ambivalent imbroglio home
May 08, 2005

Stoopid Style

It's over. It was over sometime late Friday afternoon, actually. “It” here means my second year of law school. Hoo. Ray.

Here's how to finish your second year in stoopid style: First, schedule three finals in two days and make sure you don't study at all before the last 3-4 days before those finals begin. Take your finals and then blissfully retreat from reality for a week. Then, approximately 16 hours before your final 30-page paper is due, start writing it. Stay up all night listening to great music and drinking some diet carbonated and caffeinated beverage, alternating a cup of coffee occasionally for good measure. Pepperidge Farms goldfish are also helpful. Write about something with which you're fairly familiar and basically rehash arguments you've previously made in other papers, combining them in the most gawdawful mismash you can possibly concoct. Finish a few hours before it's due, spell check, shower, turn it in, and pray that it's good enough for a C.

There. You're done. Don't you feel great now?

For me, the answer is, um, well, I sure I wish I wouldn't have waited for the last minute to work on that damned paper, but yeah, done is good.

Since finishing I've felt a little lost. What to do now? The job starts in a week and I've got a long to-do list, so I'm sure I'll be plenty busy. If all goes well, this site will be completely redesigned by the end of the week, but, well, no promises.

But first, here's another little story of my stoopid stylings: I was walking home in my sleep-deprived stupor on Friday after turning in my paper and I met someone I'd met briefly before who was very nice and we said hello and she introduced me to her friend and they were both very friendly and also seemed to know all about the fact that I had finished finals last week and everything and I was thinking, “hmm, she must read my blog.” Then, the next day I realized: “Holy inability to add two plus two, Batman! That was LawRah!” It is also possible that her friend was Idle Grasshopper, but for that I have basically no evidence. So my point here, if you haven't gathered, is that I am stoopid. And I also want to apologize to LawRah for being so clueless. Um, I get it now.

Posted 10:53 PM | Comments (2)

April 30, 2005

Obligatory Post-Finals Post

Hi. Finals are over. Aren't you all glad? No more finals whining! The following recaplet is just a few notes so that when I get my grades I can return to this post and remember why they are what they are.

To put it simply: Thursday was long. It started with closed-book CrimPro where I spent the first ten minutes basically dumping the essential parts of yesterday's post onto scratch paper. I then tackled the one essay and it seemed like things were going well. My braindump contained just about every case and bit of law I needed for the answer and my discussion felt fairly complete and well-cited. Then I hit the multiple choice (2/3 of the grade) and my game fell apart. My long comment on DG's blog explains more about why I was not prepared for the multiple choice, but the short story is that I just didn't study for the fine distinctions between only very subtly different possible answers. So that really really sucked. About half the 60 questions I felt fairly certain about; the other half? A mix of no clue and educated guessing. But hey, it's over, right?

I tried to study for the six hours between CrimPro and PR, but I didn't have a lot of luck. My brain was like rubber and any information I tried to throw at it just seemed to bounce right off. So the PR final was a scramble through notes, the ABA Model Rules, and the Restatement of Law Governing Lawyers. I'm sure I got about 50% of what each question was looking for, but I'm also fairly confident I missed at least one issue one each question b/c of my lack of familiarity w/all the rules. My big hope is that most everyone else did the same, but that's always the hope on a curve, isn't it?

But again, I'm done with finals, and I keep reminding myself that at this point done is better than done well. I'm finished worrying about it all. Now I have a relatively fun 30 pages to write for Feminist Legal Theory, and it looks like I will be learning more about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and similar state laws than I ever expected I would know. It's likely I'll be posting about that a bit more in the next few days.

Posted 10:21 PM | Comments (2)

April 28, 2005

Whined-Up Toy

I am a wind-up toy that whines.
Finals are my winding mechanism.
Wind me up and hear me whine.
I am a whined-up toy.

But my days are numbered.
That number is one.
Today I will wind down.
Or up. I can't tell. Oh well.

Actually, yesterday's Fed Cts. exam wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I didn't own it, exactly, but it tried to give me that “juris-my-diction crap,” so I shoved that up it's... whoops! Actually, I already have forgotten what was on that test. I've been busily filling my head with crim-pro for my closed book (no notes, no nothin') final. Here's a taste of what I'm trying to make sure I have in my head:

Katz = search. Aguillar-Spinelli and Gates = probable cause = fair probability. Watson for warrantless arrests. Gerstein hearings for people arrested w/out warrant--McLaughlin says the hearings must be w/in 48 hours or less to be “prompt.”

Terry for reasonable suspicion and stop and frisk. Mendenhall to distinguish stop from seizure via the “free to leave” test. Bostick for the free to decline officer's request or otherwise terminate the encounter. Hodari D for “free to leave” applied to suspects who run -- when cops show force, suspect much actually submit to the force before it becomes a seizure. Florida v. JL for rejection of the “firearms exception” to Terry. Cortez to help define reasonable suspicion as “fair possibility.”

Weaver saying that race can be a lawful factor in cops' decision to approach a suspect (racial profiling), but should not be the sole factor. Wardlow for running alone is not reasonable suspicion. Chimel for search incident to arrest of grab area w/in immediate control of suspect. Also Robinson. Whren for pretextual arrests for purpose of search are permissible.

Carrol doctrine for no need for warrant to search car if you have probable cause, including trunk. Acevedo for police can search any container in a car w/out a warrant so long as they have probable cause to believe it contains evidence of a crime.

Exigent circumstances that mean no warrant is required for S&S: hot pursuit, police and public safety, risk of destruction of evidence. See also Dorman factors for determining whether circs are exigent. Special needs exceptions to warrant requirement (if only purpose in search is law enforcement, no special need and warrant still required for): safety inspections of homes, administrative searches, drug testing of employees or school children, police checkpoints and roadblocks. Cady v. Dombrowski for inventory searches. Schneckloth for determining whether D's consent to search was voluntary (totality of circs). Drayton for burden of proving voluntariness is on gov't -- preponderance of evidence.

Weeks for creating exclusionary rule, Mapp for applying it to states. Leon for good faith exception to exclusionary rule. Rakas for establishing standing to challenge violation of 4th amendment right (using Katz test of legitimate expectation of privacy). Wong Sun for excluding evidence that is fruit of poisonous tree. Murray for independent source exception, Andrade for inevitable discovery exception.

Massiah for lawyer must be present once you're formally charged. Miranda for requiring police to give mini-lecture in crimpro upon arrest and before custodial interrogation. Elstad for no cat out of the bag exception. Dickerson for making Miranda “a constitutional decision” that Ct. will not overrule (b/c of stare decisis) and which Congress cannot overrule. Public safety exception to Miranda. Berkemer for Terry stops are non-custodial. Innis for it's interrogation if police should know it is reasonably likely to evoke an incriminating response from a suspect. To be valid Miranda waiver must be voluntary, knowing, and intelligent. Mosley for a cooling-off period gives cops second crack after suspect invokes right to silence. Edwards for per se rule if you invoke right to counsel, cops must leave you alone unless you initiate. Oregon v. Bradshaw for initiation means D indicates willingness and desire for generalized discussion about the investigation.

Powell v. Alabama for D in capital case has right to counsel. Gideon for right to counsel for indigents in all felony cases. Abersinger for extending right to counsel for anyone facing imprisonment.

Wade for identifying suspects -- impermissible suggestiveness can cause in-court ID to be excluded unless it's independent of tainted pre-trial ID. Manson v. Brathwaite for reliability is lynchpin of ID.

Whew. I have a lot of that in my head (and more detail about each point so I can talk intelligently about it), but not all of it. Once CrimPro is over, it's on to PR this evening, but that's open note so who cares?

See you when my finals are over when I hope to no longer be a whined up toy

Posted 06:55 AM | Comments (4)

April 27, 2005

Ridiculous Dilemma

Look! It's more of The Usual!

But specifically at this point, what really bums me out about this particular round of finals is that I think I could do pretty well if I didn't have to take all three exams in two days. Unlike last semester, this semester I went to class, I read (most of the time), I took good notes, I paid attention and I actually cared about the subject matter of these classes. All of those factors suggest I should do just fine on the finals, but that's looking really unlikely since I practically have to cram the material for all three classes into my head at the same time. And yeah, I know that for the bar exam you have to cram info for many more subjects into your head at the same time, but this isn't the bar exam. This is finals, and this finals schedule puts me at a disadvantage in the curve b/c the majority of my peers will not have had such a compressed study schedule. For the bar, everyone is basically in the same boat as far as having to cover so many subjects at once.

My professors and the GW administration tell me to suck it up. That's how things work at GW—you pick your classes and by doing so you pick your finals schedule. If your finals schedule blows, that's your own damn fault and your own tough luck. So add this to the list of reasons I'm less than satisfied with my law school experience at GW. If you're still choosing between law schools, consider one that does not force its students to make the ridiculous choice between either taking the classes they want, or having a sane finals schedule. The solution to this dilemma is to offer conflict exams, but that would just be too easy, wouldn't it?

Does any other school operate this way w/finals? Does yours?

Posted 06:22 AM | Comments (12)

April 25, 2005

Fed Courts Fu

Remember that moment in The Matrix when they're training Neo how to fight? At one point, supposedly after ten hours straight, he wakes up and looks at Morpheus and, somewhat shocked, he says “I know kung fu!”

I wish studying for law school finals was like that. I would love for someone to plug something into the back of my head that would allow me to wake up three minutes later and say “I know fed courts!”

Unfortunately, the matrix has me so I guess I'll just have to keep studying.

Posted 09:17 PM | Comments (3)

April 23, 2005

The Usual

Whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine. And whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine. However, whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine. Therefore, whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine whine.

So there.

Posted 07:27 AM | Comments (11)

April 21, 2005

Study Breaks

Classes are over and studying has begun. Here are a few things I've noticed on my, um, “breaks”:

  • There's a rumor running 'round that the new Dean of GW Law is going to be Richard D. Freer. I have absolutely no idea how reliable this information may be, but speculation is always fun.
  • The second edition of Blawg Review is up at Likelihood of Confusion. There's an incredible amount of great content linked there, so if you have some free time, check it out. I'd especially like to follow up sometime soon on some of the great links in the “Law Blog Anschluss” section about whether blawgs are going to replace law reviews as the best sources of legal scholarship and commentary. De Novo is also currently running a symposium on the topic of law review... [link via Ditzy Genius]
  • Monica at Buzzwords continues to make Alaska sound like paradise with a post about Moose Drills at the daycare center, the difference between a snowmobile and a snow machine, and “life in fishing villages and on isolated north pacific islands.” Oh, and if you don't believe Alaska is paradise, she's also got visual proof.
  • Blawg Wisdom has been updated with a link to a great post from Divine Angst about applying to law school as a non-traditional student and link to a new review of Should You Really Be A Lawyer?
  • Every single word written by the Public Defender Law Clerk is fascinating. Maybe I'll even be able to use some of these anecdotes in my crimpro final. (Don't laugh. It's a great way to rationalize reading blogs when I'm supposed to be studying.) Thanks to Luminous Void for the link.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I will return to my slow and methodical attempt to master the finer points of incorporation (um, for at least the third time in law school), retroactivity, and the 4th-6th Amendments.

Posted 02:21 PM

April 20, 2005

First Last Time?

It's hard to believe, but about eight hours from now I will never have another 2L class. I can't exactly say I'm sad about that. It's hard to believe, but there it is.

On Monday I was sitting in a line at the Financial Aid office talking w/some of the other people in the line about the whole process and one of them said, “well, at least this is the last time we have to apply for financial aid.” The 2Ls nodded and agreed that that was a good thing. Then, a few seconds later, the woman who had first made the comment seemed to realize what she'd just said. “This is my first last time!” she exclaimed.

And it's true, sort of. Technically, there are lots of “first last times” in law school: Your first last time to have a first class, your first last time to apply in the first place, etc. Still, it's nice to think I will never have to apply for law school financial aid again. I think. I mean, I might have to apply for a bar loan, but that's different. I will never have another 2L class. I will never have to wonder if I'm going to get a GW summer grant. What else? I'm sure there are more “last times” coming, and I look forward to them.

For now, it's that bittersweet time when it's thrilling to be done with classes, yet almost sad at the same time. I was especially sad to see Fed Courts and Crim Pro end yesterday. Both of them were great (if maddeningly difficult at times) classes taught by absolutely superb professors, and both of those professors offered parting words of advice at the end of the last class.

Prof Fed. Courts had two tips, which I paraphrase as follows:

  • True power lies in the ability to achieve a purpose. When you graduate from law school, you have power and privilege. You can help people, give a voice to people who would otherwise not be heard, to effect social change. I encourage you to think about how you want to use this power. Don't just make money; think about how you can use this power.
  • Don't ever stop being a student.
Excellent advice, I thought.

What Prof CrimPro had to say was also very memorable. He joked that one of the few ways he has to measure his success is in how confused he makes students about what they “really” think, so he judged the class successful b/c many students over the semester had come to him to say things like, “I thought I wanted to be a public defender but I don't know if I can defend these guilty people,” or “I thought I wanted to be a prosecutor but I don't know if I can prosecute these innocent people.”

But his overall message was that we, as lawyers (or future lawyers) are the guardians of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. “Be careful with our rights,” he said. And to paraphrase, he said: “What we have covered in this class are the rights that make us most free, those that define what it means to live in a free society. Some of them, and the debates about them, may be difficult to understand. Why should we protect the clearly guilty? But those of us who have faced power, and in its face felt lonely, or weak, or scared, perhaps we can understand. Imagine what it means to be suspected and prosecuted for a crime. Imagine United States v. You. W/out you the Bill of Rights is just a bunch of words on paper. With you, there's a chance that U.S. citizens can be both free and safe. Be careful, be brave, good luck.”

See, I told you these professors rocked.

Posted 09:03 AM | Comments (6)

April 19, 2005

Summer School!?

Speaking of money, GW gave me no funding this summer to help out as I work for free at the public defender's office. I was at first pretty miffed about this; I mean, if helping raise over $60k to support public interest law at GW doesn't qualify you for a summer grant, what will?

But then I thought, hey, there could be very good reasons I didn't get any money. For example, they gave me money last year, so maybe they want to spread it around a little, which is good. Also, maybe the committee could see that I'm already going to pursue a public interest career, regardless of whether they encourage me by giving me money, so it figured the money would be better spent encouraging someone else. Fine. That last is a slightly perverse rationale since it seems to punish people who demonstrate a real commitment to public interest, but whatever. I don't have any knowledge of how the committee made its decisions; these are just possible rationales that I thought of and they made me feel a little better as I fished in my wallet and found only lint. For all I know they simply looked at GPAs and filtered that way.

But like I said: Whatever. I have to pay the rent this summer, and the only way to get a loan for the summer is to take at least three credits, so hello summer school! I'm so excited to get to take a class or two while I work 40 hours/week this summer! That is so awesome!! I mean, wow! What could possibly be better!?!


Posted 09:08 AM | Comments (11)

April 17, 2005

Money Milestone

The deadline for financial aid applications at GW is tomorrow and, of course, I'm just getting around to filling everything out. There's a reason I put this off: Filling out all these forms forces me to face the fact that I have sold my soul. Exactly to whom or what I sold my soul, I'm not sure (did I have a meeting a couple of years ago with Satan, or was that just a dream?), but it certainly does not belong to me any longer.

For the record, today I officially owe the government and various banks just over $100,000. Yeah, that's six figures. Quite an achievement, don't you think? About 1/4 of that is not accruing interest at the moment; the rest grows like every day like some mutant spawn. Including that interest and what I will have to borrow in the coming year, the total should approach $150k before all is said and done. Cool.

You know those counters that show the national debt skyrocketing? I think someone needs to devise one of these for students so we can program in our loan amounts and interest rates and watch our debt grow. Yeah. And we can post these things on our blogs and show the world how poor stupid we are.

How much do you owe? Generally when you hear people bragging about money it's because they have some surplus of it, but hey, I'm all about making lemonade here. Shall we start a $100k and more club?

Posted 10:21 PM | Comments (13)

April 13, 2005

Prosecutors Not Playing Nice:

Instead of whining (or am I whinging?) about finals, I'll suggest you look at this new Objective Justice group blawg, which I'm sure I've mentioned before. Its editor is seeking some feedback about whether NY prosecutors are acting improperly in their prosecution of Republican Convention protesters. My take: Yeah, the “mistakes” by the prosecutors here look pretty intentional, but intentional or not, this is just another reason why our regime of “law and order” requires good defense attorneys with enough resources to do the investigation to reveal these prosecutorial or police “mistakes.” And speaking of defense attorneys, Arbitrary and Capricious has a great link to a private investigator's take on both prosecutors and defenders. Here's a taste:
There is a general reason why prosecutors are more accepted than defense attorneys. In general, Prosecutors wear the white hats: They stand for law and order; they represent the State; they prosecute the guilty-atleast most of the time; they are public servants; they are on the side of the truth and the angels. Defense attorneys, on the other hand, generally represent defendants guilty of some wrong doing. (Thank the creator for that! Would anyone want to live in a community where most of the defendants were innocent?)
Amen to that. In addition to the great bit Skelly pulled out, the rest of the PI's piece is absolutely worth reading. It helps explain why prosecutors can get away w/more “mistakes” than defenders can and concludes that:
by zealously defending their clients, guilty, innocent, or somewhere in between, [defense attorneys] help preserve a system of justice that only rarely convicts the innocent.
Preach on, brother.

Posted 09:03 AM | Comments (2)

Finals: Cake

I was told yesterday that I should not whine about finals anymore because it makes my fellow law students nervous. Sorry about that. I'm sure it won't be so bad. I mean, I haven't started studying and my first final is two weeks away and I have three finals in two days and I still have to do my taxes and file my FAFSA and see if I can find some money to pay the rent this summer. Oh, and I have a paper due next Monday, and a 2-hour presentation to give that day in Feminist Legal Theory, and another 30-page paper due for that class by May 1 or so. So really, I don't think there's anything to be concerned about, do you? ;-)

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (5)

April 10, 2005

Spring Finals Whine

Cherry blossoms are pretty. The end of semester is not. I want to go bike and be crazy. Yet here in the 'brary I rot. Finals, they loom like a nightmare. Yet reading is just such a chore! I pay for this “fun” that I can't bear, just so I can become a boor? Method there is in this madness? And how is that something you know? Just now I see only the badness, And how finals are going to blow!

Posted 05:47 PM | Comments (5)

April 08, 2005

EJF Auction: Ain't Sharing Grand?

Imagine the biggest classroom at your lawschool packed with over 200 people screaming, laughing, clapping, cheering, eating pizza, and drinking copious amounts of free beer. Now imagine some of your favorite faculty dressed up as characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” standing at the front of the room, and encouraging their students to bid hundreds of dollars on everything from a tour of the Supreme Court to shooting lessons with a professor. It was wild. It was woolly. It was the GW EJF Public Interest Auction and it was a smashing success. Thanks to the generosity of GW faculty and students, the EJF collected something over $30k yesterday, all of which will be disbursed in grants to probably around 10 students working non-paying, public interest legal jobs this summer. That may not sound like much to those of you at schools that routinely bring in twice that much at your public interest auctions, but it continues the tradition at GW of each auction doing better than the previous one, so it means we must be on the right track. Speaking of auctions that routinely bring in seriously big dollars, the Samples Collection points to Michigan's auction site, which includes a list of auction items. From a quick look at that list, I see one obvious difference between it and ours at GW: Michigan gets donations from firms, GW doesn't. Being a DC school means local firms routinely refuse to help us out in any way b/c if they give to us they'll feel obligated to give to Georgetown and American and UDC and Howard (all DC law schools). Or maybe they just give to G-town and give the rest of us the finger. I love the cover of the SFF's auction program; the whole thing is very polished and professional. It looks like MI gets more travel stuff -- flightseeing in Alaska, ranch visit in Nebraska, use of home in Nova Scotia, etc. We haven't had anything like that at GW in a couple of years. A few years back a generous prof donated a weekend at her beach house for 6 or 8 students; they apparently each brough 6-8 friends so there were 40-50 people there and they were all trashed for the entire weekend, pissed off the neighbors, and left the place half-destroyed. So that prof has never donated that item again and I think word has gotten around that GW students can't be trusted w/things like that. On a similar note, other profs are starting to put limits on their alcohol-related donations to make sure they don't get embarrassed by having to be at dinner in a nice restaurant with a group of completely drunk law students. Am I detecting a theme here that GW students aren't the most responsible drinkers? Continuing with the quick Michigan auction comparison: At GW we also have only one SCOTUS tour (we had it for the first time last year and got it again this year thanks to the incredible generosity of Prof Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy), while MI has a couple. I guess that's b/c MI has more people clerking for SCOTUS? Poker w/a prof is a good idea; we've tried to encourage this, but no prof has taken the plunge yet. Lunches or other meetings w/judges are a good idea; we don't get these, either, for some reason. Again, maybe part of the difference is that MI grads are better placed in clerkships or more alums are judges? I'm guessing MI also has a well-developed alumni outreach program that helps the auction bring in some of these kinds of items. My understanding of GW's alumni outreach is that it basically didn't exist until the last couple of years and since then it has tried to help a bit but so far that hasn't really paid off. The school administration also zealously tries to control any contact anyone related to the school makes with alumni or law firms b/c the administration wants to tap these people for donations to the school itself and fears that if they give to other things (like the auction), they'll give less to the school's general expenses. That's the message I've been given, anyway. Note to alums and firms: If you give to “GW Law School” generally, a huge portion of your gift might end up in the coffers of the university as a whole so the law school and law students may benefit little from that portion of your gift. If you give to the EJF everything you give goes directly to help students working in the public interest. The choice seems clear to me. ;-) Back to the comparison: Skydiving w/a prof!? Awesome. Boat rides on the great lakes? Cool, but we can't really do that in DC. Overall, GW auctions off a lot more “dinner and drinks w/a prof” or “pro sports event w/a prof” kinds of things than MI does, it looks like. We also auction shooting lessons w/a prof for 6 students, which generally goes over well, and a rather unique item we've had the last couple of years is “personalized sniper training for 4 students.” Yeah, weird, huh? Ironic that a DC law school would be doing something like this, but it brings in big dollars and it's all in the spirit of fun, so there you go. This little comparison reminds me: It would be great to provide a place for law school public interest groups around the country to have a place to share tips and ideas to make their auctions better. Gee, do I see yet another new blog in the future? ;-) If anyone wants to help get something like this going, BlawgCoop is ready to host....

