Saturday, 28 June 2008

Where there's a will, there's a way/ I heart Brooklyn

Don't get me wrong, Manhattan is v cool. I love going out to all these cool little bars and lounges in the Lower East Side. But this part of Brooklyn is great, I left my flat this morning, walked up my street where there were a couple of guys on the other side of the road fixing up a car, and a bunch of cute little Latino kids playing with a ball. They stopped as I was passing so as not to hit me, and waited until I was well out of reach before starting again - so polite. The cafe I'm in now serves proper tea, in a proper tea cup, is playing Erykah Badu and has big comfy armchairs, air con and no other customers. I like living in a neighbourhood.

Perfect way to laze about on a Saturday. And no-one nicked the paper today.

Unfortunately, I have to catch up on yesterday's Will's lecture which I could not make head nor tail of (as I had missed Wills 1 on Thursday - so all the lingo meant nothing to me). Also it was deadly dull. Deadly, deadly dull. What you can and can't do etc in a will.

Most of it obvious - you can't screw creditors (e.g. Visa) because they take priority, always. Interestingly however, you also can't screw your spouse. Ever. (Unless you're divorced or had the marriage annulled, in which case they're no longer your spouse I suppose).

If you try and screw them out of your estate, they can elect to have the will rejigged so that basically they still get a third. So you can't ever leave them less than a third.

You can however screw your kids in the will. (I think in France you can't even do that actually, but may be wrong). I guess I'll find out next year what the UK Law position is.

Which brings to mind a recent article in the NY times - a millionaire who went through life seemingly hating his kids, but left all his money to poor kids in Panama

Naturally his wife is disputing the will, and his lawyer is being accused of some dodgy dealing. Amusingly though, there is reference to the curmudgeon laughing when his will was referred to (i.e before he died) telling his step kids that they would laugh when they saw his will.

I'm afraid all this girl has to leave the world are a few bits of jewellery and a laptop - nothing to get litigatory over!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Arias in the Park

Last Friday's Opera in the park event was lots of fun. In Prospect Park, which is Central Park's Brooklyn cousin - and a hop skip and jump from my flat. I hadn't realised the pair of opera singers were actually married, they were v cute. They did a bunch of great arias, and then 5(!!!) encores, which was great. Covered all the favourites, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly etc.

We took a picnic, as it seems did the other million (or so it seemed) people in the park and had a very nice time. There were a bunch of bats (what is a collection of bats called?! A herd, a school? A battery?!) dancing in the air to the music, which amused Boy no end. Boys seem to like fighting games, machines (incl cars) and dangerous animals. These things elude me.

Classes nearly done with -woohoo. This week was Torts (Mon - wed). I think torts lecturers get an easy ride, because it's so easy to be a funny, entertaining lecturer with a subject that deals with cases focussing on people's stupidity and negligence. This guy was no disappointment, I'm sure the lectures would have been half as long without his anecdotes and jokes but they certainly made it less painful.

Wills today- not sure it will have the same humour potential!

Yesterday was a bit frantic, had to get all my documents in to the New York State Board of Examiners. I must say the fetish for paperwork here is almost as bad as in France - and that's saying something! I was waiting on a letter from my old seat of learning. I had requested this in April, May and again this month and yet it seems to have slipped them. So I woke up at 5am to call them early London time and insisted they send it over ASAP. Once I'd had a writing sample notarised, I had everything ready to send off.

I had to write only a short paragraph by hand in front of the notary, but my hand wasn't liking it. This doesn't bode well for a 2 day written exam! I suppose I have become too reliant on the old laptop...

Monday, 16 June 2008

Week 5 - No good every came of an accordian.

Blimey, this is the start of my fifth week here. Where on earth does the time go?

It always makes me feel incredibly old when I comment on time flying by- because that's what old people (i.e. adults and parents) would say when you were a wee bairn. Do you remember summer holidays, that would stretch on for ever? Good times.

So this week will be all about the music. I'm into my music, although I have neglected it for many years. I plan to see a fair amount of live music here, and really should see more when I get back to London. I don't like massive massive shows (saw the Rolling Stones at Twickenham a few years ago - I was stewarding, and it was so big everything seems to get distorted. In that case, I'd rather be at home with a cup of tea listening to it...I really am old at heart!).

Last night however, we saw a fab show, quite by chance. We went along to a venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn - not far from our modest summer abode - planning on seeing a comedy show that was well rated in the Time Out. It had obviously been wrongly listed, as it was actually a music show. In a basement bar, we heard the incredibly talented Theresa Andersson play. She's from New Orleans, by way of Sweden. Well, that was the way she put it but surely it's the other way round as she moved to New Orleans when she was 18. Either way, the influence on her style of music was clear - she had a fantastic, soulful singing voice, in the higher registers there was a Jeff Buckley esque-ness (I'm not music writer), and had some great songs. (Although I had a listen to stuff online and it was deff better live).

