Tuesday, March 22, 2011


When I was a 1L (first year law student), I had to write a memo for my LRW (legal research and writing) class about promissory estoppel.  By the end of it, I felt like I could have told you the elements of promissory estoppel in my freaking sleep.  That's what happens when you spend an entire semester researching and writing one memo -- something that in actual practice you sometimes have to do in one day.  My then-girlfriend (a non-law student) used to recite the five elements of promissory estoppel as a party trick because she had heard so much about the stupid promissory estoppel memo.  Only the other law students ever laughed.  Their significant others looked kind of sick, because I bet they could have recited all five elements as well.

Estoppel is the legal doctrine that basically provides that if you purposely mislead someone, and they rely on your misleading statements, you can't then turn around and use their actions against them.  I guess there are a bunch of different kinds of estoppel, but the main two kinds I have dealt with are promissory estoppel and equitable estoppel.  Promissory estoppel applies when you promise someone something that they then rely on to their detriment.  Equitable estoppel arises when you purposely lie to someone and they rely on it to their detriment.  There are also procedural kinds of estoppel, like collateral estoppel.  Anyway, boring.

The point I am gradually getting around to here is that I am currently, during my last two weeks at the firm, researching estoppel.  For real.  As in, find a case that lists the five elements, apply to our facts, predict whether the client will be estopped.  I have come full circle in a way that really sort of frightens me. 

Also, I think that the partner who stopped by to "have a little chat before I left" should have been estopped from assigning me this project during that conversation.  I never would have let him into my office if I had known that he was going to give me new work at the end of our "chat."

* Ridiculous estop sign picture via here.

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