Life After Ripon – Nathan Held ’14

Chapter 2: One Does Not Simply Walk into Civil Procedure…There Are Rules for That

[Editor’s Note: Nathan Held ’14, Sophia Kaounas ’14, and Ariana Myers ’14 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

Since last I reported on my endeavors in July, I have started my courses at the University of Oregon law school. There is a general battery, pun intended, of first year, or ‘1L,’ courses that most law students across the country take to begin what is clearly going to be a grueling journey through an education in jurisprudence and legal praxis. Everyone in the entering class here at Oregon has to take torts, contracts, civil procedure, and legal research and writing. There is an understanding that one’s future career can be accurately predicted based on which of the three main courses one prefers. People who like contracts end up doing transactional law, those who prefer torts…become tort lawyers, and then the minority of us who have a great time talking about the intricacies of jurisdiction and pleading in civil procedure become engineers.

There is little else to talk about than the courses I am studying, because in its predictable fashion, law school has become my life. There is nothing BUT torts, contracts, and civil procedure. Driving down the street is a practical lesson in tortious liability. Getting a receipt in a grocery store means I have proof of a contract. It’s a very different experience from college, because I am now hyperaware of just how much my subject-matter governs every interaction we have with other people, or at least how the law potentially governs over everything.

The other thing I’ve become profoundly aware of is the general ignorance among most Americans of how their legal system actually works. As someone who is a compulsive news-reader, and has been for many years, I still walked into law school and had to learn basic things like how the American court system is structured, and which courts can hear which kinds of cases. Also, corporations have been legal persons for almost 150 years—there are good reasons for it. Simple facts like these have totally changed my perspective on some issues I care a lot about, and I can only believe that everyone ought to know the basic structure of their legal system and some of the fundamental theories that make it work. Telling people about it will be a mission of mine in the years to come.

Through all the stress and excitement of law school, I’ve recognized my education at Ripon gave me invaluable skills for (hopefully) succeeding at my studies. Distinguishing between personal and professional criticisms is an important aspect of successful legal education, and without the sort of warfare of ideas I underwent in my studies of philosophy at Ripon, an experience which gave me all sorts of insights about how wrong I could be about something, I wouldn’t have the thick skin that’s necessary to be wrong all the time and learn from it in all the courses I’m taking here.

Aside from the classes I am taking, there has been the additional experience of meeting hundreds of people in the course of the last two months. With very few exceptions, I can say that every person I’ve met at the law school, as well as in the Eugene community, has been nice in the kind of way we expect from the Midwest, and almost all of them have come here with the intention of graduating from law school and helping people in all sorts of ways. There is a high incidence of UO law students going on to work in public interest jobs, and that pattern is exhibited in many of the experiences I have had with my fellow law students, who are already getting involved in environmental activism, know-your-rights education events, charity events for women’s rights and women’s health issues, and cultural-awareness events aimed at promoting the interests and understanding of a myriad minorities in the legal profession.

I have found a home in Oregon among good people trying to do good things, and I couldn’t be happier with it. In this time, I’ve also stopped thinking anymore about additional degrees. The mountain of work I now have has put a stop to crazy thoughts like those.

Goodbye, dear readers. We’ll meet again in January.

Nathan Held ’14

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