Fenno and the Curse of the Magic Circle


“NOT A SINGLE callback,” Fenno IMed his friend, Michael, morosely. The latter was stuck in class, fearing the Socratic Sword of Damocles.

“What!?!?” responded Michael, in apparent disbelief. “My firms are already outbidding one another’s housing offers…amazing how the market solves for everything. But listen, maybe it’s time to look somewhere else.”

“You mean, in securities or IP?” inquired Fenno, innocently.

“No, you idiot,” Michael reproached. “I meant Omaha or Indianapolis or something.” At this, Fenno started shuddering. Like any rational HLS student, he had been concerned about whether he would ever find work and make it in this world. But deep down, Fenno had always known he was destined for a coastal metropolis filled with the sort of cultural attractions that his billing regimen would never give him time to enjoy. Sensing this, Michael tacked in different direction. “Or Europe?” he proposed.

“Do I look like some surrender-monkey!?” quipped Fenno, patriotically. Bailout or not, there was nothing in America to compare to the nightmare of negotiating with socialist Eurocrats. That was what LLMs were for.

“Or London,” Michael offered. “London’s not really Europe. You know, their teeth are rotting, but they don’t smell as long as they keep their mouths shut. But hey, the prof is Socraticizing my ass. What happened in Macon v. Minnetonka?”

“Held, reversed,” Fenno offered. There was a momentary pause during which Fenno imagined Michael was delivering this answer with full faith and credit in his legal expertise. Two hundred 2Ls would, at that very moment, be perched behind their screens, relieved they were spared the roving inspection of the professorial panopticon. Silently, they waited, cursors at the ready, to record the holding that they, too, had never bothered to read.

“FU,” came the response, and Fenno hooted with laughter. In the back of his mind, however, Michael had planted a seed. Maybe London was where Fenno wanted to begin his career, after all.

* * *

One week later, Fenno’s browser history was full of URLs ending in .co.uk, and he felt properly boned up on London’s legal landscape. The firms he should be aiming for, he learned, were part of the so-called “Magic Circle,” which sounded appropriately mysterious for the country that inspired the Lord of the Rings and harbored Stonehenge. Donning in his best bowler, he skipped off in the direction of Brattle Street’s Tory Row.

About halfway down, the Stars and Stripes grew sparser, and gardens grew far more meticulously. He even caught sight of Jonah Tweedman’s chauffeur speeding the professor home in an old Aston Martin. Occasionally, the car halted, and Fenno could hear a frustrated Tweedman muttering “no! When I said ‘full stop’, I certainly did not mean the automobile.” Fenno stepped up his pace. Finally, he reached his destination, a menacing Gothic edifice.

“The Castle Lawgwarts,” a nearby vagrant solemnly intoned.

A shriek came from the other direction: “begone to the workhouse, tramp!” A haggard old she-goblin of a woman approached, bearing a lantern. Fenno started away, but she had him by the arm. “Come here, precious,” she exhorted. “Meetin’ m’Lawrds for a firm interview?” Fenno managed a barely perceptible nod. Fog was beginning to conceal the manse, leaving only a lighted turret visible.

The goblin woman led Fenno inside a hall lit only by a heavy oak chandelier. Suits of armor surrounded them. Heaving her lantern toward a thin slice of spiral stairs curving off into a distance of inky darkness, she breathed only one word. “Proceed.”

Proceed Fenno did, but he was confused. Was the room with the armor the hospitality suite? Had the hunchbacked woman with the cockney accent been a summer associate – at least, sometime in the distant past? He could see that they did things very differently on the other side of the pond.

The staircase curled its way up the house’s turret. Fenno felt his way along its walls, having long run out of light. Finally, he approached the end of his quest – a lone door, guarded by a flickering torch. According to the sign on the entry, this was “Room 33

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