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Thursday, May 30, 2002
by the Wunderland Toast Society

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What's Going On? I've Decided To Go To Law School

Well, it's been another big week for us here at Looney Labs. Over the weekend, we ran another hugely successful Pop-Tart Cafe, we've been pounding away on Super-Fred work and Origins planning, and I made a major life decision: I want to go back to college.

When I graduated from college in 1986, my attitude was "Free at last! I'm off to the Real World and good-bye to classrooms forever!" The idea of pursuing a graduate degree at that point was simply out of the question. But now, having worked in the Real World for 16 years, I've decided that I want to go to Law School. That's right: I've decided to become a lawyer.

I've thought long and hard about it, and I'm excited about this decision. I have many reasons for it, all of which I will explain in this essay. (I may be 38 years old, but I feel like a high school kid all over again, confronting for the first time the reality of choosing to go to college. Since I'm sure I'll have to take tests and write essays with titles like "Why I Want To Go To College," I figure this can be my first draft.)

In studying to become a lawyer, I will have two primary fields of interest: Intellectual Property and Drug Law Reform. Of course, I have different reasons for pursuing these divergent fields.

In the realm of Intellectual Property Law, I am already a practicing amateur. I gave myself a self-taught course in patent law in 1990 (I highly recommend the book Patent-It-Yourself), when I obtained a patent (#4,936,585) on our first board game invention. Since then, I've gotten another patent (#6,352,262) and I have a third one pending. I've also been closely involved with the writing of a wide range of license agreements and contracts relating to other games we've published since then. I'm already what passes as the IP lawyer for our company Looney Labs, and the point is, I'm tired of faking it. I'm ready to become properly trained.

But my bigger reason for wanting to become a lawyer is my dedication to helping end our nation's insane drug war. Over the past few years, I have become increasingly passionate about the need to stop prohibition, and I grow weary of ranting to friends who've heard it all before and writing letters to editors that don't get published. As an activist, I can think of no better way to work for this cause than to go back to school, get a law degree, and seek to defend and free those unlucky enough to become victims of this tragic and stupid policy. I have lots of friends who smoke pot... I'd like to be able to provide real assistance if ever any of them are busted.

(As a side note, my hope is that I'll never need the skills I'm about to try to acquire. I believe we are on the cusp of a watershed event which will bring a rapid end to the marijuana prohibition, just as alcohol prohibition crumbled quickly in 1933. However, I'm realistic enough to know that such events could still be a decade away, and that the other side will not give up this fight easily. But even if pot is legalized before I pass the bar, I still have plenty of other reasons for wanting to become a lawyer...)

What makes me suddenly decide to do this? A few weeks ago, I attended another NORML conference, and in one of the panel discussions, someone said the reason they became a lawyer in the first place was to fight for justice on this issue. Sadly, I don't even know now who it was (though I imagine I could find out) but I felt inspired by this statement. I remember writing on my notepad, "Should I become a lawyer?" I immediately dismissed it, but the idea has continued to nag at me, and I've come to find it irresistible. I can think of no more important location in which to debate the disaster of drug prohibition than in a court of law, where it might actually mean something. And the more I think about it, the more I yearn to do exactly that. I've role-played enough lawyer characters and watched enough LA Law to see the appeal of becoming a trial lawyer. I've also served on a jury several times. I've seen enough real lawyers in real situations to think that I could not only do that myself, but I could do a better job of it, too. So, I'm ready to try.

There are other factors in this decision. First, I wish to continue growing as a person. I've had several careers already, and I plan to have several more before my last turn in this gigantic game we call Life. But to do that, I need to go back to school.

I will of course need to make some sacrifices. For one thing, I'll need to set aside for awhile the creative work I hold so dear and which I've worked so hard to obtain. But actually, that's OK... as Kristin put it, this will give her time to concentrate of selling the games we already have in our product line without the constant interruption of publishing new stuff. Plus, we have a lot of stuff in the pipeline that will keep her busy, and I can continue to provide input as Creative Director, on a part-time basis, whenever I come home for the weekend.

Which brings me to my next point. As I said, in order to focus on my studies and obtain a degree in as little time as possible, I will need to isolate myself to a large degree from any distractions which aren't absolutely necessary. Therefore, I've decided to attend a college in a different city.

I grew up in a college town, so it felt perfectly natural for me to attend the University of Maryland. I had a great time there and I got a great education... but I've come to mildly regret the decision not to sample life elsewhere while in college. I got a job at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (also in my hometown) right after graduation, and consequently, I've never lived more than a mile or so from the house I grew up in. Because of all this, I suffer from what I call "George-Baileyitis" (if you don't know what I mean by that, see the film "It's a Wonderful Life") and the idea of going back to school, this time in a different city, is very appealing to me.

Of course, like George Bailey, I am tied here by many considerations, so I'm sure I'll need to come home frequently, perhaps most weekends. After all, I do have a family and friends to consider as well. So I need to be considering schools that are within a fairly short train ride home. Beyond that, though, I haven't even started the selection process.

Incidentally, I'd also like to renew my study of the German language while I'm back in school. I might even take a class in photography.

So, there you have it, my latest grand scheme. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up before this undertaking, and I'm sure there'll be many hoops to jump through in order to enroll, once I figure out where I want to apply. I also need a scholarship. But the goal is to begin a two-year program in the fall of 2003.

Is this possible? Am I crazy? Will I succeed? (Or will I flunk out or give up somewhere along the line?) What college will I choose, and what adventures will I have while I'm there? How will becoming a lawyer affect my life? Only time will tell, but if you want to follow me on this journey, stay tuned to this website...

Have you voted for Cosmic Coasters yet?
(The deadline is June 10th!)

the story so far

Thought Residue
In the next printing of Chrononauts, should we change 1962 so that it turns on an "OR" instead of an "AND"? It would make it a lot easier to create (and maintain) World War III...
"The question that Walters fails to address is why marijuana should be treated differently from the drugs mentioned above? We allow adults to buy cigarettes and alcohol, even though both are highly addictive and kill thousands every year. Experts may disagree, depending on definitions, over whether marijuana smoke is "addictive" or merely "habit-forming" but both sides are hard-pressed to find anyone who has died of a marijuana overdose." -- Clarence Page, in his excellent response to the Drug Czar's ironically myth-laden editorial, "The Myth of 'Harmless' Marijuana"
"Some pursue happiness; you create it." -- wonderfully accurate fortune cookie message Kristin recently received (Alison's was also really great: "Everyone around you is rooting for you. Don't give up!")


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