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November 10, 2003

Pre-Finals Reminder

As DG has been noting, it's getting to be that time when the library is full of intensely studying peoples and the stress levels start going into interstellar orbits. So of course there's no better time than now to pause and consider Dahlia Lithwick's "Letter to a Young Law Student" for a quick reminder of what you're doing here in the first place. [Link via Professor Yin.] Remember Lithwick's sage words:

If there is one law of law-school thinking it's this: "If everyone else wants something, I must want it, too." Not since the days of the Tonka backhoe and Malibu Skipper will you have so lunged for stuff in which you have no real interest, just because everyone else is lunging. Law school manages to impose odd new values on virtually everyone. And each step of the way, law students make choices—to interview with certain firms, take certain classes, apply for certain clerkships—based on an impoverished sense of other options and the fear that other people will get all the good stuff if you don't grab it. This is hard advice to give and harder, I expect, to take. Fear and conformity dig some pretty deep paths at law school. Don't just follow because they are there.

The other day, So Sue Me posted her advice for incoming 1Ls which I also recommend, especially tip #7:

If you are not comfortable with idea that you will become cynical, do not apply to law school.

I'm wondering if perhaps the two peices of advice go together. Does the massive pressure to conform actually produce the cynicism?

As for me, I'm honestly just tired of it all. I'm tired of reading cases and never getting to really discuss them (the Socratic method is absolute shyte, pedagogically speaking—just ask Professor Leiter), and tired of talking about outlines and study habits and whether to attend the next BarBri review session and what's going to count or not count when I'm working for a firm. That reminds me, I think I'm going to get a t-shirt to wear every day that says: "No offense to you if you're hoping to get a firm job, but please don't assume that I sympathize with your hopes because, well, I don't."

Oops, that cynicism might be getting the better of me.

"Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm." —Wilco.

Anyway, good luck to all you 1L peeps in getting through this November hump. May your outlines write themselves and may all your cases be short from here to December.

Posted 07:58 PM | Comments (2) | law school

Law and Economics (Chicago School)

What is the value of Chicago School style Law and Economics?

Exhibit 1: A scene from "Fight Club" in which the Narrator (played by Ed Norton) is on a plane describing his job to a fellow passenger:

Narrator: "A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now: should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

Business woman on plane: "Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?"

Narrator: "You wouldn't believe."

Business woman on plane: "Which car company do you work for?"

Narrator: "A major one."

Exhibit 2: Judge Learned Hand's decision in U.S. v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947) in which Hand describes how to determine a barge owner's duty to provide against injuries caused by barge acccidents. Hand says the duty is a function of three variables:

(1) The probablility that she will break away; (2) the gravity of the resulting injury, if she does; (3) the burden of adequate precautions. Possibly it serves to bring this notion into relief to state it in algebraic terms: if the probability be called P; the injury, L; and the burden, B: liability depends upon whether B is less than L multiplied by P: i.e., whether B [is less than] PL.


Posted 07:53 AM | Comments (2) | law general law school

Give 'Em Hell, Gore

Yesterday, Al Gore gave another in his continuing series of speeches condemning the Bush administration for its so-called "war on terror." I spent the day volunteering at the event, which was sponsored by and the ACS. It looks like the speech is beginning to get decent coverage from the press, but you can also read the full text here.

Although the major press seems to be focusing on the sensational comparison of the Bush Administration to Big Brother, the real crux of the speech for me was the way Gore explained that argument. Gore said:

I want to challenge the Bush Administration’s implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists. 

Because it is simply not true. 

In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama Bin Laden.

In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy. 

In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America.

In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy and deception in order to avoid accountability to the Congress, the Courts, the press and the people.

Indeed, this Administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head.  A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people -- while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion. 

But instead, this Administration is seeking to conduct its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered access to personal information about American citizens.  Under the rubric of protecting national security, they have obtained new powers to gather information from citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they themselves refuse to disclose information that is highly relevant to the war against terrorism.

Funny, isn't it? One of the most secretive (if not the most secretive) administrations in American history is also the most eager to rewrite laws to enable government agents to pry into our private lives. Again I wonder, why would anyone even consider voting for Bush in 2204?

Posted 06:55 AM | election 2004 general politics

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