How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

    Click on the book cover for details!

« | Main | »



Well, I hate to recycle comments, but over at The Conglomerate, this is what I had to say about Prof. Mooney's analogy:

"The problem with the stenographer analogy is that it's easily distinguishable (I'm surprised that professors wouldn't see that immediately): the stenographer has no interest in the case. Why should she? Her *job* is merely transcription; paying attention has no bearing whatsoever on her performance. She is paid to transcribe not to analyze. She has no incentive (save boredom, perhaps) to pay attention.

A law student (or any other note taker) who is transcribing for the purpose of *learning* has an incentive to not only get the words, but to get meaning."


I agree with the previous comment, it's a completely different thing. Also, using a laptop actually helped me to pay attention more. My first year I took notes by hand on a notebook because I didn't own a laptop and when I got bored, I would start thinking about something else and completely space out. I would go to some other planet and it would be very hard to refocus.

While using a laptop, if I started to drift away I would play solitaire or some simple game instead, which allowed me to keep half of my attention on what was going on and return to the conversation when it once again became of interest to me.

Of course, my daydreaming problem is particular to me, and if people are writing blog posts, etc., that could lead to the same problem as daydreaming would.


A while back, Orin Kerr's readers, including yours truly, beat the life out of Prof. Entman's rationale for her no-laptop policy. Go check it out.


As a matter of competitive advantage, I supported laptop usage in class because it made the curve easier.

The professor's court reporter example is more instructive than she thinks. Some court reporters pay no attention. Others do pay attention. The distinction is between those who are curious and those who are not. There's nothing about transcription, per se, that turns the mind off. There's just nothing about it that forces one to retain content.

I never desired a laptop in law school because I know that I retain things better when I write them out. Certain professors instituted "no-internet" policies on the grounds that surfing was distracting to the surfer and to those around them. I had no problem with the rule, although I disagree with the idea that the person on-line shopping in front of you is so terribly fascinating that no reasonable person can be expected to ignore the activity. (Alternately, it's called - sit at the front of the room with fewer people in front of you.) Professors have a right to set reasonable standards of conduct in the classroom. No f***** around on your computer seems like a reasonable standard.

And I giggled when I first read KT's comment about solitaire helping him/her focus, but the truth is that doodling helps me focus. My class notes from law school were frequently overwhelmed by the extensive geometric patterns I'd doodled off to the side. I would draw these out while listening to the professor and distilling the lecture, then I'd write a few sentences encapsulating the point. Something about ordering the mind, I don't know. So I'm willing to believe that for some people, computer activities that look like distractions are actually distillation tools. And in all fairness to the "laptop or death!" crowd, I did have several people who sat behind me comment that they found my doodling kind of fascinating and distracting.

Supremacy Claus

Law school is just cult indoctrination and intimidation of the hapless student, who has not granted written, formal, informed consent to be subjected to it. If I were a student, I would remind the professor who pays whose salary. It is unseemly to insult and openly disrespect the customer. No one can do that pain and uncertainty free. I would file formal complaint at every demand to close the laptop. Then, I would sue for retaliation if my grade weren't good enough, in my opinion.

What puzzles the most is why students would not sue the professors using the Socratic method to intimidate, and to evade the performance of their end of the contract to teach in exchange for expensive tuition. I would be demanding the professor start teaching the class, and not have a stuttering fellow 1L knowing about the same as everyone else about the subject. The Socratic method is a form of consumer fraud. The lazy professor wants a student to do his job.

The second demand would be that the professor start speaking English when addressing the class, and not that lawyer talk. This is an English speaking nation. No foreign language should be imposed on our citizens, such as Latin or Medieval French.

The third demand is that the professor stop his out of control insurrection against our beloved Constitution of our besieged nation by seeking to inculcate the student with sick, supernatural, Scholasticist doctrines, such as mind reading, future forecasting, standards of conduct of fictional characters, any use of the word, reasonable. At each instance, I would be banging Mao's Red Book on the desk, yell, "Lawless" or "Shame, you Dominican sicko." "Yo, genius, there is no mind reading, no future forecasting with better accuracy than predicting the lottery numbers." Professors promulgating any supernatural idea whatsoever should be driven out of their jobs.

I know that the law professor will be spouting the straight cult party line, justifying all rent seeking with masking ideology. I would demand "balance," a forced discussion of the looting, pillaging, and treason of the out of control, lawless land pirate, the damage to our economy, the threat to our survival from lawyer collaboration with terrorists.

