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Tax court

Tax Court.

Yesterday we went to tax court!

One more exclamation point: !

OK. Two together now: !!


US Tax Court is a Federal trial-level court like the US District Courts, but it’s only for tax matters. Its decisions are appealable to the US Circuit Courts, just the same as any District Court’s decisions. The judges ride circuit! That means that they’re based in Washington, D.C., but they travel to courthouses around the country for one to three days at a stretch to hear cases. I love the term “ride circuit.” I didn’t look it up, but I’m pretty sure it comes from the days when there weren’t permanent judges in most locations, but instead judges from larger cities would literally ride their horses to smaller communities to hold court. It’s quaint!


Be honest; I overdid the bronzer, didn't I?

I went to General Sessions Court yesterday, and to Juvenile Court today. I’ve been to both places before: GS Court in my own county for a traffic ticket (I WAS FRAMED I TELL YOU) and Juvenile Court in a nearby county many times as a CASA volunteer (you can really help out some kids, your local court system, and therefore the larger Cause of Justice if you can spare some time to volunteer for CASA. Do one year before you start law school (it’s probably too much to do while you’re in law school)).

It strikes me that if you want to understand America as it is today, you should go to court. On the outside, it’s usually a grand old pile. It’s intended, I think, to symbolize the central place of regard in which we were meant to hold the law in this country. Inside, it stinks of sweat and unwashed hair and unwashed clothes and a collective million years of cigarette smoke. There are torn jeans (but not the kind you pay $200 for) and stained shirts and wailing babies in just diapers. The only ones in suits are the lawyers. The building is suffused with the nearly-palpable miasma of people who are fighting over scraps. When scraps are all you have, they’re worth fighting over.

Michael Scott

Nobody's done this at my office.

Well, the first week was interesting, and the second week was a weird series of adventures (well, that’s a generous characterization. I started to catch a cold Friday of Week 1, and by Memorial Day, it had turned into a sinus infection. I went in to work Tuesday and got sent home. I stayed home Wednesday too, and Thursday decided I had to actually go to a doctor (ugh). Loaded up on antibiotics, and Friday I carpooled with the other 1L summer clerk to the firm’s state main office for a day of training. That’s the extent of the adventures; postnasal drip, a long road-trip and a Memorial Day at home sick. So really I totally lied about the adventure aspect of Week 2).

I’m working in a small public interest firm. One thing that’s weird about this for me that may not be weird for you is that I’ve spent the last 10 years almost completely in charge of my own time (except when I taught live classes and had to be in the classroom at specified times; even then, though, I chose the class schedule). It’s been a strange transition to office work. 

LSAT Prep Timeline

Do you have any idea how long it took me to make those corners? YOU DON'T DO YOU?

I’ll keep it short. I’ve been meaning to create a timeline to help you visualize how your LSAT prep should go. This week, after the end of the semester and before I start my summer job, seemed like the right time.

So I did. It’s above.

First, know that it’s intended as a rough guide to help you think about how to order your prep and roughly how much time to spend on each element of your prep. I didn’t mean it as a prescription—you may spend more or less time on any single element of your practice if it makes you feel happier. However, it is a pretty close approximation of my recommendations to you. So, for example, you may want to do 6 or 7 timed practice exams instead of 5 as your test date approaches. Fine, but it’s probably not best for your score to do 20 of those and not do any stop-time drills. In other words, as long as you’re sticking relatively close to this timeline, I think you’ll be doing good work.

Here’s the idea: From the time you press “play” on your first Velocity video until test day comes (and you’re ready for it!), your prep can fit into five main boxes. I recommend that you tackle those boxes in the following order:

The End is Near

I'm not certain we've conveyed the proper tone with this image.

Well, I wish I had used a more automated system for tracking my time this semester. I mean, like a spreadsheet. Instead I just kept notes like a dummy, which means I just spent several minutes adding up numbers in my head (faster than retyping them into a spreadsheet).

But enough about how big a dummy I am. Cut me some slack, man, is what I’m saying.

We spent 15 weeks in classes this semester at Mavis Staples (plus two weeks of finals, which I’ll deal with separately at the end, and one week of spring break, which I’ve totally ignored for reporting purposes here).

Over those 15 weeks, I spent 169 hours in class. I missed a few classes this term; mostly while doing Mock Trial, but also one snow day and a random other class or two. Here, I am not recording all the hours that I was scheduled to be in class, but only the hours that my butt was actually in a seat. 

