Monday, April 11, 2011


My brother's name was Jay. He died last week, April 1, 2011, far too young. He was 24 years old. 

My brother and I have not always been on good terms. Though we were very close as children, in the past few years we’ve had some knock-down, drag-out, hit-below-the-belt fights, mostly over things that don’t seem so important now.

I moved back to Charleston, SC in August of 2010, shortly after graduating from law school in Tuscaloosa, AL. At that point, Jay and I didn’t have much of a relationship. While I was falling back in love with Charleston, Jay was stumbling into bad situations. In January of 2011 he realized he needed a new start in a new town, so he asked me if he could move to Charleston. Because of our troubled past, because I didn't trust him based on his past behavior, and because I felt protective of my life in Charleston, I almost said no.

At my best moments, when I'm thinking clearly and long-term and am able to separate anger from fact, I have a life philosophy that goes something like this:

When I’m old and frail and I look back on the many times when I made the wrong decision  and everyone is wrong once in a while  I hope my wrong choices will have been wrong on the side of being too loving, too open-minded, too gracious, too kind, too trusting, too generous, or too forgiving. Since we're all human and we all fail in ways big and small every single day, being right all the time isn't the alternative. The alternative is having erred on the side of hate, bigotry, mercilessness, selfishness, pessimism, and greed. That's not the life I want to live.

With that in mind, how could I refuse to help give my brother a new start, no matter what had happened in the past?

True to form, Jay made friends in Charleston faster than anyone I’ve ever met. Within a week, I had to call Jay to find out what my own friends were up to.

Jay & Cinnamon, clearly in love.
Jay convinced a waitress at Waffle House named Cinnamon that he was going to ask for her hand in marriage. Jay, my roommate Chandler and I took walks to the battery, through the beautiful wealthy neighborhoods in downtown Charleston, and made a game of guessing how much each mansion cost.

My neighbor, who we nicknamed “Cousin Curtis,” is an eccentric old man with several dozen birdhouses strung from the tree in his front yard. Jay and I spent hours making up a fictitious background story for Cousin Curtis. In our lively imaginations, Cousin Curtis' alarmed storage shed in his back yard was obviously a meth lab... But only until we saw The Onion's "Justice Shed" report. From then on, Cousin Curtis was a patriot hero; he'd obviously built his own Justice Shed.

Jay started a running joke. When we were out in a group, he'd get everyone’s attention and say “Hey guys, remember that time when I…” and fill in the rest with something endearingly ridiculous. “Hey guys, remember that time when I invented windshield wipers?” “Hey guys, see that huge fish mounted on the wall? Remember that time when I killed it with my bare hands?” Once during March Madness he announced "You guys, remember when I invented basketball? I had NO IDEA it'd get this big!"

Tara Reid (titled"Dirty Martini," by Peter O'Neill)

In one of our favorite restaurants in Charleston there’s a painting by an artist named Peter O'Neill. It shows a nondescript blonde woman in a black evening gown looking over her shoulder. Jay decided she looked like his crush, the celebrity Tara Reid, and had us laughing for 10 minutes when he declared “Hey guys, you’ll never believe what I had to do to get Tara Reid to pose for that painting.”

Although Jay’s life didn't play out like we all wished it had, I’ll always be tremendously grateful for the two months that he lived with me in lovely, familiar, healing Charleston. I had some strangely merry, revealing, restorative times with Jay, my brother who I'd grown up with; the only brother I had, who I fought with and fought for with equal ferocity. Until he moved to Charleston, I hadn't seen my brother  with his true, untouched-by-drugs personality  in four or five years.

For far too short a time, free from the things that dragged him down during the last years of his life, I got my brother back.

*Added at a later date: If this had to happen  and I do not accept that it did, I do not believe it should have happened  but working with reality, knowing that it did happen, I am so, so grateful for my time with Jay in Charleston for the few months before he died.

Knowing that I truly did the right thing even when it was incredibly hard, that I did more than most reasonable people would've done, has saved me from spiraling into a depression I'd never survive.

Jay, in a way you saved your older sister. Just like I tried  and wish so much that I'd succeeded in  saving you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chatting with Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel

Two days ago Gawker acquired an email from American Apparel referencing standards for personal appearance for its retailers, down to specifics like outlawing liquid foundation and nixing bleached eyebrows. This, combined with the past heat the company has faced over refusing to manufacture sizes that the general population wears, created a storm that would not quietly pass over. Instead, CEO Dov Charney made his private phone number available to the media and concerned customers. He was personally answering the phone all day yesterday, and spoke to me around 3:00 p.m. Central time.