Posted 09:50 AM | Comments (3)

April 07, 2005

GW EJF Auction Today!

When haven't been busy not reading and failing out of law school recently, I've been working behind the scenes to help ensure a successful EJF Public Interest Auction. The auction is today, and with 60 cases of beer, 150 large pizzas, costumes, a giant balloon rainbow, and gregarious faculty all set to entertain and auctioneer, it promises to be an absolutely awesome time. And that's not even mentioning some of the incredible donations on offer. I constantly complain about GW's support for public interest law, but I commend GW's faculty for stepping up at auction time to make this a real success. Thank you to all who have donated! See you at the auction! Note: Anyone can help support public interest at GW by donating via PayPal!

Posted 08:22 AM | Comments (3)

April 05, 2005

Cannot Read

I'm going to fail all my classes this semester. I seem to have developed an uncanny inability to read for any of my them. It's just not happening. I open books, I look at the pages, I close them again. Repeat. Nothing registers. It's like my brain is a bucket and it's full to the brim with caselaw and rules; I keep trying to pour more in but it just flows right back out and down the drain, so why bother trying to pour at all? Thus, this whole thing ends. The Imbroglio fails out of law school because he can no longer read. There's a poetry to that, don't you think? I have to run now and cringe though another class hoping my name does not pass the professor's lips. What good letters of recommendation? You mean, you have to convince professors you're hardworking and diligent and smart and capable in order to get good letters to get good jobs and clerkships? Damn! Why didn't someone tell me!? Oh yeah, they did. Ugh. The good news: Once I fail every class this semester at least I'll be spared the agony of a third and final year of this. But here's the worst part is: Law school doesn't really suck. A lot of this is very interesting material, but the bucket is just full. Or something. I don't know.

Posted 08:47 AM | Comments (9)

April 03, 2005

Crimlaw Clicks

Some great reads recently around the crimlaw blogs:
  • Congratulations to Indiana Public Defender who just won a sweet “Not Guilty” verdict at trial after the jury deliberated only 19 minutes! “I guess they needed some time to pick a foreman and use the restroom before they set my client free.” You gotta love that.
  • Courtroom 302, a new book about one Cook County, IL, courtroom and the U.S. criminal justice system generally, sounds like a great read. The review at that link was written by David Feige, who apparently has a book of his own called Indefensible coming out soon. His blog also looks terrific.
  • I'm A PD's When your guts are thoroughly hated is a riveting and candid voire dire vignette about how one “bad seed” can spoil the whole jury pool and possible responses an attorney might have when she sees this beginning to happen. It includes the following speech I'm A PD gives her clients before going into trial:
    Sit up straight, pay attention, take notes (or pretend to), and look confident.  You're the ice man, got it? Stay cool, I got your back. And if I don't, you won't catch me getting upset, you see? I'm cool, you're cool.  Innocent people don't get phased by every little thing. There are going to be 24 eyes on you at all times. If anyone throws you a look, you let me know. If there's anyone in there that doesn't feel you, you let me know. They're going to assume you're guilty, don't let that throw you. Let them look at you. You got nothing to hide, and they'll see they're looking at an innocent man. Ice man, okay?
    That's awesome, and the rest of the post is a must-read for law students planning to do any criminal defense trial work. I'm A PD sounds like a great attorney; her aggressive interior covered by a cool cucumber exterior reminds me a little of the attorney I worked with last summer. She posted this a couple of weeks ago ... I hope the trial went well.
  • Mike at Crime and Federalism links to this post about how to talk to a lawyer and adds a couple of extra points specific to talking to a criminal defender. Mike is also collecting recommendations for quality books and resources dealing with cross examination.
  • Gideon at a Public Defender wonders why the legal community gives so many awards for pro bono work.
    No one ever gives awards to the Legal Aid lawyer, or the countless hard-working public defenders. So what is it about the big corporate attorney who provides pro bono representation that is so special?
    Gideon says the post has no point, but the point is perfectly clear to me. This is like the larger professional version of the legal education bias I've been discussing in the comments here—it's as if the whole practice of law is designed to default to BigLaw, and if you do anything else (including pro bono work if your a BigLawyer), it's like you're doing something “special.” And yet, if you do this “special” non-BigLaw full time, you're somehow not special. But then, perhaps this is nothing to get too bent out of shape about. While BigLawyers get plaques and mentions in the trade press for their pro bono efforts, I doubt those “awards” are as satisfying as the rewards public defenders and legal aid lawyers get every day from their full time service in the public interest. You think?
  • Monica at Buzzwords sounds like she's still having a great time interning at a public defender's office in Alaska. She's so busy doing a trial by herself that she doesn't really have time to write about all her experiences, but that pretty much speaks for itself. Wow. Go Monica!

Posted 01:00 PM | Comments (1)

March 29, 2005

About Macs at GW and GW Generally

A reader has requested advice about using a Mac at GW (and attending GW generally). GW requires incoming students to have a laptop, and it all but orders them to buy one of two or three Dells with certain features. It explicitly states it does not support any other platform and will not provide any assistance whatsoever to anyone using anything other than a PC. If you choose to use a PC but not one of the recommended Dells, you'll still get some support, but not the full package (whatever that is). So it's basically a PC-only school, yet I've used a Mac there for the past two years, and I'm not the only one. So what's the deal? For anyone who is interested, here are the problems you will *definitely* encounter using a mac at GW: 1) You can't print to the network printers. PC users can print from anywhere in the school via the wireless network to printers located on the second floor (and maybe elsewhere; I don't pay attention since it doesn't work for me). To print anything, you'll have to email it to yourself, check your email on a school computer (there are two PC computer labs where you can always find an open computer), and print from there. I just bought a $125 laser printer and print everything at home except for emergencies when I do the above. Note: Both Lexis and Westlaw give students free printing from their services. This works fine on the mac. 2) You will feel very sad that your computer doesn't crash or freeze or just stop working every couple of weeks or months. You will not be on a first-name basis with the computer help desk -- you may not even know where it is (I don't). You will generally have far fewer things to bitch about so far as your computing goes, and law students really hate not having things to complain about. ;-) That's all I can think of, really. If you've got access to a PC laptop for taking finals, that's all you need. And if you're a relatively comfy mac user who is not phased by the above sort of printing issues or lack of access to a computer help-desk on a regular basis, etc., you'll be fine. If you're someone who maintains his/her own machine now and is going to be comfortable continuing to do so in the future even after you've become a suddenly helpless and pampered law student, you should be fine. Note also: GW tries to further scare you into buying a PC by mentioning that you'll be required to use special PC-only software for your 1L legal writing classes, but they've made this claim for two years now and so far they haven't started using that software and I've heard no further mention of it outside this computer policy rhetoric. My guess is they just throw that around as an extra threat to discourage people from ignoring their orders that you buy a Dell. Whatever. If anyone has other questions about GW, send them along and I will respond and ask any other GW people to respond as well. (That goes for the above, too—if you're a GW student, alum, or professor and have thoughts on computing at GW, please do share!) Generally, it's a fine school, lots of opportunities, some really great professors, good wireless access, sort of crap library but ok if you like old maze-like study environments (and some do), rank-focused, very intent on helping students become BigLawyers and get judicial clerkships, small but still very worthwhile clinical program, supposedly great IP and international human rights programs (I don't know, but that's what I hear), pretty sad public interest support but I'm told it's better than some other places, and....? That's all I can think of right now, so again, I open the floor to any GW peeps who might agree/disagree w/my assessments or have anything to add. I will thank you for explaining why GW is better than I think it is b/c regardless of what I think, I'm stuck here for another year so if you can help me appreciate it more, please do! (And that is not to say that I don't like the school or whatever, only that I think it leaves much to be desired...).

Posted 09:25 AM | Comments (15)

March 28, 2005

Springing On

Hi. Happy Easter, late. The past few days have been busily unbusy. Things have been happening, and they have not. First, congratulations to LH, the masterful planner of the GW EJF Race For Justice. She almost singlehandedly planned and pulled off a really great event that raised something like $1500 for GW's public interest law students, and she did this against a backdrop of lukewarm (at best) institutional support. In this, the race's second year, it had over 100 runners (up from around 50 last year), including a lot of community support. I talked to at least one law student from GULC who was thrilled to be supporting the EJF, even if it wasn't at her school. (That reminds me: If anyone from GULC is reading this, the GW EJF would be happy to work w/you to do a joint race or some other joint public interest fundraiser next year. Just let me know if you have any ideas or want to talk about it.) The fastest runner was a GW alum who came in at 16:56 for a long 5k (b/c of where we stopped and started, the race was longer than 5k, but I don't know how much longer). I can't even imagine such a pace. I finished in a rather sad 26:49, but I was pleased w/that since the last time I ran at all was probably last year at this time. Ok, so my time this year was a close to a minute slower than last year; that confirms what I already knew -- my level of fitness has declined in the last year. I hope to change that in the coming months. Maybe next year I can come in under 21 minutes? Or maybe not. Besides the race, the weekend was filled with family things as L's family came to town to celebrate Easter and see the sites. We attended a Capital Steps show that was absolutely hilarious. Part of it is coming soon to a radio near you, so check your local NPR station for broadcast times. (The Capital Steps would make an awesome podcast, but I bet they're worried about giving their material away in digital format that way since they also try to sell it on CD....). We also ate at Maggiano's Little Italy, which was excellent and highly recommended if you'd like a really good, really big meal and are prepared to pay somewhere around $30/person. That describes me almost never, but for special occasions, I'll certainly keep it in mind. In between the entertainment and the eating there were many games of pinochle and some rounds of Ratchet and Clank w/L's brother, all of which adds up to an Imbroglio who had a great weekend but who is woefully behind and bewildered by the fact that he actually has to be in a law school class in just over an hour. Do you ever put school so far out of your mind you can't even remember what you're supposed to be doing/learning/thinking about? I worry sometimes that I can do this so easily and so often; does it mean I don't really care about law school or becoming a lawyer? Whatever. Posting may continue to be sporadic for the coming weeks. The finals schedule is going to be three finals in two days in the first three days of the finals period, plus a 30-page paper that I haven't started at all, so I'm basically screwed for the next six weeks, not to mention the auction a week from Thursday. Yeah. Awesome. Oh, and it's raining hard outside. That just makes this Monday the best!

Posted 08:49 AM | Comments (8)

March 25, 2005

Sign up Now for the EJF 5K!

If you're going to be in DC this Saturday, March 26th, please plan to participate in the GW EJF Race for Justice 5K Run/Walk to benefit the GW Loan Reimbursement Assistance Program (LRAP). All proceeds will help enable GW law grads to work in the public interest by helping them pay back their law school loans. Sign up today! (Ed. Note: This entry has been post-dated so it will remain atop this page for the week. Oh, and because it's related and because it's so damned cool, check out the 2005 EJF Auction website, too!)

Posted 10:17 AM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2005

And There Is So Much Goodness

  • Guess who is going to be a DC Law Student In Court next year! The interview was great, the job is likely to be even better. Yeah, the imbroglio is very happy today. ;-)
  • Blawg Wisdom today features a request for wisdom on 2L scheduling. Please head on over and throw your two cents into the comments to help out a fellow law student!
  • Blonde Justice recently asked for stories about bad prosecutors and sparked a lively debate, which Woman of the Law joined with gusto here and here. Awesome stuff. And also, congratulations to Woman of the Law on her job offer!
  • Alaskablawg has an excellent post for law students and young lawyers explaining why lawyers might consider a career in criminal defense. I've been saving this because I wanted to write a more lengthy post about it, but since I have no idea when I'll have time for that, I'll just let it speak for itself.
  • Properwinston says the peeps behind Law School Can Be Different (LSCBD) are “just mildly confused and highly ignorant about jurisprudential matters.” He shows he knows everything about everything in his more detailed critique of the LSCBD problem statement. My initial thought after reading around Properwinston a bit is that one problem with the concept of false consciousness is that it encourages people to think they have true consciousness. Another is that pompous condescension does little to advance thinking or debate on any issue. And also, I think there are some points worth more attention buried in all that self-righteousness.
  • On the subject of LSCBD, Legal Sanity offers some helpful links and thoughts.
  • Objective Justice is a new group blawg “dedicated to the objective pursuit of justice in law, politics, economics, and culture.” I have no idea what that means, but it may have something to do w/the quote from Ayn Rand at the bottom of the page. The site also claims it wants “to create a resource for law students and the public to analyze issues that are socially devisive” and that it “is friendly to those of any ideology,” so you may want to check it out.
  • Heidi has a good post and lively discussion of the Schaivo situation, including a link to this great timeline of important developments in the case.
  • Um, John Edwards is podcasting. Does this mean I can't do it anymore?

Posted 08:13 AM | Comments (5)

March 23, 2005

Busted by the Cop

So I was all set to regale you with tales direct from the mouth of one of DC's finest after a cop visited my CrimPro class yesterday.... And it was good, let me tell you. Some of the things he said would either blow your mind or confirm some of your worst suspicions and stereotypes. And I'd love to tell you about it, but I'm going to be an ass and keep it to myself. ;-) But really, it was fascinating, but “off the record,” which I guess means I can't say anything more about it. Is this blog part of “the record?”

Posted 08:49 AM | Comments (4)

March 21, 2005

Questions for Cops

Tomorrow (March 22) a police officer will attend my crimpro class and Prof. CrimPro has promised we can ask Officer Friendly whatever we want and he will give an honest answer. So what do you want to know about cops? What have you always wanted to ask a cop but were afraid to ask? Post your questions in the comments ASAP and I'll try to ask all of them that come in before 11 a.m.

Posted 07:36 PM | Comments (3)

March 20, 2005

How Can Law School Be Different?

I linked to this a couple of weeks ago at Blawg Wisdom, but a group of 1Ls at GULC (including the Scoplaw and Swanno) have started a new site called Law School Can Be Different (LSCBD) as a way to maintain and advance a conversation they have been having about improving legal education so that it better serves both students and society. It's an awesome project and is definitely worth checking out. So far they have focused on a bit of the history of Section 3 at GULC, as well as where legal education stands today as far as they're concerned. I would like to see them expand this into a nationwide dialogue about the purposes of legal education and how more schools could learn from Section 3 and start thinking critically about their own curricula. I have suggested a nationwide conference on the subject. Let's make it in Spring '06, about this time next year, maybe during the Cherry Blossom Festival here in DC so that can be an added incentive for people to come. Invite law students and legal scholars from around the country, but especially try to get participation from those who have written extensively on the subject of reform in legal education. Next year could be the perfect time to do this since it would coincide w/the release of the first Equal Justice Works Guide to Public Interest Law Schools. Anyway, as I mentioned on the LSCBD discussion board, if you're interested in changing legal education, you might also be interested in this recent discussion at in which Stephen Friedman, the new Dean of Pace U. LS, talks about how he wants to change legal education. He says:
We need a powerfully different way of looking at what we're doing as law schools. What I'm talking about is a revolutionary notion. There is a lack of alignment between legal education and the needs of law firms. The legal world has changed. Firms are bigger, they have to train associates much longer, and law is becoming more specialized. We have to train our students to hit the ground running. What's fun about being a lawyer is being a lawyer -- not a first-year associate. The faster we bring students to being productive lawyers, the happier they'll be.
Yeah, let's align legal education more closely with the needs of firms. That'll be good for society. Right. Some of the other things Friedman says sound a little better. I'm thinking Mr. Friedman should be on the list of speakers at at the upcoming “Law School Can Be Different” conference? What do you think? UPDATE 03-21-05: I've been meaning to say something about this for a while, but on the subject of what's wrong w/law school and how it could/should be different, this critique of law school exams is very helpful. An excerpt:
And, of course, the key lawyering skills -- the ones that separate highly successful practitioners from mediocrities -- are barely taught in most law schools, outside the clinic, let alone tested: tenacity, diligence, thoroughness, collaboration, consultation, fact investigation, and, crucially, the willingness to admit error and start over from scratch. Those qualities will actually put you at a disadvantage on law school exams. Far better to rely on flashes of insight and an ability to write on the fly.
The rest of the article explains why the typical law school exam is flawed and goes on to denounce the MPRE and the multistate bar exam. Great stuff.

Posted 12:23 PM | Comments (6)

March 18, 2005

Defender Dilemmas: LSIC Interview

Ok, so here's the situation: You're a public defender and Petey is your client. He's charged with beating up his girlfriend and he comes to you and he says, “Hey man, I did it. She had it coming, man. But this is a rearrest parole violation and if I get convicted of this I'm going down for a long time so you gotta get me off, man. Ok?” What do you do? It gets better. Petey quickly changes his story. “I didn't do it, man.” But you just said you did, Petey. “Well, um, she started it.” Really? “Yeah, and my cousin was there and he saw the whole thing. Ask him, he'll tell you—she started it, she hit me first.” So will your cousin testify to that? “Sure, but here's what you do. When you go talk to him, don't ask him what happened, just tell him what I said—that he saw the whole thing and she started it. He'll agree, because he was there.” What do you do? Or here's another good one: Your client (not Petey this time, let's call him Jake) comes to you on a misdemeanor and you ask him about his record and he says he's got a rap sheet a mile long and starts listing off offense after offense for which he's been convicted and done time in the relatively recent past. It sounds pretty bad. But then you get discovery from the prosecutor and Jake's rap sheet is blank—it shows none of what Jake mentioned. What do you do? I had an interview with DC Law Students In Court (LSIC) yesterday and these were the kinds of things we talked about for half an hour. It was awesome! I don't know if I had all the “right” answers (or if there are “right” answers to questions like these), but it was great talking to two attorneys who face choices like this all the time and have experience weighing the pros and cons, advising clients, cutting through the BS when necessary, interviewing possible witnesses, gathering other evidence, etc. It was like an adrenaline injection and a breath of fresh air. These guys didn't assume I was just biding my time until I could get a firm job or looking for a credential to get me ahead somewhere else—they didn't care about any of that. What they cared about is how I would handle hostile client situations, tricky fact patterns, and tough choices. It also made me more impatient than ever to get back to work at the PD's office this summer. I can't wait until May! Is this what I want to do? Um, yeah. LSIC will announce decisions about who made it into the clinic next Wednesday. You can bet I'll be waiting by the phone.... About LSIC, see also:
  • GW's description of the clinic (scroll to the bottom).
  • A recent WaPo story about a $2 million award the clinic received thanks to past litigation against Comcast, including more information about what the clinic is and what it does.
  • The DC Bar's coverage of the same thing.

Posted 08:09 AM | Comments (14)

March 17, 2005

FYI: Equal Justice Works Summer Corps

If you're a law student working a public interest job this summer, you might want to apply for an Equal Justice Works Summer Corps grant, which provides $1000 for your education expenses. If you're interested, you should apply today because it's kind of a first-come, first-served thing, so long as your job qualifies. A qualifying job would be a civil rights job, legal aid or some other direct service to indigent clients on the civil side. Last year they gave grants to people working for public defenders, but they've changed the rules this year so those jobs no longer qualify.

