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Sometimes I think about going back to law school.

At this point I probably won't, because I want and need to work. Besides, I doubt my 36-year-old transcripts count for much. And even if they did, I don't imagine I've retained much. While taking some pride in how well I did in 1L Contracts in 1981 (one of the top two scores in my section; the guy who beat me became a law professor straight out of school) I'm not sure I can tell you much about the subject other than the six elements of a valid contract, which are offer, acceptance, consideration, mutuality of obligation, competency, and capacity.

I did that without Google. Let's check and see how I did.

OK, it's not quite right. After looking it up, it seems that the requisite elements that must be established to demonstrate the formation of a legally binding contract are offer; acceptance; consideration; mutuality of obligation; competency and capacity; and, in certain circumstances, a written instrument.

I was pretty close, but maybe not close enough. I don't think my contracts professor Gerald Levan would have accepted my answer. He might even have thrown me out of class. The law is a precise endeavor, there is no "pretty close."

Besides, it makes no economic sense for me to go back, for I lack any desire to actually work as a lawyer. That's one reason for leaving law school in the first place; I was intellectually engaged with the ideas but couldn't quite imagine myself as someone who could practice law. The reading, the research, the thinking about the law and justice and equity was appealing, but not doing the practical things a lawyer has to do.

And there was the terror of being interviewed for potential positions and being judged as much for the kind of shoes or sort of collar worn as anything else. I was self-aware enough to know that I was naive and painfully shy and found it nearly impossible to promote myself.

I didn't want to finish and have to enter the unknowable next phase.

No regrets. It worked out. I suspect I'm happier than I would otherwise have been. We're doing fine. But I'm not proud that I didn't finish either. It's something I didn't see through.

I didn't consider it quitting at the time. I was taking a year off to get out in the real world. The opportunity I took wasn't a really great one, $170 a week as the sports editor of a small-town daily that didn't publish a Sunday edition. I had to have my own camera and be willing to process film. And to cover whatever general news needed to be covered.

My parents drove down from Shreveport to help me move into a duplex that was essentially one room--a stove and refrigerator against the wall, all the windows covered with aluminum foil against a hammering sun. The window unit worked, it was cold and dark in there but for the eerie glow at the foot of the baseboards where the wall separating my unit from the one next door didn't quite meet the floor. Light and noise and occasional roaches broached that border.

I slept there for six months. Landlord Mrs. Cormier, the sheriff's mother, tried to keep my security deposit on the grounds the hadn't been cleaned properly. I eventually got it back (having never used the oven) but the incident taught me something about adults: We are untrustworthy.

Which is the whole reason we have laws, written down in books and enforced by people who sometimes carry lethal weapons. There are those of us who will press any advantage they can obtain; there are those of us who consider this the natural way to the world and don't think it's wrong to leverage whatever power they happen to have. All Mrs. Cormier knew was that I was young and poor enough to consider renting her wretched little duplex. She thought she could take my $50 deposit.

And she would have, had I been able to spare it. Had it not been an important sum to me, I would not have fought for it. I would not have asked her son the sheriff to ask his mother to relent. He believed me when I said I never used the oven. He knew me. And he knew his mother. And he probably felt sorry for me.

Had this occurred later in my journalistic career, I would never have asked the sheriff--someone who was a news source--to intervene on my behalf. I would have realized it was ethically problematic to ask the sheriff for a favor. But I was a kid and $50 was a lot of money. I knew I'd left that place cleaner than it was when I'd moved in. I didn't dare ask my parents for help. I couldn't afford a lawyer.

Over the years, there have been plenty of times when I've been cheated. Mostly by myself.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

www.blooddirtangels.com

MovieStyle on 04/22/2018

Print Headline: Cheating yourself and others

Comments

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  • MaxCady
    April 22, 2018 at 1:06 p.m.

    The world does not need more lawyers. You're doing just fine where you're at.

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