Monday, September 3, 2007

Introducing Crash McAvoy

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. 

-Crash McAvoy

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.

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Well, let me say as a civ pro prof I look forward to your honest assessment.

And, by the way, skipping the procedural history when you're an undergrad and it's all Sanskrit anyway might have been quite sensible. Once you have the translation it will seem a lot more relevant to the "substance"...

Posted by: Pennoyer | Sep 3, 2007 2:25:21 PM

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