Charney responded to Gawker’s leaked email in a statement on American Apparel’s website. The statement appears below.

American Apparel does not hire or retain applicants based on 'beauty.' Our main priority is finding people with a strong sense of style who can inspire customers as they make selections from our extensive line. This is an integral part of the job, and we look for people who will enjoy it as a creative outlet. It has never been the policy of American Apparel, as some blogs claim, to fire employees who are not "good looking" or any of the other accusations implied by the anonymous or unverified third party sources. The company legitimately reviews current photographs of job applicants and employees to consider their sense of style and the way in which they present themselves. Through personal interviews, we evaluate whether they possess the skills and personality required to successfully sell our products. This is a standard practice among fashion-forward retailers.

American Apparel has built itself on being open and honest, so we're happy to answer questions and personally address the concerns of anyone interested in having a dialog. You can reach our CEO directly at 213-923-7943 or at And to address what has been most lost in this discussion, American Apparel is in fact continuing to hire in a major way (over 1,000 factory workers in recent weeks alone and hundreds more for retail internationally). We always accept resumes, and of course photos showing your personal style, either online or at one of our open calls worldwide.

The numbers seemed high to me considering the state of the economy. Charney differentiated between the 1,000 factory workers hired in the past 60 days and retail workers – the 1,000 workers hired in the past 60 days were on the industrial side. The company is still able to hire retail workers because of the high turnover rate that most retail outlets experience. He did not attribute any retail workers leaving their jobs to the email revealed by Gawker. American Apparel employs about 5,500 retail workers in 280 stores, half of which are in the US, and another 5,500 industrial workers worldwide. The CEO stressed that American Apparel is a growing company.

Still, advertising and answering your personal phone line for the general public is a ballsy move. Was there one final straw that made Charney propose this solution? He said he doesn’t remember exactly how it came about, but that Gawker took the controversy further than necessary. The specifics that Gawker published in its “leaked” email were untrue, according to Charney. There is no company policy forbidding liquid foundation or bleached eyebrows. If there were a policy about this type of thing at all, Charney said, he would ban perfume on the retail workers – which has nothing to do with appearance, technically. As of now, there are no such policies in place, and the company is not considering them.

Instead, Charney emphasized that the overall – sometimes indefinable aspects of -- appearance of his employees has a direct effect on his business, and American Apparel is within its rights to expect a certain dress code and professional aesthetic, just like almost every other company in operation. Appearance plays a role, and people want to pretend it's all about physicality because that makes a more inflammatory story, but in this case, it's not.

When I asked if the company was worried about lawsuits from fired employees or those who were never hired because of their appearances, he balked. Employment lawsuits only succeed when a protected class – gender, race, religion – has been discriminated against. Charney’s correct on that point of law, and the Abercrombie & Fitch situation from a few years back is a salient, but ultimately off-base, comparison. A&F hired models to work in the front and put others in the back, constructively discriminating against racial minorities. AA’s situation is nothing like that.

But what about ageism? Would a perfectly good employee be fired after years of service when their appearance could no longer keep up with American Apparel’s youthful image? Charney dodged that question, partially because the company itself is young and the issue hasn’t come up yet. It might be an issue AA should address in the future, however.

It takes a lot of confidence in your customers and employees to open up your personal phone line, and Charney's move was refreshing considering most CEOs are insulated from lower level controversies. I will say that after speaking with Charney, I’m satisfied that he cares about more than just the bottom line of his company. He seems to be involved at most steps, and is making the effort to calm the concerns of whoever wants to dial his line and speak with the CEO of American Apparel. Charney said he’s had the same number for 12 years and has no plans of changing it. So if you have a gripe, constructive criticism, or just want to speak to the CEO of your favorite retail outlet, he can be reached at 213-923-7934.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I used to be a little, well, intense. Uptight. Uptense.

That’s not really a surprise coming from the girl who wrote the grammar book. I played basketball most of my life, and I had a good -- methodical, reliable -- shot. Give me a play and I could run it perfectly, brush by the screen, peel off and hit my shot. Too bad most of the game – or life – doesn’t unfold according to the play. There are more variables than can be addressed by any one play.

In the past few years, though, I've relaxed some as I learned something important. With a lot of things in life, giving up a little control can lead to a better experience. Traveling is one example: you don’t get story-worthy experiences if you stick too closely to the plan. It’s the twists in the road -- the unexpected detours, the times when the Mykonos hostel was overbooked and you ended up sleeping on the beach, or you missed your flight and went walking and met the French family next door who entertained you for hours -- that are worth writing about. The trip isn't ruined by those things.

