As announced last week, I’ll be exhuming my old law school satire, Two L, from the vault of lost novels later this month.
Basically, Two L is Measure for Measure meets Evelyn Waugh meets Legally Blonde meets too much free coffee my 3L year.
I debated long and hard about putting it out there because, to be blunt, it is not Pink. The book is modeled very closely on Measure for Measure, which is not known for having Shakespeare’s more lovable characters.
Nonetheless, I’ve always been fascinated by it. To me, Measure for Measure is the archetypal example of the heroine’s journey, in which the intractable Isabella is forced to acknowledge and condone human frailty– including her own. It’s the ultimate debate between the letter of the law on one hand and the nature of justice on the other. And, I’ll admit, I’ve always had a teeny tiny crush on the Duke.
It also provided me an excellent excuse to lampoon the more mock-able bits of law school.
Here’s the blurb:
Something is rotten at Harvard Law. As the frat boys take over the Law Review and the law school sorority, the Veritarts, bring hems to a new high and grades to a new low, the Dean is very strangely gone, leaving in charge one Arthur Agnelli, a scholar of unimpeachable reputation. When a popular lecturer is accused of having an affair with one of his students, 2L Megan Milner reluctantly agrees to try to intercede with Agnelli. But is Agnelli really what he seems? And will the Dean return before the free coffee runs out?
I’d originally intended to put Two L up only on Kindle and Nook (see nervousness about putting it out there, above), but, given the response so far, there’s a shot I’ll be able to make it available in print as well. (And for you Sony e-reader folks, I’m looking into that, too.)
In the meantime, here’s a little preview….
“The Duke is very strangely gone from hence…
…Upon his place
And with full line of his authority,
Governs Lord Angelo, a man whose blood
Is very snow-broth; one who never feels
The wanton stings and motions of the sense,
But doth rebate and blunt his natural edge
With profits of the mind, study and fast.”
–I, iv, 50, 55-61
When her phone buzzed, Megan was in the library, seated beneath her favorite portrait of Christopher Columbus Langdell, founder of the Harvard Legal Method, and namesake of the law library.
Megan would have preferred to pursue her studies beneath the auspices of a woman, but the decoration of the library had not yet caught up with the advent of female jurists. Besides, the chair beneath the portrait of Elena Kagan was decidedly uncomfortable. The goals of feminism could better be pursued by concentration unbroken by the distractions of the flesh, especially the tender flesh between back and thigh.
Megan’s phone buzzed again, earning her a dirty look from the boy seated next to her—a 1L, judging from the huge Civ Pro book and the general lack of personal hygiene.
Hitting the ignore button, Megan tried to concentrate on her casebook, but her caller refused to be deterred. The phone rattled embarrassingly against the polished wood of the long library table.
Squirming sideways in her chair, Megan flipped the phone open, and breathed into the mouthpiece, “Hello?”
“Meggy Meg Meg Meg!” caroled the voice on the other end of the phone. She thought the voice sounded familiar, but she hadn’t heard it for some time, so it was hard to be sure. It sounded like….
“Gabe? I can’t talk right now. I’m in Langdell.”
“Easily solved, no?”
Last year, that air of easy confidence had been a challenge, even—she admitted to herself, in the sterile peace of Langdell—a turn-on. There was something very attractive about a rampantly unregenerate male chauvinist just waiting to be reformed.
Or, rather, there had been something very attractive.
“Awwww, come on.” Without waiting for her assent, Gabe went on, “I need to talk to you about Cliff.”
Megan’s shoulders stiffened under her cashmere sweater. Gabe wasn’t the only person who wanted to talk to her about Cliff. Since last Thursday, when the news broke, her inbox had been filled with emails from “The Record,” “The Harvard Crimson,” “The New York Times,” and a series of other news organizations of varying creditability, all wanting the inside scoop on the latest scandal. Megan had deleted them all with a rapid-fire series of staccato clicks, and instructed her roommate Rachel to screen all calls.
When she signed up for the Board of Student Advisors, notoriety was the last thing Megan expected. Every year, a bewildered new crop of 1Ls came in. And every year, they would be broken into seven sections of about eighty students apiece. In the incestuous hothouse of their sections, they took all their classes, made friends and enemies, dated and broke up and dated again. Gabe, appropriately enough, had been a product of Megan’s section the previous year.
But eighty people was still an unwieldy number, so, for First Year Lawyering, their required legal writing and reasoning class, the 1L’s were broken down once again, into mini sections of ten students. And to each mini-section was assigned a wise—or not so wise, since there was no academic prerequisite for the position—2L or 3L, who served as liaison between students and the FYL lecturer, grading papers, soothing wounded egos, and telling lying stories about how it would all get better. Really.
