Law Review is the law school version of yearbook; it’s where all the cool kids end up. Since I was only able to be an editor of my high school newspaper, being cool is a hugely motivating factor for me. I’ll do almost anything to be cool or just look cool. I’ll smoke cigarettes in the bathroom, I’ll jump off very high things, I’ll steal tootsie rolls from the gas station, and I’ll harass and beat up people smaller than me (but usually only to impress a girl).
However, the Law Review competition is, to date, the craziest thing I have done in an attempt to be cool.
It began on Thursday with a 300 page packet of cases, statutes, law journal articles, and other source material. I knew the packet would be large, however what I did not see coming was that there would be two pages per photocopied sheet, making 600 pages of reading. The object: A 15 page paper in seven days.
So, I set to reading.
This is me, with my friend the source packet (pictured left). I took the liberty of binder clipping all the different sections before beginning the reading
I threw each section of reading onto my bed once I had read and highlighted it.
I concurrently briefed each piece of writing (which is taking notes in a way that outlines the logical progression of each section of writing). Reading and taking notes on everything took me about 3 1/2 law school days. Law school days are typically 13 to 14 hours.
Then I laid everything out in a neat and orderly fashion.
Once everything was laid out, I drafted a whirlybird. A whirlybird is a pre-outline exercise that allows the writer to throw all his thoughts onto the paper in a very scattered and flexible manner. This in turn allowed me to think about the structure of my paper.
After my whirlybird’s first draft, I returned to rereading parts of the packet I had decided, during the first read, were particularly important. Then I tried to start typing something up to get in the process of thinking structurally about the arguments I would make.
After a few attempts at randomness on the word processor, I set out to create a more detailed whirly bird. At this point, it was Monday night, I had nothing written, and I sank into a chest-hardening panic that I would never finish on time. This panic evolved into pacing madly about my paper-strewn room. If I were not a robot incapable of human emotion, the night would have found me balled up in the corner of my room sobbing an oblivion out of tears. After I had been endlessly treading in a sea of cold, black self-doubt, I was tossed to shore and lay gasping for a little while. Then, as befits my modus operandi, I gave myself an impossible goal meant more to flagelllate then motivate. I set the goal to be done with the writing portion of my paper by noon the following day (Tuesday), and went to bed, exhausted, scared, and exhausted again at 3:30am.
As a result, I woke up at 7:30am Tuesday morning and typed until 5:30am Wednesday morning. I am told by friends that majored in math that this is a little less than 1 day (I cannot, however, verify that assertion). My paper contained around 65 footnotes to the source packet. However, everyone of these had to be cite checked in the dauntingly incomprehensible Bluebook Manual of Uniform Style 18 ed.
My usual expression when reading about quoting an opinion citing two other opinions, each of which feature dissenting opinions by the same judge. I’ve often wondered why it is called the blue book (it’s never a good sign when the book is so dense and convoluted that the closest thing the publisher can come up with to an overarching theme is a color). Also, if you notice, the pictures of me in this post all exhibit the same sweatshirt. These are post law-review-competition pictures. I staged these reenactments because during the actual competition I had no time. Also, during the actual competition I was bespectacled, wearing large baggy t-shirts with noticeable sweat stains, hair unkempt and mangy, beard untrimmed and retaining bits of shredded lettuce, and usually just sitting in my boxers (the prospect of putting on pants being too overwhelming).
I spent all day Wednesday cite checking over and over again.
Thursday morning I was able to invade the undergraduate library and monopolize the printer long enough to purge the requisite 69 copies of my paper. After two hundred pages or so had printed, I had to turn off the monitor of computer so that I would not be able to inadvertently find any typos. Since then, I have refused to look at my paper in part or whole.
I then clutched the 800 pages to my chest and made the journey back to my room, dreading that any second a wild wind would howl through the hall and turn my collated stack into a snow storm of citations. None did. I was able to get the papers into their respective envelopes without incident (see first picture).
Final thoughts about law review competition:
Rutgers uses a system that is part “write-on” and part “grade-on” for its law review. The vast majority of the staff positions will go to those who grade-on. However, much as a walk-on can join a football team, a write-on does not need a requisite GPA, but merely a superior showing in this contest. It sounds like an alluring proposition for anyone without stellar grades, but on closer inspection, like most things in law school, the write-on is statistically against the student. First, the write-on spots will go to those that score in the top 15-20 of the class (200). Second, the standards to score well consist of cogent and lucid, easy to follow analysis, flawless grammar and spelling, and perfect citation. Third, for the subject of the write-on competition, the search committee endeavors to find the most unsettled and complicated court case available. Fourth, if the sheer amount of the source packet is not disheartening, its complete opaqueness is.
I see this “walk-on” analogy as: We’ll give you a spot as center fielder, but first you have to pass a batting test. Okay, we want you to wear this blindfold. Wearing this blindfold, we want you to listen for the whistle of the ball coming over the plate. You must make contact with the ball on the first pitch, regardless of whether that pitch is over the plate or not. Further, you must hit the ball with enough velocity to send it out to right field. However, hitting it into right field isn’t enough. The ball must land in that brim-full pail of water. Oh, and under no circumstances may there be ANY splash … You may not think this is possible. I assure you it is. Many people have done it before you (although many others have cracked under the pressure, however, they have been forgotten as history hates losers, and if you fail history will hate you to, no doubt you’re already a loser). Doubtless, too, you will be visited by depression and self-loathing, loser. If this happens, just breathe deeply, but in a way that magically lifts your spirits. Good luck, and really, it looks harder than it is. You’ve seen The Matrix, it’s not as though I’m asking you to bend something with your mind … DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN WITH IT!
You see, it is my strong belief that law school is largely the training ground for can-do automatons … Hilarious.