April 12th 2007

productivity, yay!

Why is it that the mere act of getting OUT OF THE HOUSE immediately makes me more productive? It’s not like the coffeehouse I’m at is a particularly work-inspiring place. But I now have 5 pages of my seminar brief[1] (due in 2 weeks–that’s pretty good, all things considered!) where before I had a rough 2 page outline. OK, at least one page of that 5 pages is a VERY LONG QUOTE from an article by Cass Sunstein. But it’s a BRIEF, remember, and briefs can be full of quotes from other people because that’s the best way to be persuasive.

That’s sort of an interesting line of thought, actually. In an academic paper, at least in law school, the idea is to come up with an interesting and novel idea and show that your interesting and novel idea is not foreclosed by other work. Hopefully you can also show that your interesting and novel idea fits into the framework presented by other work. But the key is that your interesting idea has to be NOVEL–like, no one else has made this argument before.

With a brief, though, the idea is to show that your argument is NOT new, that everyone else has basically been making the same argument with respect to other facts for, like, ever. So the more evidence you can show that other people think the way you do, the better. It’s a totally different skill set, really. And yet, at the beginning of the semester, I decided to write a brief instead of a paper (we had a choice) because I thought it might be easier. Fact is, I am probably better at the paper thing than the brief thing because I don’t think in brief terms, I think in paper terms. Of course, from an academic perspective, the brief is therefore a better assignment for me because I’m getting to work on something I’m not already good at. Yay! But from a time management perspective, it’s not so great–I have too many other things to be working on right now to be learning how to write a brief! Ack![2]

For consolation, I will remember that someone (a prof? a friend? I can’t remember) told me that brief-writing is something that very few people are good at. So if this isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, I will not think I am a failure. I will just think I am not meant to be a brief writer. I’m not sure if that’s much consolation, though.

  1. Pretty cool, huh? I think law students don’t get enough opportunities to write briefs and since that’s what we’ll be doing–at least if we are litigation associates–it’s very cool to get to do one for a seminar.
  2. And, actually, I have to go back home now because tonight’s class is a vegan potluck, so I have to go figure out how to make eggplant parmesan without cheese. I figure that’s going to take me a while because I need to do a little experimenting with flavors to make sure it doesn’t end up tasting boring.