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Thursday, August 17, 2006

"How Are You?" and Other Questions to Which Short Answers Are Best

The 1Ls are here.  In the spirit of Edward Levi's An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (which I read in the summer of 1976 and did not understand), we need now to reason our way from the base case of what do students and professors call each other verbally to other forms of communication and signaling.

The 1Ls are all wearing name tags, and they are moving from orientation session to orientation session.  (I remember only one assembly in which the then president of the Stanford student body introduced us to the school by saying "you're probably only here because you didn't get into Harvard.")  The faculty, as far as I can tell, are not wearing name tags.  But I am going to a new student mixer sponsored by the SBA at a bar tonight, and I will probably wear a name tag.  Unlike many of my colleagues, there is no danger that I will be mistaken for a typical student, but older people do go back to law school now and then.  So I think the name tag will say:  "Prof. Jeff Lipshaw."   It is possible, however, that two non-verbal signals would give me away.  One, I am wearing the uniform:  tape-striped Polo long-sleeve oxford cloth button-down and khaki chinos WITH tie (albeit the ugly pink flower garden one that my children hate*) .  Two, my name tag will be on my right lapel, not my left, indicating subtly that I am either a member of a power elite or a professional glad-hander (when you wear it this way and extend your right hand to shake hands, the name tag is more easily visible to the other person). 

Students are also e-mailing.  How do you "sign" the e-mail?  I am presently opting for the deliberately ambiguous:  "Best, JML."  (Belle Lettre wrote something about this from the student standpoint, but I cannot find it quickly enough.)

The other issue is how to answer the question "so, where are you visiting from?"  (Ten extra points to anyone who was to ask "Whence are you visiting?" but twenty points taken off for "From whence are you visiting?")  I have concluded that while "Indiana" is a half-truth in at least four or five ways** (but not one regulated by the SEC, or, as far as I know, the AALS), and despite my earlier moralizing to the contrary, it's the best one, socially speaking, unless you really want to know the whole long boring self-indulgent story.  And despite my own self-regard or ability as a raconteur, nobody does.

*Including my daughter Arielle who is a paralegal at a major New York law firm - and this is completely irrelevant to the point, but she called me last night after a gin and tonic (hers, not mine), and I think, if I understood her correctly, wanted me to mention her in the blog - done.

** State or university?  If university, Indianapolis or Bloomington?  If Indianapolis, adjunct or regular faculty?

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 17, 2006 at 03:14 PM in Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink


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Please, for the love of all that is good, spare students the frustration of figuring out what the hell to call you when we email you - and STOP using initials. First names are great; "Prof. _____" is just fine if you're stuffy or old school. But - "SV"? When you sign an email to me saying "SV", are you signaling that you want me to call you that - or not? The signal has no content.

Posted by: anon | Aug 19, 2006 11:23:45 PM

I once sent an e-mail to a professor and got back an out-of-office auto-reply that closed with something like the following (name changed to protect the innocent):

"Depending on who you are,
Best, WBA.
Cheers, William.
Yours, Will.
Love, Dad."

Posted by: Sofia | Aug 18, 2006 8:31:18 AM

Jeff -- Faced with much the same e-mail dilemma as you, I resorted to my initials -- "SIV". Sure enough, by the middle of the semester, "sieve" was what I was commonly called.


Posted by: Steve Vladeck | Aug 17, 2006 4:45:18 PM

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