February 3, 2003

By Michael Strickland

A Matter of Opinions

Several weeks have now passed since my decision to discontinue my legal studies. I have not looked back—with the exception of last week, when I received my first semester grades (which were generally satisfactory). But just this morning, I came across the following excerpt from my Contracts casebook. I jotted it down on my last day of class because it was such an outrageous example of erudite legalese:

"A reiteration of the fundamental principle that a general merger clause
is ineffective to exclude parol evidence to show fraud in inducing the
contract would then be dispositive of the issue."

When I read that passage, my eyes first crossed, then glazed over, then dried out as I stared and stared and stared, trying to glean some semblance of meaning from it. Luckily, most cases were more readable than the one quoted above. Cases printed in casebooks are mostly from appellate courts, and appellate courts generally have a panel of judges (rather than just one judge, as at the trial level). As a result, there exists a wide variety of writing styles (and abilities) in judicial opinions. Some are as dry as the stale biscuit above, some are as juicy as a Valencia orange. Some even made me laugh out loud.

Reading court decisions definitely requires all of your synapses. I have been known to crawl into bed with a good novel, only to fall asleep before I've even read a full page. During law school, I routinely stayed up as late as two or three o'clock in the morning, reading my casebook in bed. Strangely, I never had a problem staying awake. The obvious conclusion is not that Learned Hand is more riveting than Stephen King, but rather that it requires a lot more brainpower to decipher Hand's reasoning than King's narratives.

I can't say I'll miss reading such arcane material, but the experience of digesting so many judicial opinions definitely enhanced my analytical abilities. Looking back on the past six months, I consider my time in law school a tremendous learning experience that will help me in many areas of my personal and professional life. I may not have earned a JD degree, but I certainly learned a lot.

 

Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
©2003
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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Previously...

2/2: Suicidal Bravado
2/1: Godspeed, Columbia
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JANUARY 2003

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