Friday, June 30, 2006

In another life....

While I have a girlfriend whom I love deeply, a man's mind can't help but wander. If I were single, I'd definitely date a woman who had a big firm job.

Some guys would find a big firm associate girlfriend emasculating but, for me, it would be the perfect woman: At Work All The Time + Lots of Money = Less Nagging + Can Afford a Maid to Pick Up After Me.

Here's how I imagine it going....

Russ: Wow, 11 pm? You're home late.

Big Law Girlfriend: Yeah, a statute of limitations was going to run and we had to decide whether we were going to file or let it run to reduce our own joint liability. I have to have a memo on the partner's desk by tomorrow morning, so I still have work to do.

Russ: I know what you mean. The TV was on the fritz, today, and I had to figure out if it was the cable or the TiVo box that was broken or I was going to miss a "Magnum PI" re-run...Don't worry. All I missed was the theme song.

But the real fun would be attending Big Firm social events with the Big Firm Girlfriend...

Big Firm Male Associate: Can't complain about the salary. I live in a big apartment down town.

Russ: So do I.

Big Firm Male Associate: And I make impulse purchases without looking at the price tag.

Russ: So do I.

Big Firm Male Associate: But, I have to work slavishly in a high pressure environment.

Russ: So did I...until my girlfriend bought an electric cat litter cleaners. Now my entire day is free.

What could have been.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Recent Exchange

Russ: Hey, do you download music?
Mike: When I do, I use Napster.
Russ: You actually pay for it?
Mike: Yeah, if I really want it.
Russ: You're crazy.
Mike: Man, I can't sit here and steal music in good conscience while the surviving members of Blind Melon go without that second Jaguar. That just isn't right.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Popular

Go ahead and google the words "barely legal." Believe it or not, we are the #2 google search result for that famous phrase. In this porn addled world, that's quite an accomplishment.

We've often speculated when Larry Flynt will serve us with a cease and desist order so, until then, thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Don't believe us? Think we're just cynical?

...Well the Wall Street Journal agrees with us. Here's there latest article. (You need a password to reead it so I'll just repost it below). In the June 23rd, 2006, Wall Street Journal, Cameron Stracher writes:

The legal profession is really two professions: the elite lawyers and everyone else. Most of the former start out at big law firms. Many of the latter never find gainful legal employment. Instead, they work at jobs that might be characterized as "quasi-legal": paralegals, clerks, administrators, doing work for which they probably never needed a J.D.

Although hard data about the nature of these jobs is difficult to come by (and relies on self-reporting, which is inherently unreliable), the mean salary for graduates of top 10 law schools is $135,000 while it is $60,000 for "tier three" schools. It's certainly possible that tier-three graduates tend to gravitate toward lower-paying public-interest and government jobs, but this lower salary may also reflect the nonlegal nature of many of these jobs and the fact that these graduates are settling for anything that will pay the bills.

At $38,000 a year for law school, plus living expenses, law-school graduates certainly have a lot of debt ($60,000 on average, upon graduation). For this price, college students and their parents should be thinking harder about their choices. When I went to law school, nearly everyone tried to convince me that doing so would "keep my options open." All this really means is: "You can still be a lawyer."

If I wanted to be a screenwriter, waiting tables would have kept my options open, too. In fact, many wannabe screenwriters find themselves going to law school, misled by adults into thinking that it will help them get into the movie business. It won't. Sure, you can be a talent agent or a movie producer with a law degree, but you can be one without a degree, too. Most of the skills you learn in law school (and legal practice) won't help you make a movie, and the few that will may not be worth the cost (more than $120,000, including tuition, living expenses, as well as three years of forgone experience and salary). Rather than keeping options open, the crushing debt of law school often slams doors shut, pushing law students to find the highest-paying job they can and forever deferring dreams of anything else.

It's time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don't earn $160,000 a year, that we can't afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don't lunch with rock stars or produce movies. Every year I'm surprised by the number of my students who think a J.D. degree is a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one's peers -- a sure ticket to the upper middle class. Even for the select few for whom it is, not many last long enough at their law firms to really enjoy it.

There's something wrong with a system that makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future. If we wanted to be honest, we would inform students that law school doesn't keep their options open. Instead, we should say that if they work hard and do well, they can become lawyers.

To all those with big firm jobs congrats on "winning" the lottery. To all those who can't get them, remember what you learned in law school: You cannot discharge student loans when declaring bankruptcy.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Brainwashing

Naivety can lead people to do some dangerous things. One minute you are a lonely college freshman who gets invited to a Bible study, and the next thing you know you are getting your head shaved, changing your name to Elmo, and are a full fledged member of the local cult.

I admit that I was pretty na├»ve about the whole thing when I was a 1L, and that’s how I came to join the law school version of a cult: The study group. Like a cult, the study group exists mainly for the comfort of the members. They gain no actual benefits, aside from a false belief that they are on the path to enlightenment. Both the cult and the study group are led by one person, who acts like they are all knowing but in reality are full of shit. And like cult members, study groupers are quick to attribute their academic success to their membership, but are quick to absolve the study group of any blame when their grades don’t turn out as they hoped.

