Fenno was no dummy. He knew how Rosenberg graded. Get into the largest study group in Fed Lit, and you were guaranteed the best grade in the class. Fenno took Fed Lit every year just for the guaranteed A. So Fenno had managed to assemble about 60 of his closest friends for an intimate meeting in Harkness South, just to go over a few things before spring break. He arrived at the appointed time – 3:30 p.m. – and was surprised to find Dan Meltzer and J.D. Dean Todd Rakoff at the front of the room, extolling the virtues of “law colleges.” Apparently, this was one of those “Town Meetings” that the LSC loved to put on.
Most of the students in the room were members of Fenno’s Fed Lit group, except for a handful of 1Ls, all of whom were sporting multiple backpacks and carry-on travel bags. Fenno approached one of them cautiously.
“Hey, man, what’s in the bag?”
“Well, in my primary backpack I have all my textbooks, while my secondary backpack contains my Ames materials. My rolling travel bag is outfitted with secondary legal materials, a compass, a French curve and backup copies of my Ames briefs. The fanny pack is for the other kind of briefs.”
“You got a J in there anywhere?” Fenno asked hopefully.
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Anal One-L.
“Come on, man, you must be holding with all that storage space!”
The anal One-L inched slowly backwards. “I am trying to prepare seriously for my moot court competition. Please be gone.”
Dejected at this pathetic lack of spunk, Fenno returned to his chair and looked around the room. No one from his Fed Lit group seemed too fired up about the meeting, but the strangely luminous Sodexho cookies had convinced most of them to stick around for a little while. How do they get the oil-to-volume ratio so high?! Fenno wondered, dabbing the sheen off of his peanut butter cookie with a napkin.
As far as Fenno could tell, law colleges were the same as sections, except that one of your professors would now be called “Master.” Anal One-L had probably adopted this convention long ago. Fenno could just imagine the poor 1Ls who would arrive next fall to discover that they had Professor Frug as a college Master. The scenario: distraught first-year student knocks on Master Frug’s always-closed door, seeking comfort for law school burnout (after two weeks), a failed marriage, increased substance abuse and an inexplicable addiction to Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwiches. Master Frug expresses his momentary interest by assuming the lotus position and humming a haunting Yo-Yo Ma cello suite. After a minute of this, Frug suddenly explodes to his feet. Silently, he opens his office door and stands by it expectantly until the confused mentee clues in and leaves, the door slamming behind him. That’s faculty interaction for you, Fenno thought.
The Town Meeting dragged on, and Fenno became increasingly bored.
“Hey, Todd-Man,” he finally shouted, just to liven things up, “I hear NYU sends its 3Ls on all-expense-paid trips to top undergraduate schools to recruit admitted students. Do we have anything like that?” I reckon there’d be some action in the mix on a trip like that.
“Uhhh hum,” said Rakoff, clearing his throat repeatedly. “Do you want to speak to that, Dan?”
“Mmmmm … no … I think that’s rahhhther more your specialty, Todd.”
“Well, we don’t have a formal program along those lines, Fenno, but I’ve got ten bucks here in my pocket. Why don’t you head over to Somerville and see what you can scrounge up?”
Yes! Fenno thought to himself. This was the biggest wad of drinking money he had ever squeezed from the fiscal stone that is HLS. Sky Bar, here I come!
Ten minutes later, Fenno cruised into the Sky Bar and was surprised to find one of the tables occupied entirely by HLS professors. They appeared to be reading moot court briefs.
Waving his ten dollar note in the barman’s face, Fenno ordered up a round of Midori sours for the boys and sat down with them.
“So, what’s new?” he asked.
Setting down an Ames brief in a puddle of beer on the table, John Mansfield spoke. “We’re judging Ames tonight, so we thought we’d get together for a drink beforehand,” Mansfield said, licking a double fudge ice cream cone from his left hand. The melted chocolate dribbled onto the brief’s statement of facts, blotting out but one of the many ‘however’s on the page.
“Why didn’t you just go to the faculty-student appreciation reception?” Fenno asked. “They had plenty of booze there, and it’s free.”
Arthur Miller cut in. “The only student I’m appreciating is that hoochie mama at the end of the bar … yowza!” Miller stood, adjusted his vest, formed a “v” at his mouth with two fingers, and licked the air wildly in the direction of his target. Something was muttered about calling the police, and the rejected Miller turned back to his drink.
“Come on, kid,” Lani Guinier said to Fenno. “Everybody knows that those receptions are just where the emeritus profs go to get tanked. Besides, Ames is where the real action is at … “
The professors exchanged knowing looks, leaving Fenno at a loss. “What? I don’t get it,” Fenno said.
Terry Fisher sat back in his chair and looked around at the assembled professors. Clearing his throat, Fisher began. “Fenno, ever wonder about the Ames Moot Courts? The LRA version, the semi-finals, the finals. Ever wonder, like, why?”
Fenno leaned over and drained Fisher’s Crown Royal. “You ever wonder about the IP issues at stake in Britney Spears’ bust? Of course. I spend my every waking hour at Harvard Law asking why.”
“Ames, Fenno. Think about it. There’s Ames for 1Ls, Ames for 2Ls, Ames for 3Ls. Ames Hall for the lepers. Ames Courtroom for the celebrities.”
Phil Heymann shouted from the Sky Bar’s unisex bathroom. “Don’t forget the James Barr Ames Professorship!! Hey, someone hand me one of those Ames briefs, and make it an absorbent one!”
“I’m hearing you, Terry. Ames is everywhere at HLS,” Fenno said.
Fisher’s eyes gleamed, reflecting the neon light of the Sky Bar’s jukebox. “Do you know what else Ames is, Fenno? Only the nation’s largest regional full-line discount retailer with annual sales of approximately $4 billion. It’s a Kmart for Kings, a Target for Tsars … and part-owner of Harvard Law School.”
Fenno laughed. “Come on!! I suppose you’ll be telling me that Star Market owns the other part.”
John Coates interrupted. “Used to, Fenno, until it was bought out. Think … Shaw’s Hall. Sneaky, huh?”
“Yes,” Fisher said, “Just about the only thing around HLS not named for a corporate sponsor is the Ropes-Gray Room. Back in the 60s, we had a brief period of left-wing idealism around here – it lasted about a week – and they got the idea to name that room after a couple of janitors, Bob Ropes and Phil Gray. Good guys.”
Miller sat back and stroked his belly. “Yes, my boy, it’s a delicious conspiracy indeed. Dee-licious!! In fact, my real name used to be Arthur Coors, until another brewing company made me an offer that I just couldn’t refuse.” Miller ordered one more icy MGD, winking at Fenno and mouthing the word “dee-licious.”
So there it was, Fenno thought. The law school laid bare. Yet a question came to Fenno. “So, how do they make up those Ames cases, anyway?”
“Same as everything else,” Miller slurred, “we auction off parts of the fact pattern to the highest bidder. This year’s case is something about a basketball player, a bucket of frozen semen and enough Special-K to put down a pride of lions. I hate to think who paid for that one!”
Mansfield handed Fenno a beer. “There you have it, Fenno. Wanna stand in for me this evening? These drinks may have sapped my judicial objectivity. Also, I’m completely crazy to begin with.”
Fenno stammered. “B-b-b-but, I don’t know anything about this stuff! I’ve flunked LRA for twenty-five straight years.”
Mansfield laughed heartily and slapped Fenno on the back. “Don’t worry about that, I never worry about making an ass of myself in public. Just ask a convoluted questi
on about the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause and, I don’t know, throw in a little res ipsa loquitur. That gets ’em every time.”