Megan had been thrilled to be assigned as TF to Harvard Law’s newest lecturer, Cliff Walker. His Law Review notes, immortalized in the electronic archives of Westlaw, showed a sensitivity to the nuances of the law that would make for interesting discussions in teaching meetings. It also hadn’t hurt that he had come straight from a clerkship in the Supreme Court with the very Justice Megan had her eye on.
It had been one of Megan’s students he had been caught with.
Of all the eight mini-sections he oversaw, why did Cliff have to choose to date someone from hers? It shouldn’t have felt like a personal slap in the face, but it did.
“Can’t this wait? I have my Con Law reading to do, and ten FYL papers to grade for tomorrow.”
Including Cliff’s girlfriend’s paper, sitting innocently in the pile with the rest. The ink ought to have blazed scarlet.
“Hell, no, it can’t wait! The disciplinary committee is meeting Friday.”
“That shouldn’t be much of a problem for him.” Against her better judgment, Megan powered down her computer, watching as the little paperclip man whizzed away into the distance, taking her notes on the dormant commerce clause with him into electronic slumber. “The Dean will find some way of getting him off. He always does.”
“Unh-unh.” Through the phone, Megan could hear the brush of the stiff bill of a baseball cap against the silver-coated plastic of Gabe’s phone. “The Dean’s gone.”
“What?” Megan dumped her laptop into her canvas tote bag—all natural fibers—somewhat more forcefully than she had intended, wincing as it banged against her palm pilot.
“Where have you been all weekend? Locked in a box?”
“Not where you were, that’s for sure,” Megan returned. “I was away at a conference in New Jersey, on the trafficking of women in third world countries.”
From the background, “That’s hot!” warred with, “Pick up any tips?”
“Who’s there with you?” she asked sharply.
“Just the guys,” said Gabe soothingly. “So you haven’t heard about the Dean?”
Curiosity won over indignation. Hoisting her bag onto her shoulder and tucking her chair away neatly beneath the table, Megan abandoned a well-deserved lecture on the plight of women in third world countries in favor of a simple, “No. What happened?”’
“He’s gone. Finito. Exeunt. Bye-bye. Auf wiedersehn. Adieu. Some top secret sort of mission.”
“The Sudan?” exclaimed Megan, navigating around a couple canoodling at the head of the stairs. “At the conference this weekend, they were talking about setting up a commission to draft guidelines for the more humane treatment of—”
Gabe cut her off before she could go into detail. “No one knows. The point is, he’s gone. And he’s left Agnelli in charge as acting Dean.”
“Agnelli? Professor Agnelli? Are you sure?”
“F-ing sure,” said Gabe, with feeling.
“It’s a disaster. Old Agony’s going to come down on Cliff like a fucking armored brigade.”
“It’s no more than he deserves.”
“Meg,” Gabe’s voice was gently reproachful. “How can you say that?”
“Um, let me think about it. He broke school policy and violated every possible set of ethical standards. What’s not to come down on?”
“Right. Got you. Listen, the guys and I were talking—” In the background, Megan could hear a murmur of assent from the guys—“and we think you should talk to Agnelli on his behalf.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Would I kid about something like this? Oh, shut up.” That last was directed, not to Megan, but someone in the background. The sounds of a scuffle reached her ears. Gabe re-emerged, somewhat breathless. “You TFed for him. You know the guy.”
“So do you.”
“Yeah, but I’m not the editor of the Women’s Law Journal.”
“The Journal of Women and the Law,” Megan corrected by rote.
“Whatever. Old Agony likes that sort of thing. The point is, you have cred.”
From the sounds in the background, the guys agreed. Either that, or someone had scored a touchdown.
“Gabe, where are you?” Megan demanded.
“In Gannett House,” Gabe sounded wounded. “Where else would I be? We have a shitload of articles to edit. Anyway, that’s my point. Cliff’s not just a guy, he’s a dude.”
“He slept with his student, Gabe. My student. I don’t care how much of a dude he is, there’s no getting around that. I wouldn’t want to get around that.”
“Meg,” Gabe was beginning to sound frustrated, “he was editor-in-chief of Harvard Law Review. Editor-in-Chief. Do you know what that means?”
“It means,” said Megan, slamming through the door at the base of the stairs, “that he was complicit in strengthening the sexist stranglehold on the academic organs of the law.”
“Have I mentioned how sexy you are when you talk theory?”
“Look, it wasn’t like she didn’t want it. She’s a big girl, she chose to go out with him. You should be supporting that. Aren’t you always on about a woman’s right to choose?”
