A Columbia Law Student Blog - Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil

August 25, 2006

And like that... he is gone

So that's it. RIP Three Years of Hell, June 2, 2003 to August 25, 2006. After all these words, there are only a few things left to say.

Two sites, the Imbroglio and the Volokh Conspiracy, have given me a slightly premature sendoff, and their words are very kind. (The site has received its final Kerr Package.) In answer to Ambimb's question as to why the site is closing, the answer is simply that the project is done. I don't know what my next big task will be. I've got two articles in process (much more difficult now I don't have free Lexis access). There's a few chapters written of a novel, a thought made more exciting by three friends who have already written books. The more I look at law and technology, the more I think that an open-source, XML-based framework for writing judicial opinions would bring caselaw closer to the public (as well as weaken the WEXIS duopoly). Perhaps that's a project worth looking into. Whatever the case, I'm sure I'll have no problem coming up with other tasks to occupy my (soon to dwindle rapidly) free time. This story was always meant to have an ending, and after all these months, it is finally here.

Thank you to the professors and students at Columbia Law School who made this journey such a rich experience. The same goes to the bloggers across the 'sphere who've linked, commented and otherwise spread the word. (A special note should go to Martin, who started me on this path.) My family, although asked not to comment on the blog itself, never failed to give me encouragement (and fodder for quite a few posts) throughout my years here.

And finally, of course, thank you to all of you who've read this site over the last three years and a bit. Journeys are made better with travelling companions, and I couldn't have asked for a finer bunch.

Best regards,


And for those without blogs...

Dear Wormwood:

Our correspondence over these last few years, put together, may be the single longest thing I've ever written. For old time's sake, however, I hope you'll allow me to give you one last list, a few things I hope you'll take with you in your own purgatorial journeys.

At long last, Wormwood, our conversation is at an end. Please take with you my best wishes, and may your time in law school bring you every joy possible.

Continue reading "And for those without blogs..." »

Advice for 1Ls Starting a Blog: A Much Shorter Part II

Dear Wormwood:

I promised you two letters that might help your friend Scrimgouge in starting a 1L blog. The first letter focused mostly upon matters that any blogger, legal or otherwise, might find useful, be they technical or stylistic. But both you and Scrimgouge are now law student, which makes your efforts (and yes, dear Wormwood, I really am hoping that you too might start blogging) a bit different. So with the basics out of the way, I'd like to make a few quick notes and observations on what I've learned from law school blogging.

  1. Eschew anonymity: I've covered the reasons for this in one of my most oft-read posts. I know I bang on upon this, but anonymity certainly isn't as safe as you'd suspect. Besides, it's only polite that when you violate Godwin's Law, your opponent knows where to send the summons and complaint.
  2. Don't be surprised if your first year makes for the most interesting blogging: First year blogs are great, indeed positively addicting. Most 1Ls find themselves thrust into this bizarro land where Socratic Method suddenly makes sense as a pedagogical technique and everything--and I mean everything--starts being seen through the lense of law. On the other hand, 1L bloggers know that most of their readers aren't other law students, but their friends, family and associates from back in the "real world." The need to explain the pressure-cooker anxiety, and the urge to translate the experience to outsiders, makes for excellent writing.

    1L year is all about learning the game. 2L year, you merely refine it. By 3L, you're looking for another game to play because you know exactly how much class you can snooze through with minimal effect on your grades. Why do you think Scott Turow didn't write a sequel?

