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A trivial reason for going to law school

Back before the development of the internet, smartphones, and the practice of combining them to cheat at trivia nights, I was a useful person to have on your trivia team.

My head is stuffed with thousands of facts (many of which are even true) albeit it with a rider – I can only remember facts that are useless outside of a trivia contest.

Want to know what a mere equity is? Don’t ask me; thankfully whatever part of the law that involves1 had nothing to do with my area of practice, but even if it did it probably wouldn’t help. I used to do a lot of administrative review, but the Brigginshaw standard remains something of mystery, in that I know it when I see it but I can’t explain it.2

I think the reason for this is having gone to law school, and not just because most of what we learnt there was irrelevant. When I did law school, just after the late cretaceous, repetition was the preferred method of instruction, and with very good reason.

Law in those days consisted of 12 contact hours a week and no lectures on Friday, the idea being that with all that non-class time students would be able to read cases, do research and solemnly discuss the implications of the Tasmania Dams case, possibly over iced tea and cucumber sandwiches.

As a plan this is up there with Harry and Meagan’s decision to avoid media scrutiny by moving to Los Angeles and appearing on Oprah. Law students as a group have the overall maturity and decision-making ability of footballers on an end-of-season trip to Bali (while being less likely to provoke a war with Indonesia) and we did not immediately grasp the reason we had been given all that free time, although we did find a use for it. Did I mention there was a pub on campus?

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Our lecturers were aware that much of our research was being conducted at the campus club, and focusing more on the big questions of life, such as how many of us could dance on the table without getting hit on the head by the ceiling fan,3 rather than the exquisite mysteries of Goldsborough Mort v Quinn.4 Plus, our lecturers had read at least part of the cases we were assigned, and knew that they were about as engaging as watching Geoff Boycott play chess (the cases, not the lecturers) (also, some of the lecturers).

The result was that our brains, which had been in reasonable shape prior to Orientation Week, were not exactly computer-like, and indeed more, analogy-wise, in the ‘abacus with many beads missing’ category. Our lecturers knew this, and had of course been students as well, and were not unfamiliar with the campus-club research methodology.

Thus, they spoke slowly and repetitively in lectures, and rewarded students who could simply more or less replicate their lecture notes during an exam, regardless of whether or not this related in any way to the questions on the paper. Therefore we learned to absorb and repeat vague statements without ever actually answering a question; this probably explains why so many lawyers become politicians.

The point is that this has trained my brain to retain things that I have heard many times, but that don’t really matter, like the safety briefing on a plane flight (in 2017, before flying Brisbane to Darwin across one of the driest stretches of land on Earth, we got a demo on how the lifejacket works) or Paul Keating’s opinion on everything (everybody else, and everything done by anybody other than him, sucks).

So, my brain is full of things like the Scooby Doo theme song, the names of the monsters under Calvin’s bed,5 and countless advertising jingles. For example, the below jingle has been stuck somewhere in my brain since the early ’80s and occasionally pops up for no reason of which I am aware:6

What’s red? Really mean?
Lands on your face, make ya scream
Makes no noise, comes overnight
Bleeds a lot but it doesn’t bite…
It’s a zit! It’s a zit!
Don’t panic, don’t faint
A disaster it really ain’t
Put Oxy-10 on its head
With Oxy-10 it’s as good as dead
Oxy-10, it’s got the lot
Oxy-10 can shift a spot…

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I have no idea why my brain would prioritise this particular jingle, especially since as far as I can recall I never purchased any Oxy-10 (which may explain some of my high school photos). I did hear it a lot though, since the only source of music7 we had access to in those days was radio, which generated income by relentlessly playing ads we didn’t listen to, for products we didn’t buy (much like the internet really).

Part of the problem was that in those days we couldn’t download music, partly due to copyright issues, but mostly because personal computers that actually functioned (by which I mean, you could play games on them) had not been invented yet. So, we recorded songs directly from the radio, and because radio stations had a habit of playing ads across the beginning and end of songs, they got recorded too.

That meant that you might be happily listening to Dog Eat Dog by Adam and the Ants8 when it suddenly morphs into a guy singing about any old iron, and giving the impression that Adam wanted to give you money for your old Torana, and it didn’t matter what’s up.

As an aside, for any record company lawyers out there thinking that we were breaching copyright by recording these songs (and the occasional ad) I can assure you that your concerns are baseless, and certainly not the foundation for huge lawsuits. These recordings were made for research purposes only, under the fair use provisions,9 on the off-chance that David Bowie or Mark Knopfler might slip in their insights as to mere equities and the Brigginshaw standard,10 which would eventually prove useful for those of us who went on to study law (feel free to sue anyone who recorded songs from the radio and didn’t go on to law school, and indeed to contact QLS if you need the name of a good solicitor).

I will end this column on a sad note, but you can feel buoyed by the fact that it does have an end, and we are near it. Regular readers will know that I have often turned to my dog for material for this column, since he was an endless source of fun, joy, humour and, above all, drool.

Well, almost endless as it turns out. Our dear pup succumbed to cancer a few weeks back, leaving a very large hole in our lives, and taking a lot of column inches with him. He managed to spend his final hours on the couch that he was definitely, absolutely, one hundred percent never allowed to be on, and on which of course he spent many happy hours in open defiance of the rules.

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We miss our big, lovable boofhead, even though he was capable of causing natural disaster levels of damage with nothing more than his exuberance and his tail, and that walking him was like trying to hold back a Leer jet attempting take-off. His boundless love, complete loyalty and propensity to terrify people campaigning for politicians were constant sources of comfort.

RIP Gigz.

© Shane Budden 2023

Footnotes
1 I’m going out on a limb and saying ‘equity’.
2 In fairness, neither can anyone else.
3 Not very many at all, it turns out.
4 (1910) 10 CLR 674. How about that, a real footnote!
5 Maurice and Winslow, which I am sure you already knew.
6 I promise I did not have to google this, presuming it is somewhere on the internet.
7 Which was actually good back then.
8 You certainly should know it.
9 Assuming they had been invented back then.
10 As they were wont to do.

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