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St. Louis Diary

The finals come closer and closer


Now I’m not only Y2K compliant but also prepared for almost any other hazard that might wait for me during the next winter: I got my flu shot. The department of student health organized a charity flu shot drive in the law school last week. For $ 10 everybody could get his vaccination and the proceeds will be given to a charity organization. Let the cold times come!

Well what else happened last week? First of all it was Halloween, one of America’s great fests - pumpkins everywhere. I did not trick and treat but, together with some friends, went to a Halloween party. Originally I planned to go as Elvis so I went to the costume store and got myself a pair of golden rock star sunglasses, fake jewelry, sideburns and fake chest hair. But despite all my desperate attempts to look like The King (eating pounds of sweets and wearing a polyester shirt and white plastic slippers), I ended up looking like "the seventies pimp who wants to look like Elvis".

Let’s talk about school. The finals come closer and closer, and so I started preparing my class outlines. Outlining basically means that you review all the notes you took during class and try to bring them in an order that will allow you to study them, and eventually to pass the exam. Since the exam questions will resemble the topics covered during the class it seems useful to follow the professor’s syllabus and to fill its structure with details, using the class notes and case briefs that you've prepared over the semester. If you do it properly you should end up with a nice script of 30 pages plus that is easy to read and to understand.

Working out my schedule for the next semester, I came over a quite interesting subject: legal ethics. Legal ethics deals with the general legal conduct of lawyers and addresses questions such as appearance, client representation, attorney client privilege, disqualification, contempt and other civil or criminal wrongs committed by a lawyer, while acting in a professional capacity. While in Germany the ethical dimensions of practicing law are hardly ever addressed during the legal education (unless a somebody has a special interest in this field), ethics is not only a required subject for American J.D students, it is also a key part of the bar examination, tested in the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination). The MPRE is a fifty question, two-hour, multiple-choice examination that is a mandatory prerequisite for the admission to practice as a lawyer in most of the states.

Closely connected to those ethical issues is the Moral Character Evaluation, which is required by all state bar associations, in order to become a member of the bar. Applicants have to fill out a form, disclosing everything that might have some influence on their ability to practice law. However, as long an applicant is not a convicted felon, owes child support or unpaid spousal orders, he will most likely pass the evaluation. Interesting though is the, in comparison to Germany, completely different handling of privacy issues. Considering German standards for protection of personal data and the disclosure of personal information it sounds alarming, that an applicant for the bar in California has to disclose private data such as any past mental health treatment or hospitalization, including the specific diagnosis, without any limitations.