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January 29, 2005

Hunkered Down

Afraid I'm in the midst of a very long date with Miss Note, which is why you've not seen me for a few days. It's the blind date from hell, by the way, and there are so many things I'd rather be doing than making googly eyes at her for hours on end. But nothing that I've been wanting to say recently could be said briefly. Perhaps after this interminable evening is over, I've tipped the waiter nicely, and kissed this not-so-pretty charm school reject goodnight, holding the door ever so gentlemanly and thinking up convenient excuses in case she invites me up for coffee[1], you'll be treated to a veritable orgy of real writing here.

One thing I'm learning: I really hate legal academic writing. I'm actually quite fond of the memorandum style I used in my job over the summer: succinct, to the point, suited to purpose. That I can do. But law reviews and law review style are addicted to footnotes in a manner that is only slightly more maddening to read than to write. Anyone up for writing a virus that disables the footnote function in MS Word? (That is to say, disables it more thoroughly than MS's buggy code already does?)

[1]: Most Note writers will probably pick up on the meaning of this extended metaphor. Otherwise... don't worry about it. Note writing does horrible things to your mind, including making you wish for excuses to write mythically, metaphorically, or at least in such a manner that you don't need goddamn footnotes.

(Ed.--erm... you realize what you're writing now, right?) (Author: D'oh!)

January 10, 2005

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Stack His Body Next To Mine

It's 3PM, which gives precisely five hours until the Note deadline. (Of course, missing the deadline by a few hours just means I have to do an extra day of work, but that's annoying in and of itself.) Only about twelve pages left, really, and this is the easy stuff: it's all analysis from here on in. The citations will be a mess, the order of paragraphs not-quite-optimal, the language stilted, but it will limp across the finish line burning and complaining like a race car in a bad Burt Reynolds movie.

If you see me online somewhere between now and then, you have my personal... is it permission, license, or agreement?... to smack me with a dead haddock. (Fresh, not frozen.) I'm on the eighth floor, so you know where to find me.

Update: (8PM) It's in. It's a train wreck, but it's in. Actually, I'm quite excited about getting it revised now, so I'll probably work a lot more on it this week. But for the moment, I'm haddock-free.

January 07, 2005

The Paradoxical Perils of Passion About One's Note Topic

I think I've begun to understand why I'm having such a hard time getting up the energy to actually write this thing, even though the deadline looms. Oddly, it's because I actually care about my Note topic, and this may have been a mistake.

While I don't want to go into too much about what the Note concerns (it almost certainly violates some right I signed over to the Law Review on a paper I'll quite cheerfully admit I never read), it's a very small subset of what I'd like to write about: reasons that Unauthorized Practice of Law statutes have become obsolete. To give my conclusion without the argument, in an ideal world I would hope that lawyers could be regulated by a combination of various opt-in standards bodies and liability systems, rather than the one-sized fits all ethics codes administered by guild-like cartels (as we have today). Groups like Nolo or We the People might choose to opt for one of these standards, or they might not, particularly if they wanted to provide legal services to those who cannot afford our current high-cost paradigm. And lawyers who felt that legal advice would be more effective bundled with other services--say, accounting--could do so merely by opting out of standards bodies that restricted multidisciplinary practice.

There's a number of reasons for my view, and I'll probably write about them more in the next couple of days. For now, suffice it to say that I think this would provide greater access to the legal system for a greater number of people at a lower cost, while simultaneously making lawyers lives happier and more meaningful. [1]

However, there's no way that topic is small enough for a note. I thought about it at the beginning of the process, and there was no way to fit it in. So what I'm writing about now is actually a small section of a much larger article. I can see that article's structure in my head: how the sections balance, how the pieces fit together. But what I have to write is a small fraction hodge-podged together from the greater whole of my passion.

(One option I'm considering for next year: scale down the amount I work on other law school projects, and instead concentrate on writing and publishing this article. It would mean sacrificing some other things, but as I said, I'm quite passionate about this subject.)

So this constrained feeling limits my urge to write. But more than this, I feel like I've already dredged all the personal value I can get from the project. I believe that I've drawn the right conclusions from my research and found the proper support. I even believe that once written, it will be an interesting article and the conclusions would be worth following and implementing as policy.

But there's the rub: it ain't gonna happen.

