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)
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Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

Dar 3 e1271095399717 Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

The windy road to Darjeeling, India

After enduring what can only be described as absolutely the most horrific travel journey I’ve ever experienced, Laura and I were ready to completely relax. Our previous stop, Varanasi, had put an Indian tax on us that let us know, as much as we enjoyed her (maybe our favorite country yet), we were done with her. This break-up was not an easy one. India was done with us, too. She was giving us a swift kick in the butt, as to say, with no room for interpretation, “Get out.” Darjeeling was to be our last stop in India before heading to Nepal. Needless to say, we really wanted to end on a good note, and so we held out hope for the green hills and cool, breathable air that the romantic version of Darjeeling had promised. But, like all things in India, you learn that to expect anything is a disappointment waiting to happen.

Along with a motley crew of travelers from Israel, Poland, England and Germany, we hired a jeep to take us from the city of New Jalpaiguiri, where we disembarked our train, to Darjeeling – 80km, 3 hours and 7,000 feet of elevation away. In our mini-UN of a jeep, we discussed, as we always do in situations like these: American politics, health care, Michael Moore films, George Bush vs Barack Obama and why Americans don’t travel outside of the US (almost invariably in that order). The new wrinkle in the conversation came from the German who warned us that Obama is “a master hypnotist” and that we needed to be careful because, as such, we can easily be controlled by his cadence and manner of speech “to do things.” Thank you, duly noted. This is to say nothing of the variety of drugs and personal oddities you can find in India. This place is full of them. Most prevalent are the 30 year Goan veterans who moonlight as yogis/dealers/preachers and daylight as just freaking weird.

Dar 4 e1271096459958 Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

Passengers hitch a ride up the mountains to Darjeeling

The journey up was more than I reckoned we were in for. I, for one, am afraid of one thing only in life: heights. Not being in a plane or a big building kind of heights, but the “Holy crap, our driver looks to be about twelve, there are no guardrails, these roads are way too narrow for two automobiles, why are so many people walking alongside the road with huge burlap sacks when these roads are too narrow for two automobiles” kind of heights. In short, I was freaking out. Why, I asked myself, did I pay so much to skydive in New Zealand when I could get the same feeling for $3 here? Laura, normally my rock in these cases, was beyond freaking out. Grabbing my leg, gritting her teeth and alternating a sour face with brief sighs of relief, I realized that I had to be the strong one here. To assuage my fear, I just had to concentrate on that kid in front of me who was smiling broadly and hanging onto the back of the jeep in front of us. Wait, what? Yep, here I am hyperventilating while this youngster is teeming with delight while he freeloads a ride on the back of some jeep bounding 7,000 feet up some very steep cliffs! I console myself, thinking that maybe he’d begin to hyperventilate if he were put in an office cubicle like mine back in Chicago. Err, wait, after 5 continuous months of traveling the thought of that is making me a little queasy now, too.

Dar2 e1271095550792 Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

Smiling children in Darjeeling

Halfway to the top, we stop for no logical reason, other than that logic and reason don’t apply in India. I use the moment to take stock of all the changes 3,500 feet of elevation has brought us. For one, the people look incredibly different. Laura said it best, “It looks like you took all of Asia and put it into a blender and out came Darjeeling.” The people’s skin is lighter, their eyes squintier and their heads are only slightly wobbling. Women had exchanged saris for jeans and silk tops. Men are not wearing colorful turbans. The rickshaws – gone. The acrid smell of burning trash, fecal matter and stale urine – still there, but less so. The intense stares that we’ve become accustomed to in India– nowhere to be found. I’ve been standing here now for 30 seconds and haven’t been accosted yet to take a boat or a rickshaw or been solicited to buy hashish, ganja or chora? Jesus, is this heaven? No, it’s Darjeeling.

Dar 5 e1271096739455 Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

Fog lifting off the hills of Darjeeling

Our introduction to Himalayan culture was made very apparent as I sat down, not to a spicy curry, but to a delicious lunch of steamed, chicken momos. After this, it was back into the jeep for the rest of the climb up to Darjeeling proper. After another hour through the dense fog that we’d get to know well in our time in Darjeeling, we arrived, as I had hoped, in one piece. We exchanged contact information with our fellow travelers (minus the German whom I didn’t want to share more life details with) and said our goodbyes for the moment (Darjeeling’s “strip” and the Bible that is Lonely Planet would ensure that we’d see each other again several more times in the city).

Darjeeling is not heaven, but after a month in India it seemed close enough. Having read that, you may think that I hated India. You’d be wrong. You see, India is a complex place that will make you feel. At times – wonderful, happy, joyous, excited and yearning for more. And other times – sad, tired, broken and wanting to give up. We were not crossing any literal borders, but it was obvious, on the road to Darjeeling we were leaving behind a country, and with it, a piece of ourselves. And, at least for the moment, this was OK.

pixel Is This India? No, It’s Darjeeling

Comments (5)

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  1. Claudia Rhodes says:


    Your description of this hair-raising ride reminds me of driving with Christopher through the much smaller moutains in Idaho….close to the edge, a far way down, on-coming cars speeding….I could feel your pain. India has never been on my top 10 places to visit, and now it is off of any list I might make.

    The photos and writings are wonderful, keep up the good work.

  2. Daniel says:

    Ah! A litany of great reasons to discover Darjeeling. Half a dozen years ago, we toured the northern triangle, ie Kolkata to Jaipur to Delhi. So we can identify with you on a number of fronts. India is very much the very best and the very worst of Asia all rolled I to one. It’s so exhilarating even at it’s most frustrating. I love the country and especially the people. Thanks for the great post!
    .-= Daniel ´s last blog ..What We’re Reading: June 11, 2010 =-.

  3. Chris Rhodes says:

    Outstanding keep the post coming.

  4. Tom Volpe says:

    That looks and sounds amazing. There is something quite appealing about tea country, same with the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

  5. Cate says:

    Apart from the tea, this is a piece of India I know very little about. Even the facial features differ. It must be beautiful there and cooler than the lowlands.
    On the side, I can never understand why when people travel do they want their political opinions on other people, perhaps the German tourist was feeling the effects of travel and needed to go home.
    .-= Cate´s last blog ..Photo Friday -Wandering through Te Papa with a camera =-.