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.