What was absolutely mental about the show, and elevated it beyond your average talented singer with a guitar was that she did all this looping stuff, with drums, guitar, violin, and backing vocals so that she started a song, built it up by putting in the bass line, rhythm, background singing, harmonies etc seamlessly, with the result that it sounded like you had a full band of 5/6 people on stage. Her final song was a cappella ; sounding very much like a spiritual. She had so much energy on stage it was great.

As someone who studied music all the way up to the lofty intellectual heights of the GCSE I was amazed at how she kept all these different rhythms and things going on. Everything (to me anyway) seemed to be in excellent time and pitch, and it was all controlled with her feet, with knobs and dials whilst she was singing her heart out!

Didn't have any cash on me (not enough for a CD anyway, I'm too used to sticking everything on card) but I'll definitely be going to her website to get a copy.

She was the headline act and was then followed by an all girl group. They were called the...walking Hellos or something. Now, as much as I try to not judge people on appearances, their look didn't really match the sound*. I think 'The Librarians' might have been a better name, they had floral chintzy style dresses on, unkempt hair (not the bedhead, toni & guy look, more a family of sparrows live here). And definitely look like they looked after cats. The lead vocalist wasn't too bad, but was drowned out by the accordian player, who stood centre stage, bow-legged and looking like she was on a different planet. She was certainly working to outerworldly musical scale, that's for sure.

If there's one thing I know it's that, indeed no good ever comes of an accordion. Hopefully we won't be seeing any Friday night - which is when I shall be attending an Opera in the Park event - that's Prospect Park, not Central Park. It was designed by the same people as Central Park, a few years ago (so once they'd ironed the kinks out :P) and is located in Brooklyn, about 4 blocks from me. The Opera will be in the North of the Park, and I've managed to get some tickets - looking forward to it, should be great!

* Boy said the sound was of 26 chickens being strangled in a bathtub by a bad guitarist. I thought that a tad unkind.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Some bastard...

...nicked my paper this morning. How low down and dirty! And it's raining out, don't really fancy getting another one just yet.

Stealing another's Sunday paper is unforgivable. Sundays are all about the lazy brunch and buckets of coffee, a paper big enough to give the paper-boy a hernia, and not getting out of your robe until you get ready for cocktails in the evening... Right?

I hope he gets a really bad paper cut.

Week 4 - Chinatown, Moma

Having not posted for a while, I apologise profusely and shall now spoil you with a veritable deluge of posts.

I am trying slowly to get around the sights and sites of New York City. It's a bit tricky with the classes, and all the reading I'm meant to be doing...and my innate laziness. I suppose it's a bit different being here for a summer rather than 2 weeks, you feel like you have a lot longer and so you push yourself to do a bit less.

So I haven't been out and about every day, but I have seen a fair bit. Partying in the Lower East side a few nights- reminded me of some cool places in Hoxton if you know that neck of the woods. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a clubbing scene here, it's more of a bar and lounge place. Now that's very cool for 90% of the time, but my girlfriend and I want to get our boogie on to some lame-ass music (you know, the kind that tells you to shake your booty/junk/etc and otherwise offends my feminist, empowered thinking?). I am informed by New Yorkers that 'clubs' here are more full of people standing around posing in sunglasses. I had enough of that in Paris, no thanks!

Chinatown the other night - that was great! My experience with chinese food has been a bit hit and miss and so I tend to be a bit wary of it. I don't eat meat, really, and I'm not a big fan of really greasy, msg-filled food and seeing as the usual offerings are plates of greasy, msg pork, I've tended to be put off. However, there are some really great Chinese restaurants here, and the waiter was really helpful (telling me when I pointed to something on the menu, no, 'pork inside'...'pork inside'...'pork inside') and we ended up with some v delish food. Very fresh, perfectly cooked scallops, yummy squid. And baked red bean buns - I am addicted to these now:

These ones are steamed, rather than baked like the ones we had but still - yummy.

Friday night after class, we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I like my modern art, to be honest (excepting the building itself) I preferred the contents of the Pompidou Centre
to the European Paintings in the Louvre (I know, blasphemy). But a lot of modern art is just about the artist. Usually naked. Some great installations though, and it was a really short trip so didn't see the lot on offer. Recognized a few things - the Warhol, Shrigley, etc. They have a Rothko exhibition on it seems, but somehow managed to miss that. There was a great installation close to the entrance - a fan attached to the ceiling, swinging in arcs, impossible to know (except by complex geometry I suppose?) where it would swing next. It was positioned high enough to not actually hit anyone on the head, but by an optical illusion when it headed for you it seemed low enough to come close to knocking your noggin off, which was slightly disarming!

I don't think that picture is the same atrium at MoMa. We'll have to go back another evening to see more. It's free Fridays, which is why we chose that day.
We had a very classy meal Friday night...a kebab from a street vendor. The variety and ubiquity of street food here is quite amazing. I suppose people are too busy to wander into a cafe or shop!

We're started getting the NY times delivered this weekend, I love love love this newspaper. I'm generally a Times or Guardian girl, sometimes the Indie too, but the NY times seems to cover a lot more in the way of World events.

