Tuesday, October 04, 2005


For the first time in law school I have failed a course; moot court. The interesting thing is that this is a pass/fail course. It's not required at most schools, but because the school has won some awards against some top schools, beating the crap out of Boalt and Hastings, they decided to make it one.

It's one of those bizarre moments where you realize working hard sometimes just doesn't matter.

I spent weeks on my brief, sorting through contract law and reading case after case. He wrote "it looks like it was written the night before". There were actually people who did write it the night before. He couldn't tell the difference.

I read the review; he found 73 errors. The fatal mistake was that I confused arguments for legal arguments. Whatever that means. You weave the factual arguments and legal arguments together. Everybody knows that. My friend had me read his review; he found 76 errors and he confused arguments for legal arguments. He passed.

Not to mention the fact that I showed it to the TA (more on him later) and a former TA who was one of our moot court champions. She said it was fine, assuming I would fix the format errors. Of course, the fatal flaw obviously wasn't the format errors.

The TA works for the DA as a clerk. He has a reputation as a disaster. Rumor has it that at least one attorney won't let him near any of her cases, as he gave away the whole case in a simple 1538.5 reply. The clerks at the PD's office cannot believe the stuff he writes.

Inside my brief I read all of his bizarre comments; stylistic criticisms he calls errors. The teacher never bothered to check. I write "the contract not ambiguous", in argument. He writes "no it isn't! that's why we are here!" even though he was there when I talked to the instructor about how I should argue.

The conversation went like this; "I don't want to argue no ambiguity because it contradicts my argument". Instructor: no, you don't give anything up: you argue it isn't ambiguous and even if it is, it is still in your favor. The TA was sitting right there watching us. I am not making any of this up.

I look through my classmates briefs'; the same strange comments; he marks the words "shown" and crosses out "the case at bar" and other wierd things.

I originally asked him to look at my brief. He brought it back the next day, never bothered to read it. This was weeks before it was due. I had misgivings from the start, but the day he gave me a half-hour lecture on summary judgment was the straw. He babbled incoherently for almost half an hour straight. There are a certain number of law students, lawyers, people who in general are TOMA (talking out of my ass). People rely upon them. Some of them are quite successful. But if you listen carefully, you realize they don't actually understand a lot of the things they are talking about; yet they exude confidence. It's a very dangerous thing.

I thought of appealing it and realized it would be easier to just take the class over. The appeals process usually isn't resolved before the next semester ends, and it's for the most part a rubber-stamp committee composed of, guess who, lawyers who also teach at the school. My understanding is that you cannot show them other students tests to demonstrate the lack of objectivity. Besides, making the teacher look like an asshole while I'm in his class just doesn't seem smart.

I know what happened. Every now and then teachers make "examples" of certain students. It's hard to believe, but once in a while animosity for a class can develop into a vendetta, and I have the strange ability to attract this type of energy. It's difficult to explain. I'm polite, not a class asshole. I defer to the teacher. I do what I'm told. I was actually one of the people who defended the instructor, worked hard, practiced hard; if the intended effect was to get people to take him seriously it had the opposite effect. It proved he can't tell the difference between those who slack off and those who do not.

One of the great lessons here, which I already got from my summer internship, is that there are no shortage of incompetent people who are telling others they are incompetent.


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