Posted 07:03 AM

March 16, 2005

Oh, But Don't Forget Rasul

In my haste to commend Scalia for his dissent in Hamdi (yesterday), I nearly forgot his typically hyperbolic and melodramatic dissent in Rasul v. Bush, 124 S. Ct. 2686 (2004). There, the majority decided that the D.C. District Court had jurisdiction to hear habeas petitions from Guantanamo prisoners, and Scalia lamented that the Court had taken the “breathtaking” step of “extend[ing] the scope of the habeas statute to the four corners of the earth,” and added that this was “judicial adventurism of the worst sort.” Um, Nino? How can you square this melodrama with your dissent in Hamdi? If “[t]he very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive,” then what happens to that core of liberty when you make it depend on citizenship and geography? If the Executive can arbitrarily detain noncitizens abroad (and especially in territory over which the U.S. exercises almost complete control if not “ultimate sovereignty”) and deprive them of even basic due process, doesn't that make a mockery of the “liberty” we enjoy here in the U.S.? Sounds pretty hollow to me. Scalia's dissent in Hamdi makes a forceful case that “the Great Writ” ought not be simply a Constitutional right or an “Anglo-Saxon” right, but a human right, a basic core element of civilized society. And while it would probably be too much for the U.S. to try to force other countries to institute a common habeas regime, it's not too much to ask that the U.S. conduct itself in the world consistent with the idea that the very core of human liberty is freedom from indefinite and arbitrary imprisonment at the will of any U.S. authority, regardless of whether you're a U.S. citizen, an Iraqi belligerent, a suspected terrorist, or what have you. If we can arbitrarily imprison whomever we want, wherever we want, for as long as we want, w/out so much as giving them notice of why they're being imprisoned or allowing them to challenge their imprisonment, we become terrorists ourselves and everything else we do to secure “liberty” in the world will ring with the hollowness of hypocrisy. Yes, I understand that “war” creates special necessities and we should make allowances for the Executive to use its judgment there to some extent, but indefinite imprisonment with no process? No. Never justified. Never ever. Not by U.S. authority, not here on U.S. soil, not in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, not on the moon. I also think Scalia willfully misunderstands 28 USC §2241(a) and §2242 in reading them to limit federal habeas jurisdiction to territory that falls within the geographical bounds of an existing federal district court. You can read §2242 that way, but doing so would make it inconsistent w/§2241(a), which Scalia just plain misinterprets as the basis for his Rasul ranting. And yeah, I know what a joke it is for me, a second year law student, to be scolding Scalia about his statutory interpretation, but hey, when the man is wrong, he's just wrong. ;-) On the subject of habeas, see also Three Generations where “holmes” notes that a Connecticut court actually granted a habeas petition recently.

Posted 07:30 AM

March 15, 2005

Fie on “War Powers” & Why Fed Courts, um, Sort of Rocks

Getting back in the groove of this law school thing after spring break, I just read the opinion in Padilla v. Hanft (PDF), the South Carolina District Court decision which came down about two weeks ago and held “that the Bush administration lacks statutory and constitutional authority to indefinitely imprison without criminal charges a U.S. citizen who was designated an 'enemy combatant.'” It's a great opinion because it's short, clear, well-organized, and it chooses positions on the law with which I can mostly agree.* In a great moment, it quotes this memorable bit from Ex parte Milligan, the case that held that where U.S. courts are open and their process unobstructed, a U.S. citizen cannot be tried by a military tribunal:
The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence.
Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall) 2, 120-21 (1866). I love that bit. Thank you Judge Henry F. Floyd, for striking a blow for sanity in a time of mostly madness. On this note, I must confess that, despite my consistent criticism of his writing and the position he takes, even I was moved to read Scalia's dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 124 S. Ct. 2633 (2004). There, Scalia also struck many blows for sanity in habeas jurisprudence, including the following statement of the significance of “the great writ”:
 The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive. . . . The gist of the Due Process Clause, as understood at the founding and since, was to force the Government to follow those common-law procedures traditionally deemed necessary before depriving a person of life, liberty, or property. When a citizen was deprived of liberty because of alleged criminal conduct, those procedures typically required committal by a magistrate followed by indictment and trial. * * * To be sure, certain types of permissible noncriminal detention--that is, those not dependent upon the contention that the citizen had committed a criminal act--did not require the protections of criminal procedure. However, these fell into a limited number of well-recognized exceptions--civil commitment of the mentally ill, for example, and temporary detention in quarantine of the infectious. It is unthinkable that the Executive could render otherwise criminal grounds for detention noncriminal merely by disclaiming an intent to prosecute, or by asserting that it was incapacitating dangerous offenders rather than punishing wrongdoing.
Hamdi at 2661-62 (internal citations omitted). Developments in federal habeas law in the past decade (at least since the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996) should be very very troubling to all Americans, and they might be if anyone knew about or understood them. Despite the vitriol I so enjoy heaping on Federal Courts, I also love that class for teaching me about this and making me read this stuff. Don't get me wrong; I still think the material of Fed Courts is immensely frustrating because, as I commented here, “it's the human condition bashing its head against illusory ideals of truth, justice, and the American way.” Yet, I do appreciate the value and necessity of that head-bashing, and it's reassuring and gratifying to see that, at least sometimes, the result is a decision like Padilla (this most recent decision, not the one by the SCOTUS last year which was maddening!) that really does make sense.** * It would be more confident for me to declare that Padilla is “right” on the law, but that seems foolhardy since the law here is so malleable and even contradictory at times. Law school and the exigencies of practice tend to encourage lawyers to use such language—“this is right, that is wrong”—because they want to sound certain about their arguments for the benefit of their clients. This, in turn, makes the law seem more concrete and clear than it ever actually is. It also, I'm afraid, also tends to encourage categorical statements of truth from lawyers, like those I bemoaned here about some advice from an attorney about law review. The desire for certainty, for absolutes in the law, is understandable, but its effects are sometimes pernicious. ** I reserve the right to withdraw any positive statements I've ever made about Fed Courts as soon as finals arrives. Judging by the panic and newfound dedication the class has inspired in the heart of Energy Spatula, it's only a matter of time before I, too, will be denouncing this class as the bane of my existence.

Posted 07:29 AM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2005

Break Over

After a week of blissfully doing just about nothing (shh! don't tell!), spring break is effectively over and I now have 1.5 days to do all the work I should have done in the past week. The past two nights I've been awakened in the early morning with a thought of something I need to do and a rush of adrenaline from the fear that I won't have time to get it done. Anxiety is lovely. Before I put my nose to the grindstone, a couple of things:
  • Congratulations to my friend Jose, who is getting married!
  • Congratulations to Monica of Buzzwords, who has just started a new internship at a public defender's office in Alaska. It sounds sublime.
  • Best wishes to Energy Spatula, who, thanks to the beautiful quarter system, is currently in the midst of finals. I don't envy her, and yet I do; I'm ready for finals now. In my mind, this semester should be so over, but I have something like five weeks to go...
  • Check out Coalition for Darfur, where “A Southern conservative and a Northern liberal have teamed up to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan and money for a worthy organization doing vital work there: Save the Children.”
  • On a lighter and yet also somewhat metaphysical note, see things that happened on a recent day for second person singular. That sounds like a full, but really rather fun day. I think I need to get out more. No. I know I need to get out more.
CrimPro, here I come....

Posted 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

March 09, 2005

BigLaw Review, Or Why I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love LittleLaw

Now that the GW journal competition is over (it officially ended at 8 p.m. Monday night), I send my congratulations to those who competed. You probably now know more than most people about sex offender registries and you've produced a small piece of what's probably some very good legal writing. Regardless of what you learn in July about being on a journal, you should feel good about what you've done just by completing the thing. In that spirit, I also wanted to comment on the comments generated by this post from late last week. To summarize, a GW 1L had written asking for advice on the journal competition. I offered my two cents, including a few words about how someone might choose which journals to rank highest in their “preferences” list. Self-described BigLaw senior associate and GW alum David Kaufman wrote in to say:
I (and keep in mind this is one BigLaw lawyer talking) couldn't care less if you were on an irrelevant journal or not, if it's not Law Review. So if you're interested in Gvt Contracts, I'd go for that journal over “realistic” ranking, because I don't much care about journals that aren't Law Review to begin with, but being on a relevant journal to the field you're interested in getting into would help you. If that's not clear, let me know.
He later clarified a bit and Professor Yin and Energy Spatula added some helpful perspective. What I wanted to add is that this is a perfect example of why BigLaw is so not for me. My experience has been that Duncan Kennedy was absolutely correct when he described legal education as training for hierarchy (in an essay by that name), and this discussion about law review v. other journals v. no journal at all is a perfect example of how that training works. Law school is very good at teaching students to think in high stakes, either/or terms about their career choices. It begins with taking the LSAT and applying for schools, where the conventional wisdom is that you must have the highest scores you can possibly get and you must attend the highest-ranked school to which you can gain admission—otherwise, you might as well not go at all. The training continues in the first year with the myriad competitions where you either win and receive congratulations and accolades, or lose and retreat to your outlines to ponder whether you're really good enough or smart enough or whatever to make it in this racket. And, of course, the training goes on throughout school, with still more competitions, ruthless grading curves, and the constant cycle of interviews and job-seeking that sorts people into the best—and everyone else. Isn't that what the “law review or nothing” mantra means? These lessons of all or nothing hierarchy are drilled into most 0Ls to such an extent that they often make foolish choices and end up in programs that don't fit them as individuals and which do not serve their career goals. But quickly they learn that, whatever goals they may have had when they started applying to law school, the only legitimate goal of any self-respecting law student—nay, the only possible goal if they do not want to live a life of shame and poverty, or worse—is to scrap and scrape for every little “distinction” that will earn them a coveted spot w/in the miserable and too often morally questionable corridors of “BigLaw” where they can help perpetuate the dispiriting cycle for the generations to follow. As I've said before, Kennedy's essay is well worth reading in its entirety, but his comments on the firm hiring process are especially relevant to this point. He writes:
The final touch that completes the picture of law school as training for professional hierarchy is the recruitment process. As each firm, with the tacit or enthusiastically overt participation of the law schools, puts on a conspicuous display of its relative status within the profession, the profession as a whole affirms and celebrates its hierarchical values and the rewards they bring. This process is most powerful for students who go through the elaborate procedures of firms in the top half of the profession. These include, nowadays, first-year summer jobs, dozens of interviews, second-year summer jobs, more interviews etc., etc. This system allows law firms to get a social sense of applicants, a sense of how they will contribute to the nonlegal image of the firm and to the internal system of deference and affiliation. It allows firms to convey to students the extraordinary opulence of the life they offer, adding the allure of free travel, expense-account meals, fancy hotel suites and parties at country clubs to the simple message of money.   . . .   By dangling the bait, making clear the rules of the game, and then subjecting almost everyone to intense anxiety about their acceptability, firms structure entry into the profession so as to maximise acceptance of hierarchy. . . . If you feel you’ve succeeded, you're forever grateful, and you have a vested interest. If you feel you've failed, you blame yourself. When you get to be the hiring partner, you'll have a visceral understanding of what's at stake, but by then it will be hard even to imagine why someone might want to change it.   Inasmuch as these hierarchies are generational, they are easier to take than those baldly reflective of race, sex or class. You, too, will one day be a senior partner and, who knows, maybe even a judge; you will have mentees and be the object of the rage and longing of those coming up behind you. Training for subservience is learning for domination as well. Nothing could be more natural and, if you've served your time, nothing more fair than to do as you have been done to.
As Energy Spatula pointed out well, it's not only students who are poorly served by the myopic mentality of this legal hierarchy, but the profession itself suffers because BigLaw employers too often hire based merely on the “numbers” and credentials, without looking at the individual characteristics that might make a prospective associate a real asset to the firm. She writes:
My point, as always, is that if law firms hired according to other factors, such as demonstrated practical skills, experience with high-pressure work situations/past career experience, interviews that weren't just grade screening sessions, etc., perhaps there wouldn't be big firms whining on about how Gen Y doesn't have any work ethic and no one wants to work hard anymore. I *always* advocate for individualistic hiring practices based on some kind of interview that is more than perfunctory and that establishes a rapport between interviewer and interviewee where interviewer gets an actual glimpse of whether interviewee might be a valuable asset to the organization. I could write a book on my terrible law firm interviews...stupid questions, interviewers that hadn't read my resume, interviewers that totally depended on me to push the interview along, firms that told me, point blank, that I was lucky to even get an interview with them because my grades aren't perfect and then just sat and stared at me for five minutes...waiting for my gushing thanks no doubt. We joke all the time in school about how law schools push for diversity in admitting students and then spend three years making us all the same...and unfortunately, “the same” that they're making us is someone no one wants to work with and who is hired based on things like law review and grades, which, while important, are not Important.
This, in turn, damages society because it produces a cadre of professionals who have never learned what it means to be a “counsellor at law” or a guardian of liberty because they've been too busy gunning for the illusory golden ring and making sure everyone who follows in their footsteps has to pay the same exorbitant price they paid for the privilege. It's sad, really, and I want as little to do with it as possible. Of course, I'm absolutely certain that there are happy, well-adjusted, kind and humane people working in BigLaw (I know a few of them); it's not satan's own playground, by any means, and I applaud those who recognize that the system is badly in need of change and are trying to do something about it. Still, evidence abounds that the BigLaw hierarchical model is still going strong at all levels of the legal profession. See, for example, the recent discussion on many blawgs about whether it's necessary to attend a top-10 law school to become a law professor. E.g. Preaching to the Perverted here and here (including links to other voices in that discussion). Again, the brutal hierarchy perpetuates itself. Is there some hope in the news that “Gen Y” lawyers are balking at the hierarchy's demands? Perhaps. At the very least, it's sparked some terrific discussion, including this giant comment thread at the Volokh Conspiracy. (See also: Thoughts from Anthony Rickey.) However, reading around that discussion only adds to my cynicism about BigLaw. First, I agree with this comment that much of this could just be normal generational squabbling; in about 1993 I wrote an article for my college magazine about those slacker Gen-Xers, and now it appears I could write the same thing about Generation Y. Another commenter puts it this way:
So to those who think they have sussed out something new: not quite. We all billed over 2000 hours back in the day, and I hit 2400 most years. We neither expected nor received loyalty from the firm (although it was rare for an associate to be shafted by a partner - why bother?). We knew even then that the big money was on the client side, but most of us lacked the social skills to thrive in a more entrepreneurial environment. And like today's associates, Generation Schmuck paid a price for our work that was measured in more than foregone vacations: plenty of marriages (my own included) did not survive our law firm tenure.
That's a great comment because it captures the bitterness and resentment of those who have spent their lives trying to rise in the hierarchy. That bitterness and resentment destroys any empathy these battered practitioners may have once had for those following in their footsteps, leaving them, again, with the pyrrhic satisfaction of being able to make sure their successors pay the same high price they paid for their misery. As Kennedy puts it, “[n]othing could be more natural and, if you've served your time, nothing more fair than to do as you have been done to.” If that's not enough, this discussion also offers little hope that anything is changing because it simply reinforces the fact that the legal “profession” has become nothing more than the pursuit of profit for a large and unfortunately influential swath of practitioners. (See, e.g., this complaint that $120k/year really isn't a very big salary.) Perhaps this is the logical endpoint of the hierarchy—like the proverbial snake it begins to eat its own tail. As Kennedy writes, “[t]raining for subservience is learning for domination as well.” Or perhaps not; perhaps what's at work with these “gen-Y” associates is not that they are becoming “rational actors” in the self-serving sense of pursuing their own profit at any cost, but that they are realizing that there's more to life than billable hours and climbing a ladder that may very well lead only to more rungs. For their sakes, and for the sake of society, I hope so.

Posted 08:05 AM | Comments (5)

March 07, 2005

Happy Birthday, Denise!

Denise of Life, Law, Gender turns 50! today and all she wants for her birthday is a comment from you. Get thee to her comments window, friends! And if you want to add some fun, send your wishes in a language other than English. I chose Finnish since I have some (minimal) connections to that language and because it's so different from English. The Danish sounds fun, too, though.

Posted 11:41 AM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2005

Advice To Law Schools: PI-LRW Sections

I guest-posted today on Notes from the (Legal) Underground. Briefly, the piece argues that law schools could easily boost their support for public interest legal education by filling a small section of their 1L writing programs with public interest students and teachers. Thanks to Evan Schaeffer for graciously providing the forum for the piece. Please comment here or there with any thoughts you might have on the specific idea or on public interest legal education in general.

Posted 09:02 AM | Comments (1)

February 28, 2005

Wexis the Pusher

Still working on the “Wexis is Evil” paper and I ran across this great bit from this recent story in the DC Bar magazine:
And the new users who were entering the system—new associates—were already the focus of a massive marketing effort by LexisNexis and Thomson West that began in law school. The legal research giants spend millions every year providing free access to their services, countless hours of training, and unlimited printing to law school students. Add a hip tchotchke or two, and it might be possible to engender brand loyalty for life. “It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say they’re very much like drug dealers,” says Tanya Thomas, a lawyer and law librarian at Spiegel & McDiarmid. “They get you hooked so you don’t know how to do the research any other way.”
How are those Wexis points treating you today? How snazzy is that new insulated coffee mug? Hey look, did you know you can look up criminal records for people you know? Have another hit, kids, it's all part of the massive inflation of costs in the legal profession, starting with law school and permeating every little inch of the field. Addictive schmaddictive! That's why you're going to take that BigLaw job and sell your soul to the highest bidder, remember?

Posted 02:05 PM | Comments (9)

February 27, 2005

Didn't Wouldn't Couldn't Don't Won't Phooey!

As I work on this paper, I'm reminded: The prohibition against contractions in legal writing is as pretentiously ridiculous and meaningless as is the attempt to make a serious distinction between “lawyer” and “attorney.” To quote tph:
People. Get over yourselves.
See also tph's followup on the lawyer/attorney distinction, emphasizing the counseling aspect of legal practice. Excellent points. Why don't law professors talk like this more often?

Posted 08:29 PM | Comments (1)

February 26, 2005

Wexis Data, Anyone?

Since I know you're all full of knowledge on all kinds of crazy topics, I have another question for you: I'm writing a journal article (due very very soon) that basically argues that Westlaw/Lexis should be freely available to all, both as a matter of copyright law and public policy. (I recognize that this is quixotic, but I think it's worth making the argument, anyway.) Do you know of any anecdotal or statistical evidence that the cost of online legal research is a burden on solo practitioners, legal aid attorneys, or public defenders? I'm especially interested in any evidence that the cost of legal research can actually affect legal outcomes (e.g., cases where a solo or public defender lost a case b/c he/she was outgunned in the research dept.). If you have stories about this kind of thing yourself, or if you know where I could find this kind of information, please let me know. Um, ASAP. ;-) Thanks! p.s.: Also, if you have any thoughts on the topic generally, I'd certainly be interested in hearing those, as well. Do you see any legal or public policy arguments for/against the current scheme of for-profit legal research?

Posted 02:44 PM | Comments (6)

2L Summer Job Update

Thanks to everyone who threw in their two or twenty cents in response to my question about the 2L summer job. You all gave me a lot to think about and I was able to make the decision feeling confident I'd considered nearly all angles. The decision? I took the job with the PD office where I worked last summer. Although in an ideal world I would be able to get experience with a different PD's office this summer, I think this was the right choice for several reasons:
  1. I know the office and the people and they know me so I can hit the ground running and get more experience and responsibility, hopefully making it into court representing misdemeanor defendents on my own all the sooner.
  2. It's getting a bit late to be looking for summer jobs around here and the GW summer stipend deadline is approaching, so it seemed better to take a job where I knew I'd get good experience rather than holding out for a hypothetical job I might not even get and which might not give me the same level of experience even if I did get it.
  3. While I almost certainly could have found another good PD job somewhere for the summer, I live with my girlfriend and my dog and I'd really rather not leave them for the summer, not to mention the added expense and hassle of doing so.
  4. I'm currently in a civil law clinic and plan to take at least one crimlaw clinic next fall, plus I've been working for a civil law nonprofit for the past six months, so I'll end up with lots of diverse experience, despite working in the same office for two summers.
  5. The next several weeks are going to be busy enough; it will be nice to be relieved of the worry of whether I'm going to have a good job this summer.
There are probably other things I'm forgetting, but that's the gist of it. The decision was complicated a bit by a really great interview with excellent people at the crimlaw policy nonprofit, as well as by a callback from another crimlaw policy place with which I also interviewed a couple of weeks ago. In the end, I realized that, while I do hope someday to work on the policy aspect of criminal justice, right now I feel compelled to work directly with people and do what I can on that level. Again, I thank everyone for helping me consider the options here, which special thanks to Blonde Justice and Arbitrary and Capricious who generously shared their first-hand perspectives. I'll definitely keep you posted on whether this turns out to be the right decision...