Halfway into my first week as a law student, the people with whom I shared a row in Torts asked me if I wanted to join them for lunch. I had been talking to these people, two guys and two girls, since orientation, and they seemed alright, so I accepted. After lunch, one girl pulled me aside and said, “Would you like to join our study group? We meet every day at 8am.” I didn’t know what to say. I have never liked studying in groups, but everyone seemed to be dividing off, and I didn’t want to be left out. So like the lonely college freshman invited to the Bible study, I told them I would.

The next day, I strolled in around 8:45, found the room they had reserved, and went in. The four of them all looked at me, annoyed. I set up my little work station, and we got down to business. The topic at hand was a case assigned for property. I don’t remember what it was about exactly, something to do with land use rights. The leader of the group started off by saying, “Okay, first lets figure out the procedural history.” They all scanned the case for clues as to how it reached the state supreme court, while I informed them that from what was given, it was not readily ascertained from the case. They tried to piece together the few bits of information about it that were included, but could not come to a consensus. All the while I was suggesting we move on to the important part of the case, which fell upon deaf ears. For 45 minutes, the argument continued. Lexis and Westlaw were pulled up, a civil procedure book was retrieved from the other side of the library, the librarian was consulted, but still, the procedural history could not be figured out. Finally I snapped. “Look, there isn’t some clue you have yet to discover, it just isn’t there. So quit wasting all your time trying to figure it out, and worry about the important part of the case.”

“But what if he asks us about it,” one guy whined.

“Then tell the asshole that you spent 45 fucking minutes trying to figure it out, admit you are a failure as a law student, and then explain the important parts of the case, the parts that actually matter.” They all looked at me with half-shocked expressions, and without saying another word, I packed up my stuff and left. As I was walking out of the room, I heard one girl say, “Maybe it was an appeal by the defense….”

I left the study group like people leave all religions: still confused about the world and my place in it, but at least having eliminated one dumb way to go through it. Three years later I can safely say I never drank any of the law school's kool-aid.

One more thing: when one of them asked the professor about the procedural history after class, he said, “I don’t know…It doesn’t matter anyway.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Tao of Mike

A little while back, I was on my way to eat dinner at my parents’ house when traffic came to a standstill. When I finally crept past the cause of the delay, I saw two cars which had been in a pretty bad accident. My immediate reaction was not “I bet the blue car is at fault,” or “The white car probably has a great negligence claim,” but rather, “That sucks.”

At dinner, my mom spoke of a customer of hers who hadn’t paid his bill. When my mom asked me for what kind of options she had, I didn’t say “Well, he is clearly in violation of the contract and you have remedies available,” or “When I get home I can do some research and get back to you,” but rather, “I can go break his thumbs if you want.”

Later that evening, I came across several police cars which seemed to be searching a car that they had pulled over for drugs. The words “probable cause”, “Terry stop”, or “1983 violation” never even entered my mind. All I could think of was “Busted!”

Then it suddenly dawned on me. The law student in me was dying, and the old me was reemerging. Over the next few days I noticed other changes too. I could watch Law & Order without correcting glaring inaccuracies. The word “reading” took on a positive connotation. I no longer felt the need to reeducate people who want to go to law school; instead I just pitied them. In short, a new sort of inner peace and calm had come to me.

I asked Russ about this, and he had noticed the same thing. “Law school is an unhealthy place,” he said. “Black is white, B’s are average, and nerds are cool. Once you leave, it’s like a weight is lifted.”

I feel confident that my inner peace is going to be with me for a while. Other recent grads won’t be so lucky. Once they get out there and start being real lawyers, inner peace will only be a faraway fantasy, right next to “happy marriage” and “relaxing vacation.” But don’t feel too bad for them. Who needs inner peace when you have Prozac and bourbon?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Careful What You Wish For

Recently, a reader with whom I regularly chat with via IM had a cryptic away message up, and I asked her what it meant. Rather than tell me, she made me try to guess, and a game of 20 questions ensued. I came close, but didn't quite get the answer, so she said she'd tell me if I did a post mentioning her blog. Since I am quite childish and cannot stand to not know something, I jumped at this offer. She told me, and it was worth it.

So here ya go: http://witcheseatcalculators.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mike v. Professor, The Final Chapter

Part 1


Part 2

With about a month left to go before the term ended, he opened one day by telling us about his exam. “My exam,” he said, “will consist of a list of case names and terms which we covered in the reading over the course of the semester. You will be expected to explain the facts of each case and tell me what each case stands for, or what each term means.” The class was taken aback by this unconventional exam, myself among them. I am far from being a law school apologist, but I really have no issues with the typical exam format. Essay, multiple choice, or a mix of the two designed to test a students ability to apply the law to different situations requires students to use their critical thinking skills. His exam did none of that. The purpose of reading a case is to understand the underlying law, not memorize specific fact patterns and holdings. A friend later said to me, “This exam is borderline high school.” When I questioned what he meant by borderline, he explained, “it’s almost junior high.” But this is the exam he chose to give, and the class wasn’t pleased.