If my article were being written by Judge Posner and published in the most prestigious journal in the land, it simply wouldn't make a difference. The most damning indictment of the damages caused by the legal cartel; the most clear contention of social gain through lower legal cost; the most moral argument ever made in the pages of a law review would be unavailing. Any change in this area is unlikely to come through the courts or the legal academy. (There is some possibility that corporate counsel may start the ball rolling against unauthorized practice of law, but even that is doubtful.) The people who brought us The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee v. Parsons Technology Inc., 179 F.3d 956 (1999) are not about the set aside the monopoly that makes them wealthy, that makes law professors more highly-paid than other educators, and that drives most of the machinery I'm going through now.

Which makes a law review note about this seem a little pointless. The people I'd like to reach are businesses with political clout looking to cut their legal expenses. I'd like my readers to include groups like Nolo, or other legal consumer advocates. But these are not the people most likely to read or benefit from my work if it's closeted in a law review available only to those paying large subscription fees or WEXIS access charges.

So having learned everything I need to in order to write this thing, now I'm sort of uninspired to do it. It's another tick-box on another task list of "things that have to be done in order to get out of law school." Contrast this with my clinic work--something I'd like to continue volunteering on--where I know that what I was building not only would be used, but was going to make sure that attorneys going into a courtroom could more easily and effectively help people marginalized by a legal system that--mostly due to cost--ineffectively meets their needs. That I'd bleed for. This just has to be done.

Update: I should probably make clear that the above isn't an argument against writing a note as a pedagogical requirement. Nor am I saying that law reviews shouldn't require notes (although I do wonder). However, I almost certainly should have taken more care in choosing my note topic, concentrating not only on what I wanted to write and research, but on the audience that I would be expected to address. It would have made this stage all the easier.

[1]: I know, that's a big claim. As I said, I hope to get to the whys and wherefores of this in the next couple of days, but it just didn't fit with this blog entry.

The March of Doom

Page Count: About 4.

Content: Mostly headers and introductory sentences.

Mood: This can be done. Actually, once you start writing it, it actually gets kind of exciting.

January 06, 2005

The Fraternity of the Damned, Part II

[An open letter to the Damned Fraternity]

Dear Wormwood and Friends,

Some of you may have been reading about how other bloggers have been diligently working on their Notes for the past six months, have their drafts nicely in order, and are now sitting upon thirty to forty typed pages of legal wisdom ready for various stages of submission.

And if you're a member of the Fraternity of the Damned, you know how we feel about those people. [1]

Well, Fraternal Brothers and Sisters, let me say that you're not alone. Some of us have Monday deadlines and have barely started the writing process. Some of our notes have order that could only be divined by mad prophets and chaos theoreticians. Some of us have been absorbed by dread, fear, simple lack of care or a surplus of better things to do with our lives, and thus have shoved this work aside the way like a smelly pile of festering dishes. (Someone else's dishes, a common problem if you live in my dorm.)

Actually, Wormwood, I'm not that worried: this is how the process works for me. Major projects have four or five day period of mandatory work-avoidance which come before a burst of creativity resulting in output of unparalleled adequacy. I know that while I've been playing solitaire, doing laundry, or researching how to defragment a paging file, some part of the back of my head has also been writing the Note.

Now I have merely to get that muse to vomit forth her ponderings into my conscious mind. She's normally summoned by adrenaline (check), lack of sleep (check), and quanities of coffee that swing commodities markets. [2] Today's choice is the fine "Hamilton's Blend," so named because I'm certain that if someone were to check their coffee machine, coffee beans at some point had something to do with the blend of stuff that's in it.

All other projects have either been completed or back-burnered until Monday. Now is the time, fellow Fraternals, for the rough draft to commence. We either get this damn'd thing out of the way, or let it conquer us.

Are you with me?

[Ed.-- There follows an ear-shattering silence and the chirping of crickets.]

[1]: They're lovely people, as we all know. Good as all get out, the type of folks to whom the universe should give only its best at every turn. But when deadlines loom, members of the Fraternity, we all know that there are places of pitch, oil and brimstone that we really wish were reserved for them.

[2]: Someday an enterprising reader is going to ask me about my deadlines and start purchasing the appropriate coffee futures. Whether or not this would constitute insider trading is someone else's Note, and they're welcome to it.

Giving The Devil His Due

Hunkered Down (1)
Tony the Pony wrote: Alas, turning her down is no more a... [more]

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Stack His Body Next To Mine (2)
Adam wrote: Congrats. I'm pretty much at the s... [more]

The Paradoxical Perils of Passion About One's Note Topic (5)
Anthony wrote: Thanks for that. I'm familiar with ... [more]

The March of Doom (1)
Tony the Pony wrote: Keep it up, and good luck! I'm a... [more]

The Fraternity of the Damned, Part II (3)
A. Rickey wrote: Alison, when I make my first "Frate... [more]

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