my first time (sort of ;)

I’ve somehow managed to make it through something like a month of class without really getting called on in any of my classes. (For those not familiar with how American law schools operate, they lie and call it the ‘Socratic’ method; it is really closer to state-sanctioned mental abuse. ;) Anyway… I’d escaped. Until today. So a brief note on that, for my kids to read and laugh at some day ;)

First off: I have a big note on the top of my ‘notes about note taking’ that says ‘read the relevant statutes, not just the cases.’ Which I mostly ignored this weekend. I paid for that not once but twice today. Not good to be frantically flipping through your notes trying to figure out what the professor wants, and have him writing the number of the statute on the board. If I’d merely said ‘section 71’ I would have been fine; instead I looked like an idiot. Oops.
Second off: I have feared since day one of this class that I’d get caught thinking about one thing while the professor was asking me about another. It of course happened today- I was so sure he was going to ask about X that when he said ‘what about Y’, I pretty much heard it as X and racked my brain for X when, if I’d thought about Y, the answer would have been obvious. Again, oops. I think this one will get better with exposure and time (I was pretty nervous) but still Not Fun.

The third one just isn’t avoidable. After this weekend’s reading, I had one big question about the reading. I had in my notes ‘ask Prof. Scott about X.’* And instead of getting to ask him about it after class, he announced ‘lets engage in a little brainstorming about X. The whole class will participate.’ He then asked me questions about X for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably 4-5 minutes. Admittedly, he’s so good at doing this (mostly by asking questions that are leading, but not too leading) that I did feel like I almost had an understanding of X after those 4-5 minutes were done. Still… not fun.

So… it is over, I guess, until next time. :) Phew.

* For what it is worth, X is why it appears to be virtually impossible under US common law to make a gratuitous promise enforceable under contract law. Or to put it in more plain english: if I make you a promise to do something, and you give me nothing in return, by default, US law makes it impossible to enforce that. [If you give me something in return, it is a contract, and enforceable.] Under British common law, if I write that same promise down and put a wax seal on it, then the courts will enforce the promise. There is no replacement for the wax seal in the US- no good way to say ‘pretty please enforce it I really really really want it enforced.’ Why there was no equivalent troubled me Saturday when I did the reading, and it was the question I was asked in class. Oww.

4 thoughts on “my first time (sort of ;)”

  1. Oh, no equivalent because we abused seals so much in this country that they lost all meaning. We started writing ‘Locus Sigili’ (place of the seal), and then started writing ‘SL’, and eventually just drew a line- not exactly a solemn sealing ceremony which indicates the binding nature of the promise.

    This was mentioned in the textbook, but the obvious followup is ‘what is the replacement for the seal, then?’ There is no formal replacement, which leads to a big problem- you’ve got a class of legal actions (where people want to have formal promises) that can’t be handled. And he wanted to ask me why by default they shouldn’t be handled, which I felt very unprepared to answer. Turns out there is no good reason I should have known, exactly, but it was still frustrating/intimidating to be asked it.

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