This really is a country of two halves. One half is the fried chicken, country singing, redneck 'America' that we often mock, and yes there is a vast deluge of dumbed down, diluted and crass food and entertainment on offer. Times Square for instance - is just a tad tacky with the neon and all the chains of not so great restaurants and pizza joints. But for people who read, who take an interest, who are interested in food - there's some of the best food on offer, amazing culture etc, and I think the New York Times and Washington Post probably outdo our papers at home. No? I might just be overly enamoured (enamored?) with the way that the NY Times uses lots of commas in its article titles.

So, a slightly rambling, random post - but life is a bit rambling and random these days! Shall now visit everyone else's blogs to see what you've all been up to!

ETA: Well done on getting to the of the BVC people, (and the GDL Swiss Tony) - good luck for pupillage interviews Minxy and Android! Dream set indeed, you deserve no less!

The exam itself

Has been a bit of a while since I posted. Not sure why - the first week or so I suppose I was busy, and after that it was 'oh I must post'...but I haven't anything interesting to say, and after this gap it should be interesting. Hmm. I've opted for just posting!

So, I'm about 3 weeks in to Bar classes. I haven't gone into much detail here so far about the course, but I suppose here is as good a place as any to do that. So far I've had classes in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, New York Practice (i.e. Civil Procedure), Corporations law, Real Property, Constitutional Law and Evidence.

Actually, I missed 2 of the Real Property lectures (out of 3) because my lip blew up to massive proportions. Seriously, I could be an Angelina Jolie lip double on a normal day, but this was ridiculous. It just kept getting bigger and bigger on one side, until I looked like I'd been a few rounds with Tyson. (Ok I'm a wimp, it would have been more like half a round). When we went out to join the gym a few blocks away, Boy noted rather worriedly that he hoped people didn't think he was hitting me! Anyway, I couldn't possibly go out looking like that so no classes for a couple of days.

Lips back to normal size now. I still have these classes to go:

Conflict of Laws
Federal Jurisdiction and procedure
NY professional responsibility
Secured transactions/Commercial Paper
Domestic Relations
Worker's Comp

I think that's it. Gosh that makes me realise I'm actually quite far in to the course. I forgot to mention Agency and Partnerships - had that lecture, the lecturer was great. The kind of bizarre that you start off thinking 'oookay then, he doesn't get out much' and by the end you're nearly in tears with the cumulative effect of his quirks. And that isn't me being mean, he was clearly a comic genuis, exaggerating his quirks for comic effect (he noted that he was 'very weird' by the end). Some other lecturers have been dire, making really awful jokes and puns or just having really bad voices. Corporations guy sounded like a gameshow host (I didn't think people really had those voices) and Real Property lady had the whiniest, most nasal voice I've ever heard. Tres New york. In the main though, they've been pretty good.

We are provided with a 'Paced program' (see, look up Enrolled Student Center if you're interested, I can't link to it directly) which advises a few hours of work each night. Admittedly I haven't been doing much of this. The distraction of wandering around Brooklyn, or going to the cinema, or indeed anything else has been too great. However, I am here to study and it would be fantastically stupid to fail this so I really must. My last lecture was Evidence on Friday, and the lecturer noted that if we hadn't started was the time.

The stuff really isn't hard, conceptually. A lot is obviously, completely new to me (degrees of culpability in crim law, all the civil and criminal procedure stuff, evidence, constitutional law, other subjects I didn't study at uni) but it's not hard to get your head around. The content however is fairly staggering. We are provided with handouts for lectures which covers the bare minimum that we need to know for the exam. These usually run to about 40 pages per lecture. I think there are 40 lectures in total, so 40 x 40 = 1600 pages. That can't be right?! Ok, so that's what I will have to memorise. Otherwise, I imagine it's very similar to stuff that people have covered on the BVC/LPC (minus the 'skills' stuff).

There is a difference when it comes to the exam though. Both in terms of how the exam itself is structured and how we are advised to respond. It works like this:

Day 1: One Multistate Performance Test (MPT) question (worth 10%), five NY essay questions (worth 40%) and 50 NY multiple-choice questions (worth 10%).

AM session (3 hours and 15 min.): 3 essays and 50 NY multiple choice questions.

PM session (3 hours): 2 essays and one 90 minute MPT question.

Day 2: MBE (worth 40%). 100 multiple choice questions each in the AM (3hours) and PM (3 hours) sessions.

And in plain English that means: Multiple choice questions in the main.

In the essay questions we have been told not to use cases (yay, cos I don't know any (apart from Roe v. Wade ) nor Statute references, except to refer to for example the CPLR (the Civil Procedure Law and Rules, equivalent to the CPR). We can refer to the acronym without detailing , or indeed even knowing, the full name. Any terms of art, e.g consideration, must be explained. I'm not used to doing that, so I may find that a bit tricky. That's a bit more like Philosophy or Geography - people I knew studying those subjects at uni had to define everything whereas we lawyers could res ipsa loquitor with impunity.

It looks like I may finally have to learn what a trust is. I managed to get through my entire law degree without knowing... !