  3. Give your fellow students (and professors) some space: TYoH followed two pretty simple rules. First, don't mention a non-blogging professor by name. Refer to them instead as "Prof. Contracts" or "Prof. CivPro." It's not much, but it does mean that your blog entries won't end up as Google hits for their name. Secondly, if you have a story to tell about a fellow student, even if you're not mentioning them by name, shoot them a quick email with a draft of the post before you publish. They may not want their lives appearing online. Most of the time, no one will care, but it's a good habit that saves trouble later on.
  4. Blog about what fascinates you: Your text really comes alive when you have an interesting story to tell, or when you're passionate about an issue. All law student bloggers eventually create their own niche. I've posted quite a lot on gay marriage, for instance, but also on the appropriateness of professional status for legal practitioners (much more obscure) and strange tax issues. The Ambivalent Imbroglio should be one of the first reads for any law student thinking of becoming a public defender (or a prosecutor, for that matter). You don't have to comment fully on everything. If you find something interesting but don't have anything to say on it, an entry with a quick link is perfectly fine. Write in depth on those issues you care about.
  5. Engage others: Yesterday I wrote about connecting to other bloggers, but focused mostly on law professors or major players. Yet the real and lasting relationships in blogging will come from your own cohorts, your peers out there on the great wide internet. I've copied fair amounts of code from Heidi's effort. I've made fast friends with Chris. I've pimped Jeremy's book. These are the things I smile about when I remember TYoH, and I'll bet I do so a decade from now. Your cohort will be a source of support when things go wrong, both scholastically and technically. They'll also be something you'll carry away from law school.
  6. Keep a sense of humor: All too often, you'll be inspired to shout. When you do, put the post in "draft" and leave it to the next day. Remember that at the right moment and you'll thank me later.
  7. Keep in touch: Perhaps not advice, so much, but if there's a 1L out there starting a blog and they need a bit of help, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun reading your work in the years to come.

And that, dearest Wormwood, is that. I hope that Scrimgouge finds the next three years as exciting as I did.

Welcome to the Continuum! or Passing the Torch

Say hello to Luis Villa, a 1L at Columbia law school. He's another coder turned lawyer, and his musings on code and law strike a cord.

If there's any other Columbia Law School bloggers who would like to tie their blogs into the Columbia Continuum, feel free to email me. (I will be keeping that site working, and maybe even improved, after this site goes quiet.)

UPDATE: Welcome also to Legal Economics, another Columbia 1L. This guy will have no trouble in Reg State. Too bad it's not a required class anymore, eh?

(Please note that the Continuum requires an RSS feed, so if you're on Blogger or Blogspot, you should get a Feedburner account.)

Down to the Wire

Right... self-imposed deadline of tonight to finish this thing off, and still four or five posts that I need to complete. Right now all that quick typing in exams is coming in handy!

August 24, 2006

Advice for 1Ls Considering a Blog: A Very Long Part One

Dear Wormwood:

Who is this Scrimgouge whose email address you've forwarded me? It's certainly very flattering that he's asking you to ask me for advice on starting a law school blog. Nevertheless, there's no good reason for him to ask me at one remove. [1] You know full well I'd speak at the opening of a Doritos bag, and give away advice just as profligately.

Since your friend has asked, I'm happy to oblige. This particular project has run for over three years, and I'd like to think that in that time I've learned a few things that might help out a beginner. Of course, with the start of the fall semester, there is currently no shortage of advice for new law students, and I'm sure that similar wisdom about blogs is a dime a dozen. Hopefully your friend Scrimgouge will find one or two chestnuts here that he hasn't managed to gather elsewhere. Sadly for him, however, whatever angels generally look over my shoulder and force me to be brief have taken a tea break. What follows is quite lengthy indeed.

To help out a bit, I've divided the post into five sections that continue after the cut:
First, the commonplace.
Second, decide what you want to do.
Third, learn a bit about the technology.
Fourth, connect, connect, connect (to the Web).
Fifth, connect, connect, connect (to other bloggers).
Finally, have fun.

I hope it helps.

Continue reading "Advice for 1Ls Considering a Blog: A Very Long Part One" »

Could Be Worse

A friend of mine just gave me a "post bar exam gift": a copy of Ichisada Miyazaki's China's Examination Hell: The Civil Service Examinations of Imperial China. From the first page:

Competition for a chance to take the civil service examinations began, if we may be allowed to exaggerate only a little, even before birth. . . . Prenatal care began as soon as a woman was known to be pregnant. . . .

Legal education system take note: you have something to aspire towards.

Grumpy Old Man Alert: "In My Day, We Didn't Have the 'SONI' System Like You Youngsters. We Read Two Hundred Spam Emails From Every Society Imaginable, And We LIKED It."