The same principle is also true with things like dancing, or riding passenger on a motorcycle. Risk looking stupid in public; if you’ve already decided to get on, trust the driver. Lean into the curves, and you’ll have a better ride.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Daring Greatly

It's time I did a post on graduation, huh?

The law school's graduation ceremony was a few weeks ago, and it ended up being a bittersweet experience. When I was writing the grammar book during 1L, the law school was kind enough to let me drop a few classes. I'm taking summer classes to make up those hours, so graduation wasn't the grand finale of my law school career. However, it was symbolic and meaningful, and a wonderful chance to celebrate with the people I care about.

Our valedictorian focused his speech on different, mostly funny, memories of our time here. He mentioned (my very favorite Talladega native) Reid Carpenter's "trick balloonist" comment from Prof. Randall's Torts class. To those who weren't there, ask me to explain it in person. It was a highlight of 1L year.

Jan Crawford, who is the chief legal correspondent for CBS News, served as our commencement speaker. She went to UA for her undergraduate degree and went on to get her JD in Chicago, and because she's basically doing my dream job it was a sort of validation of my career choices up until this point. More than that though, she was thoughtful and inspiring. She thanked the families who were at the ceremony, because without them (or all the other supportive people in our lives) there's no way all of us would have made it through law school.

Her speech focused on this quote by Teddy Roosevelt (or -- you know -- his writers. Just giving the writers some credit!):
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
[Formatting and emphasis mine.]

To me, the most poignant part of the quotation is the "daring greatly" point. I understand that writing a blog is not "daring greatly" in the same sense that fighting wars, or running with the bulls, or risking your heart on a Great Love is. But I do sincerely feel that I've taken chances, learned lessons, and even lived in a better and greater way by sharing my writing on this platform.

If you read the comments, you know I have many critics. Anyone who's worked hard on something can empathize with the vulnerable feeling that rises up every time writers let someone else read a piece of work -- by sharing it with a friend or by turning it in to a boss or by simply clicking "publish." But along with the critics are many, many loving and supportive people who have encouraged and mentored me along this process. I'm not saying goodbye to blogging, and I'm certainly not abandoning writing. I don't know what the next phase of life will hold, but I can say a couple of things.

I hope I'm good at my job. I hope I can pay my bills! I hope I live by the water. I hope the locals will tolerate my dancing. I hope I get to keep writing. I hope I'll be lucky enough to continue to know wonderful people.

I hope it requires daring greatly.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disdain for Poor Grammar Brings UA Student Success

Lovely article by Wayne Grayson in the Tuscaloosa News.
Sharon Eliza Nichols’ quiet, polite voice doesn’t sound like it belongs to the type of person who would author a book called “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar.”

But when Nichols begins to talk about the experience of writing a book, a more fun, even mischievous, side comes out.

favorites so far.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Death to Dead Law

Dead law is dead. Thank goodness. The exam was today, and I honestly feel like there was nothing else I could have done to prepare. My friend Bud and I pulled an all-nighter, which I think was his first, just to memorize as much as we could (the exam was closed-book). He also calmed me down when I was close to tears this morning because I felt so unprepared (and I've been studying this for weeks).

[SIDEBAR: I've mentioned tears several times in the last couple days. Something about exams and lack of sleep makes them happen; I'm usually not "that girl crying in the hallway."]

Do you ever get that feeling, though, that right when the proctor says "ok, pencils down and stop typing" that you missed something? I got that feeling and then remembered right away the third duty that a trustee has: loyalty, prudence, and impartiality. I couldn't remember impartiality! I remembered that it started with an "i" and was a fairly long word, but I couldn't deduce impartiality from that. Ugh. Hopefully that won't count too much against me.

The rest of the test was fairly straight forward, but it does no good to analyze my performance at this point. It's done; I can't change anything, and I'm stuck with whatever grade I got.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tide Fans

My friend Barron at The New Republic pulled up this article by Howell Raines for me, about legendary Coach Bear Bryant (which goes nicely with this article by Jason Zengerle, addressing racial relations at the historic university).

I bring this up because I was reminded this weekend, the weekend of the SEC Championship game in which we beat the heck out of Florida, just how far Crimson Tide fans will go for their team. I know people planning road trips to Pasadena, CA, where the National Championship will be. That's somewhere around 29 hours of driving.

In the freshman class there seems to be a rush of both girls and guys named Bryant. So the crazy fans aren't just naming their pets after the team or a coach -- they named their kids after him. My favorite is an infant in the church nursery named Crimson. Crimson, the color, like Crimson Tide.

