Thursday, December 21, 2006

No place like home for the holidays...

Alas, exams are over and the break from school is here. Three whole weeks to spend in the Fraser Valley working at the old employer, opening gifts, drinking eggnog, and spending time in the company of friends and family. Certainly good times shall follow...

As for school, now that I'm a little bit removed from writing exams and have spent two days gaining perspective while hauling dressers and sofas around, I'd have to say that the past three-and-a-half months were the most enjoyable educational experience that I have had. There was a time, albeit brief, where I was actually enjoying studying for and writing law school exams. Don't expect to read about the same kinds of feelings come April.

The biggest challenge for me has been essay writing, which is somewhat odd since I've spent most of my post-secondary life writing essays. However, one tends to become a tad verbose writing history papers for seven years (not that this is evident from reading these posts) and having to cut law school papers down to size has been a particular challenge. UBC has incorporated a strong writing component into its classes this year, which resulted in nine written assignments, three of which were fairly substantial. The final paper for Transnational consisted of two essay questions (each divided into two parts), with a 1500 word limit for each. Oh, and about 10% of the mark came from discussing how you would have researched had this been a research exam. After much editing, I ended up with totals of 1498 and 1491 words, give or take a 'the'. By the end, I probably took out as much as I put in...I can only hope that the mark justifies the work (we'll see come January).

But, for these three weeks I will push aside the books and focus on quality warehousemanship, poor gift-wrapping, and much too much Christmas baking!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blind leading the blind, then shooting them...

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas lawmaker is aiming to allow the blind to hunt. Texas State Representative Edmund Kuempel has introduced a measure that would allow blind people to hunt any game that sighted people can currently pursue.

Lawmaker aims to allow the blind to hunt

Only in Texas, I suppose. Yes, they would only be allowed to hunt if accompanies by a sighted hunter who looks through the sight over their shoulder and tells them where to aim (an important safety measure, albeit one that takes any of the skill out of the hunting for the blind person and reduces it to its essence - killing defenceless animals or people that the sighted hunter thinks are deer).

I suppose this is a manifestation of the spirit of freedom that has permeated throughout all of American history. Still, blind people firing guns in the woods.

"Give me liberty and give me death!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

First semester recap

So, some things I've noticed after one semester in law school:

1. It hasn't been as hard as I thought it far.
This might come back to haunt me when marks hit in January, but I haven't been that worried through the process of studying for December exams, which is likely suggested by the fact that I have my Contracts final tomorrow and here I am blogging away. I don't know - there where times this semester (mostly in Property) where I felt completely lost, but in studying over the past couple of weeks (even Property), things seem to be making sense. This means either that I actually know the content well, or I have completely missed the boat. Again, we'll find out in January.

2. I am very, very grateful for my laptop.
I wasn't sure about this at the beginning of the semester - I never used (or owned) a laptop in undergrad and never brought it to class in grad school, and I had always thought that those who did were either pretentious or overcompensating for something. But, I brought it with me and I have been happy with it, notwithstanding the fact that it gives me the Blue Screen of Death (TM) once in a while, for no discernable reason. I have never been a great note-taker, and I found that with my laptop, I pretty much get down everything substantive that is mentioned in class. Now, this in and of itself is not great, but what I found in going over my notes at the end of the semester is that by writing everything down, I have been able to re-create the lecture in my mind when I re-read the notes. So, while 90% of my notes are devoid of any substance that might be relevant on the exam, I can juxtapose the 10% of good stuff against it. When most of one's notes are complete crap, the important points jump out like a diamond in a cesspool (or something like that.)

3. I am also very glad that I didn't work much (at a job) this semester.
This one I'm very serious about. Throughout undergrad and grad school, I worked either part-time or (predominantly) full-time, mostly at a job completely unrelated to school (it was all right when I worked as a research or teaching assistant, except for having to deal with first-year undergrads). The first few weeks of school this year, I worked a shift or two, but since then I think I worked two days total. If you can pull this off, do it. There is nothing worse than having no time whatsoever to do anything, or feeling like you're always headed from one place to the next, trying to budget your studying time into a set space, &c., &c. You're (probably) going to be making decent money in a few years. Bite the bullet, get the student loan, eat up some of the line of credit. If you're young enough and able to (and your parents don't loathe the thought of having you), live at home.

4. If you can, marry/date somebody who is also a professional student.
OK, this one might not be so easy to accomplish, but if you can do it, it just might be the study tool you need. Your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend is never going to be tugging at your shirt trying to get you to do something while you're knee-deep in the usufructory nature of riparian rights (which no longer even exist in BC, or so they say...) if they're just as busy learning things twice as hard as you (if they're a medical student). Everyone wins! Especially the banks, when it comes time to repay the loans and credit lines that are necessary to support such an arrangement. But, they could use the money.

5. Do stuff at school.
Just because it's fun. And not just drinking, like most law students. Join the hockey team. Get involved with the legal journal. Make a fool of yourself in front of the whole class in the Guile debate (only available at UBC). They're drunk anyway. They'll laugh at your feeble attempts at humour and forget everything by the next morning.

I don't know - some people claim that first year law school is ultra-competitive, with everyone clawing at each others' throats in attempts to get ahead. I haven't seen it this way, and I suspect that the people that feel as such are those who are ultra-competitive, clawing at each get the idea. Perhaps things change after the first round of marks come in. Maybe in a month, I'll be singing a different tune...

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Doin' the blog thing...

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the show.

There's one thing that I've noticed about law students' blogs, and that is because I'm not very perceptive. I'm sure that there are many things that I could have noticed - colours, insightful commentary, witty one-liners about life in law school - you know, actual content?

But here's what I've noticed. They all have their origins in late November/early December of first year. We get to that point, in the first round of exams, where we realize that anything is better than studying, and blogging qualifies as 'anything'. As demonstrated by the content of most blogs (remember, that stuff that I wasn't paying any attention to beforehand - this will be the first of many logical inconsistencies that one might infer from my posting), blogging is as 'anything' as it gets. (What does that even mean?)

So, what to expect from this? I don't know; I suppose random musings, pithy (and substantial) commentary, excerpts from a case that I find particularly funny - that sort of thing. Below is an example of all of the above, neatly wrapped into a well-punctuated paragraph:

One of the things that I appreciate about law school so far is the judge's ability to not only administer justice in their written decisions, but to create beauty therein. I'm not referring to a particular inference or piece of legal reasoning that is so brilliant that it evokes comparisons to great works of fine art, but rather some good, old fashioned, purple prose. Consider Simmons v. U.S. (1962; U.S. Court of Appeals [4th Circ.]), where Chief Justice Sobelhoff wrote "Diamond Jim III, a rock fish, was one of millions of his species swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, but he was a very special fish, and he occasions some nice legal questions." Now, I don't know much about law (I am only a first-year law student, after all), but darn it, when that is the opening sentence to a decision, I want to find out about this case. And I'm not going to forget the facts (I think it was about fishing, or beer, or something) because I've been reeled in by a great hook of an opening line (expect that kind of bad humour throughout this blog).

Anyway, I really should consider studying at some point - while I have completed two exams, I do have three next week, which should give me ample opportunity for procrastination.

Oh, and as for the name of the blog - 'Legal Fiction' - it has its origins in the fact that every blog must have a short, mildly esoteric (read: unfunny to the general public), nerdy title. I guess to break it down (in the parlance of hip-hop enthusiasts), it is 'legal' in the sense that I am a 'law student', and 'fiction' in the sense that it is 'all lies.'