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Jun 04

How not to Succeed in Law School

It’s official. Litigation 1 is the suckiest subject this session. I mean Legal Theory was a fair amount of philosophical wank, but at least it was interesting (once you cut through that “why use one word when fifty will do?” syndrome). Litigation is chock full of uninteresting rules and technicalities and little bits and pieces which always seem to gravitate towards the nebulous principle of “judge’s discretion” or “with the leave of the court” anyway. Exam for it is next Wednesday. Ugh.


Anyway, time for some quirky legal humour. This journal article appears to have made it into Yale Law Journal: How not to Succeed in Law School. It’s bloody funny. Eg:

A law professor’s greatest aspiration is to be like Professor Kingsfield in the movie The Paper Chase. One professor who saw the movie decided (this is a true story) to act out one of the scenes from the film in his class. He called on a student, who replied that he was unprepared. The professor said, “Mr. Jones, come down here.” The student walked all the way down to the front of the class. The professor gave the student a dime, and said, “Take this dime. Call your mother. Tell her that there is very little chance of your ever becoming a lawyer.” Ashamed, the student turned and walked slowly toward the door. Suddenly, however, he had a flash of inspiration. He turned around, and in a loud voice, said, “NO, Clyde.” (He called the professor by his first name.) “I have a BETTER idea! YOU take this dime, and you go call ALL YOUR FRIENDS!” The class broke into pandemonium. The professor broke the student into little bitty pieces.

The judgment in Cordas v. Peerless Transport Co is incredible. I thought Lord Denning gave dainty descriptions of the facts, but Justice Carlin’s judgment is a unique, convoluted monstrosity. I couldn’t imitate that writing that if I tried. Not that I’d want to. Here’s a sample:

This case presents the ordinary man–that problem child of the law–in a most bizarre setting. As a lowly chauffeur in defendant’s employ he became in a trice the protagonist in a breach-bating drama with a denouement almost tragic. It appears that a man, whose identity it would be indelicate to divulge was feloniously relieved of his portable goods by two nondescript highwaymen in an alley near 26th Street and Third Avenue, Manhattan; they induced him to relinquish his possessions by a strong argument ad hominem couched in the convincing cant of the criminal and pressed at the point of a most persuasive pistol. Laden with their loot, but not thereby impeded, they took an abrupt departure and he, shuffling off the coil of that discretion which enmeshed him in the alley, quickly gave chase through 26th Street toward 2d Avenue, whither they were resorting ‘with expedition swift as thought’ for most obvious reasons. Somewhere on that thoroughfare of escape they indulged the stratagem of separation ostensibly to disconcert their pursuer and allay the ardor of his pursuit. He then centered on for capture the man with the pistol whom he saw board defendant’s taxicab, which quickly veered south toward 25th Street on 2d Avenue where he saw the chauffeur jump out while the cab, still in motion, continued toward 24th Street; after the chauffeur relieved himself of the cumbersome burden of his fare the latter also is said to have similarly departed from the cab before it reached 24th Street.