Talk about devotion to your team.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Shout Out

This is so flattering, and I'm so thankful to Aaron Latham and Jeb Richter for doing it. The law school put a little bio on the homepage with links to my blog and the Amazon page for the book. How nice is that?

(You should be able to click on the screenshot for a bigger view, or just go to the law school's homepage if you want to see it.)

"There was no reflection on this habit, no idea that God deserved better than cliches."

Quote of the day:
Now there was no antidote to the stock phrases I had been hearing over the years that had begun to pain me whenever they were uttered. 'The Lord has really laid a burden on my heart for you. How's your walk with the Lord? She has a heart for single mothers. Let's just lift these things up to Jesus. We just pray, Lord, for your wisdom and guidance.'

It all sounded like effeminate earnestness. It was lingo. People picked up the phrases and passed them around like a contagion, which meant they were perfectly happy to use what was lying about and say what everyone else was saying. There was no reflection on this habit, no idea that God deserved better than cliches. -- Not That Kind of Girl
I like this quote because it expresses my frustration with organized, especially evangelical, religion. God deserves better than our words, and He certainly deserves better than cliches.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Deep Fried Babies

A few weeks ago a girl in the newsroom said something so funny I almost fell out of my chair laughing. We were talking about how southern people will deep fry just about anything, and she said:
My grandmama would fry a BABY if she could. She'd then proceed to CAN that baby, because she cans everything in sight -- pears, apples, babies, if that were socially acceptable.
I think that adequately illustrates the southerner's love of fried food and canning food to preserve it.

We now have a quote sheet on the wall of the newsroom to keep track of quotable moments like this one.

Alabama Election Law

My biggest exam this semester is dead law -- technically titled Decedents' Estates -- and it's about wills and trusts. The other big exam I have is in Alabama Election Law.

I know this is a long shot, but if anyone has an outline for Alabama Election Law, it would be greatly appreciated and I'd return the favor in (almost) any way I could. Email me at Senichols [at]

Exams and Root Canals

Has anyone had a root canal? I had to have one a few weeks ago, and while it wasn't painful during the procedure (they gave me so much Novocaine my face was numb up to my eyes), it hurt very badly afterwards. Root canals are done in two stages, so I go back for the second part tomorrow.

To anyone who's had one: What should I expect? Will it hurt as badly afterwards as it did the first time?

This came at a particularly bad time, right before exams. Ugh. At least my biggest exam is nine days away.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fun With Word Verification

Facebook has been making me type in word verifications to send messages lately, and I'm amused by how strange the combinations are. It's always two words that don't go together at all. Some examples from today:
  • Putty tale
  • Together plump
  • Senile tame
I'll start taking screenshots of the funnier ones. For some reason, they make me want to use them as phrases in sentences. I have dead law (wills and trusts) to study, but you guys go for it -- use them in
a sentence.
Alternatively, if you've seen any funny ones lately, leave them in the comments.

UPDATE: Facebook gave me this one today.

"The afloat."

This one doesn't even use real words! Blintzes forma? Challenge: make up a definition for "blintzes forma."

Last one: "Antidote ADA."

Posting More

I've been told I need to update more, and I'm making a commitment to do that now. So here's an update.

The semester has been really great. I went to Las Vegas to visit a friend and his family, and that was wonderful. It made me want to be part of a big Hispanic family, speak Spanish, and have cousins and uncles who are really just family friends (they call everyone "cousin" and "uncle").

Here are some pictures of a light show in old Vegas. My camera broke, so I took them with my iPhone.

We had Thanksgiving at my parents' house in Northport (about 20 minutes away), and my grandma and aunt came. It was a nice family get-together, and a great break from law school.

Today my friend Matt and I are going to church then school to start the hardcore studying. He's my accountability friend for today. You don't necessarily need to be studying the same thing to be studying "with" someone, you just need someone who'll sit with you and put pressure on you to get some real work done. He's that for me, and hopefully I'm that for him (although I don't think he really needs it -- he's more disciplined than I am).

In any event, it's church time. Have a great Sunday, everyone.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Students Sniff Something New

I'm working at The Crimson White, UA's student newspaper, and when we stay late (usually) we get loopy and funny things happened.

Last night we were trying to come up with a headline for a story about police officers staging an event where they burned something that gave off the smell of weed, so people would be aware of what it smells like (kinda redundant for college students, don't you think?).

Proposed, and rejected, headline: Students sniff something new.

SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas at the Law School

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas came to the law school to speak the other day. He lead two sessions: one in the morning geared towards the 1Ls, and one in the afternoon for everyone else. I couldn't make the afternoon lecture, so I sneaked into the 1L session and listened in. He mainly did questions and answers, which I thought was semi-risky for such an important public figure. I guess because he's not a politician, and because he's experienced at doing this, he has more latitude to speak off-the-cuff.

Here are some quotes I wrote down:

  • CT: First year [of law school] was clear as cement!
  • CT: You'd think I was in a concentration camp or something and I had to find a way to fill my time -- law school.
  • CT: In the 18 years I've been there [on SCOTUS] I've yet to hear an unkind word in our conferences.
  • Q: How many hours a day do you work?
  • A: Less than 24 hours a day.
  • CT: I don't like excerpts because people have agendas when they excerpt cases. (Kinda true, right? I've never thought about it. Our books are filled with excerpts from cases mixed with explanation from the authors, but now that I think about it, you can't really present part of a case without showing some bias. It's like piecing together quotes -- you can get them to mean whatever you want.)
  • Q: What do you think the future of affirmative action is?
  • A: It'll always be on shaky ground because of the 14th Amendment.
  • CT: [Totally nonchalantly]: One thing lead to another, and I ended up on the Supreme Court.
Here's the question I asked: It seems like, the more I learn, the more I become aware of how much information there is out there that I don't know. That, coupled with the fact that law school has trained us how to argue both sides of cases, and it's made it harder for me to take a firm position on an issue. How do you decide when it's close, when both sides are persuasive?
  • CT: You just have to vote. You have to take a position. That part doesn't get any easier for some cases. Don't think we're any different from you in that sense.
That's been my main question in law school. How do I prepare myself to argue both sides of any issue, but keep some personal positions consistent? His answer wasn't the most satisfying, but it was practical.

  • Q: What do you think about the RIAA cases where damages for illegal downloads are outrageously high?
  • A: Hey, it's California, it's Hollywood. Who knows!
  • CT (jokingly): I'm off my medication, that's why things are so fascinating.
  • CT: I don't like politics. I like law, I like rules.
  • Q: What's been the biggest change in your life as a SCOTUS justice?
  • A: Well, people look at you everywhere you go. You start to feel sorry for the animals at the zoo!
He raised some good points about excerpts in casebooks that I'd never thought about. I'll continue to ask my question, because it's been the central quandary of law school for me (and growing up in general). But I did like his answer -- sometimes there are no answers that are satisfying and perfect. Sometimes you just have to make it work, Tim Gunn-style.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Facebook-Friending Professors

As my friend Bud, who has a blog about FSU football with a huge following over at Tomahawk Nation, observed recently: "Blogging isn't hard, but being consistent is." Very true.

As I work on my consistency (and I welcome submissions about the law, law school, or even posts by outsiders of this little legal world: email them to Senichols (at), here's something funny that happened a few days ago.

We're bombarded with articles about how technology and the professional world can clash, but here's a first-hand example.

I posted on Facebook the following status: I can't help but think "gubernatorial" is a funny word.
Comment by friend "C": Is it bad that I giggled a little every time we used the word "seamen" (TO REFER TO SAILORS, YOU DIRTY READERS) the other day in class?
Comment by professor of said class, "Prof. N": Yeah, I heard the giggling.

I guess it's good to keep in mind that I'm Facebook friends with professors now.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Oh, Emails

Favorite mass email of the day, from a guy who lost the power cord to his computer:

"Bring it to me and I'll teach you ALL the Rush lyrics I know."

Tempting to you?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Patrick Fisher is a Facebook friend who helped out a lot on the grammar book, which comes out September 29th. In return for his help, I promised a signed copy of the book. He just sent me this Facebook message as a reminder:

Hi Sharon! I see that your book is coming out in a monthish, so I am going to have to claim my just deserts. If you recall, you promised me your hand in marriage. However, we agreed that would never work due to my annularphobia (fear of rings) and your "condition". I believe we settled on an appropriate substitution of: One copy of your book, signed by you, sent to me at my location at time of publishing. My address is:

[Insert address]

For the inscription, I would diffidently accept, with no alterations:

Dear Patrick,

I know I told you I would marry you, but please accept this small token as a humble substitute for my eternal love. Know that I will always treasure our brief tenure as lovers.


Thank you in advance, it's been quite enjoyable planning this for eight months.

This message is hilarious. I kinda love Patrick, and I'll do exactly as he asks when I get some extra copies.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Gmail Down for a Couple Hours

Gmail is ...fallible? Don't say it's true!


