Author Archives: ceberus

About ceberus

Have South Korean passport, looks like South Korean, speaks fluent Korean, working at South Korea yet grew up in Midwestern American and spent one year in Japan. Probably looks like Korean and speaks fluent Korean but thinks like American. Lost in translation. TCK/CCK.

Parallel Between ’16 US Election and ’08 & ’12 South Korean Election


There has been a lot of this-and-that regarding Donald Trump being the new US president. Many, especially Americans, say they didn’t see it coming.  But for me, a South Korean who grew up in rust belt states, I could see it a bit. If I could have voted for the election, I probably would’ve gone for Hillary Clinton. But then, Trump’s victory wasn’t that surprising to me. I understand why people still voted for Trump, even if he made so much homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynist comments and has several sexual assault charges. Simple answer: people were so goddamn sick of the old politics because nothing is being done (or seems like) and they desperately wanted something new.

How do I know this? Because the ’08 and ’12 South Korean election were very similar to ’16 US election. Let me fill you in on that.

As of ’08, we had two consecutive liberal party administrations. By then, people were frustrated. They voted for the liberal party hoping for a good change. But it seems like nothing being done, despite more taxes. No dramatic improvements on whatsoever, being too soft and still paying to North Korea who keeps developing bombs making threats (there has been at least two incidents where the South Korean and North Korean navy actually had battle), so on. People started to feel that “those at the parliament are all same bastards!”

Then comes a candidate from a conservative party – Lee Myoung Bak (MB). He is a self-made man, who started from the bottom and later became a CEO of a big real estate company. He was a mayor and did several things well. Hey, a successful businessman who isn’t really from old boy’s club! He’s gonna run the country like no one else did before! He promised to have 5%-7% annual economic growth, decrease unemployment rate, invest a lot on new development plans and build canals. I guess some really believed his promises, but at least half didn’t  there wasn’t any clear explanation on how he would do it. But he still was elected.

Why? Because (1) he was still a new, fresh face, while the liberal party candidate was “same old,” and (2) liberal party did pretty bad campaign. And old politics have failed people so many times. What’s to lose by voting something completely new? So he was elected.

Was he a great president? Like many things in life, there are goods and bads. Did South Korea really have 5-7% annual economic growth? Not really. Did unemployment rate improve? Not really. He built canals which really no one cared, and now it has more loss than gains in many ways.

During his administration, a lot of his colleagues/family/friends were involved in embezzlement scandals. His son-in-law was accused of embezzlement/paper company and tax evasion/duty of care issues. His wife was suspected of embezzlement. His brother was accused of power abuse. Nothing really ended clearly because he’s the president.

Fast forward, the ’12 election started. The conservative party had a woman candidate – Park Geun Hye. A daughter of ’70’s controversial dictator. The liberal party had same old. Many expected liberal party would win, because people were upset on all that scandals from Lee’s administration. When the results came out, by small margin, Park won. Analyzing why Park won and why the other candidate lost by small margin is not really relevant here, so I’ll skip that. But, just like ’16 US election, that was the worst election ever. It was the most divisive election in the country’s history. God only knows how many people had family fight over the dinner table. The election really built a wall between people in their 40’s or less and over 50. People did not vote because they support a certain candidate: people casted their vote because they hated both, but hated one less than another.

For the past two conservative administrations, the so-called alt-right group started rising (in Japan, too!). You know, bashing women, immigrants, left/progressive parties, etc. When they first appeared, people brushed them off as “idiots” and said “we should not pay attention to them.” Then the conservative party started to feed them. Not as blatantly as Trump did, but they did by giving some subtle signs. Then they came out to the street with pickets. They became visible.

I personally would have supported Clinton, but like I said, as someone who grew up in rust belt and went through two very similar elections, I get the sentiment for voting for Trump. I don’t believe that people voted for Trump just because they wanted to say racist things out loud, grab women by pu**y in open daylight or harass immigrants/foreigners. It was frustration with old politics and people really had enough of that. What shocked me was, I thought there was a solid social agreement in America that sexist/racist/bullying comments in official places are not allowed in any way, but I guess it wasn’t that solid. I don’t know – extreme time needs extreme measures?

