Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
I’ll admit it now. From the beginning, Professor Marks* inspired fear in me — like melatonin, one shot and you’re out. But, I told myself, I’m different. (Just playing into his hands.) I told myself that a million authority figures before him had tried to rough me up, and all had failed. (As though you could compare Marks with normal scary people.) I figured that all the other students who had failed to go toe-to-toe with Marks were simply letting him get into their heads. (Marks gained unfettered access to your mind like a wrecking ball crashing through your defenses.) “Jeez,” I thought, “he’s just asking stuff from the Civ Pro book.” (Only the one he wrote.) “How hard could that be? Just answer the questions, and you know what? I can take him. How bad could he be?” (Never underestimate a teacher who can make a grown man cry the first day of class.) Every class started with the same innocent line. “OKAYYYEEE. Last time … .” Just a recap of yesterday’s material, sans any mention of the poor 1L schnook who still trembled in fear of any follow-up questions. The real grilling began with: “Mister [huge Marks-man with foot-long finger-claws dancing about the room as he chose the day's meat] … Buchanan! [Point!] Did you have a chance … to do … today’s READING?!” At this point, everyone sitting immediately next to Buchanan sighs in relief and figures out how they’re going to fulfill the promise to God or the devil or whomever they owe for one more day’s protection from Marks. Buchanan, of course, had to face his demon — while explaining minimum contacts. Marks was a demon through malicious patience. When an ordinary student can give no satisfactory answer, an ordinary professor will either turn to another ordinary student or hint the student in the right direction. Oh, not Marks. He was content to stare at you in indefatigable silence. As I found out through Buchanan. Watching the clock, I counted a full 107 seconds of silence interrupted only by desperate page-turning before Buchanan figured out that the Supreme Court mentioned no precedent that it was following because there wasn’t one. But in those 107 seconds, Marks set a precedent for us: Even Marks could not save you, only the answers could. The trick was thinking straight when fear bent you into a twisted mass of confused terror. Every class, someone would be crushed out of his self-esteem. As Voltaire would have said, had he endured Marks, “Civil Procedure is neither civil, nor is it just some procedure.” Every class, I watched the already giant Marks jump higher and higher on the addled trampoline of his daily victim. He smoothed out his carnivorous approach with ample wit. Mr. Poter, on attempting to mitigate his erring ways: “Professor Marks, I’d like to take that answer back, if I may. I think I just dug myself into a trap.” “That’s OK. Dig yourself into another trap!” Let me here explain that Marks was smart. I can’t stress how brilliant this man was. You asked a question about one of 30 cases referenced in the notes to a section not assigned that day, and, without hesitating or looking, he would tell you: the page number you were looking at, what part of the page the sentence you referenced was on, the opinions of the lower courts on the matter (even when not in the book) and what you were actually trying to ask him. Marks even cleverly de-deified himself, telling us how he feared his own property class when he was a law student. Some were tempted to see this as Marks’ willingness to become human with us, and so recognize the human in us, his victims. I knew better — proof that Marks was human only scared me more. If gods would stop torture through mercy, what could stop the quasi-human Marks? Dammit, the man had to have weaknesses. I just knew that the secret was not a matter of mastering Civ Pro, but not letting The Beast get into your head. For then Marks would take away your confidence, and so, your ability to answer his questions. And so I hated him. I hated him for making us afraid. At the same time, we needed him, and so I hated him for making us need him. For only Marks could teach us what we needed to know — how to survive Marks. He was fooling all of them, making them think that mastering the material was the path to perseverance. I became convinced that the only way to persevere through Marks’ grilling was by mastering Marks. And so Marks became the villain I adulated. I knew I would be a salvating hero to my section-mates and end Marks’ reign of terror if I could just show them that even if Marks beat us all to pulp and used our dignity to pick his teeth, we didn’t need to be afraid of him. We were all going to die and we were all going to get grilled. Damned if I was going to fear Marks and not the Reaper. The Hero persona grew in stature in my head with my belief in my mission. And so I would rehearse, alone with the world at three in the morning in front of the mirror: Villain: “Mr. Artman! Did you have a chance t-” The Hero: “JUST … Bring It!” Villain: “Mr. Artman, what did the plaintiff plead in -” The Hero: “IT DOESN”T MATTER WHAT THE PLAINTIFF PLEADED! He has no possible case that could survive a 12(b)(6).” Yeah, that’s right, Marks. Whatever you do to me, I know my stuff. I know my stuff and so I refuse to let you make me suffer. And so it would go. And the day arrived. Marks, knowing, somehow, I swear, just knowing that I was hung over for the first time and had only read after my vision had cleared — about one hour previous — began the day: “Mr. Artman! Did you have a chance … to do … today’s READING?” I had eight prepared openings to his first blow, yet none would come out of my glued mouth. Asthma then decided to attack for the first time since junior high, taking the place of The Hero. I was now alone with Marks. I could not even answer this first question right. But I was determined. Even if Marks stopped me from breathing, we would stop living in fear. Reading? “Nope. Not at all.” When 85 people stop breathing, it makes a sound. And Marks snarled. No shit, a real snarl. A deep, blood-thirsty spit of rage at my hubris. Nothing was said for 11 seconds. No one could be heard breathing save for the steam blowing out Marks’ nostrils. Finally, I spoke: “I did do the reading. Everyone always says they do the reading. I was just curious what you’d say.” The class laughed — the way you laugh when you see a madman tap-dancing in a minefield. Thus spake The Lord of Civil Procedure: “We’ll just remember that, won’t we?” and proceeded to write something next to my name on the seating chart. When 85 adults-turned-toddlers go “Ooh,” it also makes a sound. And that was when I felt Marks’ nefarious pounding, pounding down my door of fear, getting into my head. I was getting scared. “Mr. Artman: Do you think the only reason I look down on you is because I’m 6’5″?” OK, Marks didn’t really say that last bit. It just seemed like he did. I gave him my all and managed to stay afloat for a while. Finally, I stammered, and found what everyone before me had: the limit of my abilities to stand up to Marks despite my understanding of the material. And it was over. I walked to the bar in a daze. (We had a tradition that anyone who suffered the Marks treatment was treated to a round by his friends.) Instead of feeling defeat, I felt dissected. In one hour, Marks exposed to me my every strength and weakness. The next day, another grilling, another victim. I didn’t care about my ego or even gaining Marks’ respect. What mattered to me was that I had failed in my mission to lessen our fear of Marks. The great part is that now, I’m glad I failed in my mission. I’m glad Marks is probably terrifying someone this very moment. There may be a Greater One out there, some prof even more omniscient, more terrifying, more Marksian than Marks himself. Until I face him, until any of Marks’ 85 students do, we won’t fear anyone. Marks cared enough to make me teach myself: that everyone has a weak point; that I was a lot stronger than I thought; and that there’s nothing to be afraid of (besides Marks). By year’s end, Marks was not the stick that beat me, but the stick I measured myself against. *”Professor Marks” is a pseudonym. Free-lancer Mitch Artman lives and writes in Chicago.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.