I've just been relaxing and enjoying this -- the last senior year of my life -- senior year of everything. It's very likely that I'll never, ever be in school again, so why not enjoy it while it's here?

I've also been working a lot at UA's newspaper, The Crimson White. I'm taking a lot of what I learned about journalism this summer and putting it to use at the school paper. It's cool to watch the process and see everything come together. We publish four times a week: Monday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday.

I do realize that, at some point, I have to get serious about looking for a real (adult! ahh...) job, but not right now. That can wait till closer to Christmas.

For now: ROLL TIDE!

UA Football Player Shot: Can He Play?

An Alabama football player, Brandon Deaderick, was shot last night in an attempted robbery. He's expected to fully recover, and he was released from DCH medical center today.

Football fans are freaking out about whether or not Deaderick will be able to play. What I overheard in the newsroom just now:

  • "If Deaderick plays this Saturday, I will do his laundry for life. And let him name my first-born child."
  • "Hell, if Deaderick plays this week, he can HAVE my first-born child."

I love Tide fans.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Arlington x 2

Better picture of Arlington.

Is our Children Learning?

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" -- W. in Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000


Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Twitter x 2

The other Twitter post got buried in subsequent posts, so here it is again. Follow me on Twitter: Senichols.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Election Law

We're going around the class explaining why we wanted to take this class, and towards the end of the 30ish people in the class the reasons get kind of repetitive--except for this one: "I thought it would be a better use of my time than...I don't know, joining a gang."

I applaud this kid's creativity. Well done.

Higher Education and the Law

Prof. Murphy: “Strict grading curves are necessarily an infringement on my freedom to decide what grade your paper really deserves.”

Agree or disagree?

Picture of the Day

Float from the DC Gay Pride Parade in Dupont.


Follow me on Twitter for even more 140-character updates from the life of a 3L: Senichols.

Can I get a witness?

Just because something can be announced on Facebook doesn't mean it should be announced on Facebook.

Am I right? Can I get an amen?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


First: no exam! Yessss.

This is going to be a fun class. Prof. Neiman has it set up so that we'll do mock appellate arguments every week on different statutes, using various methods of statutory interpretation, and deciding the cases ourselves. It sounds like a trial ad class, but he says he'll tailor it to statutory issues.

Prof. Neiman is a practicing attorney, which I like. I've had good experiences with teachers who are currently practicing. Their perspective is different, more practical, than a teacher immersed in academia. They usually understand that time is valuable, and so they don't keep a class over time or feel like they have to fill up an hour when the material's already been covered.

I'm also excited about this class because it should provide some blogging material. Anytime students are center stage, funny things happen.

ADDED: I like professors who state the obvious: "If you're planning on skipping out on a lot of classes, this isn't the class for you."

That wraps up my first day as a 3L, and now I'm off to get my edit on at the Crimson White's office. To a good year: cheers!

Secured Transactions

Second class of the semester, and I think I'll end up liking it. It's related to contracts, which I understood and found practical. The teacher, Prof. Lee, didn't feel the need to use the microphone, which I really like. I find the mic malfunctions distracting, and when a prof doesn't feel like they need to use it, they probably don't. Seems like a small thing, but it means a lot to me when the professor is commanding and confident enough to lead a large class without a microphone.

On to the last class of the day: Legislation!

Kelly Horwitz for School Board

Kelly Horwitz, wife of my favorite law professor at UA, Paul Horwitz, is running for school board in Tuscaloosa. If you live in district 4, which includes the law school and areas close to it, get out and vote for her in the election on August 25th.

Dead Law

My first class of 3L year is Decedents' Estates. We refer to it as "dead law" because it's about dead people's estates. Hopefully that doesn't also refer to how it makes you feel to learn it.

I'm anticipating this being one of my harder classes because it's closely related to property law, which I found difficult. Our first section, however, is on health care decision making, so that should be interesting. I'll live through the first part of the class, at least.

Coming back to school this year felt very different from coming back last year. I guess it's comparable to coming back to high school for senior year--you know everyone important by now, they know you, and it's not scary anymore. This is our school and our year. For most of us, it's our last year ever in school, and I intend to enjoy it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer In DC: Great Success

I’ve been thinking about how best to structure this summary of the summer, and an “I learned…” approach probably works best.

First, I learned how to behave around pseudo-celebrities. In the first week there, our boss took the interns out for happy hour at the Fox and Hounds, a place for which Barney Frank and I apparently share the same affection. He was seated at a table over from us, and I was a little starstruck. “Sharon, stop staring.” “Sharon, stop giggling like that.” “Sharon, stop trying to take his picture with your phone!” You get the idea.