Posted 02:32 PM | Comments (5)

February 22, 2005

2L Summer Job Question

One year ago at this time I faced a dilemma about what to do for my 1L summer. Several of you, my kind readers, offered advice that proved invaluable—you said work for the public defender, I did, I loved it, and now I'm planning to make that my career. With that in mind, the time has come to make another career/summer job decision, and once more I seek your advice. Here's the situation: I worked last summer for a great PD's office where I had a great experience and learned an incredible amount about being a PD. It's a small office (only about a dozen attorneys) in a medium-sized city. I'm thrilled that they have asked me to return this summer, and I'd love to do so. But my question is this: Should I go back to the same PD office I worked in last year, or will that look bad to future public defender employers? The benefits of going back to the same job are that I know them and how things work in the office so I should be able to help them out more and get more responsibility in return. The office is also in a jurisdiction that allows 2Ls to get a “second year practice certificate” so I could represent misdemeanor defendants in court (w/a licensed attorney present and ready to step in at any moment if I start to screw up). Also, returning to the same job should send a message to future employers that I did well there, they liked my work, which seems like a good message to send. So basically, it would be an awesome opportunity that would give me some really good experience. The drawbacks I see are simply that if I return to the same job, my only real knowledge of being a PD will come from this one office and it just seems like it might be a good idea to see how another office does things. What do you think? If you were looking at hiring a new PD, would it matter whether the candidate had spent two summers in the same PD office, or would that make no difference? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated. (Please feel free to throw in your two cents even if you're not a PD yourself or never have been. I'm just trying to make sure I see all the angles here.) Thanks!

Posted 08:51 AM | Comments (16)

February 16, 2005

Overloaded Update

I'm in law school, although you may not always be able to tell from the content here. Often, I talk about anything but law school, which is because I often think about anything but law school, and I sometimes wonder if I should take that as a sign: Is this really something I should be doing if I'd so often spend my time doing something else? But school is not practice, so I dismiss the question. In my spare time (what's that?) I'm trying to read Should You Really Be A Lawyer?. Perhaps that should be filed in the “better late than never category,” but I do wish I'd read this book before taking on somewhere near $100k in debt.* To those of you who are going crazy with anxiety before even starting law school, I say: Go buy this book or check it out from your local library. Read it. Challenge yourself to give it the time and real consideration it suggests you devote to the question of its title. You'll be glad you did, and this will be an excellent use of this interstice between applying and actually going to law school. And why would you want to take this decision very seriously, even if you're already at the point where you've applied or even accepted admission somewhere and already feel pretty committed to going? Well, for one thing, law school can suck. But wait, this isn't supposed to be a big fat advice post. No, this is a big fat whining post. Or just an “oh my gosh I've been busy recently” post. Last weekend alone I had interviews on Saturday (they went well, it seemed), I had to pretend to judge a “client counseling” competition for the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Board,** and I had to complete an “editorial competition” in an attempt to become some sort of editor on the journal next year. It was a busy weekend. Today I have three different interviews to become a “Dean's Fellow,” which is what GW calls the group of 20 or 30? 3Ls who help teach a small section of the first year writing and research course. This weekend I have to finish the second draft of my “note” for the journal, and although I never quite got around to posting what the editors thought of the first draft, I vaguely recall their comments ranging from, “What's the point?” to “This would never work.” So, yeah, still a bit of work to do there. Meanwhile, I'm about 60 pages behind in every class (1-2 assignments), which is actually about the most caught up I think I've ever been at this point in a law school semester, so that's kind of a bright spot, actually. Another bright spot: I got a call-back from one of the employers I interviewed w/last Saturday so I've got interview #2 coming up. It would be an awesome job (the more I think about it, the more I like it), and, if they offered me a job in the next month I may qualify for a GW summer subsidy, so that would be nice. Oh, and did I mention that we're currently days away from a 3-day weekend? It's true. As part of our v-day celebrations, L. was kind enough to give me Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando for the PS2 that has been gathering dust on a dark shelf of our entertainment center for, oh, about the last 18 months or more. Will this 3-day weekend include at least a teeny bit of PS2 time? Um yeah, I think so. (Yes, Ratchet & Clank is kind of a kiddie's game, but I'm kind of kiddie player; I haven't even made it through the first one yet—I gave up at a tough spot after playing the same screens for days. Oh, and I started law school and didn't have time to fight the evil robots and fight for truth and justice and the American way all at once. Now that I see that truth and justice are basically dead and I no longer understand “the American way,” I'd really rather play Playstation.) (I'm kidding about the truth, justice, American way part. Really.) * Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and will review it in full as soon as I finish it. From what I've read so far, it's worth the price of admission even if I'd had to pay for it—at least for me—but you should know that that opinion is so far based on just a brief skim of the whole book and a close reading of only the first chapter. ** Congrats to all who made the Board; I saw three very professional and polished teams. I hope if you competed you saw the humor in seeing 250 law students (mostly 1Ls) running around dressed up in dark suits and carrying pleather portfolios and bottles of water for their clients. Someone remarked that it looked like GW was holding mass funerals over the weekend b/c of all the dark suits (both for the ADR competition and the job fair.) Incidentally, I was shocked almost speechless by the 1Ls who actually gave their clients four-color business cards; I guess the student government's business card sale last fall was pretty popular with the 1Ls. Scary. I know, I shouldn't be scared of 1Ls with business cards that say “Juris Doctor Candidate” or whatever, but um, I am. Please keep your crazy cards to yourselves, thanks.

Posted 08:31 AM | Comments (18)

February 09, 2005

Stay Tuned...

I've got to prepare for class (reading Hart and Wechsler's!) so no time for a real post, but come back later today for a special treat—a guest post from a legendary blawgger! Oh, and on the Hart & Wechsler's, I feel compelled to clarify that I understand many of the questions are not intended in the least to be anything other than questions. Much of the material the book covers involves legal issues to which there really are no “correct” answers, so the book is attempting to raise the issues and get readers to think for themselves. That said, I still think it's a crap approach b/c the authors certainly have opinions about the issues they raise. I'd prefer they state their positions, then discuss competing views as thoroughly and fairly as they can. The pretend neutrality they attempt to achieve through the questions is disingenuous and a little bit condescending, as if the authors thought readers would just blindly follow their positions on these issues if they (the authors) were more honest and straightforward about what those positions were. Wait, didn't I say I had reading to do? More later....

Posted 07:50 AM | Comments (3)

February 08, 2005

Reading Hart and Wechsler's

If you're in law school and you take a course with a name like “Federal Courts” or “Federal Jurisdiction,” chances are probably 100% you'll either use or hear a lot of references to a text that was originally written by Henry Hart and Herbert Wechsler and first published in 1953 (at least that's the earliest publication date listed in my 5th edition). Many people find this book maddening, because it asks as many questions as it answers. However, after reading several hundred pages, I've learned a trick: If you read most of the questions as statements instead of questions, then it's really much more clear. For example, H&W will often write something like: “Haven't courts recognized a power to enforce executive compliance with statutory duties since Marbury v. Madison?” That looks like a question, but it's not. What that really says is: “Courts have recognized a power to enforce executive compliance with statutory duties since Marbury v. Madison! (Duh.)” Do you think most of the questions are really statements? Would you be likely to enjoy reading a book written like this? Is writing in questions a sign of intelligence or a good way to teach, or is it just really, really asinine?

Posted 07:11 AM | Comments (6)

February 04, 2005

Margin Notes to the SCOTUS

If you're a law student, do you make notes in the margins of your books as if you were talking to the writer of the book or the case you're reading? I do. It's kind of like talking to the tv, which I also can't help doing, much to the dismay of everyone who watches television with me, I'm sure. Example: I was reading the opinion in Zurcher v. Stanford Daily, 436 U.S. 547 (1978), in which the Supreme Court held that the “critical element” required to justify a search warrant “is reasonable cause to believe that the specific 'things' to be searched for and seized are located on the property to which entry is sought.” The facts of the case are that the cops thought a newspaper photographer had taken photos of some “demonstrators” who “attacked” a group of police officers. Since there was no reason whatsoever to believe the photographer (or anyone else at the newspaper) had committed any crime, did the police have “probable cause” to get a warrant to search the newspaper offices for the photos? Of course, the Court said “yes.” Then it turned to the newspaper's First Amendment argument that such a search infringed upon the guarantee of freedom of the press. The Court wrote:
There is no reason to believe . . . that magistrates cannot guard against searches of the type, scope, and intrusiveness that would actually interfere with the timely publication of a newspaper.
My margin note: “The timely publication won't matter much if the content is vapid b/c the paper's free expression has been trampled by intimidating searches!” The opinion continues:
Nor, if the requirements of specificity and reasonableness are properly applied, policed, and observed, will there be any occasion or opportunity for officers to rummage at large in newspaper files or to intrude into or deter normal editorial and publication decisions.
My margin note: “That's a lot of ifs.” And finally:
Nor are we convinced . . . that confidential soucres will disappear and that the press will suppress news because of fears of unwarranted searches.
My margin note: “Well, you're stupid, then, aren't you?” I know my notes don't do any good for anyone, but they do make the reading more entertaining. Speaking of which, I've got some more “entertaining” reading to do....

Posted 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

Interview (f)art

So I had an interview yesterday for a job l really really wanted. Here's the whole story. UPDATE: For the low-tech, and for the sake of posterity, the gist of the story is here.

Posted 06:46 AM | Comments (12)

February 02, 2005

Tsunami Point Drive

The Tsunami Charity Drive I mentioned yesterday has been wildly successful, exploding into something like a blawg “meme.” The proof is at Jeremy Richey's Blawg, where you can see that more than 26,000 Lexis points have been donated. At $1.60 per 100 points, that' s just over $400. The goal is now set at 50,000 points by February, so if you have any Lexis points you were just going to selfishly exchange for personal swag, donate them to tsunami relief and let Jeremy know you did so so he can add your points to the total. I threw my points in, despite my own reluctance to do anything to help Lexis look like a good member of society. If I can do it, you can too. Come on, you know you want to. ;-)

Posted 08:00 AM | Comments (2)

February 01, 2005

Blawg Tsunami Charity Drive

Jeremy Richey is encouraging law students to donate their Lexis “Ultimate Rewards” points to tsunami relief. He's hoping people will donate 4000 points by Friday. I have 2990 points at the moment, and I'd be happy to donate them all; they're relatively worthless to me and I've always thought the whole points thing was a stupid gimmick to get law students to like Lexis and forget how evil it is. Still, I hesitate because
  1. I don't know how much money Lexis will give to the Red Cross if I give my points. Are 100 points worth $1 for the Red Cross, or what?
  2. I don't want to help give Lexis any credit for doing anything positive b/c I think Lexis, West, and their competitors are parasites on society. (They take public information (legal decisions, statutes, constitutions, etc.) that is and should be free to the public, package it in complex ways designed to maximize their profit, then sell it back to the people it belongs to in the first place—you and me!) Lexis is probably going to take the points that law students donate and cut a check to the Red Cross, then release a statement congratulating itself for being such a good global citizen. “Lexis generously donated $5000 to the Red Cross today....” Lexis should be making a donation to this effort, sure, but law students shouldn't have to give points for that to happen.
  3. I get the impression the tsunami relief effort has been pretty well funded already. I could be wrong.
  4. There are many other worthy causes that need our attention and aid as much or more as the tsunami relief. For example, as I noted here (quoting this editorial), “ Each month more than 150,000 African children die of malaria; that's about the death toll of the Asian disaster. Yet those deaths do not sear the public's mind.” Yet Lexis, the good and generous corporation that it is, does not offer us any options for charitable point donations except tsunami relief. Why not? When this donation opportunity expires on Feb. 4th, will Lexis replace it by giving us another worthy cause to which we can give our points?
  5. I'm a cynical, mean, cold-hearted person. I don't think so, but I bet a lot of you will when you read this. ;-)
All that said, I may throw my points in, anyway. Like I said, they're largely worthless to me, and since I think the whole idea of the points is evil to begin with, this would at least be some way to squeeze something good out of them. Anyway, if you're less cynical than me, please join Jeremy's campaign. He's trying to collect a total of how many points have been donated, so if you give, drop him a comment so he can add it to the tally.

Posted 06:52 AM | Comments (4)

Legal Advice and ULP laws

What's the difference between providing information and giving legal advice? If you ask my clinic manual, this is what it will tell you:
In essence, giving information is not dependent on particular facts or circumstances. Your answer would be the same no matter who the caller is or what his/her particular factual situation is. For instance, if someone calls and asks the maximum dollar amount you can request in D.C. Small Claims Court, the answer is $5,000.00. You may tell the caller that the jurisdictional limit is $5,000 because you don't have to analyze all the facts and particulars of the situation. On the other hand giving legal advice involves applying the law to a particular set of facts and imposing your professional judgment on your answer. If the same caller asks you, “I bought a lemon. Can I sue the dealer in D.C. Small Claims Court?”, you would have to delve into the facts, know the D.C. lemon law, and impose your judgment in order to provide an answer.
At first I thought this was a nice thumbnail definition of legal advice—if your answer would change if you knew the facts of the case, then you're giving legal advice. Fine. But the purpose of the rule against law students giving legal advice in the first place is to prevent them from practicing law without a license. Law students (and everyone else who has not passed the bar exam and been admitted to the bar) must be careful not to ever “practice law” because it's illegal to practice law without a license. Why? Ask Anthony Rickey (after he's gotten this note monkey off his back)—he's probably thought and read more about laws against the “unauthorized practice of law” (ULP) than I have. I would say these laws exist to protect the monopoly lawyers have over providing legal services. Anthony might say the same, but he might note other reasons, as well. I don't have time to go into a full-blown rant about why ULP laws are ridiculous, except to say that generally they're vague and broad and allow lawyers to bully non-lawyers w/charges of practicing w/out a license. This often happens when non-attorneys start doing simple things for very low cost that lawyers once did for a very high cost. For example, in the 1970s, lawyers viciously harassed a man named Norman F. Dacey for popularizing the idea that people could avoid probate court (and its attendant fees) by establishing living trusts. Lawyers didn't like this because it threatened a nice little source of profit for them. See also the more recent attempt by Texas lawyers to shut down certain publications by Nolo Press, the largest self-help legal publisher in the U.S. And see also here and here for the story of Della Tarpinian, who was harassed by Kentucky lawyers for helping consumers complete basic legal forms. All of these are good examples of lawyers trying to protect their monopoly over “legal services”—at the expense of the social good. In that light, this little line between “legal advice” and providing mere “information” becomes much more dubious. Of course, I'll respect this line until I'm admitted to the bar, but I'll continue to disagree with it long after that.

Posted 06:11 AM

January 31, 2005

Law Review and Marriage?

Meandering Law Student (MLS) of the new-to-me blawg The Road Less Traveled, recently compared law review to marriage in a way that is just too good not to note. MLS says that law review is like marriage because both are promised to be necessary and good, when really they are the exact opposite. Read the complete post for the setup for the marriage analogy, then this :
When you are a 1L, everyone convinces you that you need to make Law Review. Law Review will be the magic bullet on your resume opening the door to a big salary and at a good firm. But there is something they don't tell you: Working on Law Review is like being drafted to work in a foreign bureaucracy. The lack of organization and forethought will drive you crazy and you'll be hounded by some minor official drunk on power.
The obvious conclusion is that marriage is therefore also like being drafted to work in a foreign bureaucracy. Not being married, I wouldn't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if the comparison is not far from the truth for at least some people.

Posted 07:04 AM

January 30, 2005

Ambivalent Index

With thanks to the Harper's Index, here's my semester, by the numbers:
  • Average number of pages of a casebook I read per hour: 10
  • Average number of pages of reading assigned per hour of class: 30
  • Number of class hours I'm taking this semester: 13
  • Average number of pages I should read per week: 390
  • Number of hours per week I should therefore devote to reading: 39
  • Total number of hours already dedicated to work, clinic, and journal: 20
  • Number of hours available to blog, work on my “note,” or cover any extra assignments that might pop up: 0
  • One adjective to describe me this semester: Screwed.

Posted 10:25 PM | Comments (6)

January 29, 2005

Kill the Billable Hour

Apropos of this post the other day about taking the money out of law, Bruce at Adam Smith, Esq. offers some great comments from an economist's perspective on why the billable hour has stuck around, and why it should go away. Bruce's comments are a response to a recent cover story in The Washington Lawyer on The Tyranny of the Billable Hour. That article basically concludes that there's little we can do about the problems of the billable hour, but Bruce protests:
As they say, I respectfully dissent:  The answer—fixed fees, or value billing—is staring us in the face.  We in the profession are too smart not to do better.  As the article drolly notes, even “plumbers and accountants” quote fixed fees.  (And may I point out that firms that have the traction to pursue value billing, a la Wachtell, are not exactly hurting.)  Are we that insecure not to attempt the same? But, you object, the value of legal counsel is ineffable:  Who can put a firm price on it in advance?  The short answer is that, everywhere else in our roiling economy, reasonable people readily agree on “price” vs. “value.”  And I'm not just talking about haircuts and taxi rides:  Is deciding what's a fair price for a home (or, in my case a co-op apartment) simple?  Rationally, there are almost too many factors to consider:  Location, layout, neighborhood, condition, size, design, school district, property tax rates, outdoor space, geographical orientation, “amenities,” etc.  But we quickly arrive at a gut feel, and the home market is highly liquid. The market for legal services does not exist in its own sui generis bubble exempt from all the familiar economic considerations that govern other markets.  It is not a counsel of exceptionalism to think it does, it is a counsel of despair.
Listen to Bruce, brothers and sisters. The truth will set you free UPDATE: More on the billable hour from Yale Law School. [Link via The Prejudicial Effect via Notes from the (Legal) Underground]

Posted 08:07 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2005

The New Fourth Amendment

The SCOTUS decision in Illinois v. Caballes has sparked some sharp criticism. For example, here's what it basically does to the Fourth Amendment, according to Grits for Breakfast:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized if an officer is looking for illegal contraband.
Many more links and great criticism where that came from. I don't have time to read around for more impressions; I have to hurry up and read about Fourth Amendment law in a CrimPro textbook that doesn't know Caballes exists. Oh, but you don't need Cabelles for Fourth Amendment law to seem pretty sad. First, Katz said the test for a “search” is whether you had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the thing or place or whatever that was searched, and whether society recognizes that as a legitimate expectation. So:
As Professor Amsterdam has put it, under the Katz expectation test, the government could control the extent of privacy interests simply by announcing “that we were all forthwith beng placed under comprehensive electronic surveillance.” (43)
Amsterdam, “Perspectives on the Fourth Amendment,” 58 Minn. L. Rev. 349, 384 (1974), quoted in Saltzburg and Capra, American Criminal Procedure. Can you say “TIPS Program”? The line of cases following Katz have constricted the scope of the Fourth Amendment in a predictable manner—the court has basically unlimited discretion to determine what counts as a “reasonable” and/or “legitimate” expectation of privacy. Oh, and according to Saltzburg and Capra, the “warrant clause” of the Fourth Amendment (the second part about warrants) has basically already been rewritten to say:
A search and seizure in some circumstances is presumed to be unconstitutional if no prior warrant is obtained, but in other circumstances the prior warrant is unnecessary to justify a search and seizure. (86)
So, hey, it looks likeGrits for Breakfast is right on the money w/that revised Fourth Amendment (above). My CrimPro textbook says so!

Posted 06:55 AM | Comments (5)

January 26, 2005

Percentage Contingency Fees

From Professional Responsibility reading:
Even though the same amount of work is involved, the whiplash verdict might be $4,500, for a fee of $50 per hour, while the amputation verdict might be $200,000, providing a fee of more than $6,000 per hour. ... [The author notes that fees can be even more disproportionate to work done by the lawyer in cases that settle before trial, which is the vast majority.] Surely there is much to be said for providing a means to permit indigent persons to engage counsel to press meritorious suits. ... [But t]he problem, it seems to me, is that we have regarded the “one third contingent fee” arrangement as applicable to all cases invovling personal injuries, without paying enough attention to the facts of the particular case and the needs of the particular client.
Thomas D. Morgan & Ronald D. Rotunda, Professional Responsibility, 5th ed. 105, quoting John F. Grady, “Some Ethical Questions About Percentage Fees,” 2 Litigation 20 (Summer, 1976.). No wonder there are so many personal injury lawyers advertising on tv! Questions prompted by these readings:
  • What would our society be like if lawyers made little to no money, or if a career as a lawyer only made average money, instead of above average (on average)?
  • How could we make this happen? How could we take the money out of the practice of law?
  • In a “free market” for legal services, would there be an excess of lawyers and a shortage of work?
  • In what ways is the current market for legal services not “free”?
  • Would fixed fees for routine (or even non-routine) services make the legal market more competitive (and drive down prices for consumers)?
See also: Writings by Lisa G. Lerman on unethical billing practices by lawyers (focused primarily on the billable hour). Patrick J. Schiltz, “On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession,” 52 Vand. L. Rev. 871 (1999).

