If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get. But Some Things You Shouldn’t Ask

In my experience, law students are generally nice people, and no more unreasonable than any other slice of the population of similar age and background. But there are exceptions.

The all-time exception occurred several years ago, when a shy quiet student from one of my classes came into my office saying she wanted advice on a personal problem. I closed the door and put on my best sympathetic face, which became increasingly difficult as she told me her story. It seems that she had been cooking in her rented apartment and ran out of cooking oil, so she dashed across the street to the store to get some more. Unfortunately, she left the wok on the lighted stove top, something caught fire, and she burned down her entire apartment, and caused serious damage to the two neighboring ones too.

Was her problem that the landlord was suing her? No (or at least, thought I, “not yet”.) Was anyone hurt? No. Were the police giving her a hard time? No. Troubles with the insurance company? No, she had no insurance. But that wasn't the problem; no, the problem was much simpler: now that the apartment was unlivable, she'd had to move somewhere else and her ex-landlord was refusing to return her deposit.

Faced with such overweening chutzpah, all I could think to do was to shake my head ruefully and say, that while I was always happy to help students, this sounded like a job for local counsel and – alas! – I am not a member of the Florida bar. (I also resolved then and there never to join the Florida bar.)

I'm reminded of this tale because of an incident last week, the first of its kind. A student who did an independent writing project last year for me came by. As sometimes happens here, her preferred schedule leaves her one credit short of what she needs to graduate. Would I be willing to retroactively give her an extra credit for last year's writing project?

I guess that's less brazen than demanding back your deposit after burning down your apartment…but only just.

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