Denver Bar Association
January 2001
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Oh! The Horror: Finals

by Diane Hartman

Our DU law student Tom Finn lived through his first round of finals.
By Diane Hartman

(Editor's note: This interview with Tom was done in mid-December, when he had just finished his finals.)

The law school buzz started getting louder around finals time, according to our student-in-progress Tom Finn.

Who gave what kind of tests? Who had already dropped out of the class? What does the professor want!? And then, subtly, who got what grades (it's considered rude to just ask)?

Finals time, of course, is about as tense as it gets (at least before the bar exam). In Torts, the final was one question about a traffic accident. "I think I did all right. The prof said we'd have plenty of time, but it was two-and-a-half-hours and I could have gone on and on. I tried to pick the most important points. We'll see if that's what he thinks is most important."

Tom, 33, struggled with the essay format on all the tests. With an engineering background, he feels writing isn't his best skill. "I think Criminal Law was okay. It's hard to get a feeling because essay tests are a new experience for me." In Contracts, he said, he'd write the answer and then figure out he wanted to give a whole different answer. His last final, Civil Procedure, was the hardest.

Still, as his class heads into the second semester, Tom said most students are settling down. "There are still a couple who want to answer every question in class. I've always heard the ones who end up being number one are the ones who sit there and don't say anything. But it amazes me how smart some of my classmates are. Some knew they always wanted to be lawyers. They majored in Poly Sci and can rattle off the Articles of the Constitution."

Tom has hit a couple of uncomfortable bumps in school.

"Everyone, at some time, makes an ass of himself. If you don't you're not trying hard enough. I was reading a brief in class and it had a sentence that said 'the court wrote that this civil procedure rule was circumscribed...' Of course I said circumcised. And then I paused and realized what I'd done. Everyone had a good laugh, including the prof."

For another class, he was assigned to write a memo and go to the office of a "real" lawyer, who's been working with his class, and give an oral presentation. He did a hurry-up job on the memo, and "got hammered" by the lawyer. "It was supposed to be 15 minutes, but ended up like he had me on the stand for over 20 minutes. I didn't have a good time there." The lawyer told Tom he had a nervous laugh. "He said 'I'd like to think you are taking this seriously, so I'm guessing this is a nervous laugh.' I didn't have the heart to tell him."

Tom said he'd been on radioactive superfund sites: "I take that seriously. A fake interview? That's hard."

He's been making friends, and will go to the campus pub on "cheap beer" night. When the law students get together, "you talk about certain theories you didn't get and find out nobody knew what was going on. That's what it's the best for. Knowing you are not alone."

Tom, whose goal is to become an environmental lawyer/engineer, is starting to get very interested in criminal law. For the first time, he's watching "Court TV" plus all the dramas like "Law and Order," "The Practice," even "Ally McBeal" (during Monday Night Football commercials). He gets incensed with the "whole mentality in America about people getting a windfall through lawsuits." He said he recently heard about a lady who got a box of chicken wings, but one piece was really a fried chicken head and she said she hadn't been able to eat for three days. "I bet she'll sue. I mean, it might be a little disheartening to have a chicken head, but she didn't eat it and it's part of the chicken and if you have a problem, you might want to reconsider eating chicken..."

He and girlfriend Ange got in a ski trip to Breckenridge over Thanksgiving. One gorgeous Sunday, with a memo due Monday, they headed for the mountains to hike. "Then I stayed up all night finishing the memo. But it was worth it."

During his month off at Christmas, he wants to get in some skiing. "But if you talk to Ange, I'll spend my time laying tile in our kitchen."

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