Friday, January 27, 2012

What I'm learning about in law school: reptiles, health care, and how to avoid a long stay in prison

The Pinto -- like U.S. healthcare?
In my second year of law school, I wrote a blog post about the things I was learning in Con Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and other classes. This semester is turning out to be completely different from any other so far. Four of my five courses are taught by adjunct faculty, and none of them are part of the core curriculum. But even so -- or maybe because of this -- I'm learning a lot about the law and life in general. Here are a few tidbits.
  • Advanced Trial Practice: in a class of just seven people, it's hard to hide. But who would want to hide when your teachers are two grizzled trial lawyers who teach law by swapping war stories, and organizing role playing activities in class. This is probably my favorite course of the semester so far. One of the techniques we're learning is David Ball's "reptile" method of trying cases, in which you convince the jury to make decisions that protecting themselves and the community, and avoid danger. 
  • Medical Malpractice: doctors, social workers, nurses and other medical providers have a duty to warn certain people who are not their patients if they diagnose someone with a condition that could be dangerous to others. We're also reading about the finer points of informed consent, physician liability, and the laws that govern hospital emergency rooms.
  • Health Law Seminar: this is a two-credit class that focuses on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. We're learning about how health insurance works (or doesn't) and how our country has somehow managed to have a healthcare system that costs as much as a Cadillac and runs like a Ford Pinto.
  • Negotiation: arguing with an insurance adjuster about a car wreck case is way more than starting high and settling somewhere in the middle. Our main textbook, Getting to Yes, shows how to negotiate like a pro, focusing on interests instead of positions, and inventing creative options for mutual gain. It might sound like hocum, but it works. 
  • Public Defender: I wish I could say more about the criminal cases I'm working on this semester for the public defender, but, well, I can't. They involve real people facing looooong prison sentences for serious crimes, and the students in our externship program get to do actual work on their cases, including appearances in court, and in some cases arguing motions before judges. 
Although my last semester of school is chock full of great experience, perhaps the biggest lesson I'm learning is patience. At this point, many 3Ls, myself included, are ready to kick off the training wheels and dive into real practice. But we can't. Yet. It's sort of like the time you bought your first house (or car), and you're waiting for closing day. It's going to happen, but the waiting is torture. 

No comments:

Post a Comment