Ed. Note: Former ATL intern Karen Sosa is back with this new weekly feature: Inappropriate Venue. She’ll be looking at how her three years of law school keeps popping up where it doesn’t belong.
Things being what they are in the world, I, like many of you, have lots of spare time to ponder what law school has done for me. I think we can all agree law school hasn’t made us better people. It hasn’t made us fabulously wealthy, and the lucky ones have only the promise of a comfortable paycheck one day; the classes of 2010 and 2011 don’t even have that. Law school doesn’t even prepare us to qualify to practice – for that we need BarBri. So what exactly does three years of legal education do for us?
Well, according to our orientation lectures and our legal skills professors, law school teaches us to think like lawyers.
“That is such bullshit,” you think to yourself. “Nobody goes to law school to learn to think like a lawyer. What does that even mean? We come to law school to become better people, to become fabulously wealthy, and to qualify to practice law, and none of that happened! God, where is my implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose?”
But you catch yourself there, thinking like a lawyer. And whether you like it or not, you’ll be thinking like that for the rest of your life, even in the most inappropriate of venues.
After the jump, a revenge fantasy goes awry.
In the Spring, some pre-teens (I assume) in my apartment building repeatedly drew large cartoon penises in the dust on my car. The humor of one or two large cartoon penises does not escape me, but this went on for several months. I’d wipe it off, there would be a new one in the morning. I’d wash my car, it would be dusty by the time I got home because I was living in Los Angeles, there would be a new penis before dinner.
A few weeks into this dance, I started devising revenge strategies. The best one involved sprinkling a light layer of rat poison on the back of my car and then counting on the inevitable moment when the phallic artist rubbed his eyes or put his fingers in his mouth after dragging his fingers through the poison.
So alright, cartoon penises make me mad. This is supposed to be about every day situations, and maybe trying to poison a 13-year-old isn’t “every day” (although, come to think of it, maybe it is), but small acts of vengeance are universal. Everybody thinks about little ways to get back at the stranger who dinged your car or the guy who held the doors open on the subway. However, once you’ve been through months of duty, breach, causation, and damages, not to mention actus reus and mens rea, no revenge plan, no matter how brilliant, is without consequences, and mine had more than most.
Before law school, “I had no idea there was poison on the back of my car!” probably seemed like a comprehensive solution. But if ever there was a time for res ipsa loquitur, rat poison carefully sprinkled on the back of one’s car might be it. This is especially true if you knew your dusty car was an attractive nuisance. I also realized that if that little penis-drawing asshole ingested just enough poison to be permanently unable to work, I would be paying lost future income damages for a lot of years, and we’ve already established that, as a modern day law grad, I’m not exactly living fat on a “Corner Office” salary.
There would have been criminal consequences too, because intending only to maim or to cause to be severely sick for several days is probably transferable intent in the event that the kid dies. And although I found it to be as agitating as if someone had murdered my mother or slept with my imaginary spouse, cartoon penises are unlikely to be adequate provocation to murder. It’s not a subjective test, after all. I wondered what California’s Sentencing Guidelines would have to say about my punishment. In a justice system where ignorance of the law is no excuse, perhaps extensive knowledge of the law would be an exacerbating factor.
Two chunky paragraphs into the thought process, and you have just a small sample of the monotonous thoughts that now accompany a silly fantasy. Before law school, vengeance was the stuff of fun, games, and classic literature. Now we’re held back by levels of intent and consequences, by invalid excuses and insufficient provocation.
The cartoon penises did eventually stop a few months later. Maybe one of the young artist’s other victims hadn’t been to law school.