I’m no oracle, but for the coming Trump administration, I won’t be surprised if any of the following things happen, which already happened in South Korea:

  • There will be some kind of embezzlement/duty of care/power abuse scandal involving Trump or his family, sooner or later.

His family members played a big role in his campaign. They are likely to be the force behind in many things for his administration. Generally, if a man gets a power and his family are still working with him, corruption/bribery is very likely.

  • Massive construction/development plans

He is real estate developer, and this can be actually good for the USA! I like USA but except some cities, the infrastructure in general is just ugh.

  • Alt-rights will be there for years

The alt-rights are somewhat losing power in Japan and Korea recently, but once they are fed or receives a sign that government kind of agrees with them, they will grow and grow. So even if Trump is gone after serving four years, alt-right will be there. For years.

  • People will learn business ≠ politics.

    It’s very easy to associate running country is like running a business. I guess that can be true if you are running a country like North Korea or Turkmenistan, but in democratic country, that is not true. We learned it in hard way. In business, your goal is to maximize your profit. For that goal, if you are the boss, you can plan in any way you want, and sack anyone you don’t like/agree with. In democratic country, that just can’t be done. The goal is settlement and safety, and you can’t really alienate anyone in the process. Sometimes you are forced to enter a deal that is “loss” but good for the safety of everyone.

Just my 2 cents.


Trip to Cuba (2016) – 2


We stayed at the Ocean Vista Azul, which is rated 5 stars by the Cuban government, and also the newest resort in the Varadero area. Before going into detail, I want to state that I did not book this hotel just because this is 5 stars and I have so much money.  Many advices noted that you’ll have to subtract a star or two from the Cuban hotel rating because of their economy and infrastructure. Usually, I go for 2.5-3.5 star rating when I’m traveling. The lobby looked fine – actually, more than fine.

The front receptionist gave us a booklet with resort information. I don’t do what or why, but it looked a bit…unorganized or cheap. While waiting for the room to be made, my mom wanted to have a cup of mojito. Yes! Mojito! From Cuba!

Mom: One mojito please.

Bartender: I can’t make mojito now.

Mom: …? What? Why?

Bartender: No mint.

Let’s recap. This is 5 star resort in Cuba, the land of mojito, but the bartender can’t make mojito because there’s no mint today. So she switched to lemonade, and the Bartender just put the lemon juice powder and put it in the blender with ice. Uh…uh…yeah.

The room was made so we went up. The bell boy was kind and friendly, and of course the Gangnam style was mentioned. Yeah, thanks, Psy.


The room. Yeah, it looks fine, but….

The room wasn’t bad. Actually, it was more neat than we thought. But as time goes, we realized many of the details weren’t so 5 stars. 5 star hotel means that the hotel offers every possible small luxuries to its guests. For instance, instead of clean, simple and nice bedsheets, 5 starts offer clean, simple, nice bedsheets made of superb Egyptian cotton. The toiletries would be of Hermes, Dior, or something in that level. The complementary tea and cups would be something like Wedgewood. That’s not the case in Cuban 5 stars.

From left: 2 pillows in one big pillowcase. Use your imagination to use this.
The fridge case (?) had a huge gap underneath, so unless you open the fridge like you are handling Baccarat crystal, the fridge falls into the gap and you’ll have to struggle to put it back, taking forever.
The tiles started to fall off toward the end of our stay. 

The curtains were made of nylon, with a string to pull the curtain. Yup, string. There was no sheet for blanket. There were cups, but no complementary teas. No Kleenex, notepad, and pen. There was no brand/explanation for the complementary soaps and body toiletries. Only then I started to understand why so many travelers said I have to subtract a star or more from the Cuban hotel rating. Few days later, the glues between the tiles started to fall off.

I wasn’t upset. I somewhat expected this, as my passport country borders with North Korea and I did my research before flying to Cuba. But still, there is a difference between what you know as information and what you actually experience. This was one of that moment. For me, it was just an amazement.


Printed on a piece of….paper. Literally.

Next day, we met with our tour representative at the lobby. She offered us a booklet for tours and contact information. The booklet was a simple folded paper, printed with a color printer for PC. When I visited other Caribbean countries, their tour info was properly printed on a clean, hard, glossy paper. Anyhow, we decided to go for Havana day trip and Three Cities (Santa Clara, Trinidad and Cienfuegos). We tried to pay with card, almost forgetting that the transaction between Cuba and US does not work, even with the newly revived Cuban-US relation!