Forwarded from a current Columbia Law Student, from one of Student Services' fantastic new staff members:

We have put in place a new system, the Student Organization News and Information (SONI) System, which allows student organizations and journals to email students directly and allows you to select to which student organization and journal email lists you wish to subscribe or unsubscribe.
We hope that you find this system a helpful way to receive information from student organizations, and a good way to cut down on your email traffic.

The SONI system works as follows. All students in the Law School are initially subscribed to each student organization's email list. You may choose to unsubscribe from any list, at which point you will no longer receive email from that particular organization or journal. If you wish, you can later choose to resubscribe.

What a fantastic idea! I'm sure this entry will attract a lot of groans from the Class of 2006 and older, though. They can take heart: scuttlebutt is that you still can't avoid the daily deluge of emails from the public interest folks.

August 23, 2006

New York Pungent

Strange circumstances conspire to bring me back to New York just before the blog ends. I drove through Jersey late last night. A blind man could smell his way up the Jersey Turnpike. My memory of New York will be forever mixed with the smell of garbage. Tokyo has its sweating salarymen with natto-breath crowding the subway. Summer winds blow stinging road dust into your eyes in London. But the smell of rotting dinners sets New York apart, simply because it's always there, and especially strong in the summer. No part of Manhattan escapes it. Walk up from a Times Square subway exit, the cleaned-up area for tourists, and spoilt meat assaults your nose. Walk down Broadway for a romantic meal and you're certain to pass at least three corners reeking of fish. Take a badly air-conditioned cab through slow traffic to a job interview on 54th street and you have a choice: roll up the windows and sweat or arrive with your suit smelling as if you cleaned a drainage ditch in it. Maybe as the years go by I'll grow nostalgic and I'll forget. But for the present, summer in New York is remembered with my nose.

August 18, 2006

The Beginning of the End

Dear Wormwood:

The bar exam is over. I've moved away from D.C. to Another State. [1] And today the last signs of law-student living left me: my free Lexis account no longer works.

I feel I shall soon have withdrawal symptoms.

In any event, it's about time for this project to end. After all, Wormwood, while your journey through law school is beginning, it's time for me to go on about my life. There's still a little left I have to say, mostly about blogging, school, and a few observations to send you on your way. But even of that, there's not much. I'm going home to visit my parents this weekend, but I should be back to writing on Monday.

So by way of forewarning, Wormwood, you can expect the final entry of TYoH to appear one week from today, on Friday, August 25th. Now I just have to get everything in order. There is, of course, a project plan.

[1]: Incidentally, if I hadn't believed it before, this move would have convinced me that the Scion xB is great value for money. Over 30 miles to the gallon and I can fit massive amounts of cargo in the back.

Giving The Devil His Due

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Bateleur wrote: I tip my hat to you - not only for ... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
gcr wrote: a nice cozy victorian in west phill... [more]

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A Clockwork Orange

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A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

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The Southern Belles of New Zealand

While the North Island of New Zealand has a bit more of the action as home to the country’s largest cities and towns, the South Island gets all the well-deserved hype. It’s here where you find those postcard-perfect landscapes: the turquoise lakes at the foothills of soaring snow-capped mountains, enchanted forests draped in blankets of green moss, streams jetting out of mountainsides and crashing hundreds of feet into a riverbed dotted with rainbow trout. It’s a land whose remoteness is other-worldly, where you can drive for an entire day without seeing any sign of life, besides the fluffy, white sheep grazing on the endless, rolling fields.

And so with our campervan Bertha as our dutiful guide, we set out for two weeks of exploring the beauty of the South Island. Here’s a look at some of the memorable roads we traversed:


Fiordland National Park NZ 27 e1265592557637 The Southern Belles of New ZealandThe cream of the bountiful crop of New Zealand’s attractions is, undoubtedly, Fiordland National Park. Tucked into the remote southern corner of the island, it’s here where you experience the awe-inspiring fiord of Milford Sound. Fiords are long, narrow inlets of the sea that lie between steep slopes, and the fiord found at Milford Sound’s has attracted international tourists for over one hundred years. We took in the majestic experience aboard a boat that brought us face-to-face with the towering mountains and some fantastic wildlife. We also cruised by colonies of penguins and watched a school of dolphins jump and flip for our cameras. Photos barely do justice to the beauty of this land, but any NZ visitor can attest, it’s a must-see for any traveler.