The editor of TNR is Frank Foer, a kind of celebrity in himself. His brother is Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I also learned that interviewing people is a lot different from being interviewed. You have to kn

ow your subject and ask your questions confidently, and when the interviewee doesn’t give a good answer, there are a couple tactics you can take:

1) “The Elise”: Get comfortable with silence, because most people aren’t. If you just don’t respond, most people will fill the silence with their own ramblings, sometimes giving up interesting information.

2) “The Dylan”: Calmly ask the question again. Hey, they didn’t answer the question—they deserve to be spoken to like a child. Ask it again and again until you get a satisfactory answer (or hung up on). Or, you can ask the question in subtly different ways so they feel more comfortable answering it.

3) “The Chris Matthews”: Play hardball. Point out the fact that they didn’t answer the question, and ask it again. If they still don’t, ask them for historical examples of the point they’re trying to make. If they can’t do it, laugh.

4) “The Friend”: Give a little piece of information about yourself that seems personal but actually isn’t, which should make the person feel more comfortable and they might censor their thoughts less and give better answers.

There are probably other strategies, but those are the ones I picked up on. Also, journalism in general is much more difficult than you’d imagine. This was my first experience in interviewing people and writing in a journalistic environment, and I learned so much. Journalism is tough to get into and make a stable living in right now, but my bosses were very encouraging. The day I left TNR, Greg Veis (web editor, my direct boss) called me into his office and basically offered to help out in the future if I needed it. I will need it, Greg, and I appreciate you being interested in the success of your former interns. Zvika Krieger is the other web editor, and he was every bit as helpful as Greg.

I learned a lot about how to write for the web. Academic writing is so much different from journalistic writing. It’s less formal and brevity is valued. In my last week there, I wrote a health care piece for Jon Cohn about insurance companies and the practice of “purging” customers who the insurer deemed not worth covering (too expensive, too many claims). Summarizing the relevant laws and fitting it to the style of a blog was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I think the post turned out pretty well. Jon was on The Colbert Report a few nights ago promoting his book, Sick. Check it out.

I lived in GW’s dorms, which turned out to be a much better experience than expected. I had my own room, the people in my hall were outgoing and fun, and we had a roof with a view of the Washington Monument. It was about three blocks from the White House, and when I walked to and from work (it was about a 30 minute walk--sometimes I took the metro) I walked past the White House. Here's a picture I took of it on my last walk home.

MTV’s Real World was filming in DC while I was there, which added a layer of potential excitement to any venture out. I only saw them once, coming out of the movies in Chinatown, and it was only a couple of the cast members surrounded by cameras. My friend from law school, Barbi, actually ran up and rang the doorbell to the Real World house. She said a cast member answered, gave her a weird look, and shut the door. At least she was brave enough to do it.

TNR does a regular thing called TNRtv where they interview politicians or experts, or debate an issue among the writers. On my last day, we took a picture of the wide view of the little studio they film it from:

And here's what it looks like up close, the way they film it:

(It was very hot in our office and extremely casual.)

The summer was a complete success, and I can't overstate how much I learned, but I am glad to be back. This will be my last year ever in school. It won't be nearly as difficult as the other years of law school, and I'm looking forward to enjoying the last year I'll ever be a student. Roll tide!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Until Logic Did Them Apart"

I've been at TNR for a little over a week, and in DC for about two weeks. I'll post pictures and descriptions of things here later, but for now I want to link to Jonathan Chait's article on the illogic of gay marriage opponents.

In it, he says "There's a word for social policy that disregards the welfare of one class of citizens: discrimination."

I tend to agree, so argue with us. Tell me why that's wrong in the gay marriage context.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Great Places

Three days until I leave Tuscaloosa for Washington, DC for the summer.  I'm done with all of my 2L exams, and all I have left to do are the finishing touches on a seminar paper on health care liability.  I am beyond excited.

My little sister graduates from high school this weekend, and last weekend my parents had a graduation party for her.  Her principal came and his gift to her was my the most original and thoughtful graduation present I've ever seen.  He gave her a copy of the Dr. Seuss book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" and wrote something nice on the inside.

Here are the lines from the first page:

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

I think it's appropriate for anyone who's graduating right now or starting a new adventure. Congratulations, everyone.  You're off to Great Places.  