Me: Uh…perhaps this one? (Hands my Wells Fargo card).

Rep: Is this US card? This won’t work.

Yup, denied.

Me: How about this one? This isn’t an American card. (Hands my AMEX card, issued by Korean company)

Rep: (looks at the card) Well, it says AMEX here so I don’t know…

Denied, even if it’s issued in Korea.

Me: Alright, let’s try this one (Hands my MasterCard, issued by Korean company and bank).

Worked. Thanks, BC card.

This wasn’t the end. Later in the evening, we went to the a la carte restaurant in the resort. There was no cloth napkin. Each person gets one paper napkin. The flower on the table was made out of paper towel with glitters. The cleaning ladies would not give additional toiletries unless we used up what was given, or call and ask for it.  The towels were way too new, so once you wipe your body, you are covered in white fabrics.

The buffet food wasn’t so bad, but compared to other Caribbean resorts, this was not 5 stars. I saw a bit too much recycling of foods, or same menus repeating for the whole week. The vegetables were cucumber, beet, carrot and cabbage. No leafy veggies. Occasionally, there was cooked zucchini or pumpkin. But, by Cuban standard, this was 5 stars. I realized this after eating at the local restaurant during the tour.

The service was different, too. My guess is that people are not familiar on what to do in service industry, since this is a communist country. However, some were quick and they knew what they need to do to get more tips. For them, we tipped. The bar drinks weren’t that great, so we didn’t go to bar as much as we did in Jamaica or Dominican Republic. Coffee was good, though (obviously).

So, like Cuba, the resort was full of paradox. In the cafeteria, you can find Spanish wine, German yogurt, European cheese. Ice cream and pastries were actually good. But you can’t find enough paper towel and shampoo. For people who grew up in a developed, industrial, capitalist countries, this is something really hard to understand unless you experience it.

The similar things happened in Varadero airport departures. In other countries that heavily depend on tourism, the salesperson will greet you and say “let me know if you need anything.” In Varadero airport, no one really cared even as we looked around. Salespeople were simply reading books, knitting (!) or go way over to another store and chatted with another salesperson with a coffee. Basically, “I don’t care, I still get my paycheck and I don’t get any incentive from selling stuff to you” attitude. I don’t mean they were rude. More on this later.


The People’s Coke and Fanta. They actually taste very good! 

Trip to Cuba (2016) – 1


Few years ago, I seriously considered visiting Cuba, even if that means I’ll have to go up north to Canada and then go South again, alone. I read a lot of travel journals and reviews for research, and two things stood out: (1) subtract 1-2 stars from the hotel rating, (2) tip the people with consumer goods, rather than cash.

It was so hard to process that in my mind. Wait, what? Subtract stars from the hotel rating? Why? How? What should I expect? And tip with goods? Not cash? Then how much of what should I give? I don’t want to insult anyone! After my Cuba trip, those tips were all very true. However, little did I know back then.

On top of that, my Cuba trip was hastily decided. So we didn’t take much goods with us. I still remembered that tip about hotel, so we made a reservation at the newest hotel in Varadero, Cuba, which had 5 stars. Like everyone said, it was 3.5 stars by international standard, but more on that later.

So like that, I got on a 3.5 hour flight from Toronto, Canada to Varadero, Cuba.

Day 1 at Varadero. I’ve never seen such a cool dark clouds over the sky.

I wasn’t too worried about not getting in to Cuba. We are coming to spend so the government is unlikely to turn us away. You need to fill out a custom declaration and entry/departure visa form. The English wordings on custom declaration was so strange, so I had to call the flight attendant and ask what that means. Let’s not forget I lived in an English-speaking country for so many years and got a proper education there.


As of the entry/departure form, you cannot mess that up and cannot lose the half of the form. If you mess up the form, you’ll probably have to pay for another. And if you lose the half of the form, you are in trouble when you are departing Cuba. The border control does not staple/clip that form for you. Thanks…Probably because of lack of consumer goods like paper? I don’t know.

As I landed on Varadero airport, I was standing in line for border control. Strange enough, their border control reminded a lot of Chinese airport border control. The strange thing about Cuban border control booth is that it has an auto-lock door.  So you can’t see what’s going on beyond the booth, unlike many other international airports. You can’t leave until the officer approves your entry and opens the door in her booth. It makes you feel like you are in some kind of interrogation booth.