John Day

I did not find the Socratic method intimidating; I found it fun. I think most future trial lawyers enjoyed it.


I do not at all feel like I pay any one of my professors' salaries. How would my $32,000 be divided by say ... 10 professors per year? I do not feel that I own them, the content of their lectures, or a say in the rules of the classroom b/c of the ridiculous pittance that my tuition contributes to their salary.

As far as making lectures interesting - I thought people went to law school b/c they were interested in law? Within law school, there are still divergent topics, I know. I for one absolutely LOVE Constitutional Law, and I hear of more people zoning out and tearing at their flesh b/c they're required to sit through it. When I took the class, I felt like it lasted 10 minutes. Of course there's no way to account for these differences. Some people are in law school b/c they couldn't think of anything better to do after college, and therefore, see no problem with playing video games or IMing throughout every class. From my observations - they are feeling that loss. They will be the last to find employment, and the last to distinguish themelves from the rest of the graduating students.

Before going to law school, I transcribed interviews for professors of sociology. I listened to every single word, and i learned a lot from them.

I really would not like to be told I could not use my laptop to take notes on. This past quarter I spent some time taking notes by hand just to give my back a break from lugging my laptop around, and it went well for all but one class - Fed Courts. I'm currently trying to make sense of my handwritten notes, but they're just not as complete. I wouldn't like to have the option foreclosed to me b/c a professor was offended that people weren't paying attention. Why can't she instead just drop in a few nuggets of wisdom that will show up on the exam and only be correctly answered by those who were tuned in?

George Lenard

It seems obvious that when used to take notes in class the laptop is mainly just a high tech pad and pen.

Like a pad and pen, it can be used to do other things, with or without listening (solitaire or surfing being the equivalent of "doodling").

Like a pad and pen, it can be used to focus full attention on the word-for-word transcription of lecture and class discussion.

Like a pad and pen, it can be used to selectively preserve key points from lecture and class discussion, while focusing much attention on listening and thinking about the subject matter.

In the pad and pen days when I was in law school, I occasionally missed class and borrowed a classmate's notes. She appeared to meticulously transcribe the class like a court reporter, but in neat schoolteacher's cursive. My notes were much more limited.

I always wondered how she could do that and pay attention. Maybe she could. Maybe she couldn't, and did her thinking and learning when she reviewed the notes later.

What she did worked for her; what I did worked for me.

Professors should treat their students like adults, and let them study in the manner they believe best suits their personal learning style.

Jason Keyes

Side me with those who think the ban is foolish. Absent some evidence that laptops in the classroom are disrupting the learning environment, the professor doesn't have any right to ban them. Were I in her class, I'd tell her to stuff the ban and get back to teaching. The students in her classes haven't paid tuition for her to act the petty tyrant, and anything she does outside deliver the paid-for services shouldn't be tolerated by her students.

If you stand for this kind of crap from law professors, get the hell out of law. You don't have the backbone for it...


Jason Keyes, checking in with the Carl Lazlo approach. I fail to see how developing a tolerance for the whims of petty tyrants would be a disadvantage to a lawyer. And petulance does not equal backbone.

Supremacy Claus

The law professor is a criminal cult recruiter, screener, and indoctrinator. No consideration or respect is due the ditwad. The indoctrination is so competent, the lawyers felt nothing. Let one cross the cult, he will feel plenty. At least the student is not licensed and not subject to sanctions. However, the student must consider the character evaluation portion of the Bar application. This is where even the student is already too far gone in their clutches to retrieve back to the ordinary world.

The slightest disrespect or disagreement is likely to pop up during the character evaluation, years later. Do the experiment with a small negative remark.

Supremacy Claus

Zuska, Zuska, Zuska. You make me want to jump from a window. Multi-party contracts. See if you can recognize anything familiar about this case from your law school experience.


As a big fan of Constitutional law, you know that according to the Establishment Clause we live in a nation that is .......?. Correct, a "secular nation." Open your Hornbook in any subject, to any page, do so 100 times. In 90 of those pages you will see a supernatural doctrine, mind reading, future forecasting, standard of conduct of a fictional character, and the word, "reasonable," with a very specific origin and meaning, all being from ..............? Correct. Scholasticism.

These Scholasticist doctrines are lawless in our nation that is ....... ? Correct, secular. Very good.

Did you go to Yale or something?

Please, answer this survey question, not meant to be personal in any way. I believe you are a victim. Were you informed about what "reasonable" means? I hold these sicko law schools responsible for misleading and destroying the great minds entrusted to them.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Search Beyond the Underground