Monday, September 3, 2007
While Alex is providing us a first-time-prof perspective on teaching Civ Pro, we thought it would be equally interesting to provide a student voice on learning our beloved course. So, I embarked on a covert mission, armed with secret decoder rings, and sought a student whose anonymity could be protected. Although our student is not studying in Alex's classroom, their contrasting perspectives should still be entertaining and educational. I now present (on tape-delay to protect anonymity), Crash McAvoy:
At the risk of seeming unoriginal, I suppose I will follow in Alex’s footsteps and discuss why I have decided to record my experience as a first year student taking Civil Procedure. I am using this first entry to explain this, not only because it seems like a good way to start such a blog, but also because, after spending the last couple of hours struggling through only half of my very first Civ Pro case, I feel compelled to remind myself why I would possibly devote any more time to this class than is absolutely necessary.
The main reason I decided to write is, while I have heard some convincing explanations for why Civ Pro is among the most important classes I will take this year, I find it difficult to internalize that idea. I can’t shake the notion that Civ Pro is boring-- a bunch of red tape and loopholes. My inclination is to think of it as a roadblock on the way to learning substantive law; in the undergraduate courses I took where case law was assigned, I quickly developed a habit of skipping over any procedural history. I also have a sinking suspicion that Civ Pro will be the class where I am first forced to accept procedural fairness as a substiute for finding the “truth,” a substitution the philosophy major in me wants to resist. In summary, I am writing this because, before ever setting foot in the classroom, I am worried I simply will not like Civil Procedure. (I should say that I do not think I am not alone in feeling this way. I could fill an entire entry with the things I have heard my peers say about Civ Pro without even purchasing a casebook)
This worries me because, throughout my academic career, I have found that I do much better in subjects with which I am able to truly engage. I am naturally a big picture person; I thrive on all things theoretical. However, I have found that I am able to deal quite effectively with details when I can see how they fit into a larger pattern and how they are connected to ideas I am invested in. I am hoping this blog will give me an opportunity to make those connections, to take a step back from trying to understand each case well enough to withstand a Socratic assault, and reflect on how the procedures I am studying, which may initially seem like arbitrary details to be memorized, are connected to fundamental ideas about our legal system and, by extension, our democracy. And, I hope, at the times where I am unable to see past the trees, there might be a law professor around to leave a comment that leads me to the forest.
Also, I hope that my posts will be candid enough to provide professors with the kinds of insights their own students might be afraid to share. Perhaps, the challenges and difficulties I face will not only illuminate some technical points that might prove especially difficult for an average student, but will also serve as a reminder of what it’s like to be going through Civ Pro for the first time and, more generally, what it’s like to be a One L.
Thanks to Prof. Counseller and Prof. Ryan for giving me this opportunity. For now, it’s back to the books.
I suppose I should explain my pseudonym as well. Civil Procedure remains a mystery to me, and, thus, I could not come up with a clever legal reference. So, I decided to go with a tribute to the protagonists of the two greatest sports movies ever made.