Monday, December 06, 2004

School-Life Organizational Dichotomy 

As part of my dinnertime hyperexcited tale-telling of my oral argument experience, I pulled out my manila folder to show The Girl. Based on the advice of another section's Legal Research & Writing instructor, I gathered together index cards, a manila folder, and my notes on the case.

For the cases referenced in my and my opponent's briefs, each case got one card, with the name, circuit, year, and a reminder word at the bottom of the card, then a few notes about the basic facts (e.g. "investment scheme -> wire fraud -> withdrew cash -> promotional money laundering"), and a note in red about either how my client's case is distinguished or why it should have the same result. I then taped the cards into the folder overlapping each other, so that except for the top card, all I could see is the identifying info at the bottom. If I needed more, I'd just flip the cards to see the rest of the info. His cases on the left, mine on the right.

Then each of my argument sections got one card to list the main points, both so I could remember them and so I could check them off when done, or make a notation indicating that my opponent focused on a particular one. One card each for legal arguments, legislative history and policy arguments. These got taped onto the right. Then one card taped in on the left with some of the basic facts of the case, in the event that I panicked, froze and totally blanked on the fundamental information.

It worked like a charm. While my opponent had to flip through his brief at the podium to find information for a case into which the court had inquired, I had it all at my fingertips.

Opponent: "One moment your honor, if I might just check, I'll have that in just...one...second. (flip, flip, flip). I'm sorry your honor, I'll have to get back to you with that - Oh! It was an investment scheme followed by wire fraud."

Me, sitting at table: Looks at cards for case name, sees "wire fraud" next to title, flips cards up to see fact pattern described in example above.

When my turn to be grilled came (I represented the appellee, therefore I went second - I also had written "APPELLEE" across the top of the folder so I wouldn't inadvertently refer to my client as the appellant), I was able to reference the facts and decisions of the dozen or so cases from the two briefs, could easily distinguish those which came to conclusions other than what I was arguing, and could put more of my focus on my argument than on fact retrieval.

The folder and cards saved my ass.

So back to Pigalle and my showing the magic folder to The Girl. She looks at it, listens to my explanation, and says with wonder, "This is so organized. Who are you?"

Outside of school-related activities, I can be a little less than organized. I'm a Christmas Eve panic shopper, I put off doing laundry as long as possible, and then I tend to pull the clean items out of the dryer as needed. I'll decide what to cook when I get hungry instead of planning meals ahead of time. One of the things I love about Tivo is that I don't have to remember what to record and when - Tivo takes care of it for me and then presents the recorded shows in an already organized, grouped and alphabetized format. When doing household chores, I tend to get distracted and end up in the middle of five things at once rather than sticking with one until it's done and then moving on to the next. That explains why the upper cabinets in the kitchen are repainted and have new hardware installed, while the lower cabinets simply have the old hardware removed but have not yet been painted or received the new hardware. I began this project the week before the semester started in August.

So okay, yeah, I can see why The Girl was perplexed. But I convinced her that it really was still me, and we continued with our fabulous dinner. But then Sunday before I began studying I straightened up the living room, cleared off the coffee table, put the new candles in the new candle holders that have been sitting there for weeks, and began the task of laundry - which I completed by the end of the day. Including folding or putting on hangers and putting neatly into drawers or the closet.

Life imitates school.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:52 AM