And over those 15 weeks, I spent 62 hours reading in preparation for class. Here, I counted only time that I spent reading casebooks or doing other preparation for normal classes. In other words, this represents my total time commitment to class preparation. It’s my study time allotment.

Falling Guy

Who's to say he's not LEAPING, CAT-LIKE, onto the ladder?

Well, last week was the last week of classes for my 1L year. As I write this, my first final (Contracts II) is tomorrow morning. Then I’ve got two days off, then my second final (Civ Pro II), then two more days off, and final three (Property) followed by two more days off, then the final final (Torts II) of my first year of law school.

I clearly remember the feeling I described as I approached my first set of law school finals: like we’d run off the cliff but hadn’t started falling yet (to be fair, I mean, I’m old, but not so old that I cannot clearly remember something that happened fewer than five months ago).

Right now, the feeling is so different. Our final tomorrow is closed book, so I spent about two hours yesterday and so far two more today reviewing my notes and previous exams. I will probably do another hour this evening. 


A sketch artist's depiction of me at work.

This is probably going to be a very short post. I’m in the last week of class (meaning next week finals start! IT FLEW BY), and I’m feeling lazy.

But I was thinking about the way I’ve read for class this semester, and how it’s different from the way I read for class last semester, and especially different from the first half-ish of last semester.

As I wrote back then (a little bit here, and a little bit more here), I read for understanding. Thing is, I’ve decided now that I spent WAY too much time reading. I over-read like a boss. Now, to be clear, that method of reading is GREAT for learning. Making sure that I understood every difficult point before I moved on was a powerful strategy for gettin on top of the material.


There was just no need for me to do that much work. This semester, I’ve been doing the reading at a much higher-level skim. I am not trying to make myself understand every nuance. In fact, I’m applying almost exactly the strategies I use for the LSAT Reading Comp. 

Mavis Staples

She'll take you there.

Last week was a big fundraising week for some scholarships at my law school (which hereafter I’ll refer to as Mavis Staples School of Law because (1) REASONS and (2) I’m tired of calling it “my law school.”). There was a silent auction for a couple of days; local businesses donated stuff and you could write down your bid. The highest bid got the stuff, and the money went to help fund the scholarship. There was a field day at the end of the week which sounded like it would be fun (sack races!), but it was on a Friday afternoon and as fun as sack races are (SUPER THE MOST FUN), I wanted to get home to the fam, so I didn’t go to that.

On Thursday, there was also a live auction. For the live auction, professors donated what were essentially dinner dates, but for groups of students. A professor would agree to host 4 to 6 students at a local bar, for example, and would buy all the drinks and appetizers. Stuff like that. Students typically bid in groups, so they could split the donation. There were maybe a dozen such events auctioned off, and they went for $150—$250 each. 

Farm Animals

Happy #NationalFarmAnimalsDay

I thought I might not write a blog post this week. I don’t know why I’m so tired, but I am! I think I haven’t fully recovered from the extended Spring Break festivities/ongoing carnival of visitors (my wife and I took a weekend away, but we made what was in retrospect the mistake of driving nearly three hours to do it).

But then I just now finished writing a practice exam for Civ Pro, and I thought it would be useful to you to think about how you’ll write your exams once you start law school. I won’t use the essay I just wrote, because it hasn’t been assessed by my professor. I think it’s pretty OK, but you’re not interested in my opinion here. Instead, I’ll use a practice exam from Torts, which has been assessed, and for which I received full marks (10 out of possible 10).

I’ve pasted it below. As you read, notice three things:

Roller coaster

A little too on-the-nose? MAYBE.

Guys, law school is a roller coaster (well, an emotional roller coaster. Not a literal roller coaster) (But wouldn’t that be great? I bet enrollments in law school would go THROUGH THE ROOF if they replaced classes with a literal roller coaster. Are you listening, Big Law School? This idea is now my copyright and you will owe me some of that sweet, sweet enrollment cash once you make the switch to a roller-coaster-based curriculum).

Emotionally, it seems like it might be an awful lot like the practice of law. I imagine that—particularly for a litigator—losing a case would be like a punch to the stomach (especially when you really believed you should have/were going to win), and winning probably feels like life just gave you a high-five. Law school is that way in my experience.

You say something dumb in class, and you wish you could crawl under your seat so that no one can see your shame.

Then you do something smart (maybe even by accident!) and you strut around campus like you’re a dang superhero.

There are ups and downs, is what I’m saying. You know, like a roller coaster.

The thing is, with a roller coaster, you do not hop off during the down times (that would be very dangerous, among other reasons).