BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
“How’s your Ames brief coming along?” has been a pretty common refrain lately. It’s right up there with “How’d the grades turn out?” “Boy, that weather!” and “Gosh darn it, income taxes are due in less than two months!” As if FYL wasn’t marginalized enough by the fact that it’s graded pass-fail taught in part by fellow students and relies on videos about the Dewey Decimal System to fill up lecture time, this semester we get to work in pairs. Semester three of FYL, if it continued down this path, would involve making a diorama of a courtroom and writing a Haiku about Westlaw: I search for cases / But I never win a prize / Screw these stupid points.
I don’t think winning the first-year Ames competition (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not really a competition — just by writing the brief, we’re all winners) depends on the actual brief quality as much as it depends on a strict adherence to the Byzantine rules and regulations that we have to follow. I imagine that by the time we give our oral arguments, there are only a few briefs left even eligible for the “best brief” award. All of the rest will have been disqualified for failure to turn in 73 copies, each bound in a unique and different way (like snowflakes), with a different color cover. “Are you sure the brief with the mustard yellow cover gets stapled into a Mobius strip and the one in the burnt sienna folder gets shot out of a cannon?” “I think it’s the plum cover in the Gannett House boxes with a candlestick.” “You both know better than I. I haven’t a clue.”
After counting the number of pixels on each page to make sure I didn’t exceed the 3,700,644 pixel-per-page limit, I made sure that my margins measured 12 pica and I had stapled the brief on all six corners of the special hexagonal brief paper I purchased at the only Ames-approved Kinko’s copy shop in the world, located just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. My partner and I also remembered to sign each punctuation mark, as the rules indicated. However, even given our careful attention to ensuring we had exactly twice as many consonants as vowels, and no use of the letter “D,” our brief was disqualified because I had accidentally overheard a conversation two librarians were having about inter-library loan. As soon as the Ames surveillance cameras posted in the treetops and installed in each campus squirrel’s left eye caught wind of this conversation, we were notified by express mail with a blue letter in a green envelope with no more than seven-tenths of a gram of saliva used to lick the stamp. But we’ve appealed the disqualification to the Board of Student Advisors since the letter cited an unpublished regulation that appears on neither Lexis nor Westlaw.
After being caned for our failure to follow the rules (the “additional penalty” imposed by our FYL instructor, per the last sentence on the first page of the Rules Packet), my partner and I decided to give up any hope of earning our High Pass on the Ames brief itself, and instead sought to make up for any deficiencies by concentrating on the 10 percent of our grade devoted to class participation. I decided to raise my hand at the beginning of class, and simply not put it down until I was called on, no matter what the question. However, this failed to distinguish me from a number of other students, who appeared to have shoulder injuries that made it physically impossible for their hands to be in anything but the “oh, please, please, please call on me!” position.
My “class participation” strategy having failed to put me in the good graces of my FYL instructor, I chose instead to volunteer to be an FYL research assistant and look for new textbooks for next year, to replace “Briefing for Lower Primates” and “All About Microfiche.” The results of my comprehensive search of the Lesley College Bookstore, the seventh sub-basement level of Widener Library, and the popular website pornographiclawschooltextbooks.com, were not particularly fruitful, and all I was able to recommend were the updated versions of the two books we’re already using, retitled “Briefing for Lower Primates, and some species of Birds,” and “Everything You Always Wanted To Know about Microfiche, But Were Afraid To Ask.”
But I forgot to package my recommendations in a corn husk with a dollop of sour cream, so they were instantly disqualified.