Vineyard Hopping

Marlborough NZ 48 e1265593826430 The Southern Belles of New ZealandHome to New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs, we spent a day sipping our way through the Marlborough region. We made it to some of the big guys, like Cloudy Bay and Scott Family Wineries, and to the ‘cellar doors’ of some of the lesser-known boutique wineries like Bladen and Seresin. Here we got a chance not only to sample the best of the region’s viticultural offerings, but we also got to know the faces and stories of the people behind them.

Southern Lakes

Fiordland National Park NZ 121 e1265596739739 The Southern Belles of New ZealandDeep in the South Island are a handful of pristine lakes. Some are a seemingly bottomless deep blue and others are a refreshingly, clear green hue. And all are set against the unrivaled backdrop of the Southern Alps. Most of the lakes are accompanied by quaint villages lined with a few cafes offering strong brew and the catch of the day. Many of the locales are an adventure-seeker’s dream, with outfitters ready to take you jumping, gliding or climbing up, down and around all corners of the area. To keep the pocketbook in check (or at least pretend we were), we opted for taking in the sights on some fantastic hikes and from the charming towns. A true highlight of the area was our hike up to Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, for some of the most dramatic views in the country.

Rainy Tasman

Abel Tasman NZ 10 e1265595795505 The Southern Belles of New ZealandWe heard fabulous things about the waters and hikes through Abel Tasman National Park so our next adventure brought us there. Regrettably, recent rains clouded the typically turquoise waters , but with our sunny day ahead Ryan signed us up for (another!) 15 mile day hike. We hopped on a jet boat they call a water taxi that dropped us off in the middle of the park. Our plan was to spend the day hiking back, however, half-way through the trek we experienced torrential downpours. Ill-prepared for the rapid change in weather, we had no choice but to hitchhike back ‘boat-style.’ Drenched, sore and freezing cold, a piping hot plate of New Zealand’s famed green-lipped mussels did more than ease our discomfort.

pixel The Southern Belles of New Zealand

Comments (7)

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  1. roundwego says:

    @Kim – Sorry for extreme delay in responding. Internet in Africa is tough to come by so now at home have more time to thoroughly answer your NZ questions! Going to shoot you an email with our recommendations and highlights from NZ. Hope you’re getting excited for your upcoming trip.

  2. Kim wells says:

    Thanks for your photo’s- looking into what to do(renting a campervan too), best roads to travel from Christ Church, best State parks to stay at, and what to bring to wear before we leave for a trip to NZ end of Feb – and 1st 2 wks in March 2011. We can’t wait- my dream vacation….

  3. roundwego says:

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed NZ as much as we did! We are still dreaming about our days there, specifically deep in the South Island, months later. We too our already plotting our return back.

  4. carol says:

    We have just returned from New Zealand,our first visit. We went to visit our son and family in The North Island, which is very beautiful, lush green and scenic. We then drove to Wellington, over the Interislander Ferry to Picton, where we picked up a Campervan,and drove 3000 kms around South Island. I agree with your comments, it is the most beautiful country we have ever visited. I also agree, that my favourite day was Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook……with Milford Sounds…although it was raining the day we went to Milford Sounds……the gushing of the 53kms waterfalls was truly amazing.
    There arent enough adjectives to describe the beauty of this truly beautiful amazing country. We shall return.

  5. roundwego says:

    All agreed. Will be hard to find a spot that rivals the S. Island. The search is on.

  6. Garrett says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been to the South Island as well (I’m American) and I frequently say it’s my favorite place on earth.

    No where is so much beauty so seemingly accessible and varied.

    Great photos. Thanks!

  7. Mom Keller says:

    Your pictures are amazing !!! Glad you survived all the cold and rain but I’m sure the mussels were worth it. LOL