Passing the border control, I proceeded to the luggage carousel. The luggage carousel looked pretty old, and there were several security guards with pointers…without leash! It looked like they were just hanging out with dogs. The rest of that day was pretty uneventful. You get out, meet your tour representative, get on a bus, watching beautiful Caribbean Sea and bright colored buildings, and get off at your hotel.  Occasional sighting of old cars running by the ocean offered me momentary time travels.

Trip to Cuba (2016) – Intro


cuba에 대한 이미지 검색결과

Cuba. One of the last communist dictatorship countries in the world. I guess that is why so many seasoned travelers are attracted to this Caribbean island. Including myself, most people would think of Cuba with several icons: Communism. Dictatorship. Revolucion! Castro. Che Guevara. Havana Club Rum & cigar. Old cars. Buena Vista Social Club.


I seriously considered traveling Cuba several years ago, but the plan didn’t work out then. But oh, life – I didn’t really plan on going to Cuba this year, but while visiting family friends in Toronto, Canada, my family decided to visit Cuba, somewhat spontaneously.

Usually, traveling tropical region like South Asia or Caribbean means enjoying beach, warm weather and beautiful scenery, eating lots of fruits and delicious food, all with cheaper cost, and coming back with a thought, “man, that was awesome rest.” But Cuba was different. I’ve never come back from a trip with this much of food for thought. I’m not the boldest traveler, so most of the area I saw are pretty touristy. Still, I am sitting on that food for thought. Perhaps this is because I am a South Korean – the country that went through super-fast-track development, dramatic modern history, vicious ideological war and long dictatorship, and bordering another communist country to this date. For me, most of my Cuba trip was like stepping into the recent past of South Korea, and present of North Korea (well, better than North Korea).

Cuba is worth visiting, although a lot is likely to change within 5 years.  Cuba is not for everyone. If you are a seasoned traveler who can laugh at coverless toilet and knows a lot about modern history and politics, it will be nothing like other countries. It will make you think hard and reflect on things you used to take for granted. However, if you want a simple, comfortable, and fun vacation, Cuba isn’t for you. For that, go to Jamaica or some other Caribbean countries.

K-Jeossi/Ajeossi in My Father


Been a while since I wrote my last blog post. The past 3-4 years were the worst parts of my life. I was stressed out. My health declined so badly. Massive PMS attacks that doctors have nothing but to say “here’s your pill” or “I know it’s hard but try to relax” or “maybe it’s allergy…?”  Let’s not even go to academics. I basically fought with my nails and teeth with useless admin/authorities. Good news is, I didn’t die and I graduated. Then, a week later, a dumb teenager rear-ended me with her giant Lincoln Navigator. None of my bones broke and there was no blood, but still I had to limp and yelp for a month or so, and it took a good 4-5 months for me to feel ok to go out and work out.

For the time being, I’m back in home and I’m glad to have some time to relax. Well, not absolute relaxation, but it certainly is less chaotic.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve had a fair share of conflict because of my TCKness and my Korean family…especially father. My being away yet again for years and being a bit more matured in socials helped somewhat for me to deal with my family. It’s pretty simple – I try to go out and set the time so I don’t face my dad a lot in person. I get up later than him, and don’t come back until he is in bed or about to go bed. And I try to not to talk to him a lot.  Things were alright…but then things happen.

I asked whether anyone would like some tea, and my mom said she’d like some. We have a water purifier pot, and a water purifier from fridge. I don’t know why, but my mom says use the water from purifier pot if I’m making a soup or tea. Because I was about to boil water, I thought it would be less work for me if I make my Dong Quai tea as well (because of my PMS, I boil a lot of Dong Quai tea, cool it in a bottle and drink it like water).

Now you can imagine what’s in front of me in the kitchen. Three different cups/steel bowl with different teas, and a big pot of water boiling. Not a good situation to turn my eye away. So I made an agenda in my head: wait until the water boils, pour them in to the cups and bowls, and fill up the water purifier. Then 30 seconds later, the father came in to the kitchen, was about to pour the water form the purifier, and found that it’s gone. Then he saw me with all kinds of cups and bowls with tea in it.

