Survival Kit for Law Students and Families

1L of a Ride

Going to law school?  Have a loved one?  Here’s the perfect gift combo for both of you:

The "Companion Text" to Law School

1L of a Ride — McClurg’s classic law school prep book, assigned as recommended or required reading at law schools throughout the country.  Read the Amazon Reviews!

The “Companion Text” to Law School — The only book to prepare the loved ones of law students for the wild and crazy vortex of law school into which they are about to be propelled.  Named an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year!

Breaking Bad–Canadian Judicial Version

Breaking BadDon’t think for a minute that Canadian judges can’t keep up with American judges when it comes to Strange Judicial Opinions.  Wild and crazy judicial happenings in Canada are here, here and here.

Now comes a new hit TV series, I mean, an order in a divorce case, entered by Superior Court Justice Pazaratz, where the court analogized the parties’ ugly divorce to the hit television show, Breaking Bad. Excerpts from the order include:

1.  Breaking Bad, meet Breaking Bad Parents.

2.  The former is an acclaimed fictional TV show whose title needed a bit of explaining:  “BREAKING BAD:  A southern U.S. expression for when a good person suddenly loses their moral compass and starts doing bad things”.

3.  The latter is a sad reality show playing out in family courts across the country.  “BREAKING BAD PARENTS:  When smart, loving, caring, sensible mothers and fathers suddenly lose their parental judgment and embark on relentless, nasty litigation; oblivious to the impact on their children”.

4.  SPOILER ALERT:  The main characters in both of these tragedies end up pretty much the same:  Miserable.  Financially ruined. And worst of all, hurting the children they claimed they were protecting.

5.  To prolong the tortured metaphor only slightly, the “urgent” motion before me might be regarded as this family’s pilot episode.  Will these parents sign up for the permanent cast of Breaking Bad Parents?  Will they become regulars in our family court building, recognizable by face and disposition?  Or will they come to their senses; salvage their lives, dignity (and finances); and give their children the truly priceless gifts of maturity and permission to love.

6.  Stay tuned.

[The court proceeds to recount the parties’ inability to work together, accusations and counter-accusations, and their deadlock in trying to reach a custody sharing arrangement.  The Court decides on a reasonable arrangement before wrapping things up.]

36.  One final comment:

37.  I hope I didn’t offend the parties with my Breaking Bad Parents analogy.  They’re not bad parents.  Yet.

38.  Mainly, I was trying to give both parties a sobering warning: Stop!

39.  Stop being nasty.

40.  Stop jockeying for position.

41.  Stop playing hardball.

42.  Stop acting like you hate your ex more than you love your children.

All good advice, Justice Pazaratz, but you’ve just ruined the potential for the TV series.

–Coe v. Tope, Case No. 2839/14, Ontario Superior Court of Justice (July 3, 2014). Thanks to whoever sent this along. We lost track of the original email.  Let us hear from you!

Children Sue Santa Claus; Jolly One Fights Back

Old Saint Nick

It’s the season to reprise those two holiday favorites from the Harmless Error vault:

Santa Suit — The children of the world file a class action lawsuit seeking redress for perceived grievances against the man in the red suit. (Caroline Kennedy selected this column for inclusion in her A Family Christmas anthology.)

Santa Strikes Back — Turns out the jolly one has his own issues about his Christmas job. Mightily ticked off, he files his own lawsuit.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays from!

Cartoon Scenarios that Made It to Court

Falling anvils can happen to anyone.

Thanks to legal humorist extraordinaire Randy Maniloff for a nice shout-out to as part of his recent article exploring cartoon accident clichés that found their way to the courthouse.

Exploding cigars, falling anvils, you name it. Turns out the experiences of Wile E. Coyote and Tom and Jerry also happen to ordinary people, and Randy cites the cases to prove it.

That’s one of the things we most appreciate about him. Like (and unlike so many purveyors of legal humor), Randy doesn’t circulate undocumented anecdotes that may or may not have really happened. He researches and provides

Read more…

People Sometimes Stuck Things in Justice Breyer’s Underwear

Justice Stephen Breyer

Justice Stephen Breyer

Ryan A. Malphurs conducted an interesting study of laughter in proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court, following up on the work of Jerry Wexler for the New York Times. His entire article is must-reading for fans of legal humor, but this attention-grabbing opening excerpt from an oral argument in Safford Unified School District v. Redding certainly stands out:

Justice Breyer: In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometime stick things in my underwear–

Read more…

Storm Cloud Law Students, Psychological Distress in Law Students, Part II

1L Word Cloud

A Word Cloud reveals the stress and anxiety of 1Ls.

