Fenno Sells Out


FENNO HAD LOVED the new and improved 1L year. He’d cheerily sipped his tiny, watered down placebo of a free coffee each morning as he walked into his international law elective, wondering what foreign land’s whiff he would catch that day. Let the gunners cram with their casebooks and tread through their treaties, Fenno thought. He would sit back and enjoy those colorfully-choreographed videos of the Cultural Revolution all throughout breakfast.

Even that newfangled Legislation and Regulation class – Fenno was sure he’d been the first to coin it “LegReg” – hadn’t been too bad. His classmates jumped into fervent debates over labeling requirements for supermarket products: sure, it wasn’t better than watching CSPAN, but it wasn’t much worse, either. Maybe he would even catch a nod or two – the take-home exam would be forgiving.

Then summer came and went like a zephyr breeze. Fenno liked this “public interest” work, he decided. Sure, SPIF had only granted him about half an hour’s worth of firm pay for the entire season, but since he’d spent most of his time in a country where the dollar was still a goldmine, it had actually gone pretty far. That, and there wasn’t much pressure back at his organization’s compound. He could get used to surfing the net for three-quarters of the day, Fenno thought, if it weren’t as slow as a goddamn bush telegraph.

On the plane ride home, Fenno dreamed longingly of the fall and his glorious new schedule. Finally, he had arrived – he was a 2L! He could take whatever courses he wished. There they were, the classes in which Fenno thought he would truly begin to shine: Oral Poetry and the Law (Seminar), The Law and Architectural History: From Manners to Mannerism, Great Lawyers’ Bildungsromans (Reading Group), and the Legal Anthropology Workshop. He was finally about to leave the hazy, lazy universe of 1L academia and enter the real world.

And yet, a funny thing happened during Fenno’s triumphal reentry of the Hark. As he greeted his former section-mates, one after the other, many averted their eyes and fled. Fenno also noticed they appeared to be dressed more formally than usual. “Mmm, I love this new Restaurant Associates food. But what’s with the double breasted suit?” he’d ask, only to receive veiled murmurs. “OCI, OCI,” his formerly laid-back classmates whispered, ominously.

OCI? Surely they jested. Who would want to proffer themselves before anonymous suits for weeks on end in pursuit of what Fenno had already found – the perfect job? But just to make sure, he called his former supervisor in the field to confirm his chances of reliving his savory expatriate experience.

But what Fenno heard at the scratchy other end of that 18-digit number wasn’t exactly music to his ears. “What!?” exclaimed his old handler in that world-weary Continental accent Fenno had so come to love. “You think we could actually employ you? I mean, remuneratively? My dear boy, don’t you know we live on pennies to fund this operation? I mortgaged my house to live here! Speaking of which, would you like to make a donatio…”

As he shut the phone on his former boss, Fenno had an epiphany. Maybe life wasn’t about living it up on a favorable exchange rate while being smugly satisfied with one’s righteous – yet strictly nine-to-five, with frequent breaks – work on behalf of the less fortunate. Maybe it wasn’t about making throwaway seminar comments about the nature of procedural justice as outlined in the Cliff Notes on Shakespeare and Kafka. Maybe it wasn’t even about cramming for finals with outlines you borrowed from your hypercompetitive section-mate who had dropped out after being crushed by his inability to make law review despite a suicidally sleepless marathon of working nights.

Maybe, life had more to do with those things Fenno had regarded as pestilential annoyances all through 1L year: that dreaded list of estates in property, the order of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or even, god help him, Bluebooking. His youthful na’vite crushed, Fenno bounded off-campus, making a beeline for J. Press. It was time to grow up, he figured, and buy that double-breasted suit.

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