Fenno’s Thanksgiving Miracle


Sitting back in his U.S. Airways middle seat, Fenno realized that his Thanksgiving Break had been very strange. Very strange, indeed. He flashed back to Thursday night, remembering himself surrounded by a cloud of chittering relatives.

“What was that firm you said you were going to work for again, Fenno?”

“What kind of law are you specializing in, Fenno?”

And from a particularly obnoxious uncle, “Hey Fenno, looking forward to that bar exam? Heh heh.”

Of course, those had been nothing next to the questions his pregnant, unwed cousin was supposed to answer, or those directed at the Great Aunt whose son had recently run into a bit of trouble for selling ‘shrooms at a high school football game.

No, Fenno didn’t have it that bad after all. And that was a shocking revelation. Could it be that Thanksgiving had made Fenno . . . grateful?

Shuddering, he picked up his complementary copy of Sky Mall and consoled himself by contemplating the robotic shark he was thinking of buying with his tax rebate. Slowly, he drifted off to sleep, certain that he could feel his God-given sense of entitlement settling around him like a blanket.

Monday morning, Fenno strode into the Hark in time, for once, to purchase a delicious breakfast sandwich that he was sure would be full of the kind of healthy energy he needed to make it through the day. Before he made it upstairs, however, he noticed a group of students at a table collecting signatures.

“Hey, Fenno, don’t you want to sign a pre-written letter to your Congressman about all the evil bills they’re passing?” asked a girl who Fenno vaguely remembered from his 1L section.

He shrugged. He was probably for all these causes, and it was like those lawyers in Pakistan, right? Lawyers should take time out of their schedule to sign things they probably believed in. He signed several little cards, and the girl took them back, looking mildly surprised.Actually, thought Fenno, doing good wasn’t such a terrible feeling. Maybe he should have done a clinical, or something.Oh wait. He had done a clinical. In fact, he was doing one right now. Dropping all plans of a leisurely breakfast, Fenno headed out to Jamaica Plains to introduce himself to his supervisor at the Legal Services Center.

“I . . . uh, don’t understand,” his supervisor, the very stereotype of a hard-boiled public interest lawyer was saying. (Was that a stereotype, Fenno wondered, or was he thinking of district attorneys? Or investigative journalists like he saw in television commercials?)

“Didn’t you realize we have a weekly seminar? And that you’re supposed to have office hours?”

Fenno shrugged. He was feeling expansively generous, but not generous enough to apologize for keeping a normal 3L sleep-and-video-game schedule. But the man was looking rather irate, and Fenno wouldn’t want to cause him undue stress that might lead to medical problems that his no doubt substandard health plan wouldn’t cover.

“Things have been hectic,” he explained gently. “Can’t I just have 120 hours of work to complete over the next two weeks before the semester ends?”

The man glared at him. Fenno looked back innocently. Finally, he shrugged and handed Fenno a pile of documents. Fenno pulled out his laptop and happily settled into Lexis. This, he decided, would be a perfect place to camp out for the next 119 hours.

All the same, it was a mere 7 hours before people started turning at the lights, dusting around Fenno, and otherwise making him feel rather unwelcome. So it was true; public interest lawyers really did keep short hours.

On his way back to Cambridge, Fenno reflected on everything he had learned that day. Not only had he looked up a lot of information on Lexis, when it had turned out that nobody at the LSC that day spoke Spanish (Fenno didn’t see why they all seemed to disgruntled about it), he had stepped in and used his high school Spanish to have a real live conversation with a client. Alright, his vocabulary was somewhat limited, but they had had a great conversation about what Fenno would hypothetically order in a restaurant were he in Spain.

Yes, public interest was great.The next morning, Fenno decided he had an important stop to make on his way to the LSC. He climbed to the third floor of Pound and, walking into OPIA’s office announced: “I’d like to speak to Alexa Shabecoff, please.”

As the staff gaped at him, Alexa appeared. “You know, we do have an on-line appointment system.”

“I don’t have time for that,” Fenno said quickly. “I have to get to the LSC. Besides, I’m a 3L and need to find a public interest job. Stat.”

“Well, why don’t you go talk to our fellowships director, Judy Murciano?” Alexa said. “She’s patient, I mean, very knowledgeable. Yes, that way. Down the hall. Nice to meet you.” She ushered Fenno out, and then closed the door. Must be some kind of OPIA staff meeting.Fenno knocked, then stood outside Judy’s office contemplating what kind of public interest job he’d like most. Maybe he should work at the DOJ. Or go for classic, all-around legal aid. It was a tough call.All of a sudden, though, a cacophony startled Fenno out of his reverie. It was the girl who had been collecting signatures, followed by several angry students.

“Come on, Fenno. We’re going to the Registrar’s Office to protest the fact that they’re no longer returning our thumb drives. Can you believe it? So wasteful!”Fenno stared at her. He didn’t understand this. How could you be fit to be at Harvard Law School yet still be the kind of person who objected to throwing away marginally expensive electronic devices after a single use?

Also, why was he standing outside the OPIA office?

Fenno sighed. It had been a nightmare. A terrible Thanksgiving nightmare. Thank God it was all over again. He turned and walked back towards Gropius. His Xbox awaited.

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