F: You used all the water for the tea, right?
Me: Yeah…
F: Well why didn’t you fill it up? I wanted some water.
Me: (still looking at the fire) You can drink from the fridge. 
F: Well I wanted to drink from *here*. Whoever used the water purifier should fill it up. 
Me: Umm…you literally walked in to the kitchen right after I finished pouring.

Then he started complaining how this takes forever. I didn’t say anything. Then he brought up some old story that I don’t even remember – I fixed everyone’s PC with a tool back in high school dorm? Clumsy way to be friendly. I didn’t say much except “I don’t think that’s true. Where did you hear it?” “Your mom.” “That never happened. Not true.”

By then, the teas were done so I took it to my mom and took one for myself. My father still said “well, from now on, whoever used the water purifier should fill it up, ok?” I said, “Again, you walked in literally like 30 seconds after I finished pouring.”

Then he yelled stuff like I’m talking too much, I should just do what he tells me to do. I just said “yes, yes, sure” and went into my room.

Honestly, I just want him to leave me fucking alone. I respect his territory or whatever it is, and I don’t want to get into trouble. I expect him to do the same. Just because you are paying someone/gave birth to someone doesn’t mean that you can just enter and throw trash in without the person’s consent. I fucking hate when he slaps my butt as being “friendly.” I say something then he’ll scream at me again.

And really, what’s the big deal about getting the fridge water? If I find that there is no water and someone in the kitchen is boiling something, I’d just shrug it off and go to the other source. Or wait. If someone feels like he has been disrespected over kitchen water or someone explaining what happened to the water, all I can say is you have a damn low self-esteem.

That’s what I hate about many Korean ajoessi (40+ years old Korean men). They see everything, even their family, as a ranking game. They never imagine that they can be wrong and those with different opinions can be “right.” If there’s something they don’t understand, everything is “impolite” or “rude.”

Sadly, I see one in my father. And I just hate it. I know I can’t fix it. And honestly, I kind of don’t want to be too close to him because of it, as long as he is not ready to give some credit to those who are different from him. One of my fantasy is, as soon as I get to move out, I will contact my family – especially father – as little as I can.


So I am 3L.


Been a while.  I still think the law school is a ridiculous system but I still managed to survive 2 years.  It’s almost 3 am and I am still wide awake thanks to my PMS.

People usually tell 1L is the worst time, and it gets better in 2L.  Well, not for me.  I would say 1L and 2L years are busy and frightening to the same level.  1L year is tough because you are just trying to get used to the new surrounding, but then the school just doesn’t let you.  They keep throwing all this burdens you have to do, with very little direction.  I don’t know about others, but for me, 2L was a very busy year because I overloaded myself.  I took 5 courses in my 2nd semester of 2L year, two being writing credit courses, which is a graduation requirement for my school.  One of them was not regular writing – an intensive writing course.

Here the inefficient admin chimes in again.  Later in the semester, I found out my friend tried to take 2 writing courses in one semester.  Then the dean didn’t let her to do so, saying it would really increase her workload.  Well, I’m fairly sure the dean looked at my registration anyway but not a word was said to me.  Awesome…

One of those courses were called “transactional doc draft.”  2 credits, sound useful, right? WRONG.  Look, I haven’t really seen any of serious contract document until I come to the law school (to be fair, I saw a few, but it was for translation or to be used as manual for my reporting job).  So logically, the best way to teach this stuff would be
1) Explain a concept.  Or two.
2) Give an example and explain.
3) Make the students to write something similar and give feedback.

Well, I’m in a law school, where the common sense doesn’t work.  Instead, from day one, professor gives us 80+ pages long “model contract” with some “errors.”  That we have to spot and change.  Did I learn anything? No. But it squeezed so much my energy out for a 2 credit course.

But, on the other hand, the other writing course turned out to be so much better than I expected.  The professor was frigging awesome in a sense that he actually lives in a same planet with us, and talks about real shit and $, not some highly scholastic legal concept that exists somewhere far far away over the rainbow.  About half of the class were part time students, meaning they are actually older and have a work experience.   Plus, the prof lived in Korea and India for a while as a peace corp member so he was one of those few people who knows the linguistic challenge.