Sunday, May 03, 2009

An Attempt at Positivity

When you live in a competitive, demanding environment, it's easy to fall into "poor me" thinking.  While I don't want to diminish the work that law students do or characterize it as "easy" to any extent, I do want to express how lucky we are to be here.  We're lucky to have the resources available to take advantage of this level of education; we're lucky to have the natural ability to be able to do the work.  We're lucky to have professors and fellow students who challenge us to produce great work.  

So while you get some sleep tonight, think about how very lucky I am to get to stay up all night learning Criminal Procedure with flashcards and ten different colors of pens and highlighters.  

I'm trying very, very hard to be positive here.  

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flash Rave: Part II

Last year I posted about a group of students (hundreds of them) from my alma mater, College of Charleston, who stormed the library during finals and had a flash rave.  Within a minute the library was packed with students waving glow sticks and playing rave music from boomboxes, then a few minutes later, they all disappeared.  According to an email I got from the student government president at CofC, it's happening again tonight.  

Things like that make me miss college.  I hope I never get too old and stuffy to appreciate a flash rave.  

UPDATE: And the rave has occurred.  Here's the updated story about it.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


No, I haven't stopped blogging, I just took a break for a while.  My first exam is tomorrow, and since it's Contracts II (the 1L class I dropped last year), I've been stressing over it.  The 1Ls seem extremely on their game, and the fact that 1L classes are curved makes it extra important to do very well.  Contracts is one of my favorite subjects -- it just makes sense to me -- but the sheer amount of information to learn makes it intimidating.  The good news is that I really like the professor and the exam should be fair.  Difficult, but fair.  

Next year I'll be the chief copy editor of The Crimson White, U of Alabama's newspaper.  I wasn't a journalism major, and since I want to write after law school, the experience will be very good for me.  This week is our first week of production for the new team -- kind of like a trial run so we can learn the editing system before next year.  It's my first time working in a newsroom, and so far I really like the process.  It's satisfying to take articles that are already written and make them better.  

Other than that, I'm just preparing for the move to DC for the summer to work for The New Republic.  I'm ecstatic to have the opportunity.  The other interns are Dylan Matthews, a freshman at Harvard who writes MiniPundit, and Elise Foley, a journalism and political science major at Northwestern.  Both are younger than me but have a lot of experience.  Dylan has already worked for Slate and interned at The American Prospect.  I have a lot to learn this summer, but I'm confident that I have a lot to contribute as well.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Exam Essentials

Oprah publishes a "My Favorite Things" section every month in her magazine with pictures of things that we simply must own to have a fulfilling life.  The problem is that these are like $1,000 candy bowls, $899 pumice-stone foot-softeners and other overpriced baubles that reasonable people wouldn't buy from a dollar store.  

Law students have their favorite things too, especially around exam time.  And good news!  You can buy these from normal people stores.  

1) Coffee

2) Post-It tabs.

3) Colorful Highlighters 

As simple as these things are, we could not survive exams without them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Overheard in the Law School

"Okay, so this is something I've been thinking about.  What if you got scared half to death...twice?"

"The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

"What if it were, like, a TRICK balloonist?"

I can't explain all of those quotations (and I think they're funnier out of context), except to say that the stress probably messes with our heads.  Clearly exam time is upon us.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


(The title of this post is from my favorite SNL skit of all time, when Will Ferrel was playing George W. Bush debating Al Gore.  At the end of the debate, the moderator asked both candidates to sum up their campaigns in one word.  Gore said "lock-box" [which I suppose counts as one word] and Bush said "strategery.")

The seminar I'm taking is on health care liability, and we all have to do 50-minute PowerPoint presentations on the papers we've been working on all semester.  My friend Robert just gave his, and the last slide had a picture of our professor on it alongside other "great Americans" (his words).

I have to give mine next time, and I'm thinking that flattering the professor is not a bad way to go.   

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

From the Anti-Fun Section of the Alabama Criminal Code

From the Alabama Criminal Code, Section 13A-14-3:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association or corporation to promote, advertise or conduct any marathon dance contests, walkathon contests or similar endurance contests, by whatever name called, of walking, dancing, riding or running, and it shall be unlawful for any person to participate in any marathon dance contest, walkathon contest or similar physical endurance contest by walking, dancing, riding or running continuing or intended to continue for a period of more than eight consecutive hours, whether or not an admission is charged or a prize awarded, and it shall be unlawful for any person to participate in more than one such contest or performance within any period of 48 hours.

Watch how long you dance in Alabama.  Your marathon dancing just might get you 30-90 days in the county jail.  Also funny:  This section is right after one prohibiting "maiming one's self to escape duty or to obtain alms."