Law in Contemporary Society

My Wily Mission

-- By BrianMaida - 01 Apr 2016

On the first day of Law in Contemporary Society, the course was described as “theatre.” Of all the characters in this comedy/drama/tragedy, professor and fellow students included, I identified most with Carl Wylie.

This should be a concerning realization. Wylie is a manic-depressive, Epicurean speed-balling lawyer that “really don’t care” what the law is. But the similarities are striking. For example, when dealing with the Yale lawyer, he refused to satisfy him and ask about the lawyer’s practice in return. I never reply with a follow-up question to “what undergrad did you go to?” or, even better, “how did you do in [insert course here]?” Wylie has his go-to crime story and I have mine. In fact, I’ve told the story of getting mugged on my 21st birthday twice in the past week. The similarities go on: I’m actively resisting the urge to pour a glass of whiskey to go with my iced coffee.

Perhaps the greatest similarity between us is cramming.

"Twenty-seven years—trillions of details! You ask me a month from now what the deal I’ve just done was about, I won’t be able to tell you. Don’t think it doesn’t make me stop and wonder what its done to my brain, either."

Thus far in my life, I have successfully crammed for almost every exam. Quantum Physics, Organic Chemistry, Torts, Contracts: the content never mattered, it’s always been the same process. I even identify with the manner in which Wylie crammed, using espresso as his PED, timing “when it hits” to “speed up the thought process” and “make everything glow.” This sounds a lot like taking Adderall as a study aide. Luckily, I gave that up after college. [Concerned with what it’d done to my brain, maybe?] I thought the cramming might need to stop for law school, but I was wrong. This no longer surprises me, as the conclusion that law school is like high school has been hiding in plain sight for a year.

So I realized that I have a strong skillset to one day become a Wylie, perhaps only temporarily missing the “corruption, arrogance and pretentiousness.” Now what? Well, regardless of the fact that Carl Wylie is a successful, well-paid partner who, I’m sure, mommy and daddy constantly brag about, I don’t want to become him. As an engineer, I was supposedly taught to be an “expert problem solver” [I probably forgot that detail since college]. Last semester, I developed a “Wellness Program” for myself, involving exercise, diet, family, faith and fun to counteract the misery I witnessed other students suffer from due to overwork. Using my measurements, it worked. For this summer, I have developed a three-pronged, productivity-based approach to counteract the effects of cramming.

"Pressure’s really not the right word for it, either. It’s the concentration. That painful kind of fastidiousness, attentiveness."

Extended cramming must have some lasting consequences on the brain. But can concentration truly become “painful?” I’ve realized that, outside of work and school, I rarely use my brain to concentrate on anything other than music, sports and television. This probably stems from how I was raised: as the last of three children, my parents had a hands-off, get-good-grades-and-do-whatever-else-you-want mentality. Combine that with my most common childhood punishment being reading a book, my lack of productive leisure isn’t shocking.

I want my plan to be realistic, so I’ll start slow. Every weekday I spend approximately two hours on the subway commuting to EDNY for my internship. That’s two hours per day that I unnecessarily waste listening to rap music and sports podcasts. However, for the seven remaining weeks of my internship, I will spend my commute reading, but perhaps more importantly, concentrating on something that I don’t plan to excrete into a bluebook.

"The trade-off is, to get there I’ve got to work – there’s absolutely no comparison – much harder than partners of my stature worked when I began."

When I turned fourteen, old enough to get working papers, my father told me I should [and could] no longer ask him for money to go out and have fun. I like affording fun so I developed a strong work ethic. In the four years between college and law school, I held at least two jobs at any given time. Even this summer I’m working a second job, teaching an LSAT course after my internship. But I know I can “work much harder.” Three weeks into my internship and I haven’t even completed the “Facts” section of my draft opinion; I should probably be done with the whole exercise already. They told me the average intern writes one opinion per summer. I bet the average intern doesn’t work very hard [I’m Exhibit A]. My new goal for the summer is to complete three opinions. You talked about getting through entire records in one night, so I’ll give myself a fair handicap: two weeks each.

"Money is a social institution. Chaos. That’s what interests me. Chaos."

In my experience, passion and a true interest in the material are the cramming antidote. I need to find an interest in the law and I now have at least two hours of reading on the subway to begin my search. I plan to read about a variety of topics in the law, but I’m going to begin with patents. The only time in law school that something truly sparked my interest was the discussion of fighting pharmaceutical patents. My hometown, Staten Island, has been ravaged by abuse of pharmaceutical drugs. I would constantly wonder: “how hard can it be to stop this?” But there’s a difference between not being capable of solving a problem and not wanting to; big companies are making big money. I’m going to read about it and see where it takes me; there’s got to be something I can do to help with a law license. Either way, I need to figure out what interests me. Hopefully, I’ll find a reason to come back for my second year.

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r3 - 13 Jun 2016 - 02:17:35 - BrianMaida
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