24 June 2008

Written with a smirk and smile

Needless to say, my summer has been quite a bit different than that of my law-school counterparts. While they are cranking out memos/briefs/motions/etc., I have been stumbling my way through the Spanish language, or at least learning enough Chilean slang to know what the men on the street are yelling at me ("Rubia, tienes un poto delicioso!").  While this is an important skill, I've been having a nagging feeling that I need to be doing something a bit more...legal, perhaps.  Learning Spanish during your final year of law school is all fun and games until the Bar Exam comes and bites you in the face.

However, this week I commenced my job...and therefore, the most interesting part of this trip:  learning the Chilean civil law system.  And oooooh how different it is!  Just when I think that something is the same as American law, I learn about some new quirk that completely throws me.  Por ejemplo:

Chile has a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and local courts for regions (there is no state v. federal system here).  Sounds mundane enough.  However, the regional "courts" are more like offices where the judge is rarely seen.  He/She reads motions and rules on them completely solo.  Still kind of mundane, yes?  Here's the best part:  all of files, including each party's motions, judicial rulings, etc. are kept in the local court, and you can only look at the file while standing at a counter.  An attorney is NEVER allowed to take the file home or have copies.  Therefore, your entire legal strategy is based of handwritten notes taken in 2 minutes.  And if you take the file past a certain red line behind the counter, there is a major financial penalty.  Personally, I can't imagine responding to a motion without the file in front of me, but Chilean attorneys do it all the time.  However, the craziest part is that the files are literally SEWN togeter.  With thread.   No computers, no online system, not even a file folder. Hundreds of pieces of paper...sewn together.  A-mazing.  

And I could go on and on about the major/minor differences.  Of course, the biggest difference is that case law has little importance here, but anytime a new code is released, people run like mad to get a copy of the new code.  For the law kids:  Remember pocket parts?  Chilean lawyers live for 'em.

For those of you who are not law-dorks (I have about 3 readers, one of whom is my non-lawyer Mom...so this one's for you, Mom), this probably sounds very boring.  But my point is that I am learning an entirely different system of law.  I'm learning how many South American countries, as well as France and Germany, use their legal system.  So maybe I'm not cranking out memos for super-exciting insurance fraud cases, but I am learning how a vast majority of the world operates under civil law.  I'm getting an in-depth comparison of the American legal system with civil law systems, and I'm learning what's great about our system and what's not. I'm learning about all the drama we could live without.  In short, I'm gaining REAL knowledge about the rest of the world...outside the detestable law-school box.  

Not to mention, I'm traveling to gorgeous little pueblos, eating delicious food, gaining proficiency in another language, and making new (hot Chilean) friends.  I wouldn't trade my experience for a corner desk at FBT.  Ever.  

In fact, given the option between a cushy American firm job and a job at my tiny little office with no heater, a coffee-pot straight from the 1970's, and three people (Sr. Caballero, Gonzalo, and I) crammed into an office the size of my bedroom...I wouldn't even have to think twice.  

Quien necesita una oficina grande cuando todo el mundo esta afuera??? 

(If you haven't noticed, it's official:  Y'all have lost me to Chile.  Chau!)


Redhoon said...

As one of the law geeks who reads your blog, that's fascinating! I can't imagine not being able to have copies of everything. I bet Al Gore would give their system two thumbs up though. I'm really proud of you!!!!

legaleagle2009 said...

Katie, that sounds so awesome!! I can't believe it, a world without tons of paper?? What!? Haha, well I am so glad you are enjoying yourself! Have fun girl!

heather said...

That is really interesting; thanks for giving us a closer insight into what you're learning and doing!

For those of us who don't know much about Chilean jurisprudence, here's a great site to bring us up to speed with Miss Kate's progress:



Katie said...

heather, thanks so much for the website! i wish i wasn't so tired, because there are so many interesting observations/comments I have on the Chilean legal system. Civil law makes the job of a lawyer pretty damn different--ever so slightly less detestable, but the red-blooded American in me wants more drama! ;)

An interesting tidbit: Note that the ConstituciĆ³n is from 1980--this was enacted under Pinochet, and it's still the same constiticiĆ³n that we use today. Intriguing to the American mind, no?