LSAT Kung Fu Blog / 1L Summer Week 8: The Form as Art

1L Summer Week 8: The Form as Art

Crazy Painter

Pretty much what I look like when I'm filling in a form.

Here’s a thing I’ve learned this summer; DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) and USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) rival the IRS in the number, scope, complexity and inanity of their forms. I’ve become very familiar with:

  • The G-28, which is essentially the immigration services’ counterpart to IRS form 2848; it enters the attorney as an advocate for the client. It’s a four-page form with box titles like this: “NOTE: Provide the mailing address of the applicant, petitioner, requestor, or respondent. Do not provide the business mailing address of the attorney or accredited representative unless it serves as the safe mailing address on the application, petition, or request being filed with this Form G-28.” Oh, yes, that’s the good stuff right there. That’s what I’m talking about. Imma memorize that one to say to my wife on nights when the kids are at their grandparents’. You know what time it is then. It’s “Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative” time at chez Hall. The glamorous, high-stakes world of the summer clerk, y’all. (All these forms, by the way, are available to anyone to download. A quick internet search will let you access them all, so you can fill them out at home, or memorize their contents to woo the target of your affections. Your prey will be helpless as a baby deer against the erotic heat you’ll generate with the help of the Department of Homeland Security’s form-writing division.) 
  • The I-912, which is the request for a fee waiver. It’s an eleven-page rager of a PDF form.  It’s like if Siegfried and Roy made a baby, then raised that baby exclusively on tiger milk and cocaine, and then that baby got in a karate fight with David Hasselhoff that morphed into strenuous lovemaking. There are boxes for days, you guys. So. Many. Boxes. Checkboxes and table boxes and fillable boxes and official-use-only boxes and hold on a minute I need to sit down. Maybe have a glass of water. I’ll be OK in a minute, just once my pulse stops racing.
  • The I-485, which is a request for Adjustment of Status–when someone here on a temporary visa wants to make her status more permanent. You guys, this one is an EIGHTEEN PAGE behemoth. It is page after page of riveting action. A barnburning corker of a tale, full of twists and turns and literally the most checkboxes the world has ever seen collected in one place. And to whet your appetite, to rev your engine, to get you READY FOR ACTION, here’s a small and representative taste of the type of text accompanying those billions and billions of checkboxes: 

“Do you intend to engage in any activity that violates or evades any law relating to espionage (including spying) or sabotage in the United States?” AND THEN IT LITERALLY ASKS YOU TO CHECK “YES” OR “NO.”

I would like to pause right here for just a minute. Let’s close our eyes together and savor for one moment the startling vista presented by the I-485 applicant who elects to check “yes” to the above question. “I’m sorry; you’re asking if I intend to do espionage? Well, I was frankly thinking I’d probably keep those plans to myself, but if I’m being honest, yes, I think I do intend to do some espionage, along with law-evading and some spying, now that you mention it. I could also go for a little light sabotage while I’m.… Wait. This isn’t going to hurt my chances for an adjustment, is it?”

And there are more. So, so many more. And the thing I’ve learned from my interactions with these forms and the government entities behind them (well, in addition to the galactically stunning irony that even under the current administration, people seeking lawful permanent resident status in this country are still required to demonstrate their GOOD MORAL CHARACTER. Excuse me while I cannot stop laughing but it’s really to cover up the crying) is that filling in these forms–

Sorry. Another pause, but this one’s a semantic pause. Why is it that we alternately say “filling in forms” but also with a straight face “filling out forms” to mean exactly the same thing? That is crazytown right there. The whole world’s on fire.

–is at least as much art as science. Your goal is to make someone’s whole life look as though it fits neatly and squarely inside the confines of a government form, which as a goal is at least as crazy as using opposite prepositions to mean the same thing. 

But the people who are good at it know that what DHS asks, what DHS wants to hear, what your client says, what a contemporaneous witness says, what actually happened, and what you put in the box on page eight may never actually be the same thing. 

So, I guess what I’m saying is newsflash: the world is complicated. Even if the forms make it seem like that’s a bad thing.



Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.

Be good to one another, for we need it now more than ever,


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