called on half the class this morning in Torts, while Prof. Green lectured for the bulk of Civil Procedure. So, to those who will ask, "How was your first day?" — the answer is, "Good, yet incomplete." Until I'm called on in class, I won't really know what it's like to be a law student. The so-called Socratic method — we philosophers know that's not really what it is — is quite different from anything any of us experienced in our undergraduate studies. When a law professor calls on you, he expects you to know what you're talking about and furthermore, to contribute some useful thoughts that keep the discussion moving. That's not to say that every law student actually accomplishes either of these, but it's still the idea behind the teaching style. Be prepared, or if you're not, be prepared to be embarrassed. At William & Mary, it's not quite as harsh as it might be at other schools but even so, no one wants to be caught off-guard.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Law Camp and life in the 'Burg

I've just finished William & Mary's Law Camp, the one-week orientation course for first-year law students, commonly known as 1Ls. Law Camp is the start of Legal Skills, a two-year course that teaches us many of the things we'll need to know to be good lawyers — legal writing, interviewing clients, arguing cases, etc.

The first week wasn't hard but it was tiring. We had a full schedule everyday, and there were a lot of introductions to other programs at the law school. We were introduced to the administration and all the services they provide, the law librarians and everything the brand-new law library has to offer, all of the student activities at the law school and probably some other things that have already slipped my mind.

I'm glad to be done with this orientation week, because on Monday I'll start my other three classes — Torts, Civil Procedure and Criminal Law. It's been about two months since I've had a regular schedule.

Here's my class schedule:
  • MONDAY: Torts, 10-11:15 a.m.; CivPro, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.; CrimLaw, 5-6:15 p.m.
  • TUESDAY: Torts, 10-11:15 a.m.; CivPro, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.; CrimLaw, 5-6:15 p.m.
  • WEDNESDAY: CrimLaw, 5-6:15 p.m.
  • THURSDAY: Legal Skills, 8:30-9:58 a.m., Torts, 10-11:15 a.m.; CivPro, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
I have no classes on Friday. Woohoo! All my classes are held at the law school, which is about two miles from my house.

Yesterday I started my fellowship with W&M's Institute of Bill of Rights Law. In my first year I'll be putting many of my newspaper skills to use. The institute's first big event is the annual Supreme Court Preview, held Sept. 14-15. I'll be taking tickets and helping to host reporters from the NY Times and Washington Post, as well as law professors from across the country. I'm looking forward to it.

A few notes about my living situation: I have two roommates, Kyle and Isaac, who are both 3Ls. They're both brilliant in their own ways, and will be huge assets to my first-year experience. I couldn't be happier with my living situation which is quite a shift from the last four years of my life. I'm extremely grateful for that. It's entirely possible that I'll be living here — 44 James Square, Williamsburg, VA 23185 — for all three years of law school. My landlord is a W&M Law alum who lives in North Carolina. He only rents the place to law students.

Williamsburg is a wonderful place to live. For those of you who haven't been here, I highly recommend visiting. The population is less than 12,000 but you wouldn't know that by coming here. Colonial Williamsburg is a huge tourist draw and the undergrad campus dominates the center of town. There are tons of shops, restaurants, hotels and at least two outlet malls, in addition to a Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, about 20 pancake houses, at least 20 pharmacies, a winery, a private airport and at least a dozen grocery stores. Jamestown is literally five miles from my house, and is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. Yorktown is about 12 miles from me, on the other side of Williamsburg.

We're also right along the so-called "tunnel" between Richmond and Virginia Beach, I-64. The area that includes Williamsburg, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach — about 750,000 people — is called Hampton Roads, and it's one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Virginia Beach, about an hour and a half away depending on traffic, is nearly half a million people by itself.

Leg update: This week I got my stitches out and started physical therapy on my surgically repaired broken right leg, and it's going well. The circulation to my foot has improved, which means my foot no longer turns purple when I'm sitting down. I've stopped wearing the immobilizing brace because I rarely experience pain, and not having it on allows me to do some of my exercises while I'm sitting in class. The physical therapy sessions are twice a week and last about an hour and a half. They're painful but I already see progress. I have to keep using crutches for at least three more weeks while the bone heals. I return to the doctor on Sept. 11, when I'll find out for sure when I can start walking again.

In the meantime, another 1L named Emily has been driving me to class. We have the same schedule and while it surely inconveniences her, she's been more than willing to pick me up. I'm extremely grateful for the treatment I've received from everyone here. I rarely have to open any doors and one of my professors, Fred Lederer, personally gave me rides to and from events on the very first day of Law Camp. Both the people of Williamsburg and especially the people of William & Mary are exceptionally kind. I couldn't be more pleased with my choice to come here.

While the crutches have certainly made life more difficult, I decided yesterday that I'm going to use them to my advantage. Because I'm the only 1L here with crutches, I've become rather recognizable. It just so happens that the Student Bar Association, the law school's student government, holds elections in a couple of weeks. I've decided to run as "Crutch Guy Rob," and win solely on my name recognition. I think it should work. So begins my political career, I hope.