BY JEREMY BLACHMAN
Why is it that even when the professor has written the casebook, the reading assignments still look like instructions for breaking a secret code? 1-4, 8(top)-12(note 2), 345(middle)-352, 801-802(except note 3), 911-941(odd numbered pages only), inside b
ack cover, thoughts inside professor’s cerebellum(three inches to the right from the spinal cord). If this is how the professor thinks it’s taught best, why is the casebook all out of order?
And why is it that just two companies seem to have a monopoly on all of these casebooks? The red company and the brown company. For some reason, probably just because the red casebooks are somewhat smaller in size, and the brown casebooks are big and heavy, I imagine the brown company as this big, powerful organization – think Microsoft, for example, or the company that makes the velvet pen cases that all of the law firms feel compelled to put their pens in when they hand them out at recruiting functions even though there’s no real use for them and we all just throw them out anyway – and the red company as this small family-owned upstart, just struggling to make a name for itself in the law school casebook world. I’m probably wrong about all of this, of course, and a quick Google search of the publishers’ names could surely set me on the right path. But what’s the fun of that?
These are just some of the questions I began to ponder as I stared at my first reading assignment of the new school year, wondering how it was possible that at one point, not so long ago, I was actually able to open a casebook and focus on the words on the page . . . without my mind wandering to thoughts of summer, thoughts of food or thoughts of Warren Christopher telling us not to befriend child molesters. He really did say that. It made sense in context, sort of, but it’s funnier out of context, so I’d rather not explain.
I suppose it makes sense that it’s hard to focus on the reading when we have so many other things going on. Lying in bed at night, I’ve taken to counting names of law firms in order to fall asleep. Even in everyday conversation, the simplest question – “how’s everything going?” – immediately triggers the thought of how I would answer if this was really a law firm interview and I was talking to a hiring partner. “I’m glad you asked that, actually. Because everything’s going really well. I’m really excited to be talking to you about the opportunities and challenges that the days ahead have to offer, and the chance to apply the legal skills I’m learning to the real world, where they can truly impact the fates of businesses and individuals. So everything’s going well, especially, as you can see on my resume, my work with the Harvard Legal Resume Builders Association (HLRBA), and my recent promotion to Word Counter on the Journal.”
So with the pressure to prepare for interviews, to avoid child molesters and to puzzle out the differences between the red casebooks and the brown ones, how can we possibly concentrate on our reading? My solution: Casebooks On Tape. James Earl Jones reading “The Law of Debtors and Creditors,” six hundred and thirty-four hours of tapes, numbered incorrectly and thrown haphazardly into a box. Now I just need to find pages 6-12, and note 17 on page 434. They should be in here somewhere . . . .
Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He posts his daily commentary at http://jeremyblachman.blogspot.com.