The Life Cycle of a Casebook

Your casebook goes on a magical journey from the most valuable thing you own to the most burdensome thing on your bookshelf.

Day 1

Approximate Value: $250

Equivalent Item: A flight home to visit friends and family, the people you used to care about but can no longer speak to without mentioning that torts case about the train accident.

Why: The casebook has the most updated law, covering everything.  Even though not much has changed in the area of [every area of the law] within the past year, the law professors who edit said casebooks say that enough has changed that the old casebook is USELESS, and anyone who tries to use a previous edition hates America or learning or both.

Day 90

Approximate Value: $5,000

Equivalent Item: A public interest grant to intern for the DOJ your 1L summer.

Why: Your casebook is covered with notes and highlighting that reminds you of every little thing about the case. The casebook reads like an email thread written in a strange made-up twin language: priceless to those who understand, gibberish to everyone else.

Day 100

Approximate Value: $50

Equivalent Item: A trip to Kinko’s to make photocopies of your resume, transcript, and writing sample for one round of interviews.

Why: A used casebook is like a used Fendi handbag. Yes, it still has value, but it is covered in the traces of someone else having used it, which makes it all at once a great bargain and entirely disgusting.

Day 200

Approximate Value: $0

Equivalent Item: Two (free) slices of pizza and a Dixie cup of Diet Coke enjoyed while listening to a District Attorney speak about the office’s hiring process.

Why: The book now cannot be used or sold. Any thought you had about “using it for reference” now seems silly when you realize you will not practice criminal law at all. It sits there like that elliptical you bought and thinking it would make you work out every morning, and maybe one day you still will, but right now you don’t know what to do with it.

Day 700

Approximate Value: -$25

Equivalent Item: Going to a birthday dinner for someone you don’t know really well, and when her best friend goes, “Jessica shouldn’t have to pay for dinner,” you think that makes sense, but then the check gets passed around and you see that Jessica had a steak and a couple glasses of wine so now you are paying a princely sum on top of your salad, and then when you see Jessica the next month she doesn’t even remember that you were at her birthday dinner.

Why: This is the cost of moving or storing that same casebook you once paid ten times as much to buy brand new. Now you have a bookcase that proves that you, in fact, have a legal education. They fit in nicely with the various Philosophy books and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and everything else you are proud to have once read but will only pick up off the bookshelf when you move.

Day 10,000

Approximate Value: $1,000 or -$0.50

Equivalent Item: That stamp collection you made when you were eight and didn’t really “collect stamps,” so much as you stole a few stamps from your Dad’s office and then thought you had a collection.

Why: After a certain period of time, everything becomes either incredibly valuable or a burden. Either someone will use your casebook to start a fire, or a future grandchild will be so excited to have his grandpa’s Property Casebook on his bookshelf while he applies to law school. The fire seems more likely, though.

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