Posted 07:04 AM | Comments (5)

January 25, 2005

Law Classes Pass/Fail

Dear law professors, hiring attorneys, fellow law students, and other knowledgeable types, I have a very busy semester, and I'm considering taking Fed Courts pass/fail. Do you have any thoughts on the pros or cons of such a plan? FYI: The class is small, and the professor has high expectations for our level of participation, so I will have to read and be prepared regardless of whether I'm concerned about my grade. This may mean that I will not really get much benefit from taking the class pass/fail, but it would also ensure that I will learn the material, despite decreased grade pressures. If I were going to, say, be a public defender, would taking fed courts pass/fail somehow be a red flag against me when potential employers looked at my transcript? How about if I wanted a judicial clerkship (federal or otherwise)—would this pass/fail thing be a red flag in that context? Can you think of any other contexts where taking Fed Courts pass/fail might be viewed negatively by people whose opinions I should credit? Any thoughts would certainly be appreciated. Sincerely, -ambimb

Posted 07:32 AM | Comments (3)

$ Blow $

From CrimPro reading:
There are trace amounts of cocaine on almost all of the money supply in America (62).
Stephen A. Saltzburg and Daniel J. Capra, American Criminal Procedure: Cases and Commentary, 7th ed. So everyone who says they don't care about declines in civil liberties, because they've got nothing to hide, well, you can just put that in your pipes and smoke it. (Sorry I couldn't resist.) Of course, this doesn't seem to matter to the SCOTUS, which yesterday said in Illinois v. Caballes (PDF) that during a lawful traffic stop the police can have a dog sniff search your car (on the outside, anyway) because the only thing the dog could find would be something no one has a right to possess. Sniff. Sniff. I wonder if the ruling would change if the police held you for half an hour while they waited for the dog to arrive...

Posted 06:24 AM | Comments (3)

January 24, 2005

ACS Blog Bye

The ACS Blog Writing Contest ends January 31st, which means you still have a week to write 250-750 words on “ a legal issue of national significance or interest.” Winners of the contest will be offered a position as “Editor-At-Large” for the blog, which means you'll get to write an article/column every two weeks on a topic of your choice. I did it last semester and enjoyed it except for the small problem that it often required serious work to find good sources and present my topics in the appropriate 501(c)(3) manner. Now, due to being seriously overcommitted, I have given up my position with the blog. But hey, that only means there's more opportunity for you!

I don't think I ever really linked to any of the posts I wrote for the ACS, but I will do so now before they are lost in the mists of time. They were:

I still think the ACS Blog is a great idea, and that more organizations should do something similar. The ACS Blog went from nothing to a pretty considerable readership in just a few months, which suggests that there's an interest in a form of legal analysis that's somewhere between that found on personal blawgs and what you'll find in journals or books. Writing ACS posts I often felt I was basically just collecting resources on a topic so that people who wanted to know more about that topic would have those resources at their disposal. It was often an attempt at producing a sort of synthesis of topics that had fallen by the wayside or received only scattered attention in other, larger media. Blogs are a great mechanism for shining light in dark places, and the ACS blog does that with many legal issues. However, it ignores or gives scant attention to many others (for various reasons, including its 501(c)(3) status, its ideological preferences, a simple limit on the amount of time and resources it has available, etc.), leaving room for peers to help fill in the gaps.

At any rate, I'm glad I did it, I wish I could continue to do it, but I can't. In addition to cutting this extracurricular, I've also cut my part-time job from 20 hours/week to about 11, so now it should just be class and clinic (oh, and finding a job!) for the next few months. Mountains of reading beckon....

Posted 07:17 AM

January 23, 2005

Mo' Grade Blues Defending Criminals in Fed Courts

Speaking of grades (which I was a bit yesterday), Energy Spatula basically summed up how a lot of us feel about them right now. The huge comment thread on that post is like a communal outlet for grade angst. I especially love this comment:
Law school is a sad, sad, pathetic excuse for an educational program. In no other form of graduate education in the US does *anyone* think that the appropriate means for teaching sophisticated reasoning is the large lecture class based on idiotically-edited primary materials, or that the appropriate means for measuring mastery is a single time-limited evaluation. It's a factory mass-production system designed solely to sort the students with the minimal degree of credibility required to satisfy the firms through the exertion of the most limited amount of effort by the professors.
Absolutely true, at least as far as I know (I don't have exhaustive knowledge of every other form of graduate education in the U.S., but I can't think of another that uses the law school large-lecture model so extensively). From this perspective, the “legal profession” looks more like a house of cards than some distinguished and rigorous life calling, but everyone tiptoes around this fact just so the whole thing won't come tumbling down. I'm sure many law professors would disagree, as would many hiring partners at firms, as would the ABA, etc. They're all invested in the illusion of meaning that grades represent, hence the tip-toeing that they do, inculcating law law students with the finer points of the tip-toe until we all internalize the illusion and begin the “grades are meaningful” dance ourselves. (At the risk of overloading my own metaphor, the legal profession house of cards rests on more than the illusion of grades as meaningful measures, but I'll save those other illusions for another day.) Anyway, if your grades did not rock your world (and I've already noted that mine did not—and the worst is probably yet to come), you should go read Favorable Dicta. To quote The Oracle: “I promise, by the time you're done eating it, you'll feel right as rain.” Although I read Favorable Dicta as often as I can (E. Spatula is a superhero!) I actual came across the above post thanks to Res Ipsa Loquitur, a new-to-me blawg. (Not to be confused with other iterations of Res Ipsa Loquitur. Seems to be a popular little blog name.) This Res Ipsa Loquitur also has a recent interesting post about the importance of criminal defense attorneys to the justice system that includes a great, heartwrenching criminal defense scenario from tv. As I contemplate a possible/likely career in criminal defense myself, hypothetical situations like this—where a defense attorney basically has to defend a monster who is clearly guilty—are troublesome, certainly. Unfortunately, I continue to learn of so many real situations in which law enforcement agents (by which I mean cops, federal agents, prosecutors, and sometimes judges) violate the rights of both the innocent and the probably-guilty so egregiously that they prove the old maxim true over and over again: It's better that ten guilty people go free than that one innocent person suffers. (But why “ten”? For more on that, see Alexander Volokh, “n Guilty Men” (1997).) For the record, Res Ipsa's post is a response to one by Deviant Lawyer (another new-to-me-blawg) in which he laments having to defend a crooked cop. (This is for a law school assignment, not for real.) And since I'm just jumping from topic to topic here, for some reason, Favorable Dicta lead me Legal Quandary who noted that Fed Courts isn't as bad as she'd thought, as classes go. As you may recall, I was unsure whether to stick with Fed Courts myself, but I've had the same impression as Legal Quandary: Very interesting material, but totally unreasonable amounts of reading in a frustratingly large and obscure book. Professor Althouse has some thoughts on the Hart and Wechsler's, noting that the book seems to beg professors to assign way more reading than is necessary, even though much of its content is arcane details that are not very important to the major goals of a course in federal courts. My own Prof Fed Courts said that this book was the “bible” of Fed Courts, which is too bad because that probably contributes to the subject continuing to seem much more complicated than it needs to be (at least for the neophyte). Or maybe not. So far I've appreciated the book's organization, but what's maddening is the authors' habit of posing everything possible as a series of questions rather than trying to clearly explain different schools of thought on controversial issues. I mean, I realize that much of the subject matter is open to debate (i.e., Can Congress completely eliminate federal appellate jurisdiction over any one type of case or controversy?), but as far as I'm concerned, presenting such issues as a series of questions is just not the most helpful way to help people understand them. Oh, and in addition to being arcane, bloated, and unnecessarily obtuse, the book and supplement together cost me $107.75, and that's just freaking ridiculous! Finally, JCA of Sua Sponte turned 30 last week. I don't get over to visit Sua Sponte much, but it was one of the first blawgs I ever read, so I owe JCA a debt of gratitude for being part of the inspiration for ai. (ai also continues to receive a substantial number of referrals from Sua Sponte, which surprises me since it seems to me the tone and substance of our posts is rather different. Maybe it isn't, or maybe that would be why people read both?) But, and so, happy (late) birthday, JCA! May year 30 bring you health, wealth, and a continued accumulation of wisdom and good fortune!

Posted 11:21 AM | Comments (4)

January 22, 2005

Blawg Roundup #2

Following up on last week's tremendously successful (or at least efficient) Blawg Roundup, ai hereby presents a rather random list-like string of links (w/comments, of course!) to a few of the many happenings in the blawgs I read this week. To kick things off, Jeremy Richey writes a letter to Justice Breyer explaining why the honorable Justice should give him a job. If Breyer happens to see the message, I predict the dancing bananas will be simply too much for him to resist and he'll be offering Jeremy a job in no time. In attempt to scare the pans off of us (get it? pans? ha!), E. McPan announced a hiatus from blogging. The world was sad, but then the hiatus ended, but then it started again—sort of. Now she has gone argyle! Personally, I'm just happy to see her still posting. I are amused by E. McPan. On the commercialization of blawgs front, Buffalo Wings & Vodka is selling itself to the highest bidder. Check out the eBay auction and get your bid in right away! The auction ends January 26th. (Ok, you won't actually own BW&V if you win, you'll only be the “sponsor” and get your name on the blog.) I noticed that Mr. Buffalo does not say anything about how long he agrees to continue publishing. Does this mean I could bid $10k to be the blog's sponsor, only to have it close down next week? Hmmm. This reminds me of the corporate-sponsored undergrads. Eek. Denise at Life, Law, Gender has started her second third semester of law school and has realized she is overcommitted. Boy, do I know the feeling. There really are so many opportunities available during law school, it's hard to pick and choose where to spend your time. For those with a taste for discussion of politics (beyond the inauguration), Three Years of Hell has endorsed Howard Dean for Chair of the DNC with tongue planted deeply in cheek. Earnest interlocutor “Mike” and less patient interlocutor “Martin” test the irony in the comments. But the inauguration was the big political deal this week, and for that Law-Rah at WonL offers a heartfelt paean to her president and fellow Texans. Totally unrelated: Law-Rah has also earned a dubious distinction. [insert smiley] Back to the law school, Kelly, at Just Playing, learned some of her grades yesterday and she wasn't thrilled, but it sounds like she has things in perspective. I guess now is as good a time as any to confess that my grades from last semester (I know three out of four so far) show that it was my worst semester evah! at least as far as grades go. There are reasons for that, but to Kelly and anyone else who has recently learned they had lower grades than they'd hoped for, take heart! We will find jobs, and we will do good work for people who need our help. The gunners will have all the money, but as the countless ranks of bitter (rich) BigLaw lifers attests, he or she who has the most toys only “wins” in the short run. And in the new-to-me blawgs category, JD2B notes the introduction of two new blawgs written by 0Ls (people who have applied to law school but have not yet begun): Aspiring to Become A Lawyer (who applied to an astounding 31 schools!) and Narkoleptomania. JD2B also mentions Divine Angst, who has begun posting reviews of her visits to law schools she might attend. So far she's reviewed Georgetown and George Washington in D.C. She really liked GULC, and she liked the GW campus, although she found the law school buildings themselves a little difficult to navigate. I know the feeling; it took me a full year before I felt I could navigate pretty much anywhere w/out too much trouble. DA also found a photo tour of GW, which is interesting. The place looks surprisingly good in pictures. Note that the “computing resources” page features a picture of someone using a Powerbook to access the wireless network; nowhere does it mention that GW actively discourages students from using Macs. I wonder if this was intentional. Finally, Blawg Wisdom has been updated for the first time in a while. I just haven't found much to add recently, and the submissions have dried up, of late. Here's an idea to grow Blawg Wisdom and make it more useful to people: Would anyone like to be a contributor of wisdom? Your job would be to post links to good advice for law students and law school whenever you find it, or to write original “advice posts” when the mood strikes. It seems it would be good to have a couple of contributors at every level (0L-3L and recent grad), so if you're interested (or if you have thoughts on this idea), please let me know.

Posted 12:03 PM | Comments (4)

January 18, 2005

99 Problems But CrimPro Ain't One

This is how Prof CrimPro started class last week: He kicked off the semester by saying that many people are highly critical of our criminal justice system, then he said we were going to watch a short powerpoint presentation and listen to what some of those critics have to say about the system. The next thing we knew, NWA “F#@$ tha Police” (I'm trying to be family-friendly here; lyrics) was thumping through the classroom of over 100 students, while the lyrics scrolled in foot-tall letters on the projection screen at the front of the room. This was followed by: So now you see why I got 99 problems but CrimPro ain't one. I'm gonna love that class. I'm going to have trouble keeping on top of the reading, but I'm still gonna love that class. I actually have some great classes this semester . . . . At least it seems that way after the first week. I'm knocking on digital wood, but in this moment I'm feeling like I might actually enjoy this semester if I can just learn to be fully functional on 5 hours of sleep each night instead of 7 or 8. Oh, and if I could stop reading blogs. Is there a 12-step program for that?* All right. I better read me some CrimPro now or one of my 99 problems is going to be you know what. *It was actually blawg that reminded me to post this story. I've been meaning to post it since it happened last Tuesday, but I've been swamped and crazy and putting it off for some reason, but Blonde Justice just posted the track list of a mix CD she just made and it included a track that triggered this memory and I figured there was no time like the present.

Posted 06:38 AM | Comments (6)

January 17, 2005

Library Love

I'm just heading off to school in the freezing cold weather (D.C. went from a high of 70 last Wednesday or Thursday to a high of about 25 today) and I wanted to mention that I'm in love—with the library. I spent Saturday in the library at school making copies of cases from real books and I just loved it. It was fun. There was something almost thrilling about looking at a case citation, browsing to a row of shelves, running my gaze along the line of spines counting up or down to the correct volume I was seeking, then pulling it out and flipping through the pages to find a direct, simple, and logical correlation between the case citation and the book I held in my hands. There's a satisfaction to physically finding, holding, and flipping through the book of cases that just isn't possible with online research, regardless of how great Lexis and Westlaw might be. That said, I wouldn't want to have to do too much serious case research with books only; online services offer much better and broader searching capabilities, and I wouldn't want to give those up. But for small projects, or when you know the exact case you're looking for, going to the books is a nice breath of fresh (old?) air. BTW, the reason for my little library excursion was a source collection assignment for the journal I'm on. This was the first time I had to do this, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was nowhere near as difficult as I'd feared. My task was made easier by the fact that our editor kindly did the source compilation part of the assignment for us (thank you!) and then divided up the article so that I had only 9 actual sources to locate and copy. Yeah, I had to copy multiple versions for several of the sources, and Shepardize and Keycite them, as well, but that's not so bad. I ended up with 8 cases and one journal article to locate, which is nothing compared to the obscure sources other people have had to track down. But as easy as it was, the exercise suggested to me a better way for law journals to operate. Rather than having law students trudge around killing thousands of trees by making multiple copies of all the sources an author cites in an article, why not make the author submit the sources with the article? Here's how it could work: An author submits an article as usual. The editors or readers assess it; if they decide they want to publish it, they email the author asking for copies of all of his/her sources, which he/she can then send electronically if the files are available, or in hard copy if not. This makes the author more accountable for his/her work, and saves the journal time and effort. Wouldn't it be much more efficient? Of course, it's possible that the primary value to a law student of participating in a journal is the source collection, which gives students practice in getting around a library. This would be lost under the above plan, but the experience may not be that valuable, anyway, since students doing source compilations just find predetermined sources; the hard part of legal research is tracking down the citations in the first place. Whatever. I better shut up and get to school to get my reading done. I hope everyone is enjoying their MLK Jr. Day...

Posted 02:44 PM | Comments (4)

January 11, 2005

School Started, Life Over

School has begun again for me and that means my life is pretty clearly over. Nearly every second of every day appears to be booked with obligations. The trouble is, with journal, a 20 hour/week job, writing for ACS blog, a clinic that requires 10+ hours/week, and 14 hours of class, far too many of the seconds in my days appear to be double-booked. I mean, that's 44 hours booked already, without even figuring the time necessary for journal work, ACS blogging, or reading. Clearly I can't do all of these things, but I don't know what to give up. Crap. Question for anyone with knowledge/an opinion: What is the use of taking Federal Courts? I was advised to take it if I want a clerkship, which I'm pretty sure I do, but it looks like it's basically going to be something like “advanced CivPro with a special focus on Erie doctrine.” That's fine, but is it really worth the time and effort? Any thoughts on the long-term value of any of the above activities relative to the others would also be welcome.

Posted 08:11 AM | Comments (9)

December 16, 2004


And then the third semester of law school was over. Evidence was 78 multiple choice questions in three hours (thanks to “Undercover Classmate” for that info ahead of time!—he/she should start a blog!). I felt like I was basically guessing on probably 60 percent of them. Not good. About three people in my testing room finished in about 1.5 hours, so I'm guessing those are the people who knew the rules cold and didn't have to consult their notes at all. I assume they got 70-78 of the questions right, or if they didn't, other people did. The curve may not be kind. But it's over. I feel great relief, though obviously nothing like last year at this time. I was just going through the motions of being a student this semester; I put very little in, and feel I got very little out of the semester. That's disappointing, and there's no good reason or excuse for it. Sure, I was busy working two part time jobs and writing a “novel,” but those were choices. I plan to make better choices next semester. I have no desire to be a gunner, but I would like to make better use of my time in law school so that I can get more out of it. The fact that doing more reading and thinking about my course topics might also make finals and grades less of a disappointment and nightmare is obviously a good thing, but I'd also just like to feel like I've learned something when the semester is over. I learned a great deal this semester, I'm sure, but I could have learned more, and I hope next semester I will. As of now, the schedule for next semester includes:
  • Federal Courts (3 hrs)
  • Criminal Procedure (3 hrs)
  • Feminist Legal Theory (2 hrs)
  • Ethics (2hrs)
  • Consumer Legal Clinic (3 hrs)
All of those are classes I picked because they focus on topics I want to learn more about, which is a good start. I'll still be working for the non-profit where I worked this semester, I'll still be posting every two weeks on that other blog (which eats up a surprising amount of time, actually), and the clinic will require some unknown amount of extra time (6-8 hours/week, I think is what they say), so I'll certainly be busy. Still, I hope to prioritize better, use my time more wisely, and balance the load a little more toward my class subjects. That's the plan at this point, anyway. Of course, now it's time for a complete break from all of that, and when I get back, my good old devil-may-care attitude may have returned. We'll see.

Posted 10:59 AM | Comments (2)

December 14, 2004

The Finals, The Finals

Gee, that was not fun. Forget what I said about finals being overhyped. Well, don't forget it, just qualify it. They're overhyped if you followed and understood things fairly well during the semester, which is like saying they're easy when you know what you're doing, which is like saying nothing, so nevermind. Forget it. I know nothing. Nuteeng! Ok, I know that multiple choice questions are no longer my friends. So much for the edumacated guessing. It works fine if you've edumacated yourself ahead of time; otherwise, those questions can kill you. And evidence is going to be all multiple choice. Let the mindgames begin! Now, after three finals in less than a week, I'm getting a little weary of the process. The last one is tomorrow. If you have any secrets for remembering and organizing all the rules of evidence in your head, now is the time to share!

Posted 08:44 AM | Comments (8)

December 12, 2004

Corps Study Break

What better way to take a short break from studying the antisocial behavior of American corporations than to read this short piece on a new test for psychotic CEOs?
Ever wonder what leads a lavishly compensated C.E.O. to cheat, steal and lie? Perhaps he's a psychopath, and now there is a test, the B-Scan 360, that can help make that determination. The B-Scan was conceived by Paul Babiak, an industrial psychologist, and Robert Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathic features in prison inmates. The B-Scan is the first formalized attempt to uncover similar tendencies in captains of industry, and it speaks to a growing suspicion that psychopaths may be especially adept at scaling the corporate ladder.
Yeah, I bet this test is going to go over like gangbusters in the halls of corporate power. People are going to be banging down the doors of these researchers to get a chance to take this test. Not. Still, what fascinating data might we find if we really could screen all CEOs and other top corporate officers for antisocial tendencies? In my class notes for corporate law I quoted Prof. Corps saying “Greed is a perfectly understandable human emotion.” Perhaps he's right. It sounds reasonable; we're all familiar w/greed, right? To quote Morpheus:
It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes.
But how understandable is greed, really? What's understandable about gain for self at the expense of others? It's anti-social, and another name for antisocial is psychotic. In this view, greed is contradictory to human self-preservation, and therefore not understandable at all. The only thing that makes it understandable is culture, and American culture teaches us that there is, in fact, almost no higher value than greed. Greed is exalted in our society precisely to the extent that it is against our best interests; the social structure must constantly struggle to convince us of the value of individualism, independence, and self-interest in it's ugliest form—greed. If it were so natural, we wouldn't need the constant stream of rhetoric about how great these values are, would we? What if, instead of thinking of greed as natural, we thought of it as abhorrent? What if we valued interdependence, cooperation, social-interest, community strength, equality, and justice for all? Hmm. Wouldn't that be weird?