I could have done okay this semester, but this one other crazy professor totally screwed up my grade again.  I visited this professor before exam, and asked her whether the exam would be closed book or open book.  Easy question.  And a sane person would answer “yes, it’s an open book” or, “no, it’s a closed book exam.” Right? Wrong again.  Welcome to the law school.  Her answer was: “Well, it’s an open book but not really an open book, because the time is limited and you need to know the rules in your head.”

….So does that mean open book or closed book?  I have no fucking idea.  And I speak English well.  Then she never made it clear in class anyway: all I heard from the class was some classmates whispering, “I heard it was part open book and part closed book for last semester.”  Well, then, what should I do?  Prepare the worst.  So I prepared it as if I would do for a closed book exam: forget the rule #s in the exam prep note, and try to memorize the contents as much as I can.

….only to see that the exam instruction saying “it’s an open book test! cite rule #s for a full credit!”  Yeah, thanks so much.  The exam itself was crap.  All of sudden the “driver” in the facts disappeared and “Joe” appeared.  Who seems like the driver to begin with.  Then she nearly failed me (her words: “I could have failed you, but I decided to give a benefit of doubt.” yes thank you for your thoughtfulness, bitch).  Which shocked me, because I actually studied this shit.

Turns out, she simply didn’t give me full credits just because I didn’t cite the rule #s.  Which then shows, she is doing a very, very lazy way of grading: mark off the rule #s, rather than actually reading the answers.  If I remember correctly, she said something like “don’t worry about the rule #s” in the early semester.  And she really should have made what her exam would be like clear.  This was another moment where I seriously considered quitting, only until my tutor gave me an honest opinion: that although my answer isn’t the best exam answer, it really doesn’t deserve the grade I got, and this professor is fucking nuts (“I teach this stuff for living, but I would get confused in her questions, these are just bad, lousy questions.”).

In addition, I didn’t have any summer.  I overloaded my summer semester limit by taking two courses, and at the same time preparing for MPRE.

So it sounds like I still have an awful life.  Which is true, but this post ends with a happy note.

1) I take less courses than before, thanks to the summer overloading and clinic. 
2) I fucking passed MPRE – good enough to sit for bar exam in any state.  So I don’t have to worry about this for next 2-3 years. 


Things I would do differently before coming to law school (or, tips for studying smart in law school)


I bombed by 1st year in law school.  After agonizing whether I made the right decision and whether I should stay in school or not, I got to do a bit of reflection, and here’s what I realized.

Before coming to law school, I got all the right advices. Don’t pay too much attention in classes, what your professor says, or readings. Get the outlines, commercial study aids, old exams with answers as early as you can and practice writing exam answers with it.  So I did so.  I even took a pre-law school course.  And I massively failed. So how come I bombed my first year after following all the right advice?  I didn’t have anyone who could check whether I am on a right track and give me necessary feedback. Yes I was doing everything I was supposed to do, but there was no way to tell whether I am doing it correctly or not.  I was learning to play a sports on my own – which can easily lead to incorrect way of playing or posture.

When people ask me “so, how bad is the law school?” I usually give this hypo:

You want to be a tennis player, so you signed up for a tennis school.  You would expect learning by actually playing it with an instructor, with the instructor giving you corrections and feedback.  Well, instead, all they do in class is learning the nature of tennis tools, watch videos of old games and learn about famous tennis players and coaches.  And one day, the instructor hands you a tennis racket and ball, and say, “go out and play, I’ll grade how well do you play in comparison of others.”

In terms of efficient learning, this is wrong in so many ways, right? There will be people who somehow learn how to play tennis in this way but the number will be very, very small.  This is how things are “taught” in law school.

If I could go back in time, I would definitely to the following:

1) Get a good idea of rules and how to do legal writing BEFORE you get into law school. 

The point of law school legal writing, including exam, is how to apply the rules to facts and explain it to the reader.  And of course law school doesn’t teach this.  There is no need to give an absolute, clear conclusion.  At least for me, it took a while to realize this because I was in habit of writing “academic English writing” (and English isn’t my first language!).  Get a tutor, or someone who knows legal writing and can spend time with you, doing questions together, explain the rules even generally and give constant feedbacks on how to write.  Trust me, it will make your life so much easier.

