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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Post Exam Rant (9)
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Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
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What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

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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Argentina: The Adventure Begins

Buenos Aires 080v2 Argentina: The Adventure BeginsAfter three fantastic weeks in St. Louis soaking up the fall weather and spending time with family and friends, we began our adventure overseas. I never expected the preparation for the trip to be so exhausting. It truly became a full time job. I also never expected to be so nervous to begin our adventure. I think it was a mix of anxiety (wanting to ensure we had all we needed, hadn’t forgot to, for example, pay or cancel a bill or pack enough socks and jackets) coupled with the sense of uncertainty and pure excitement.

Nonetheless, the adventure began with a return to our beloved Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a city we grew to love when we planted our feet to live there for six months four years ago. The people, the culture, the language, the food, the architecture and the energy of the city made a lasting impression on us, and we have looked forward to visiting every since we left. Not to mention, we also have some very dear friends we made when living here who we were anxious to see and spend time with.

It’s been quite surreal to be back. Besides the incredible inflation the city has experienced, it seems to be just as we had left it. The green parks, grand boulevards, French-inspired architecture, ecclectic boutiques and vibrant flare of the city awaited us. To me Buenos Aires represents a mixture of what I like most about some of my favorite places in the world. Strolling the cosmopolitan promenades of the city you find the rich meats, cheeses and bustling cafe culture of France, the style and bravado of Italy, the tradition and sophistication of England and the energy, passion and unparralleled nightlife of Spain.

After immersing myself again in the Porteno (the name given to the residents of Buenos Aires) culture I’m reminded of the many things that once surprised me when living here and those things I just don’t know if I’ll ever understand.

Things that shock me…

Mullets continue to be high fashion for men and women alike
Stoplights turn from red to yellow and then yellow again before turning green
Bars don’t begin to fill up till 2 a.m.
There are bakeries on nearly every corner of the street yet overweight people are like needles in a haystack
Maternity clothes are few and far between – women everywhere are popping out of their seams
Lanes on streets do not exist
‘Gordo’ meaning ‘Fatty’ and ‘Negro’ meaning ‘Black’ are common terms of endearment between couples and close friends
When the stoplight is red men line up across the crosswalk, face the cars and hold huge billboard advertisements until the light turns green
The paseoperros, dogwalkers, walk up to 15 dogs at a time
Coffee deliveries are common place – delivered to homes, businesses, etc.; This is quite an art form and conists of talented delivery boys winding their way through traffic while balancing espressos on silver trays. Such service it is that they actually come back later to pick up the cup, all for the same price as a regular cup of coffee.

Things that irk me…

The poverty – barefoot children begging on street corners, walking into restaurants trying to sell Kleenexes, juggling in front of cars at stoplights, digging out scraps out of trash bins
Minature napkins as thin as a piece of paper
Having to pay everything in exact change
Extreme gap between rich and poor
Right of way? Forget it. People rev their engines and speed up in attempt to hit any pedestrian crossing the street
Spontaneous protests break out on any street on any given day causing stores and classes to be closed and cancelled
Dogs leave their mark on all sidewalks of the city and no one feels obliged to clean it up
Graffiti covering beautiful monuments

Things I’ll know I’ll miss…

Our close pals
Café culture
Impromtu tango shows in plazas all over the city
Mouthwatering beef
Strong Sunday traditions – food, football and family
Drinking water out of wine glasses
Old fashioned elevators where you have to close a door manually for it to function
The sound of the Argentine accent
Lounging in the grass and reading in plazas all over the city
The adrenaline rush of crossing over Nuevo de Julio, the largest street in the world
The kiss on the cheek greeting, which applies to men greeting men, too
Best ice cream in the world
Walking through the book shops on Corrientes
Local crafts fairs at the ferias all over the city
Spending all afternoon in a café
The passion and unique culture surrounding the mate, Argentina’s national drink
Coffee always comes with small delicious cookies and a glass of sparkling water to cleanse the pallet
The excitement of Bosques de Palermo, our favorite park, on a Saturday afternoon
Sitting in the parks of Recoleta
The ever-trendy portenas
Asados – the Argentine BBQs unlike any other

I’m looking forward to rediscovering Buenos Aires and calling this city home again.

pixel Argentina: The Adventure Begins

Comments (9)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Glad to have helped inspire your journey to the Southern Hemisphere! We certainly fell in love with it and I was excited to hear you made the trip too. Thanks for following us on our journey.

  2. Greg Dawson says:

    BTW – You were the one that really inspired me to travel to Buenos Aires a few years ago after telling me about your travels to South America/Chile, etc… it was absolutely one of the best travel experiences of my life.

    Can’t wait to hear about the second leg of your trip!

  3. Tiasha says:

    I love this post. It definitely makes me want to visit Argentina. Don’t know when, but now I think I will. :)

  4. Becky Weprin says:

    Your blog reads like a novel I can’t put down (not that I’m at all surprised). I am very, very interested in the coffee delivery. Maybe something Starbucks should consider, actually people would probably try to trip them; however, the bourgeois pig could possibly have a potential market.

  5. Cathy Burns says:

    Looking forward to following along with you it will be about as close as I get to traveling for awhile.

  6. Enjoy your time. Don’t be in a rush to come back. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.

    I had no idea Argentina had poverty like that. Paris is the same way in terms of letting the dogs have their run of the sidewalks. I have no idea if they are scared of it, lazy to pick it up or just figure the next rain will wash it away. Not cool.

  7. Kristian shanline says:

    Wow. Sounds great! you write so well I can picture it and pretend I am there not cleaning my house for my mother in law’s visit! Have a great time!

  8. Wally says:

    This is a fantastic write up about what sounds like a fantastic city. Booze, beef, and french architecture on the cheap – paradise! Please keep it coming!

  9. Tim Stephans says:

    Great first post. You guys are excellent writers. Can’t wait to hear more. Good luck.