Trust Gabe to take an interest in the wrong end of reproductive rights. “That’s different.”
“Un-huh. She knew him from before; they were the same age. Hell, it would be practically un-American to tell them they couldn’t go out. Like Big Brother, or something.”
“There can never be free choice where there’s a power imbalance.”
“You mean like your being smarter than me? Does that mean you coerced me into our relationship?”
“Good one, Gabe!” floated through the phone, followed by the cracking noise of a high five.
“I wasn’t aware we still had a relationship,” Megan said coldly. “Considering that the last time I actually saw you was, what? August?”
“I’ve been busy. The Law Review doesn’t just edit itself, you know.”
In the background, Megan heard strange scratching and whisperings, like the movements of very large mice. Megan had flashbacks to her early days in ballet class, and the dance of the Rat King from the Nutcracker.
“Which way are you walking out of Langdell?” Gabe asked abruptly.
Megan pushed through the glass door that led out of the passage that cut between the library and Areeda Hall. “The back way. Why?”
If he thought he could placate her with an eleventh hour appearance….
“Great! Paul is coming to meet you.”
“He’ll go with you to see the Dean.”
“I never said I would—tell him not to bother.”
“Too late,” said Gabe cheerfully. “He’s on his way. Give me a buzz, and let me know how it goes, okay?”
“When am I going to—”
Megan found herself talking to a blank screen. Gabe had hung up.
A stocky figure came pounding up the path, his Duke sweatshirt flapping in time with his panting breaths. Looking more like Barney Rubble than Barney Rubble had ever contrived to look, Paul skidded to a stop, his genial face flushed with the unaccustomed effort.
“Megan! Ready to go talk to the Dean?”
“Where in the hell is Gabe?”
Paul swung an arm around her shoulders, propelling her inexorably towards the sunken entrance to Griswold Hall.
“Don’t worry about Gabe. He’s busy. Real busy.”
* * *
Every year, hundreds of anxious applicants applied to the Law Review. Locking themselves into their apartments, they spent a week cached away from the world, poring obsessively over citations, checking footnotes, writing long and esoteric arguments on topics bound to baffle the most dedicated of legal scholars. Some dropped out after a mere day or two, muttering distressedly to themselves as they dumped the thousand page contest packet into the recycling bin along with their ambitions. Others slogged doggedly through, barely sleeping, barely eating, seeking that Holy Grail of Legal Education: a Law Review editorship.
For those few, those happy few, their future was assured. Firm jobs, clerkships, tenure, all fell like golden fruit from the Garden of the Hesperides into the palms of the epic heroes of the Harvard Law Review contest.
There were some who dared to insinuate that the Law Review contest might, in fact, be rigged.
Such allegations were clearly nothing more than the mutterings of malcontents. The Law Review thrived, as it ever had, on merit alone, and it was pure coincidence that for the last five years the meritorious all happened to be members of the law school frat house. Malt does more than Westlaw can to justify the ways of the Courts to man.
In the basement of Gannet House, the mighty wheels of the Law Review had ground to a halt. Unedited articles littered the floor among a welter of empty pizza boxes, x-rated magazines, and the Sports pages of the Sunday Times.
On a pair of battered barca loungers, two of the Chosen were engaged in a far greater task than cite-checking. They were saving the world.
One X-box at a time.
“It looks bad for us if a Law Review editor goes down,” said Dan, taking out his aggressions on a series of enemy entities. “It sets a bad precedent, you know?”
“I know,” agreed Gabe, flinging his phone down next to his half-empty beer, and applying himself seriously to the task of wiping out Crushcon Five. “We might actually have to start going to class.”
“Will she do it?” Dan pressed down hard on his joystick, sending an alien being flying into space. “Score!” he crowed.
Gabe pulled his baseball cap down lower on a head of dark curls whose carefully careless style would have made Lord Byron pale with envy. “Worth a shot. Better her than us.”
“You know,” said Dan, as his spaceship dove towards certain destruction against a rocky outcropping of space reefs, “I’ve always wondered. How did you wind up dating the editor of the Women’s Journal? Fuck!”
GAME OVER blazed from his side of the screen.
Gabe shrugged, sending his own spacecraft soaring. “Nice boobs.”
“A, B, or C?” Dan tossed the joystick aside and reached for the chips.
Gabe considered. “B, but perky. You have to consider quality as well as quantity in these things.”
“What about quantity and quality?”
“In the law school?’
“I’m not stupid,” said Gabe self-righteously, extinguishing an entire alien race with one flick of the wrist. “Just lazy.”