Law School Starts in About Three Weeks

Several thousand young hopefuls will be starting law school in about three weeks. If they’re lucky they are now filled with excitement, rolling over in hope and pride and confidence in their futures. That’s how I felt back in 1974 when I was about to enter the first year of law school. Life was a joy then and the remembrance of it is a joy now.

My law school had sent me a legal case to read before reporting on the first day. It was an old English case about poaching. The legal doctrine to be learned is known by the Latin Ferae Naturae. The issue was whether the animal that had been taken was really an animal ferae naturae or whether is was an animal domitae. If the former it was an animal free in nature that could be reduced to ownership by the one who captured it. If the latter it was already the property of someone, and taking it would be poaching, and trespass as well if taking it was done by entering upon the land of the owner.

Although they now seem archaic to most, I thought the issues were fascinating. Life was going to be soooo gooood! And so interesting! I couldn’t wait to get there.

After that initial exposure the doctrines that apply to wild animals never played much of role either in law school or later in law practice. That is, until my practice came to be focused on the law of oil and gas exploration. There the old doctrine of ferae naturae became relevant once again, only now called the Rule of Capture.

My hope for all the youngsters, as they would seem to me now, is that their hearts are filled with the same sort of joy, hope and pride as mine was back then. I hope current conditions, with recent law graduates facing mountains of debt and meager job prospects, does not stymie them. After all, those conditions existed in the 1970’s when I went to law school, and I never let it hold me back. I believed better times would come. And I was right. In 1980 Ronald Reagan, Renaldus Magnus would be the latin term, was elected president.

Hope and change, 1980 style.

Recommended reading for new law students: How To Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide For New Law Students

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