by Hanish Patel
Of course, it is no hard feat to write about the dread of reading law supplements and the associated anxiety of exams. I am confident history cannot produce a single instance of a student delighted in reading a textbook. No, the real challenge arises in reading them as literary works on their own, separated from its underlying material and academic purpose. While the law and material that fill a supplement is the same for all books, no two supplements are ever alike. Why is it that some favor “Gilbert’s” over “Emanuel’s” or vice versa? The answer lies in the same reason why anyone prefers a work literature over another – the author’s use of his craft. In this respect, Joseph Glannon’s seminal Civil Procedure: Examples & Explanations may be regarded as the best law school supplement of all-time.
Divided into six parts, the E&E takes on the herculean task of explaining to first-year law students the strangeness that is civil procedure, with its dizzying array of concepts and rules like impleader, res judicata, and ancillary jurisdiction. In his opening “Preface to Students,” Glannon acknowledges civil procedure as the “most unfamiliar and intimating” of the law school courses, but prods students to be patient as they wander through the labyrinth. It is here the epic journey begins.
In this heroic quest, Glannon makes use of the classic E&E formula – explanation, example, followed by explanation – but with the flair of a virtuoso. First, he begins with an insightful and concise explanation of the law, summarizing vast abstract concepts to a mere two pages while showing respect to the complexities and nuances involved. Next, like Socrates, he presents a thorny hypothetical that simply forces the student to critically analyze not only the problem, but the world around them. He finishes with an explanation that borders on poetic, leaving students asking for more. For visual learners, he provides countless diagrams and flowcharts to clear up the resulting fog of complex litigation. Glannon makes this three-step dance look effortless as he guides the nervous and stumbling student through the contours of their mind.
As an added special treat for the determined reader, buried throughout the text are little gems of wit and anecdote. The chapter on the Erie Doctrine, entitled “Eerie Erie” opens with a fictional comedic tale of a young Glannon learning about the doctrine during his first year, with an appearance by the Archangel Gabriel advising the dozing Glannon to pay attention in class. One can only imagine a smirk on the face of Glannon as he was feverishly typing.
In his book, Glannon tells the reader he aims to make the whole process “rewarding” and “perhaps even enjoyable.” Undoubtedly, he not only achieves his goal, but far surpasses it, providing a generation of students like myself a beacon of hope in learning civil procedure in the days leading up to the exam. I dream of the possibility of a movie adaptation.