Posted 04:59 PM | Comments (8)

December 11, 2004

Conlaw Too

Two-L final two was . . . Well, I don't know, actually. The only thing certain is that it's over. I got to the final and started looking through my outline and realized I'd printed it out with some of the items collapsed.* Oops! Outliner-Example2 This meant my outline was incomplete for two questions and I had to rely on a downloaded outline I'd brought with me to fill those gaps. I don't think that was a big deal, but who knows? It felt mostly fine, but I finished 15 minutes early, which is an ambiguous sign. There were 9 questions, some with subparts, and the directions informed us that most questions could be answered in 2-3 sentences. I wrote a lot more than that for most, but not for all, so we'll see what that means. Generally my post-exam thinking (and not just for this exam, but for all of them) is something like: Initial euphoria—It's over! —followed fairly shortly by a period of increasing concern that I totally failed, followed by a period of not caring/not thinking about it, followed by learning the actual grades and dealing w/whatever the reality ends up being. Concidences: This was a ConLaw II exam, and it was in the same room as my ConLaw I exam. I also finished that one early and got my best grade so far in law school. I'm not going to interpret that to mean anything. The ConLaw I final included a multiple choice section, and I was a pretty good edumacated guesser, I think. On to Corporations, the class I took so I could “know my enemy.” I'm just kicking myself now for not taking it pass/fail. The exam is Monday morning. Here's a sample question from an old exam in that class:
Assume that Ellie Mae has won. She moves to include Mayberry, inc. in the valuation of Clampitt Oil Co. to determine the value of her shares in dissolution. Please write your opinion disposing of this matter.
Ha! That makes me laugh! I have no clue even where to begin with something like that. It's going to be a loooong weekend. * I take notes and assemble outines in NoteTaker, which is—tadah!—an outliner! The image above and right shows you what it looks like. The arrows pointing down mean that section is “expanded,” showing you all subsections, while the arrows pointing to the right mean that section is “collapsed,” with all subsections hidden. This is super-convenient when you're sorting through information b/c you can “hide” what you don't need at the moment and focus on just what you're dealing with. It's also nice for making study outlines b/c you can put all the extraneous stuff in the “collapsed” part, and just print out the essentials. Of course, that only works if you remember to expand the right sections before printing...

Posted 09:59 AM | Comments (3)

December 08, 2004

That's One

Finished with 2L Final Numero Uno (of four). Cake. Ok. Not, but I'm telling you, law school exams are way overhyped. Way. And I'm not saying that b/c I'm so smart and studied so hard and knew everything and am trying to be scary or jerky as Naked Furniture notes blawgers are sometimes wont to do. In fact, I studied very little and was pretty nervous going in. I'm just saying that it turned out that just showing up to class most of the time, writing down what the professor said, and organizing that into a quickly-referenceable (is that a word?) format was really all it took to do a passable job on that final, and that's usually all it takes. Ok, I won't get an A, but that's still me doing a public service for everyone else in my class. I wouldn't want to blow the curve for everyone else, would I? Oh, but for the record, there were some holes in my outline dealing with federal preemption in the realm of labor law, union work preservation clauses, and something else that I could tell was supposed to be an issue but I couldn't for the life of me figure out. So like I said, no A on that exam, but definitely middle-curvish, I'm thinking, and that's superfine with me. Law school really is much nicer when you stop worrying about the first letter of the alphabet. Three more to go. Onward!

Posted 08:34 PM | Comments (1)

Suggestion for law professors

I'm off to 2L Final Numero Uno and I just re-read an email I got from the Prof. in response to a question I'd asked. It strikes me that professors would do well to announce the following policy: If you want to ask any questions of the professor about the class via email, you must CC the entire class. The professor will then CC the entire class on the reply. This would have two potential benefits. First, it might reduce frivolous emails to professors for silly questions students can figure out for themselves. If you know the whole class will see your email, you might be more careful about what you ask and only ask questions you're really stuck on. Second, everyone in the class could benefit from the professor's response, rather than anyone getting an unfair advantage. I imagine some would say this is unnecessary b/c if you are a gunner (or just a good student) who wants to have a lot of interaction with a professor, you should reap the rewards of your efforts in asking legitimate questions and you should not have to share those rewards w/everyone else. This makes sense if you see law school as a competition. However, if you see law school as a series of learning opportunities, the “everyone shares alike” policy above seems more likely to produce more of those opportunities, generally.

Posted 12:50 PM | Comments (7)

Going to war with the army you have

So my first final is today, and I just learned from Mr. Dumsfeld, er, Rumsfeld, that “you go to war with the army you have,” not the one you might want. I wonder if my law professors will understand that explanation next spring when I'm digging around in local landfills (their offices) for armor for my vehicles (passing grades). (Yeah, it's a tortured metaphor, but finals will do that, ok?) UPDATE: I just noticed that Naked Furniture applied the Dumsfeld logic to finals hours before I did, and her post is much much better, so go there. Now. You won't be sorry.

Posted 09:07 AM | Comments (4)

December 07, 2004

Oh final exams, how I loathe you!

As I study for finals once again, in this, the third finals season of my law school “career,” I once again find myself having difficulty studying. I need to run an ad like this, too. Apparently, fear is a bad motivator for me. But as I try to make myself study, I'm also hoping that these stupid tests won't be as hard as I anticipate they will be. I've come up with a great rationalization for convincing myself that they won't be. I used to be a teacher; I've written and administered final exams. So I know that one of the things teachers do, collectively, almost without realizing it, is attempt to convince students that their exams are very difficult and important and must be taken seriously. This is because teachers have so little means by which to encourage students to actually study and maybe even remember some of the material covered in their classes. But I also know that my final exams were never as hard as I tried to make them sound; I knew that a smart student could get an A just by showing up in class most of the time and remembering a few of the things I'd said. I can only assume that law school exams are the same. While none of my professors has tried to make his (yes, all male profs this semester) final seem overly difficult, they don't have to; the difficulty of law school exams is legend. But that's just it—there's no way they could live up to their purported difficulty, is there? Spot a few issues, write a few essays about them. How hard can it be? ;-) One other thought on finals: This is the time when I once again become convinced that I am not cut out to be a lawyer, that I don't have what it takes, that I'm not good at the the things the legal profession requires and values, that I, in fact, hate the law, and that it hates me. I start thinking about what I will do when I drop or flunk out of law school. There's this guy who owns a little quickie mart a few blocks away where I go sometimes and he always seems happy; he just hangs out and reads books and listens to the radio and rings up a customer now and then. At finals time I start thinking, maybe I could do that, too. Maybe that would be just fine. Thankfully, now that I have a little, teensy weensy bit of experience working in legal offices, I can look at these feelings of inadequacy and imminent failure with a bit of perspective. When I was working last summer at the public defender's office, I didn't feel inadequate; in fact, I enjoyed just about every part of what I saw of that job. And when I've gone to work this semester at the civil law nonprofit where I've been working, I've enjoyed that a great, deal, as well. When I'm faced with a “real” legal task, I seem to be able to complete it just fine, and to even get some enjoyment out of the work. It's only when I'm faced with a law school final, and with all the anxiety, stress, and oh-my-gosh-my-whole-future-is-riding-on-this-grade hoohaw that goes with it—only then does my confidence crumble, my desire to complete this degree evaporate. So the lesson is simply that the cliche has proven true so far for me: Law school is not law practice, and just because you hate the school part doesn't mean you'll hate the practice part. (And btw, I don't hate the school part; I hate the finals part. The rest of the school part is ok, although it does leave a lot to be desired.) Um, but if anyone has some great study aids (I'm thinking killer concise reference charts or tables, stuff you can glance at for an overview or reference) for an introductory course in labor law or a standard sort of Con Law II survey, please do share.

Posted 10:30 AM | Comments (4)

December 01, 2004

You're a conlaw prof

You know you're a professor of Constitutional law when you tell jokes and then have to explaining them and then you still have to tell your listeners you're joking. Today a student commented that criminal defendants have a right to choose to make no case and instead depend for their freedom on the prosecutor failing to make her case. In response, my esteemed ConLaw II professor (who has probably been my favorite professor this semester both because he's so knowledgeable and because he just seems like a likable guy) said that reminded him of an old cartoon where two prisoners are talking and one says, “If my lawyer said 'no questions, your honor' once, he said it a hundred times.” The class was silent. So my good professor proceeded to explain that the cartoon was saying “no questions” meant “no defense” and that that meant the defense attorney wasn't doing his or her job. Still, the class remained silent, so the good professor shouted, “It's a joke!” Everyone laughed. Students are so well-behaved. Or maybe we're just all pretty humorless about now as finals loom.

Posted 02:26 PM

November 28, 2004

Note to Self: Note Writing Is Fun!

I have been deeply entrenched in writing a “note” for the journal of which I am supposedly a staff member, and you know what? It's kind of fun. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I mean, I've written more than a dozen 20-30 page academic papers previous to this (none published, all for grad school course requirements), but somehow, in the interval between each one I always seem to forget that both the research and the actual writing can be a real kick. The process of making an extended argument is a process of discovery, and of building something from a bunch of scattered thoughts and sources, making them into a coherent whole and creating something that just wasn't there before. In the process, you're often trying to destroy something as well, some bit of conventional wisdom, or some received way of viewing the world. Once in a while, at some point in the writing process, or at multiple points, you'll find just the right assemblage of quotations and transitions to create what seems at the time to be a very persuasive section. For some reason, when I'm lucky enough to enjoy those moments I can't help thinking, “I love it when a plan comes together.” (Although I never think of the A-Team in connection with that phrase, the show undoubtedly planted the phrase somewhere deep in my subconscious so it could rush to the surface at random moments as long as i live.) Also, as has happened so many times before, I now find myself with no time left to really finish my arguments in a convincing way. Why must I procrastinate something that really can be so enjoyable? So the advice to self: Just do it, you'll like it. The dreading of the paper is the hardest part, so next time, just skip it and get the damned thing done already! p.s.: The next time I mention that I have a paper of some kind due, will someone help me remember that I wrote this?

Posted 11:10 PM

November 17, 2004

Kids these days!

Conversation between two undergraduate women in line at Einstien Bagel on the GW campus:
1: “So have you been talking online?” 2: “No, on the phone! Every week!” 1: “Even better! Is he seeing anyone?” 2: “I doubt it.” 1: “That's so cool.” 2: “He's so sweet. Last night he told me he had this new music and that I was gonna love it. He said I'd start taking my clothes off the minute I heard it.” 1: “Ahh, that's so sweeeet. I wish I knew someone who would talk to me like that.”
This is what passes for smooth these days? Is this what it feels like to get old?

Posted 11:14 AM | Comments (8)

November 16, 2004

I am not a witness

Ok. Being a witness in a trial is hard. The better the lawyers, the harder it is. Or maybe it's just being a pretend witness in a mock trial that's hard. I've now performed the role of the latter twice, and both times I've found myself underprepared and too easily flustered by the cross examination. They fluster you by picking an obscure word or fact from your earlier deposition (sworn statement) to quote back to you, asking you if you said that before in an accusing way that makes it seem like you probably committed a crime if you did say that. It's not fun. Yesterday I was supposed to be a doctor testifying about a former patient who was now dead. The patient's insurance company was trying to prove that he committed suicide, because then the insurance company wouldn't have to pay his wife's claim on his life insurance policy. So I was testifying about a conversation I had with the deceased several years before he died, and on cross examination the attorney asked me: “Didn't you say that he feared he might not be able to take care of himself or his family?” Sitting on the stand, I knew he had said he was worried about taking care of his family, but did he say he was worried about himself, or was the attorney trying to get me to extend my testimony in a damaging way? And then, in hindsight, the question doesn't matter anyway. Sure, he said he was worried about whether he could take care of himself; he just lost a big promotion and was worried about his future in general. Nothing unusual about that. That's a long way from any sort of suggestion he might kill himself. But the way the question comes at you it's not a question, it's an accusation, and it's easy to get defensive. Get defensive, and you look like you've got something to hide. Juries don't like that, and then you might cause the poor impoverished widow to lose her case against this nasty insurance company. That would be sad. But while I'm a pretty terrible witness, these mock trial things are still fun. And now I know that if I'm ever cross-examining a witness, one good strategy is to make my questions sound like accusations, and then the witness is mine! (insert evil laughtrack and perhaps an evil Mr. Burns fingertip temple for good measure here).

Posted 07:30 AM | Comments (4)

November 15, 2004

Should've Known Better

Note: You can safely ignore this post. I'm sure it's just the typical pre-finals angst here and everything will look rosier come December 15 or so when those finals are over. Or maybe the rosiness won't come until grades come out in February. Or maybe that will kill the rosiness. Whatever. It's all cyclical and predictable and really, I should just go study. Ambivalence about law school reigns. While good law students like Energy Spatula spend hours in the library trying to nail down complicated rules (and getting jobscongratulations!), I've been feeling like law school is a distant acquaintance I haven't seen or really thought about in years. It's time to buckle down, outline, study study, but... Well, as regular readers known, and as you can see again from the lengthy discussion in comments of this post, I haven't been thrilled with my experience of law school so far. That's no shock; lots of law students aren't thrilled with law school. If we took a survey, we might just find a good majority of current and former students actually loathe (or loathed) law school. Why? I could list reasons, but they all beg the question: Does law school have to be such a crap experience? It doesn't, but it is. Everyone told me it would be like this. (Well, not everyone; I know practicing attorneys who loved law school, but only a couple.) I knew it would be like this. I mean, in theory you could get a bunch of people together to study the laws that regulate our society and expect to get some lively discussion of pressing issues, some critical thinking, some new ideas, some passion. But that's not law school. That might be something professors do in their own research and writing, but not in their teaching. Not when they're teaching 100 students or more per class, and not when they teach in an educational system designed by and for business/corporate interests. But I really don't want to go into it all here. For more thoughts on how law school could be improved, check out an upcoming edition of the [non]billable hour's five by five series (sometime in the next couple of weeks; I'll link to it when it comes up). So it's time to do the study thing. And all the other law school stuff. And then I see the decision by Evan of Going to Cooley to drop out of law school for now (for family reasons, I gather), and I admire it, and it makes me jealous. Being a law school drop out sounds so blissful! What a joy it would be to walk away now! But I fear the joy would be short-lived as I faced the prospect of getting a job and living a life wondering what I might have done had I finished this damned degree. And then I see Jeremy decide to turn down an offer from a big firm because the law just doesn't really grab him like writing does. I think, yeah, me too! Or, me neither! Maybe I should just do what Jeremy's doing—get the J.D. and then do something else. Obviously, that's an option. But that means I still have to take these damnable finals in the next few weeks, doesn't it? *sigh*

Posted 09:10 AM | Comments (3)

November 13, 2004

Oh, and....

I forgot to say yesterday: I want to be Chris Baty! What could be better than traveling around the country basically giving pep talks to writers, meeting writers, and writing? Why am I in law school, again? I mean, am I in law school? Is there really only one more full week of class this semester? Do I really have a 25-page paper due at the end of this month? Do I really have four finals to study for and take? Do I really need to apply for jobs for next summer? I mean, really? Is all this necessary? It all seems like such a useless bother.... Does this mean anything, or am I just being silly? Nevermind. I'm behind on my words...

Posted 08:05 AM | Comments (13)

November 09, 2004

With all due respect

Dear Justice Antonin Scalia, You are a punk. The condescending and caustic hyperbole of your opinions—especially your dissents—is an insult to your fellow Justices, not to mention the Congress and legislatures whose laws you so frequently and snidely mock, nor the citizens of the United States, for whose intelligence you so frequently show so little respect. This letter was occasioned specifically by your dissent in U.S. v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, in which you superciliously suggest once again that the majority has created an entirely new U.S. Constitution, simply because its interpretation of a part of that document differs from yours. Puulleeeez! You obviously like to think of yourself as a smart man, but you too often write like an overeducated grade school bully. Don't you realize that the condescending smirk etched between the lines of nearly everything you write only reduces the credibility of your opinions? Don't you understand that when you exaggerate your opponent's position, it only weakens your own position by giving your reader cause to doubt the sincerity and reliability of what you write? Even if I were to agree with your arguments at times, you force me to resist that impulse merely because those arguments come dressed in a costume of egomaniacal elitism of the most insulting variety. Get over yourself, will you? Sincerely disagreeing with you and your massive ego, -ambimb

Posted 05:10 AM | Comments (9)

October 19, 2004

Dreaming Failure

Reading evidence, trying to catch up on the rule against hearsay, which seems straightforward until you get to all the exceptions. Maybe it's more difficult because I'm so behind and I've missed so many classes. You think? Nah... I had a dream last night that I was enrolled in a class that I have only attended once. In my dream, I just suddenly remembered one day that I was supposed to be in class, then I realized I'd been missing the class for weeks, then I thought about the ways to get out of the class and realized there were none, and then I panicked and thought I was going to fail out of law school. And then I woke up. It was an awful dream—a nightmare, even. Apparently my subconscious is preparing for finals. A quick count says there are five and a half weeks of class left before final exams, but maybe it's closer to six weeks since there's a half-week in there for the fall break (Thanksgiving). Needless to say I'll have a lot of catching up to do over that little “holiday.” NaNoWriMo fits into this where? How? Is this what's known as a reality check?

Posted 03:00 PM | Comments (2)

October 08, 2004

Free Lunch

I'm late for work but I have a few extra seconds today because I don't have to make a lunch—there's a free lunch waiting for me at work. That's right, every other Thursday the office buys me lunch, and if there are leftovers, I get free lunch on Fridays, too! For those of you who have worked in law firms, I guess this is probably not such a big deal, but I've had quite a few jobs in my life and I don't think any of them has ever regularly bought me lunch, so I think it's pretty cool. (Ok, Backroads paid for my lunch every day, but that was different. How about this: I've never had an office job that regularly bought me lunch....)

Posted 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

October 07, 2004

John Stewart, Blog breaks, SYDHT

One: John Stewart will be signing his new book at Politics and Prose on Friday, 10/15 at 1 p.m. [link via DCist] Why, oh why, did I start a job and giving up having Fridays off? Two: Hmm. Near the same time that DG decided to take a break, Kelly at Just Playin' is thinking about going underground. And Musclehead is talking “break' too! Is there a spreading theme here? Three:L-Cubed has started a new feature called ”So You Don't Have To“ in which Scott reads something good in print and posts about it so you can save yourself the cost of the magazine or whatever. Brilliant idea! Four: Do you play computer games in class? In my ConLaw class, one person is usually playing something that looks a little sims-like. In Evidence, every day, for the entire hour, this guy in front of me plays emulated Nintendo games. He occassionally pauses the game to tap in a note about what's happening in class, but probably 98% of his time and attention is on the games. Incredible, really. The game looks pretty fun, though. Oh, another popular one: Snood. Five: Our home network has been down all week and Verizon can't even hook up our phone 'til next Tuesday, meaning we won't have DSL until sometime after that. At the moment, they can't even tell us whether our phone line is DSL-capable—they have to hook up the phone first. If we find the line doesn't support DSL, online life is going to be very sad, indeed. Anyhoo, my severely limited access to the 'net may mean lack of updates or responses to comments or emails until things settle down, just FYI.

Posted 09:52 AM | Comments (3)

October 05, 2004

Au Revoir?

