Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back to school

Today's my first day back since Monday. Missing two days of class was hardly noticeable in high school. Miss two days at Cornell and a person was in jeopardy of having to drop the class. I imagine law school is somewhere between those two extremes. Friends taking notes is a huge help.

People are saying that half the law school has the flu. I won't miss my flu shot next year.

Next weekend, Feb. 8-9, is the Institute of Bill of Rights Law's first-ever Citizen-Lawyer Conference. W&M's credo, if you will, is that lawyers have a special obligation to serve the public interest, given the tools we learn at law school. This fits well with what many of us hope to do. At the conference next week, lawyers and professors from all over the country will discuss the usefulness of the Citizen-Lawyer concept, first envisioned by George Wythe, who signed the Declaration of Independence, attended the Constitutional Convention and at the request of Thomas Jefferson, founded the William & Mary School of Law (the nation's first). His pupils included Jefferson, Henry Clay, James Monroe and John Marshall, who later became perhaps the most important Chief Justice in U.S. history. Hence the name of our school — Marshall-Wythe. (UPDATE: I added a recent snow-covered picture of the Marshall-Wythe statue outside the law school.)

Sandra Day O'Connor, W&M's Chancellor, will be the featured guest at the Citizen-Lawyer Conference. I got the chance to see her speak on the undergraduate campus earlier this year, but this time she's coming to the law school, a more up close and personal visit. Should be a good weekend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sick day

Ugh. I have some sort of flu/cold bug. Missing a whole day of classes stinks.

Yesterday I was still well enough to go to a luncheon with the Election Law Society, a student group that started at W&M last year because of the intense interest in all the controversy surrounding recent elections. For the most part, Republicans worry about voter fraud and Democrats worry about disenfranchised voters. Anyway, the National Center for State Courts is based in Williamsburg and is actually located right behind the law school. This week there is a conference featuring chief justices of all the state supreme courts, and we got to have lunch with them. I sat with the chief justices of Alabama, North Carolina and Montana, among others. Coincidentally, all three are women. I also met Marsha Ternus, the Chief Justice of Iowa, and the first woman to serve in that position. She's from Vinton and graduated from Iowa and Drake Law.

So many people are talking about the presidential race, and I've become quite obsessed with it. Virginia votes on Feb. 12, a week after Super Duper Tuesday. Exciting stuff.

We're busy getting ready for the Spring Break trip to New Orleans, which is March 1-8. I'm not sure what I'll be doing yet — most likely either community organizing or manual labor. Should be a great experience. There are 21 of us going as part of the Student Hurricane Network.

While many people have wrapped up summer jobs, most of them have done so because of personal connections. The rest of us are still waiting to hear about potential interviews, and should know something soon.

That's as long as I can concentrate today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow day

After it looked like all it would do was rain, snow fell throughout much of the day in Williamsburg today. I threw a snowball and took lots of pictures. Too bad it's Saturday, or they might have canceled school.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Class nuggets

A word about grades — I got my last one today — and then I'll be done. I can only speak for myself, but it seems that the quality of my grades are disproportionate to the amount of studying I did for each class. There is an exhausting list of possible reasons for this, of course, which I do not care to go into here. Suffice it to say that, like most law students, I am more pleased with some grades than others. We were all straight-A students once upon a time. Not anymore.

A few friends and I have made an observation about a tendency of at least two professors here, and perhaps more. An odd thing often happens when one of these professors calls on someone and that person gives what seems to be the right answer. The professor acts as if a wrong answer has been given, often moving on to another student or returning to the lecture, ostensibly to educate us further on the point. Then, a few moments or even half an hour later, it happens: the right answer, the one we've been searching for, was precisely what the first student said! I'm calling this the Prematurely Correct Paradox, because like all good paradoxes, the first student's "prematurely correct" answer leads to a logically incomprehensible result — the professor says "No, not what I was looking for," only to arrive at the same place later on. Weird.

Library labs for Legal Skills start tomorrow. Advocate layout is Sunday afternoon. The first round of job bidding, through Career Services, ends Sunday. Moot Court tryouts begin Tuesday. Our first mini-memos of the semester, also for Skills, are due next Thursday. Thank goodness Professor Van Alstyne is so entertaining, or law school might get pedestrian.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Law school gets harder?

Word on the street is that second semester of first year is among the most difficult. Of course, everyone here seems to think that the most difficult semester is the current one — except for second-semester 3Ls. There is a good deal of senioritis going around. One of my 3L roommates just signed up for Admiralty Law. I think I may buy him an eye patch and offer my foam sword for him to take to class.

Lots of things are happening at once. My classmates and I are simultaneously working on: three new classes, including an extra day of Con Law (15 credits this semester vs. 14 credits last semester); applying and interviewing for summer jobs, which takes a great deal of time; Moot Court tryouts, which start next week; mandatory Legal Skills workshops and legal research labs; fellowship work; and other assorted law school activities. Oh yeah, and there's having a life. When we have time. Mostly we don't.

The two topics of conversation right now are grades (which keep on trickling in online) and presidential politics. Some people freely reveal their grades, while others just express disappointment. I haven't heard anyone say that they got an A yet. The ones who disclose tend to be people who got Bs, which makes some sense. The curve here is such that the largest number of students get Bs, so getting a B is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is it something to be particularly proud of. Getting a B means you're on your way to graduation, but it also means that you're probably not going to graduate in the Top 10%.

Monday, January 7, 2008

From the Berg to the Burg

A departure from snowy, cold Guttenberg, Iowa has placed me in balmy Williamsburg, where it is 70 degrees and sunny. Walkers and joggers abound, and I returned to the first day of class this morning in a short-sleeved t-shirt; others are comfortably wearing shorts. It hardly feels like any January I've ever known.

After a wonderful break, I suddenly feel 5,000 miles from home, rather than 1,000. Notwithstanding the sunshine, summer feels like a very long time from now.

I have forgotten the combination to my locker at the law school. I don't think that anything of importance is inside, however, it does make for an amusing, annoying problem in my first week back.

So much to do. Next week Moot Court tryouts begin. At William & Mary we have both Trial Team and Moot Court. Trial Team involves arguing the defense and prosecution of a simulated case as if you were a trial attorney. Moot Court involves oral appellate arguments, and deals with constitutional questions. I did not try out for Trial Team, which took place in the fall. However, I do plan to try out for Moot Court, as I came to law school primarily because of my interest in Constitutional Law. Preparation consists of reading about 10 cases and assembling an oral argument. I will argue in front of a group of "judges" — 2nd- and 3rd-year law students already on the Moot Court team. There are typically three rounds, and not a whole lot of people make it. I'm hoping to, of course, but just preparing and giving the argument will be a learning experience in itself.

Once again, after attending all my classes, I am reminded why I am here. While I liked, for the most part anyway, all of last semester's professors, it's refreshing to have three new ones this semester. All three are very different from last semester and from each other. This semester will be another good one.

Afternoon update: After a stronger dose of coffee, I remembered my locker combination. Things are looking up for the rest of the week!