Thursday, September 10, 2009

Telling mom about law school

Want to know what law school is like at the University of Louisville? Here's the way I described the first few weeks to my parents in a recent email. I'm tempted to post a photo of my mom at the bottom, but it seems that discretion is the better part of blogging, at least when parents are involved.

Mom, please forward to dad.....

I'm taking a 5-minute break from studying, and thought I would send you a few thoughts as I make my way through the third week of law school. The schedule is hectic. Generally, I wake up around 6:30 or 6:45 and have breakfast with the family, drive one kid to school, and head to campus. I study for an hour, then attend classes until just before noon, eat lunch (sometimes free pizza for a Lexis promo session or some student group meeting) and then have at least one more class in the early afternoon. I then study until 5:30 or so, go home, have dinner with the family, and study from 8 until 10:30 or so. I think I've had one or two beers since school started. There simply isn't enough time. Even so, I am tremendously happy, more so than I was at any point in my last two years in journalism. The materials and ideas are all new and exciting, and class discussion is like a roller coaster of emotions. Most of my six classes are conducted using the Socratic method, so at any given time a student would have perhaps 10 seconds to regurgitate everything they know about three to four pages of dense material from a particular legal case, which could be one of seven or eight cases studied for that class session. Some students are terrified by this. I haven't always had perfect answers, but I like speaking in public and I enjoy the thrill of being put on the spot.

So far, here are a few things I've learned...

1. How to dig up a dusty 85-year-old book from the library (South Western Reporter, Federal Digest, etc.) and track down the particulars of a lawsuit.
2. Tell the difference between a battery and an assault (among other things, the former requires contact, the latter doesn't)
3. Find the "holding" in a lawsuit where the jury or judge determines the outcome of the issue. We have now read dozens of cases, so finding the various parts and briefing them on a laptop is starting to become second nature.

Five of my six classes are really good, and the sixth is still decent. I particularly enjoy Torts, because the professor makes things interesting by offering real-life cases from Kentucky where it's very difficult to decide if a wrong has been committed. Today, for example, he asked if a hospital nurse should be found liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress for telling a woman in a hospital to shut up after she had just given birth to a stillborn baby. That was just after another case in which we discussed liability for a marriage counselor who had an affair with the wife of a client. The answers are often just as muddy as the cases are complicated. It's a little unsettling, but I find this part of the law to be really fascinating.

Hope you guys are doing well. I will try to find time to do another letter before too long. Hope you have a great holiday weekend, and please forward this to dad as well.



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