In a shocking move, Ditzy Genius recently bid farewell to her readers, “probably permanently.” Can this be? Can one of the bloggers I've read so regularly and enjoyed so completely really be calling it quits? Of course I hope she decides to return sometime soon, but at the same time, I also understand that she may have good reasons for taking a break—even a permanent one. I've thought about making the same move probably once a month since starting this thing, and more frequently since starting year-two of law school. It seems common for “law school blawgs” to fizzle before their authors make it through the process, and I've recently had glimpses of why that is. I'm guessing it's something about the demands of year two, the lack of novelty in the process, the priorities turning elsewhere. (Not that any of these reasons necessarily played any part in DG's decision; this is just my own perspective.) But as the process changes, so, too, can the blog. At least I hope it can. The dominant content of aihas changed several times over the last two years (at least I think it has), and that's fine with me. I know I lose readers and gain readers when my focus shifts from one main topic to anther (from leaving grad school/thinking about law school, to the democratic primary process, to 1L of law school, to the sort of transitional grab bag period of the present), but that's how it goes. Maybe somewhere around year two is adolescence for blogs? You know, the difficult years, the growing pains, the identity crisis? Whatever. I still enjoy it, so I'll continue for now.* Still, I understand making a different decision, so best of luck, DG! I know many of us will miss you while you're gone, and we'll be thrilled if you decide to return! *I may have mentioned this before, but to me this blog has become a sort of hobby, a project, a toy. Specifically, I think of a certain stereotype of a man who has a wife and kids and job and responsibilities (which I don't; I'm just painting a picture here), and in every way seems like a nice and normal guy, but you go in his garage and there you find a piece of junk old car that doesn't run and quite probably never will. Yet, whenever this guy gets a free weekend or even a few spare hours on a Wednesday night, he'll either be playing around with the car (“restoring” it), or talking to friends about where to get parts or what modifications to make or whatever. So the car takes up his spare time and money and energy and imagination, and it might drive his friends and family crazy except that they know he enjoys it and it keeps him from getting into trouble doing something else with those resources. So this blog is my piece of junk old car in the garage, my hobby and distractio. Except my piece of junk runs; I can take it for regular drives. Sure, there's always some tinkering I'd like to do under the hood (for example, last weekend I eliminated the annoying bug where all archive links turned into a link to a book about Howard Dean on Amazon; no, that was never intentional), but when I'm short on time I can also just take it for a spin around the block w/a quick post about whatever. I mean, if I ever have a house with a garage where I think I'm going to be able to stay for a good little while, I'll probably have a real piece of junk old car in there to play with. There's actually a 1972 MGB Roadster in Montana that would fit really nicely in my garage if I had one. But, in the meantime, this is my ambivalent hot rod. Perhaps the analogy only works inside my head.

Posted 12:13 PM | Comments (3)

October 03, 2004

Work As Break

After three days at the new internship (mentioned here), I'm enjoying it a great deal. I had a very interesting conversation on Friday w/a Denver attorney about Colorado's new Rule of Civil Procedure 16.1, which sort of creates an intermediate step for civil suits between small claims court and “regular” court, allowing suits involving less than $100,000 in dispute to use simplified procedure and seriously curtailed discovery so that litigants can get their day in court faster and more economically. It sounds great in theory, but time will tell whether it's great in practice. What's with Colorado getting all innovative with new rules these days? (A bit more on that here.) The strange thing is that “work” is seemingly almost like a vacation from the rest of my life. When I'm at the internship, I can put everything else out of my mind and just concentrate on the work they have for me to do. Homework? Can't do it there, so no need to worry about it. Applying for summer jobs? Can't do it there, so don't give it a thought. It's kind of nice. Is it a sign that you're sick of school when a job seems preferable? Of course, if I finished school tomorrow and started working full time, I'm sure it would be about two weeks before I started whining about how much better school was. I think it's called “grass is always greener” syndrome.

Posted 06:12 PM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2004

Must read email

My inbox is full. This morning there were over 800 messages in it. Most of them I've read, but not all of them. And if you've ever sent me email, you may know that my responses are sporadic; sometimes right away, sometimes not for weeks. It's a bad thing. I need to work on this. But in the last week, with network problems at home and many other things going on, I fell behind even more than usual. And this morning I was trying to sort through the backlog and found this:
The Equal Justice Works (EJW) Public Interest Career Fair will be held at the Washington Hilton on Thurs. Oct. 28 and Fri. Oct. 29. This Fair, the largest of its kind in the country, likely will feature 200+ employers (primarily non-profits and gov't agencies) and 1,200+ law students from around the country. GW upper class students and alumni can apply to individual employers and receive interviews directly from those employers at the fair. All students (incl. 1L's) can meet employers through informal “Table Talk” sessions that are held during the Fair. Finally, students can attend panels relating to public service careers. For more information about the Fair, including the names of participating employers and an overview of the daily schedule, see here. Employer listings will be continuously updated on the EJW website. ... The CDO will collect application packets(consult each job posting in the EJW's employer database to find out which materials the employers request) from interested upper class students and submit them to employers. The deadline for submissions to the CDO is Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 5:00 pm. However many employers review on a rolling basis, students might want to send directly to those employers before Sept 28.
Um, yeah. The 28th is tomorrow. crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap . . .

Posted 10:38 AM

September 26, 2004


One: The internet is down in our apartment. Again. Two: The job interview last week obviously didn't go as badly as I'd thought (or perhaps the competition wasn't very stiff) because I got the job. This is good, I think. Three: I frequently wish I lived in the mountains. Four: I watched “Chernobyl Heart” the other day on HBO and nearly cried. It's about a condition that's affecting kids in the “contaminated region” of Russia where they are born with holes in their hearts. The patch required to fix the holes costs $300 and most of them can't afford it so most of them die. Also, I learned that the “sarcophagus” built around the Chernobyl reactor to contain the radiation is leaking and in danger of collapsing, which might cause an even bigger disaster than the one in 1986. If the U.S. has billions of dollars to spend around the world, why not put some toward saving these children and securing that nuclear reactor? Talk about making the world a better (and safer) place... Five: I should probably start acting like a student or else I'm going to be in trouble. Six: Girlfriends who buy you cool jeans that make you look like not so much of a slob are cool. Seven: I don't have a seven, it's just lucky. It's never lucky for me, but I heard a rumor. Eight: Blawg Wisdom has been serving up tasty morsels recently. You should check it out. Or, do not pass go and proceed directly to the Legal Theory Lexicon. It kicks geek bootay. Nine: I do not believe I just wrote “bootay.” The accent is on the last syllable, you know. Ten: You know you're a geek when you want this for Christmas.

Posted 03:52 PM | Comments (6)

September 25, 2004

Damn Neighbors!

On the subject of arresting protesters or otherwise limiting their freedom of expression, GW (the law school I attend) is right next door to the IMF and World Bank (or is it the WTO? I always confuse the two...) buildings in downtown D.C., which means once or twice a year we get an email like this from the Dean of Students:
The Monetary Fund (IMF) has meetings scheduled for Oct 2 and 3 and according to local authorities, relatively small demonstrations/protests are planned in connection with these meetings. Because of the Limited Orange Alert in this area, security concerns have substantially increased. In preparation for both the meetings and protests we can expect that the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will - as they have in the past - institute street closures in the the area of the Law School -- especially on 20th Street -- and you can and should expect delays and detours in the entire Foggy Bottom Campus area over this weekend.
What's great about this is how matter-of-fact and ho-hum the dean is about the massive police presence involved with these military-style operations. Police in full riot gear surround the buildings near GW, and they put up 6-8 foot high barricades in the area streets. The barricades tend to control an area much larger than the two blocks occupied by the IMF/World Bank, ensuring that any protesters who do show up are not likely to be seen or heard by anyone involved with the meetings they're protesting. So we live in a free country and you have a right to express yourself, but legal professionals -- like the faculty and administration at a major U.S. law school -- are happy to accommodate massive police actions that threaten those freedoms and rights. And this accommodation takes place without a single word of critique. Great. Whatever you think of the police “response” to protests (which I would argue is less a response than an advance attack—the “Bush Doctrine” of military preemption applied against U.S. civil rights), these emails from the dean are also irritating because they make absolutely no attempt to interest GW law students in why this is happening, or to educate them in any way on the serious legal and social issues involved. Why are there protests? What are the protesters protesting? Why are the police responding in this way? What is the history of this kind of police action? Are current and former GW students currently involved in litigation against the city for serious police misconduct in previous protests? (Yes.) Aren't these serious and relevant legal issues? And aren't we at a law school, fergoodnessake!? Isn't an educational institution supposed to educate and encourage critical thinking? Or did I miss the memo that said law schools were supposed to teach law students to be obedient consumers whose only concern with protests is the inconvenience they might cause? It's things like this that make it abundantly clear why so many people think lawyers are a form of pond scum. Are legal issues like this not on the radar because there's so little money to be gained by paying attention to them?

Posted 01:35 PM | Comments (3)

September 24, 2004

Criminal Duct Tape

“Every criminal uses duct tape for something. Matter of fact, that's the sine qua non of being a criminal. Every time I pick up some duct tape I start to worry.” —Professor Evidence, speaking of U.S. v. Trenkler, 61 F.3d 45 (1st Cir. 1995) (where the court found that the fact that two bombs were both constructed with duct tape was evidence suggesting that they were made by the same person). Other comments of note from recent classes:
  • Random hypo comment from Prof. Evidence: “I met him at Denny's. Good place for a drug deal.”
  • “There's kind of a King Learish quality to this case” — Prof. Corporations speaking of Francis v. United Jersey Bank, 432 A.2d 814 (1981) (in which two scumbag sons are also officers and directors of the family corporation from which they're stealing millions; mom was a drunk, daddy's dead).
  • “You don't send a man to jail just because he's done some bad acts in the past. Gosh, if that was true, we'd all be in jail—especially the prosecutor.” —Prof. Evidence when discussing the O.J. Simpson case and FRE 413-415, but he's not necessarily referring to this case or the prosecutor in this case.

Posted 08:02 AM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2004

Corporate Welfare

Shocking and offensive information from my Corporations textbook (Corporations: A Contemporary Approach by Lawrence E. Mitchell and Michael Diamond):
For example, in the 1996 report, [Stephen] Moore and [Dean] Stansel reported that $75 billion of taxpayer dollars were going to pay direct business subsidies in over 125 congressionally-sanctioned programs. Combined with tax breaks, the amount exceeded $150 billion (and we think it‘s worth noting that at the time, this exceeded the core welfare bill — that is, excluding social security and medical care — by at least $5 billion). Among the most flagrant abuses noted by Moore and Stansel were direct federal payments to Martin Marietta, a major defense contractor, of $263,000 for a Smokey Robinson concert for its workers, $20,000 for golf balls, and $7,500 for an office Christmas party. Perhaps more legitimate were federal contributions of $2.9 million to promote Pillsbury’s efforts to sell its baked goods, $10 million to help sell Sunkist oranges, $465,000 to McDonald‘s to advertise Chicken McNuggets, and $2.5 million to Dole to help it advertise pineapples, nuts and prunes. (45-6)
Are you shocked and offended yet? Reading stuff like this makes me so mad I could spit. Ptewie! (See, I spit!) Excuse me, but what, praytell, is the least bit “legitimate” about 465,000 taxpayer dollars paid to McDonald’s to help sell McNuggets!? Or any of that other crap? Why are taxpayers subsidizing ads that sell them crap they do not need and which is potentially lethal!? The answer is: Taxpayers aren‘t subsidizing crap like this, at least not consciously. Instead, their “elected officials” are subsidizing this crap, and those officials obviously don’t give a damn what taxpayer-voters think (at least once the election‘s over). Disgust reigns.

Posted to the tune of: Everything’s Not Lost from the album “Parachutes” by Coldplay

Posted 12:24 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2004

Yin-Yang Flowerpot

Not all Mondays are the same. On some Mondays, it seems like nothing happens—just another tiring start to the week. But not on all Mondays. Mine yesterday: 8:50 a.m.: Prof. Labor starts off class with this: “Mr. Ambimb, if you're an average worker starting a new job and your contract says you have to become a 'union member in good standing' within 30 days, what do you think that means?” I know Prof. Labor wants me to say that this language will confuse me and mislead me into thinking I actually have to join the union, when in fact the law says that the only thing a union can require in a contract is that new employees become “financial core members” (that they pay initiation fees and dues). Prof. Labor thinks the courts have erred in ruling that the “member in good standing” language is ok. I disagree, so I tell him, “If I was an average employee, I'd wonder what it meant to be a 'member in good standing,' so I'd ask about that, and my employer and the union would be legally obligated to explain that it meant I didn't have to join the union, but just pay initiation fees and dues.” Prof. Labor didn't like that, so he moved on and I didn't have to answer any more questions. I wasn't trying to be difficult; I just think that the deck is stacked against both unions and workers (and Prof. Labor started out the semester saying the same thing), so even if the “member in good standing” language might be misleading, that's a tiny little advantage the union and the worker deserve. Also, we typically apply the principle of caveat emptor to most contracts, why not here? The employee should read his/her employment contract, and if he/she has questions, he/she should ask for clarification, right? (For more on this, see the NLRA § 7 (I think—I forget where it addresses union security clauses) and Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, 119 S. Ct. 292 (1998)). But the best part of it was, this was the first question of the morning, so it was just reviewing material we'd covered yesterday—the fact that I'm behind in the reading didn't show! 11:00 a.m.: Interview w/“K Street Non-Profit.” This was my first (possibly only) interview this fall, but it was for a job to start immediately, not next summer. It sounds like a great position, and the people who interviewed me were very nice, but I completely dropped the ball from the get-go. They started like this: “We were intrigued by your cover letter. You said you'd written something about modifying John Rawls' 'original position' as a basis for a more equal distribution of social goods. Can you tell us more about that?” My answer was basically: Uh, no, not really. Of course I didn't say that, but I'm sure that's how it sounded. See, I wrote that paper about four years ago, and what I write in my cover letter about it is really about all I remember about it, except that Rawls was fairly tangential to the paper, and I'm not an authority on him by any means, and I wasn't outlining any modifications to the OP or the “veil of ignorance” so much as arguing that some version of these ideas would be a better basis for equality in law, and since that's saying nothing new (it's just restating what Rawls said), I obviously shouldn't have mentioned it in my cover letter at all. There's a little more to it; if I reread the paper I could talk about it more intelligently, but that's the point, isn't it? That's what I should have done before going to the interview! So there's definitely a lesson here: Don't talk about anything in your resume or cover letter that you're not prepared to talk intelligently about in an interview (or later if you get hired). Who knew someone who read my cover letter would be a fan of John Rawls!? It might not happen often, but if you're going to talk it, you better be able to walk it. This is like job-hunting 101 advice, which makes me feel all the more foolish for overlooking it. Yeah, interviewing is fun! But it was, and, like I said, they were very nice about it. They also asked about my union organizing experience and asked me to pretend I was a university administrator explaining why grad students should not be allowed to unionize. I mention it because it was another unexpected question, a smart question on their part which I assume was intended to determine whether I understood more than “my” side of an issue that was important to me. I think I did fine there. The work this non-profit does is pretty cool, but, although I felt good about the interview, something in their closing handshakes tells me I'm not going to get the job. Still, it was good interviewing practice, and obviously I needed that. 1:40 p.m.: Try to stay awake through Evidence. Should the fact that a married person is having an affair be considered evidence of “character.” What kind of “character” has an affair? What does that tell us about the person? More Harrison Ford courtroom video clips from a movie I don't recognize but assume is fairly popular (Ford is the defendant in a murder case). Also a clip of Joan Cusack racing through an office with a videotape, also from a movie I don't recognize. I do wish Prof. Evidence would at least identify the movies he's showing clips from. It would make them more interesting and allow me to add them to my list of movies I need to see. 3:50 p.m.: Prof. Corporations starts the discussion part of class with: “Mr. Ambimb, say you're an investor and the directors of the company you've invested in decide to do something that will cause the company to lose $26 million, even though they could do something a little differently and only lose $18 million. How would you feel? Mr. Ambimb, Kamin v. American Express.” That's how Prof. Corps starts a class. He doesn't ask you to tell him about a case, he just names the case and you have to start talking about what you think is important about it. If you start off with “this case stands for the proposition that...” or some similar attempt to reduce the case to a rule, Prof. Corps will cut you off and demand to hear something interesting about the case. I had little of interest to say about Kamin, so I threw out a few tidbits about why it was just another in the endless line of cases that reaffirm's the law's insistence that the purpose of the state is to promote the unchecked and uninhibited accumulation of private profit. We quickly reached the limit of my technical knowledge of buying and selling stocks and fiduciary duties and duties of care, etc., all of which were somewhat important to what Prof. Corps wanted to talk about in relation to this case, so Prof. Corps moved on. I was only in the hotseat for about 15 minutes! Now, I'm virtually guaranteed to be left alone in that class for the rest of the semester, which as Half-Cocked points out, is going to make it rather hard to focus on the reading. In fact, at this moment, I'm writing this horrendously long post when I should be reading for corporations, but I no longer need to be concerned about such things. Isn't life grand?!? So, like I said, not all Mondays are the same. On some, little happens besides you being exhausted and behind from being lazy all weekend (if you're me). On others, you learn:
  1. If you disagree w/some professors they'll just move on and leave you alone. (Don't get me wrong; I really like Prof. Labor, we just disagreed here a little and that didn't fit well into what he was doing yesterday).
  2. If you mention something on your resume or cover letter, you better be prepared to talk about it intelligently later in an interview.
  3. If you can demonstrate that you've read the material but that your knowledge of the context of the material is seriously limited, some professors will move on and leave you alone.
All very valuable lessons. YMMV.

Posted 12:32 PM | Comments (7)

September 20, 2004

On Being Behind

It strikes me that in my second year of law school I should know some things I didn't know in the first year, and I'm sure I do, but that's not stopping me from making the same mistake I made last fall, which was to fall behind right from day one. Stupid stupid stupid stupid! This semester I'm taking classes on topics I like and am interested in from the outset, and classes I'm sort of predisposed to dislike. The “good” courses are labor law and evidence, but also ConLaw2. The “bad” class is Corporations, which I'm only taking under the “know your enemy” theory. Also, the only Prof. that uses a strict random socratic method is Prof. Corps, who calls on people randomly and grills them for an hour (really) in a very exacting way. My other profs either don't call on students at all (or almost), or demand very little when they do call, so you can fake it or simply beg off if you have to. So far, none of the reading for any class has been bad, as in really dry and hard to follow. Still, I always want to do the labor reading, and there are parts of ConLaw and Evidence I want to read, while I'm always procrastinating doing the Corps reading. But since the Corps reading must get done (b/c I never know when I'll be in the scorching hot seat in there) I have to do it first all the time. And since it's the reading I want to do the least, I put it off as much as possible. And perversely, that means that I also put off doing the reading I actually want to do. So basically, since I don't want to read for Corporations, I'm not reading at all, and that's killing me. Our compressed 13-week semester is already almost a quarter over—we only have 10 weeks left and I feel like I've barely started! Do not be stupid like me. Do your reading so you won't have to hate Mondays! This message has been a public service from your friends at ai.