This is Part II of an exploration of psychological distress in law students. Part I explored empirical research showing the extent to which law students suffer from psychological dysfunction such as anxiety and depression. This part highlights a couple of non-scientific indicators of the problem.

Mid-semester, I asked a class of first-year Torts students to list their three top emotions about law school. Then I dumped all their answers into a Word Cloud program, which depicts entries by size according to how often

Read more…

Rainy Day Law Students, Psychological Distress in Law Students, Part I

And on the serious side …

Rainy Day Law Students

On my way to class recently, I came across this hand-written annotation posted alongside this rainy day painting hanging in our magnificent law school (recently ranked as the nation’s best law school facility).

Click to enlarge the picture and you’ll see it’s a man standing under a raining umbrella. The sign says: “Every day in law school

As law students everywhere approach fall semester exams, it once again brought home the sad fact that many law students struggle with anxiety, depression and other psychological dysfunction.

I learned the depth of the problem researching Read more…

The “Companion Text” to Law School Named as an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year

The “Companion Text” to Law School named an Amazon Editors’ Favorite Book of the Year.

The “Companion Text” to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student has been named one of the Amazon Editors’ Favorite Books of the Year. Pretty cool.

Nice Shout-Out to The “Companion Text” to Law School

The "Companion Text" to Law School

My law school prep book, 1L of a Ride, gets a lot more attention, but my book written for the loved ones of law students–The “Companion Text” to Law School: Understanding and Surviving Life with a Law Student (West 2012)–got a nice shout-out on Paul Caron’s popular TaxProf blog.

Thanks to Al Sturgeon, Dean of Students at Pepperdine Law, for his insightful take on my chapter called Eight Things to NEVER Say to a Law Student, which include:

“Don’t Worry, You’ll Do Fine” “Maybe You Weren’t Meant to Be in Law School”

Read more…

Great-Grandma Unhappy About Being in Court

Great-granny unhappy with court appearance.

A fleeing bank robber made the mistake of seeking refuge in his 94-year-old great-grandmother’s home with pursuers hot on his trail. When the police arrived, the only ones present were the accused and great-grandma. At trial, the defendant, Mr. Jones, elected to represent himself, never a good idea.

The prosecution called his great-grandma as a witness. To say she wasn’t happy about the proceedings and, in particular, the conduct of her great-grandson would understate her disenchantment with sitting in the witness box.

We’ll let her explain. Here’s the text of page 209 of the trial transcript shown in the photo, where she concludes her testimony:

Read more…

Hogwarts Torts

halloween pic

For Halloween, we reprise Hogwarts Torts, a Harmless Error column fan favorite, detailing the torts inflicted on poor young Harry Potter.

Death Certificate Shows Man Died from Slipping on Banana Peel

Poor guy died from slipping on a banana peel.

Poor guy died from slipping on a banana peel.

Slipping on a banana peel is, of course, a classic clichéd accident depicted in cartoons. As my 1Ls get ready to tackle the famous trilogy of banana peel slip and fall cases in the Prosser, Wade & Schwartz Torts casebook next week, the nagging question that lingers is: do people really slip on banana peels?

A previous post discussed this issue, but check this out. It’s a 1927 Tennessee death certificate for a 74-year-old hospitalized man. A bit hard to read, but the highlighted note written

Read more…

1L of a Ride Cited … On a Business Card

1L Business Card

I was really touched by this. A first-year student at the University of Denver law school asked if she could use a line from 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School on her business card.

If only law students–and all of us–could always remain idealistic.

Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
Learn more...

Funny Law School Stories
For all its terror and tedium, law school can be a hilarious place. Everyone has a funny law school story. What’s your story?

Strange Judicial Opinions
Large collection of oddball and off-the-wall judicial opinions and orders.

Product Warning Labels
A variety of warning labels, some good, some silly and some just really odd. If you come encounter a funny or interesting product warning label, please send it along.

Tortman! Andrew J McClurg
Tortland collects interesting tort cases, warning labels, and photos of potential torts. Raise risk awareness. Play "Spot the Tort."

Weird Patents
Think it’s really hard to get a patent? Think again.

Legal Oddities
From the simply curious to the downright bizarre, a collection of amusing law-related artifacts.

Spot the Tort
Have fun and make the world a safer place. Send in pictures of dangerous conditions you stumble upon (figuratively only, we hope) out there in Tortland.

Legal Education
Collecting any and all amusing tidbits related to legal education.

Harmless Error
McClurg's twisted legal humor column ran for more than four years in the American Bar Association Journal.