Calvinball

Continuing with the Calvin and Hobbes theme from a couple posts ago, I came to a conclusion about the field of law recently that has things making a lot more sense to me.

Law is essentially Calvinball.

I went into law school as I think many people, who have not worked in a legal capacity/field before, would: with the assumption that what I would be learning is the substantive portions of the law, the statutes and doctrines and rules that govern our lives but that most people can’t be bothered to actually read and memorize. I knew to a certain extent that I would be required to read, analyze, interpret, and argue, but somewhere in the back of my head was still the assumption that what I was really going to law school for was the absorption, en masse, of a whole mess of, well, actual laws.

Flip that ratio. The law is messy, nasty, brutish, and supremely unclear. Contracts, those things we take as binding even unto death, can be gotten out of or rendered invalid in any numbers of ways. Each law is really a place to begin, not the final accounting of what you are and are not allowed to do. Like Calvinball, the rules are present and binding, but you are always free to “make up new ones” by interpreting them and combining them and applying them in ways that help you out. What is more important in a game of Calvinball than strict athletic ability or skill is the ability to think quickly on your feet and turn a horrible situation into one that actually benefits you; the same is true of law (though I imagine Calvin would be as bad at law as he is at Calvinball; both Hobbes and Rosalyn get the better of him with regularity).

Knowledge of the law is obviously necessary as a starting point for your own wild excursions, and you will always run up against a hard legal wall at a certain point (much like the irrevocable rule in Calvinball that “no one’s allowed to question the masks,” but beyond that, Calvinball and law school are remarkably similar. Everyone is keeping their own, idiosyncratic score, and the rules shift from day to day or question to question; the concept you thought you understood yesterday is never played the same way twice.

Hopefully, I prove myself good enough at Calvinball (and I’d like to think I would have been at least passable at it) to make it a vocation.

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