Posted 07:11 AM | Comments (4)

September 18, 2004

Speed Networking Bootcamp

Hey, you know, I didn‘t get the memo, so can you tell me something? Are we supposed to be finding jobs right now? I mean, a lot of people seem kind of interested in this topic, but, well, I’m not so much. Ok, a little. A job for next summer would be good. One that pays money would be nice. My credit card balances are really pretty persuasive arguments that I need to find a job that comes with a paycheck. Howrey Bootcamp But rather than really apply for jobs, I‘m better at just surfing around the edge of that pool. I got an email from our career office about something called Howrey Bootcamp, which is supposed to teach litigation skills. So, rather than apply, I went to the website and took the quiz, “Are You A Natural Born Litigator?” I scored an “11,” which is supposed to mean this:
If you scored 11 or above: Ever had that dream where you’re giving your closing argument, you glance up and see a stormy sky where the ceiling ought to be, and every point you make is punctuated by a flash of lightening? Yeah. We thought so. Congratulations. You‘re a natural born litigator. You live and breathe (and dream) the law.  Howrey Bootcamp® is perfect for you. This is your day in the sun.
Of course, I have never had that dream, nor have I had anything like it at all. Sure, I’ve dreamed of being an advocate in court, but there was no lighting involved and the ceiling of the courtroom always seemed to be a light sky blue. (I wonder if that‘s a color choice intended to help people stay calm.) The Bootcamp application requires a 100-word “personal statement.” I tried writing one:
Your “Boot Camp Quiz” suggests that I am a “natural born litigator.” That may be, but I confess I have never had a dream of stormy skies and lightning bolts gracing my courtroom performances. No, my litigation dreams are not stormy; instead, they are calm, collected, and when I finish speaking, a tumultuous storm is the furthest thing from my listeners’ minds. Instead, my listeners will be at peace because they will know that what they just heard was right, and that they are right to agree with it, and to find in favor of my client. And the sun will shine and everyone will rejoice, such is the clarity and power of my persuasive speech. Now, isn‘t that a better dream for a natural born litigator?
I’m sure that would get Howrey‘s attention. If that was the goal, I bet I could do even better:
Dude! I don’t need no stinking “100 words.” What I‘m all about only takes ten: I rock the hardest, and it’s all about the rockage.
Maybe I‘ll apply and see how far that statement gets me. Speed Networking In addition to looking at websites and taking quizes, my job search thus far has also included a public interest “Speed Networking” event last week at GW. Basically, it’s like speed dating, but instead of looking for a date, you‘re looking for a job. Ok, I admit it sounds a bit hokey, and I was concerned beforehand that it would be weird and awkward and a big fat waste of time. I’m happy to report I was completely wrong; the event was fun, interesting, and I learned a lot. The event was open to ten students from each of the area law schools (including, I believe, GW, Georgetown, American, Howard, UDC, Catholic, and Baltimore), all of whom are interested in working in a public interest legal job. On the other side were representatives from about 18-20 different public interest legal employers. The employers sat at tables, and the students chose to sit at those tables that most interested them. The event was divided into five, ten-minute sessions. So the moderator rang a bell to tell us our ten minutes had started, and we began talking to the employer, asking questions, answering questions, etc. Ten minutes later, the bell rang again, we shook hands, and went to another table. The bell rang again, and we speedily networked for 10 more minutes. Sound weird? It was. But like I said, it was actually fun and I think worthwhile. Business cards for DC Public Defenders, SEIU, and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. I had memorable conversations with terrific people from the SEIU, HALT, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, and the D.C. Public Defender Service, aka, the best criminal defense firm in the country. (Doesn‘t the PDS have the most kickass graphic on its business card?) The man from SEIU said his job was next to impossible to get because it’s such a great job that everyone wants it. Yeah, that would be me. The woman from TLPJ said about the same thing. Both offer 1-2 year fellowships for recent law school grads, so that‘s both a good way to get a foot in the door and get some great experience, too. HALT, “an organization of Americans for Legal Reform,” appears to do very cool policy work toward the goal of increasing access and accountability in the civil justice system. They didn’t say it was impossible to get a job there, but there was a funny minute during that 10-minute session when the woman from HALT asked, “So, are any of you interested in policy?” She got blank stares. I had already spoken a bit with her in the session, and if there‘s one thing you have to be careful of in a 10-minute group informational interview, it’s monopolizing the conversation. You don‘t want to be that guy who just wouldn’t shut up and let anyone else get a word in. So I held my tongue, but hell yes! I‘m interested in policy! Definitely something to keep in mind. Finally, the women from PDS were very cool and reminded me immediately of one of the huge upsides to being a PD—being professional means being human, accessible, and outgoing. I’ve talked to some law students who have summered at PDS and they haven‘t raved about it, primarily because it seemed so big that they didn’t get to know any of the attorneys or even many of the other interns very well, and they spent too much time researching and writing, and not enough time in court. I‘m sure experiences may vary, but that makes me glad once again that I worked elsewhere last summer. But, and so, these attorneys from PDS seemed to really love their jobs. They reassured me that, even though the PDS is a huge “firm,” work is spread around evenly and reasonably—one of them said she was only working on seven cases at the moment, which is manageable, and that she almost never feels like she doesn’t have enough time to really do the work necessary to present a quality defense. She said she always has access to several interns, and they save her bacon on a regular basis on the research, writing, and investigation fronts. At any rate, I‘m certain the PDS would also be a very cool place to work next summer or beyond. But I started talking about speed networking, and I’ll end there, by saying again that this was a great idea, I‘m glad I did it, and I recommend it if your school decides to do something like this. I’m not sure if the representatives from the public interest organizations found it as useful as I did, but they should know that, from a student‘s perspective (at least mine), events like this are good for them because they help students target their job searches to jobs they really want and for which they’re actually qualified. This helps employers by reducing the number of applications they have to sift through. At least, it seems like it would. FYI: Today is the deadline to apply to be an intern next summer at the Dept. of Justice. If the election goes well, that could be a very interesting job. I‘m sure it would be an interesting job regardless of which way the election goes, but I’m pretty sure I‘d enjoy it a lot more if the Attorney General is ABA (Anyone But Ashcroft). FTR (For The Record): There’s a fan in my window blowing cool air on me, but currently it is almost certainly also blowing the distinct scent of marijuana smoke into my little office space. Yes, one of my neighbors is smoking dope. Yet, it‘s raining outside. Could I be mistaken?

Posted 09:58 AM | Comments (2)

September 13, 2004

The Fargo Case

Class QOTD: “”This is something you have to put in a casebook.“ — Prof Evidence, referring to Wood v. Morbark Industries, 70 F.3d 1201 (11th Cit. 1995), in which a man named Mr. Wood was killed by a wood chipper made by Morbark Industries. Really.

Posted 11:44 AM

September 10, 2004

Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer

Class QOTD: "I know you're sophisticated law students, but you can still laugh like hell. He made up the statistics!" —Prof. Evidence Prof. Evidence was referring to People v. Collins, 550 F.2d 1036 (1968), known as "the probability case" because it discusses what's required to to establish that evidence of probability has been properly introduced and used by the prosecution in a criminal case. The court wrote:
"As we explain in detail infra, the testimony as to mathematical probability infected the case with fatal error and distorted the jury's traditional role of determining guilt or innocence according to long-standing rules. Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer in our computerized society, while assisting the trier of fact in the search for truth, must not cast a spell over him. We conclude that on the record before us defendant should not have had his guilt determined by the odds that he is entitled to a new trial."
Take that all you statisticians and numbers wonks! Your sorcery is not welcome here!

Posted 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2004

Quotable Professors

Three great quotes from yesterday's classes: 1) "There are some places in our country where, if a police officer comes to your door and you don't run, you're a damn fool." —Prof. Evidence (talking about whether evidence that a defendant fled the police is relevant or probative of anything). 2) "This opinion is vapid, it will melt your brain." —Prof. Corps (in response to Simons v. Cogan, 549 A.2d 300 (Del. 1988); the good Prof. was making the point that the opinion's reasoning was circular. The opinion basically says that corps. owe a fiduciary duty to stockholders, but not to bondholders, but its answer for why was because "that's the way it is." Prof. Corps argued that the more logical reason for this difference is that the debt can "self-protect" by negotiating the terms of its loan via the terms of the bond. The stockholders don't have that option to negotiate a contract—their contract is the corp's charter, and it's non-negotiable—so stockholders get a fiduciary duty and voting rights.) 3) Bodies lying all over the place used to cause stock prices to plummet, but "you're inured to that now because you get to see Iraq on tv every day." Prof. Corps (Talking about Jedwab v. MGM Grand Hotels, Inc., 509 A.2d 584 (Del. Ch. 1986), which followed a big fire at an MGM hotel ("the worst disaster in Las Vegas history") that killed 84 people and caused MGM stock to tank. By this reasoning (that Americans today are inured to dead bodies and carnage from tragedies and war), a side benefit of the Iraq war to Bush's corporate friends is that they can now create lots more carnage (literally and figuratively) in their pursuit of profit w/out those activities damage their stock price too seriously. Great.)

Posted 07:16 AM

September 07, 2004

Welcome Labor!

Speaking of labor (and since yesterday was Labor Day, after all), a hearty welcome to the Labor Blog which its authors say is necessary because:
because we think what people do 8+ hours per day, 5+ days a week is where the fate of the nation and the world rests. When workers have power in the workplace, they end up with power in the political world, just as employers use power in the private economy to leverage privileges from the public sector.
I'll bet Justice Thomas is really going to enjoy reading this new blog! ;-) [link via the ACSblog]

Posted 11:53 AM

Reason to disagree w/Justice Thomas #32

Lechmere, Inc. v. NLRB, 502 U.S. 527 (1992): Justice Thomas goes to great lengths to repeat at least a dozen times the rule established (or rather, according to him, affirmed by this case). That rule is simply that "an employer cannot be compelled to allow distribution of union literature by nonemployee organizers on his property" except where "the location of a plant and the living quarters of the employees place the employees beyond the reach of reasonable union efforts to communicate with them." NLRB v. Babocock & Wilcox Co., 351 U.S. 105, 113 (1956). It's really a simple rule. A very bad rule (as the dissent by Justices White and Blackmun makes very clear), but it's simple, and could have been expressed once, with perhaps a few examples of the exception. Thomas provides the examples (which are as narrow as he can manage, including logging camps, mining camps, and mountain resort hotels), but he does so in a ponderous and pedantic way, apparently so he can repeat again and again that he's giving the finger to the union with this opinion. Respectfully, Justice Thomas, we get your point. Thanks.

Posted 09:44 AM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2004

Green Means Go

After two days as a 2L, I've learned an important lesson: Yes, I can make it to class in 11 minutes or less, but only if I hit every light just right and if I don't mind getting to class puffing like a steam locomotive and drenched in sweat. Twenty minutes or more travel time is much more sane. The good news about travel time from the new apartment is that it seems much easier to hit all the lights for some reason. On my old commute, I used to have to stop at 4-6 red lights nearly every day, simply because of the way they were all timed. Now, there are several more lights between home and school, but for whatever reason, after waiting at the first one, if I just keep a good pace the rest of the way I don't seem to have to stop at any more—they're all green. I hope that's some kind of positive sign, but whatever, it's a kicky ride to get to school every morning since it's basically all downhill and with every light green I can just fly. Riding home (up up up!) is a different matter, but it's good to get the heart pumping at least once a day, or so I've heard.

Posted 11:53 AM | Comments (3)

August 31, 2004

Day One, Year Two

Like a truck slamming into you on the highway. That's how the semester begins. Even on day one, there are reading assignments to do and discuss, and student organizations and extracurriculars are hitting the ground running. Yesterday my classes began at 8:50 a.m. and didn't end until 5:50 p.m. Sure, I had breaks in between, but they were filled with running around to the bookstore, financial aid, registration, and other administrivia. Long day. Packed day, a day when suddenly every moment of my time for the next three months seemed to fill up to overflowing. And of course it's not like that; it's never as hard as it seems to be, but on day one, sitting in class again for the first time in months, it can be a little discouraging to think of all the reading that lays ahead of you, all the classes you must attend, all the hoops you must jump through. Of course, it's also a little exciting, too, because there's a lot to learn, and at least some of it will be fascinating and useful and worthwhile. Yin. Yang. One thing I'm not so sure about though: The conventional wisdom is that the second year of law school is somehow easier than the first year. I'm not sure how that could be true. I mean, yes, it's easier in that you know a little more about what to expect so you don't have to deal with all the newness and uncertainty of your first year, but the workload seems, if anything, greater this year than last. Perhaps that's not true. I guess I'll find out. The schedule for this year includes the following classes, three of which met yesterday. Highlights from the notes:
  • Evidence: Every attorney and every person should know about the rules of evidence—everything you say or do is evidence of something. "That oughta worry the hell out of ya." (We also watched a few minutes from the film, "Brother's Keeper"—I guess we're going to be talking about it in terms of how we could use the different pieces of evidence raised by the murder investigation it documents.)
  • Labor Law: 25 years ago, the stock market was at 1000, now it's at 10,000. Stockholder wealth is up 10 times. 25 years ago CEOs earned 40-1 what average worker earned, now it's 500-1. When American CEOs travel around the world they are embarrassed about this. Meanwhile, employee wages have remained stagnant. 1.3 million more in poverty this year than last. Gap between rich and poor is getting wider b/c people in bottom 20% have no voice. 45 million Americans have no health coverage at all, at least 30 million of those work and either have no health care option or an option that's too expensive so they can't afford it. Every other group in our society is organized because we recognize that we need to be organized to have any political power in America, yet society tells workers they don't need to organize. Why not?
  • Corporations: American business is not about business, it's about the stock market. This single-minded focus on Wall Street is a damaging, long-term problem that will ultimately destroy corporate capitalism in America unless something changes, and it's all because of the historical development of the corporations in America. We read Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819)—"the emancipation proclamation for corporations" because it's the decision that made them independent juridical persons.
  • ConLaw II: Hasn't met yet.
So far, so good. I expect evidence will be interesting but a little bit of a slog because I'm not a big fan of rules classes, I'll be loving labor law, and corporations is going to be a big challenge because even though the professor seems highly critical of "American Corporate Capitalism," I'm guessing his critique is still a lot more pro-business than mine. ConLaw II should also be interesting, but I'll find out more about that today...

Posted 07:33 AM | Comments (8)

August 29, 2004

And That's Basically That

I was almost forgetting to say the BBQ/Poker Party was a rousing success (at least it seemed so), and to thank all those who came for coming and leaving me with all your liquor and money. Ok, I'm kidding about the money part. We played two tournaments and I got booted ignominiously from the early rounds of the first, but managed to luck my way to the number two spot in the second tournament. I really do play better poker when I just play for fun and don't worry about stakes or winning. There's a lesson in that, I reckon. And so the summer is pretty well over. The list of things I hoped to accomplish this summer is long and daunting, but those things will just have to wait for now. I've been sitting around all day trying to get myself to visit the webpage that lists the reading I'm supposed to have done for tomorrow, but for some reason my web browser just won't go there. I think there's something wrong with my computer, or the internet, maybe. Yeah, I definitely think it's going to be impossible for me to access that homework assignment. Definitely.

Posted 06:31 PM

August 28, 2004

Last Saturday before 2L

it's the last Saturday before school starts (for me), and I really wish it would last forever. I purchased books yesterday to the tune of $430 (that's 8 books). This was after picking up and depositing my "auto refund" check, which means I only had to use first order fake money to pay for the books instead of the second order fake money I've been existing on for a few weeks now.

Tangent: All borrowed money is fake money because it's not really yours; you have to find that money again someday to pay off the loan, so you're not really spending money, you're spending promissory notes. So both school loans and credit cards are fake money; however, school loans are first order fake money because you're getting cash directly from a lender. Credit cards are second order fake money because you don't even get cash, you get nothing except the debt, which, if you're like me, you can then pay off with the cash from your loans. It's all very ugly. Fake money is bad, no matter how you slice it.

But, and so, it's the last Saturday before school starts and I'm sure as hell not opening any of those gold-plated books I bought. instead, I want to try to finish reading The DaVinci Code, and we're also busily preparing for a BBQ we're hosting tonight. One benefit of our new apt. is the deck and grill out back—it would be a shame not to use it! So it'll be BBQ'd chicken, burgers, hot dogs, brats, portobellos, gardenburgers, and smart dogs (never say we don't have enough options), plus grilled corn on the cob, a nice fresh pasta salad, and a tangy BLT salad as well. For desert, L. has whipped up something with homemade pudding, cool whip, cappuccino, and oreos. I'm not sure what it is, but I know I'm going to wish there was more. The evening will end w/a no limit Hold 'Em Poker tournament, with a million dollar first prize. (Kidding about the prize part.)

See why I wish this day would last forever?

Posted 05:05 PM | Comments (4)

August 12, 2004

Two Days

My summer internship ends tomorrow, Friday the 13th. Is the date somehow significant?

Strangely, I don't really want this job to end. It would be great if I could continue doing it through school for 10-20 hours/week or something, but I just can't see how that's going to be possible. This fall will be full with EJF, NLG, and ACS obligations and activities, not to mention some journal work, plus class, plus novel-writing through november. Oh, and then there's are all that career research I should probably be doing and all those resumes I should probably send out. Isn't now the time I'm supposed to be getting clerkship applications ready if that's something I want to do?

It's going to be one crazy fall, no doubt about it.

Posted 06:59 AM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2004

FIP Not For Me

In order to get a J.D. these days, most everyone jumps through a number of similar hoops—the LSAT, applying/selling oneself to schools, deciding which school to attend out of those who accepted you, the socratic method in classes, final exams, skills competitions (mock trial, moot court, journal, etc.), interviews for 1L summer jobs, and more. I've been through all of those now at least once, and many of them I'll have to hop through again inn the coming months. But there's one more hoop that I'm just reaching for the first time: The Fall Interview Program (FIP), also known as OCI (On Campus Interviews).

FIP/OCI is an interesting little ritual. The basic idea is that legal employers (mostly law firms of various sizes and persuasions) tell your school's career services office that they're going to come to campus to interview students for jobs. Some firms interview people for permanent positions, but most come to interview rising 2Ls (people who have completed only their first of three years of law school) for temporary summer jobs. Students compete intensely for these jobs because they're really like extended interviews; if you work in Firm X during your second summer of law school and you do well there, Firm X will often invite you back the following summer (after you've earned your J.D.) to begin a permanent position with the firm.

One way to look at this is that schools are paving the way for their best students to get high-paying jobs. Another way to look at is the schools are whoring their students out to the highest bidder. Oops! Did I say that? ;-)

But however you look at it, FIP/OCI is a big hoop for many students; it's the main reason they work hard their first year, because the firms that interview during FIP/OCI generally want only the creme de la creme.

That's one reason I've been torn about whether to participate in what our school calls FIP: My grades don't put me in the top 10-20 percent that many employers are looking for. Beyond that, I have very little desire to work in a law firm, and firms make up 99% of employers participating in FIP. After spending a few hours researching my options through FIP, I've decided not to participate.

Even the research for FIP is alienating—the firms give eAttorney very little information about themselves, and most say only that they want students with GPAs in the top 10-20% and who are on law review. The least they could do is tell us how much they plan to pay, since that's really what most law students seem to care about, anyway. At least then it's a bit more of a fair and honest deal. I tell you my grades and accomplishments, you tell me what you're going to pay me for them. You make no pretense of caring about me (or anything else) beyond how much money I can make for you; I'll make no pretense of caring about anything beyond how much money you'll pay me. As Tom Hanks kept trying to say in "You've Got Mail" (a crap movie, in most regards): It's just business.

But this business is my life, so I'm not actually that eager to sell it to the highest bidder. It's funny. I've spoken to many firm associates, most of whom are rather miserable. I've listened to career counsellors and experienced attorneys encourage law students to think carefully about their careers and their lives before signing up with a firm. I've watched some of my law school classmates work at firms this summer and quickly learn to hate the firm associate grind—even the pampered version of that most summer associates get. Yet, some huge percentage of law students seem to be working for nothing but the best-paying positions they can land at firms. They're like lambs to the slaughter, except lambs are innocent. How many of these students will wake up 3-5 years from now wondering what the hell they've done with their lives?

But whatever. It's tough to talk about this because so many people I know (and who read this site) are focused on careers in law firms, rather than in public interest law. I understand that different people want different things out of life, but I do wish our society did not constantly teach that money is the best or only arbiter of success and accomplishment. I wish law school required more students to actually work with real people who need help—criminal defendants, the homeless, people without health care, etc.—so that these people and their struggles would no longer be abstract. I think it would be harder to make the bargains required to work in firms then. But if wishes were fishes...

Of course, some people work in law firms and love it. Some also firms do great work that actually does help people and society. It's possible. It happens. I'm just not willing to do the research it would take to find those people and firms.

But I know most law students are going to participate in FIP or OCI or whatever their school calls it, and I wish them all luck. May you find the firm that pays well and does not destroy your soul. And if you find it, please let me know so I can apply there, too. Meanwhile, I'll be spending my time looking and applying elsewhere. For example, coming up with a project that might qualify for a Soros Justice Fellowship looks like a great way to spend some time.

Posted 06:17 AM | Comments (4)

July 21, 2004

That Journals Thing

DG has rounded up a number of blawgers who deserve congratulations for recently winning spots on their respective law reviews, herself included. So:

Congratulations, everyone!

I'm sure there are many more blawgers out there who have made it on their journals this season, or who will be notified soon that they have. Congratulations to them, as well.

The journal is a big deal for many law students, and while I previously mocked our journal competition, I did enjoy the exercise. That's partly why I was thrilled to learn last Sunday that I did manage to earn a spot on the American Intellectual Property Law Association's quarterly journal. It's not our law review, but it ain't nothin', either. I'm told that this is a great compromise as far as the four journals at GW go because, although a position on the AIPLA journal may not carry the prestige of one on the law review or one of the other journals, it also (reportedly) doesn't require as much time or stress. According to an email from the journal, my workload will consist of three major tasks:

  1. Preemption Check. For each article that we consider for publication, we ensure that the subject matter has not been "preempted," i.e. already published. Each article must address a novel issue or take a new twist on something already out there.
  2. Compile collection. For each article, our staff is responsible for verifying that the material cited by the author actually exists. We retrieve a hard copy of each source cited and highlight the area referenced by the author. This is to avoid plagiarism and to ensure that we only publish articles grounded in fact.
  3. Blue Booking. The article must be BB perfect. In those instances were several blue-booking methods are acceptable, we must ensure that we chose those methods that conform to previous AIPLA issues to ensure consistency.
I assume and hope that we'll also be writing a note at some point. I think the AIPLA journal would be a good place to argue that Lexis and Westlaw are abusive and antisocial uses of intellectual property protections, don't you?

Posted 08:37 AM | Comments (7)

May 25, 2004

Menagerie Looks Back

Shelley at The Menagerie recently posted some reflections on her 2L year of law school, including this great big-picture advice:

My token advice for the 2L year (similar to my 1L advice): Work hard, but know when to stop. Read for every class. Keep the hobbies you enjoy. Cut back on your extra-curricular commitments, but make time for friends and family outside of school, even if you don't think you have the time to. Drink good wine on occasion. Pamper yourself in the run up to finals. Don't listen to rumors. Take practice exams. Befriend your fellow students and ignore the competitive ones. Go for long walks during study breaks, to clear your mind. Smile at everyone you see; say "hi" to a random new person every day. If you have a bad feeling about a class the first day, drop it and take something else.

Right now, thinking about 2L is about the furthest thing from my mind, but I hope to remember to return to sensible advice like this come August when the crazy train starts firing up again.

Posted 05:40 AM

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