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It finally happened to me. I got seduced in law school. It wasn’t because I stopped wearing sandals or because I started finding attractive women who brought their r�sum�s on dates. No, the most seductive and educational experience of law school happened Thursday afternoons. Not Hastings’ customary Beer on the Beach, but Moot Court. (Though I can’t figure out why the bastards scheduled Moot Court at the same time as Beer on the Beach. Now, most will tell you that going to Legal Writing and Research and Moot Court while buzzed ensures you won’t pay attention. But the only time I paid attention was when my head felt like it had a dentist’s X-ray protective lead jacket draped over it.) My seduction was more of a PG-13 kind — but all the more dangerous for that. As petitioner in the Toledo case, it was my task to persuade the court that wife-beaters who threaten their wives without actually scaring them (or scarring them) are employing free speech and so should not be prosecuted. This happens when Mrs. Wife, scared out of her wits and needing a father for her soon-to-be-beaten baby, testifies that she was not frightened by Mr. Wife-Beater; and Jury Stupid-Head chooses to believe her. At first, I told myself, “Self, it’s just more of law school. I’ll learn a case whose fact pattern belongs on Jerry Springer, argue the side they assign me, blahblah; where’s my J.D.?” But after hours of research, practice, writing briefs, wondering why yet another gorgeous TA is engaged to be married, and being the first in my section to memorize both my Lexis and Westlaw passwords, the seduction began. The involvement in the case was the seduction. I started to convince myself, to believe in my case. In re James M. General attempt provisions. The Kelner Court. Manifested legislative intent. Toledo’s conviction should be overturned, Your Honor. Every time you practice arguments alone in front of a mirror, there’s someone listening — you. What better propaganda could there be? Hear your own voice argue one side of a case hundreds of times. It’s like “Brave New World,” only you have to supply your own drugs. At first, I thought Moot Court simulated being a real lawyer because you’re handed a case without choosing which side you prefer and are then asked to get all zealous over it. Yet Moot Court taught me the real danger of lawyering: People, even lawyer-people, are not immune to their own rhetoric. You cannot work on a case for months without at least partly convincing yourself. I convinced myself that Mr. Toledo (which is Latin for wife-beater) was wrongly convicted. Hot damn! I still believe he was wrongly convicted. Hotter damn! Every lawyer is at some point going to represent the side that is ‘wrong.’ That’s part of the job. I expected it. I believe in the adversarial system — because my adversary is always wrong. But I always thought that there would be that whole professional distance thing separating personal opinions from professional responsibilities. Keep it neat. Don’t get involved. It’s not that simple. I made a conscious effort to do my job without getting sucked in myself. Only that’s just it — convincing myself of Toledo’s side of the case was creeping and crawling; unconscious and unseen; pernicious and nefarious. I only discovered the infection once I was sick. The scary part is, I was good. Just ask my opponent. In a non-moot court, I might have freed the non-moot Toledo so he could go home and wail fresh non-moot wounds into his non-moot wife as she tried to protect her non-moot baby’s non-moot cranium. And when you’re hardened by years of representing Toledos; when you’re paid oodle-wads to advocate; when the reputation of your Bellicose Ball-Breaking Brigade is on the line; when the meaning of success goes beyond pass-fail; when freeing Toledo is just part of the job — your job — you’re all the more likely to free Toledo and all the less likely to care. Mitch Artman is a 1L at the University of California, Hastings. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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