Note to law students: No “trigger warnings” in Kopf’s court

Every law student should read and take to heart Scott Greenfield’s Trigger Warning: Special Little Snowflake Ahead (Update) at Simple Justice.  While the post is worth reading because it is hysterically funny, it makes an important point: narcissism doesn’t get you very far. Indeed, it causes adults to laugh out loud.

By the way, there are no “trigger warnings” in my courtroom, just a mean ass guy who doesn’t spend a lot time worrying about your feelings. Be damn sure you grow up before you begin practicing law. That’s legal realism.


16 responses

  1. the concept of a “Trigger warning” was originally developed to help people with PTSD prepare themselves for reading/discussing something that related to their trauma (such such as rape or domestic violence). However it quickly got used like the MPAA ratings and just slapped onto anything as if it was to protect children. Trigger warnings may still useful for blog posts, even if the writers issuing them have little idea how PTSD works. But it is inherent to the nature of the criminal justice system that it occasionally has to deal with the most horrifyingly violent and traumatic of human behavior.

  2. Andrew,

    With the assistance of two very skilled clinical psychologists holding doctoral degrees, I have six years of therapy myself surrounding the death of my wife the day after Christmas in 1986. Additionally, as a practicing lawyer, I spent many years representing or hiring PhD level clinical psychologists.

    What due respect, the “trigger warning” stuff that currently is floating around in the academy has nothing to do with legitimate therapeutic “trigger warning” strategies used for people who suffer from PTSD. It is utter nonsense.

    All the best.


  3. Pingback: Trigger Warning: Special Little Snowflake Ahead (Update) | Simple Justice

  4. RGK,
    This is one area of law I think they teach right. At my school, we read about a man being burned alive by phosphorous, terrorists hijacking a plane, people telling old women that their child had just died and causing them a heart attack, people losing half their face in a boating accident, asbestosis, choking, beating, rape, and accidental death and dismemberment.

    And that was just torts class. Criminal law was worse.

    Professional Responsibility gave me a whole ‘nother layer of education on how big an asshole someone can be to you. And just when you think they’re done, try business corporations. Not to mention divorce law.

    And then I started working on real cases. That was a better lesson than all of the previous stuff combined. As I’m sure you know, most people wouldn’t believe half the shit that goes on a courtroom.

    One law professor put it to me this way: “If you can’t quote a client’s testimony back at him with a straight face, you shouldn’t be a lawyer.”

  5. Oh, and we didn’t have any “trigger warnings” on any of this stuff. Can’t imagine why we would.

  6. It’s one thing to *read* about bad things, but I had one early “feel like a real lawyer” moments when the judge I was clerking for assigned me a summary judgment motion involving the interaction of a moving 18-wheeler and another truck driver who was trying to fix something under his vehicle at the time. I lost my appetite for lunch pretty quickly after the first scene photo appeared.

  7. SLS,

    You are entitled to a “trigger warning” because what you are taught in law school or learn through your clerking experience may really make you sad and depressed.

    What kind of a person are you anyway? Probably a dirty young man or woman!

    All the best.


  8. Jay,

    But were you warned by your judge that your work might trigger a loss of appetite, understanding, of course, that eating lunch is a basic human right? If not, you worked for a truly horrible judge who should resign right away.

    All the best.


  9. Trigger warnings may still useful for blog posts….

    It seems to me that this…trigger warning…is present in every blog post: [TriggerWarning]blog[/TriggerWarning] post.

    Eric Hines

  10. Trigger warnings. It’s the judge’s blog, and even though he’s almost as profane as I am, I’ll limit myself to just pssh.

    When I was in high school, we had movies in our driver’s ed class–then an Illinois requirement to get a driver’s license; it also got a drop in auto insurance premiums. Those movies, about some of the outcomes of driving stupidly, didn’t pull many punches–close-ups, for instance, of a mess of rebar having run through a truck driver hauling a load of them due to some driving screwup (not even his own, as I recall); shots of the outcome of a car and a train racing to a tie at the crossing, with similarly graphic imagery of blood and disconnected body parts. No trigger warnings. We didn’t grow up warped. Although I did grow up to be a Conservative with an interest in Constitutional law.

    As to today’s precious ones, let me recommend PJ O’Rourke’s commencement speech for Rutgers.

    Especially his final advisement.

    Eric Hines

  11. Pingback: “Trigger Warnings”, “Special Snowflakes”, and Failure | nebraskaenergyobserver

  12. I was not given any warnings, come to think of it — do I have an FTCA claim against the federal judiciary?

  13. Trigger warnings are legion in certain portions of the blogosphere. Mr. Greenfield is correct, I think, to trace the phenomenon to feminist origins, and surely “triggering” language is everywhere in those particular realms online. There is an odd twist to it that I’ve seen a good many times too. It’s an odd excuse to behave badly online. If a person who belongs to the right group (one that can readily be called oppressed or whose members are considered likely to have suffered trauma), one can throw a tantrum and then say that one was merely triggered. Those, alas, who do not lay claim to lives governed by (often vaguely specified) trauma are typically held to a higher standard of civility: one so high that mere disagreement is often considered “triggering,” thus shutting down all further discussion. So it is not just a warning that seeks to prevent harsh behavior: it is simultaneously a culture that excuses childish fits as well.

  14. Jay,

    You do.

    But, I have judicial immunity and so does your former judge. That is to say, neither one of us really gives a shit.

    All the best.


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