h to be a 1L again. Those innocent days in the not-so-distant past when I was scared straight just showing up to class and thought I was smarter than anyone not affiliated with the legal profession. Oh how young I was!
A recent post discussed quirky run-ins with the judiciary. This in turn spun the wheels in my head – a dangerous proposition I recognize – back to my 1L days, and humorous occurrences that I experienced, either directly or through my classmates.
• During an early first semester Property lecture shortly after studying Ghen v. Rich, a famous case that concerned possession and ownership rights and etched the term “finback whale” into my vocabulary, my professor, a young, slightly timid first year teacher with a degree from Yale, brought in an article titled “Whose Moose?” for the class to discuss. A poor defenseless moose had recently been struck and killed by a car in Maine and the driver was rendered unconscious from the accident. A local butcher cleaned up the animal carcass from the road and sold the meat in his shop. Upon gaining consciousness, the driver demanded the rights to any profits that the moose his vehicle killed brought the butcher and initiated litigation, and my professor seized upon the opportunity to show us how 19th century case law still plays a role in this modern day and age. Keeping in mind that we were in our wee infancy stages of law school, a concerned classmate, common sense be damned, raised her hand and asked “well, if you automatically gain rights to the moose upon killing it, wouldn’t everyone just drive right into moose on the road?” I think I actually wrote that question down in my notes as a valid argument. The professor did not stray from the case book again.
• In early November during my first semester, I attended the wedding of a friend out in Phoenix. I left Chicago on Friday afternoon and returned very late Sunday night, early Monday morning. Now let’s remember that I had yet to take a final exam in law school, and up to that point had never taken a test worth 100% of my final grade. I was also a young and ambitious 1L student terrified of whatever lay ahead. Determined not to miss a second of an opportunity to study with finals a mere month away, I brought almost every casebook and supplemental outline – I was rather addicted to those early on and had quite a few (dozen) – with me so that I could study during the entire time I was out in Arizona. My carry-on bag weighed roughly 60 pounds and my shoulder and upper back hurt for a week after I returned. Not surprisingly, other than the plane rides, the bag and its contents went untouched. But hey, those few hours of Criminal Law studying certainly went a long way!
• Speaking of Criminal Law, early on my professor was explaining two doctrines called Winship and Mullaney and how there was some overlap in various jurisdictions between the two. I couldn’t tell you a thing about either case, or the particular lecture in general. What I can tell you however, is that to illustrate her point, my professor drew two circles on the dry erase board and shaded in the area where the two circles overlapped. Now keep in mind that roughly 95% of my class took their notes on a computer. What stands out from this exercise in overlapping and circle drawing is that the 95% seemed uniformly in panic as they frantically tried to figure out how to draw and shade circles on their computer. I’m proud to say that I was amongst the 5% who took notes by hand, and despite my artistic deficiencies, had no problem illustrating her drawings in my notepad.
• Another Criminal Law story: around the same time as the above lecture took place, my professor, in an attempt to have us familiarize ourselves with the Code of Illinois Criminal Procedure, assigned us about 50 pages worth of the actual Code to read…which I did…verbatim…and highlighted and took notes despite the fact that I had no idea what I was reading or how to use the darn thing correctly. Thankfully a newfound friend spent a half hour showing me how to navigate after I nearly panicked following the next Criminal Law class. Yep, it didn’t take much to get me riled up back then.
• Smack in the middle of our second semester final exams, a handful of us were studying at the (sketchy) 24 hour diner that we turned into a second home bi-annually during our three years in law school. Constitutional Law was the next final up on the docket and would commence promptly at 9:00 a.m. the following morning. Towards midnight, a classmate with a rather unorthodox style of studying asked us if we thought we needed to know the Dormant Commerce Clause for the exam, a subject we had only spent a good 2-3 weeks dissecting throughout the course of the semester. We answered in the affirmative to which he rather calmly replied “guess I should read those cases” without so much as glancing up from his outline. As he proceeded to scurry through his notes, the rest of us at the table slowly looked up at one another somewhat concerned for our dear classmate. He still passed the class.