When I was still unsure whether I should go back to school or not, I happened to meet a very personal and kind law school professor (not from my school) to talk about this matter.  Here’s her answer. “Law school doesn’t teach what you need to know upright.  Some people just do it well in their 1st year, probably without realizing what they are doing.  Some people get it in their 2nd year. Or 3rd year.  And unfortunately, some people just don’t get it until they graduate.  Based on your email I read, you have it but you either just didn’t realized it yet, or how to apply it to the legal writing.  What you need is someone who can sit down and spend time and do problems and give you a constant feedback.  Ask your school whether they can provide this.”

“Okay, what if they can’t?”

“Well, then get a bar tutor.  That’s what they do.”

So I did after I came back to school, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it early on, instead of spending $ on some not very helpful pre-law program.  Before getting a tutor, just do your research and talk with them. I did a test-drive with two tutors on separate subjects.  One was awful.  As time goes by, I was under the impression that tutoring just isn’t really high on her priority and she’s not taking it seriously.  Another one was so much professional and timely in communication and scheduling.  Of course I dumped the former one after the test drive is over. One of the person I called called ridiculously high price.  Some tutors can offer a discount if you do multiple subjects or stick with them for a long time.  So get a tutor, do your research with their professionalism and pricing.

2)  Use commercial aids!

Most cases, many professors describe commercial outlines as evil stuff that you should avoid at all cost.  They say “do the readings, go to classes every day and you’ll be fine.”  WRONG unless you are one of the small number of lucky ones, as I described in the above-mentioned tennis hypo.  Here’s what I would do if I go back to my 1st year.

Get a used textbook with lots of notes and highlights.
Get a casebriefs matching your textbook – commercial study aids what provides you a summary of each cases in your textbook.

For preparing your class, read the casebrief first.  You are ready for in-class cold calls…unless your professor is a pervert who asks every single details.

3) Get help for your legal writing class…from outside. 

Granted, the legal writing class will take almost all of your 1L year time, although they carry a lot less credit then your other classes (which is BS but I will probably write this in a separate post).  You’ll be lost how to find relevant rules, how to organize them, etc.  Does professor help? Probably not.

Here’s what happened in my first year legal writing class.  We were supposed to write a thing called “brief.”  My professor never provided a sample we can refer to: to the request, she simply said “you can find it from internet.”  When someone asks about something with the issue or how to put stuff on the paper, she answered “it depends on you.”  When I say that English isn’t my 1st language and I would like to get an extra help, she said she will be glad to help and I can contact her TA.  So I had a few extra meetings with TA but later on TA intentionally started to ignore my e-mails and texts, probably thinking I’m trying to cheat or get unfair advantage.  Of course I shitbombed that class.

After that, I asked a friend of mine to provide me some relevant secondary sources for each of my writing assignments.  I didn’t even ask to review my paper – just provide me relevant readings.  Then my writing grade started to get so much better.  Again, I kicked myself for not doing so early on.


Law school is like South Korean public education in many ways.  In South Korea, students actually learn from tutors and private prep institutions and get tested in school.  With a very small exceptions, it’s a norm that to be successful in school, you have to grind with tutors and private prep institutions.  If I were a Korean who went through Korean education system, I probably knew this early on.  Ironically though, I’m the Korean who didn’t really go through the national education system: most of my education was done in American system where people don’t really rely on tutors except special occasions.

In summary, get out of your undergrad habit.  Get help from outside early on, and don’t really expect to learn a lot from school.


* Some other thoughts
– Many law students are people who aced in small, local colleges and did not experience much failures.  So it’s pretty natural that a lot of them think they are in the top of the world.  Also, given that a lot of them doesn’t really have real life experience (paying your own bills, arranging your insurance, living on a payroll and dealing with various clients and bosses) they think they are entitled to something…not sure I am doing a good job describing the law school world.  Basically it’s pretty elitist.
– If you talk to the students individually, a lot of them are nice and friendly.  If you group them together, they all go a bit nuts.
– Don’t expect to get a help from your classmates.  I had instances where people (even upperclassmen who are not in the same class with me) said they can help me with exam prep, can give me old books, can talk with me for future scheduling, etc., only to disappear, ignore my contacts or meet me but make it pretty clear that they are annoyed.  Was I the only one? No, my friend – the only person I can actually call friend and would like to keep touch even after graduation – said same thing.