Dozens of hands shot into the air, and one by one, people peppered him with questions, trying to get him to narrow down the scope of the exam, or at the very least, be more specific about what he expected. He did neither. Once all of the hands had been called on, he shouted out, “Any more questions? Anyone?” Looking around the room, his eyes locked on his favorite target. “Mr. [Mike], any questions?” he asked me, despite not having my hand raised. “Actually, I do,” I said, and he launched into his carnival barker voice. “Another question! Outstanding! Please, Mr. [Mike], what is your question?”

“I was just wondering what you are trying to accomplish with an exam format like this. It seems to me that giving a hypothetical fact scenario and having us apply what we have learned in class would be a much better way of testing our knowledge than having us spit back what we memorized about certain cases.”

The shit-eating grin which had been on his face disappeared and he tensed up. “What I am trying to accomplish is to make sure that you did the reading and paid attention in class.”

“And that is more important than understanding and being able to apply the law?”

He glared at me for a second, and moved on to the lesson plan. After class, a friend told me he has never seen a professor get more defensive than he did when I called him out. Later on in that class period, in a move even more blatant than his obvious crush on the hot girl in the front row, he called on me to explain the longest, most complicated case of the semester. To his chagrin, I had read it, and succeeded in making him look stupid for the second time that day.

For the rest of the semester, he lightened up on me. Once I had called him on his awful teaching, he was less eager to let me speak up. On the last day of class, he spent the first ten minutes trying to further justify his exam. “It couldn’t be easier,” he told us. “I’ll give you a case name, and you tell me about the case. It’s just straight memorization.” And this was the folly in his thinking. For two or three years, we, as law students, have trained ourselves not to memorize cases, but to be able to read a case consisting of a unique fact pattern, and apply the underlying law to other fact patterns. This is the essence of law school. And love it or hate it, it works. Talking to my friends who are preparing for the bar, they say that even though they haven’t take Torts in two and a half years, it comes right back to them. They remember elements and exceptions and defenses, all of which was extracted from cases they read. And this is precisely what they will be tested on. The bar exam will most assuredly not ask them to recite the facts from Palsgraf. In short, the exam he gave was an insult to his student’s intelligence, and incredibly lazy on his part.

Like 3Ls across the country, I didn’t read for the last day of class. I didn’t even bring my book. I was sitting in my usual back row seat, busying myself on the internet while the class was discussing a case. He was wandering around the room, and when he was two rows in front of me, looked at me and sneered, “Mr. [Mike], tell us about the next case.”

I looked back at him and said, “I’d love to, but I didn’t read it.” I could have left well enough alone, but you know that’s not in my nature, so I sarcastically added, “Why don’t you ask me about it next week on the exam?”

The look on his face went from a sadistic smirk to utter hatred. “But class is today,” he said through clenched jaws.

“I am aware of that, but the exam is next week, and since you want us to memorize all these cases, just ask me about it then. I'll know it when it matters.”

He said something about the exam, but I didn’t quite understand him. When I asked a friend later what he had said, he told me that he didn’t understand either, and described it as “gibberish.” A few moments later, he ended class early and walked out.



Epilogue: The exam was exactly what he promised, and was probably the biggest waste of two hours since my girlfriend dragged me to see Elizabethtown. I got a B, which is what I expected, and no doubt pissed him off, seeing as how he typically gave a handful of Ds each semester.

Throughout the semester, I enjoyed telling Russ my tales from this ridiculous class, and we enjoyed making jokes about his past as a popular oldies singer. One time Russ asked why he hated me so much. I thought about it and said, “Who knows…maybe he thought I was the one who put the bop in the bop sh-bop sh-bop, not him.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Me, I Thought He Was An Asshole

I entered the classroom on the first day of my second year of law school and scanned the room for a familiar face. The class was comprised of predominantly 3Ls, and I saw only a handful of people from my class, none of whom I was particularly eager to sit with. I spied an empty chair at the end of an aisle and sat down. In the seat next to mine was a 3L guy, who busily typed away at his laptop. As I unpacked my own laptop, he started chatting.

“Hey,” he said in a booming voice. “You must be a 2L. Congrats on making it back for another round of this shit. Me, this is my third year.” He spoke louder than he needed to, with an East Coast accent that he made no attempt to conceal, and possibly was even trying to accentuate.

“Yeah, well, I’m not too pleased about it,” I responded, trying to give off the vibe that I was not interested in a conversation.

“Tell me about it,” he chortled, taking my unenthusiastic response as an invitation to open up to me. “I just got back in town last night. I sure do miss home…” He trailed off, expecting me to ask him a follow up. I didn’t, so he continued. “Yeah, I really wish I was still home…” He trailed off again, clearly setting me up to ask where home was. Against my better judgment, I took the bait. “Where are you from?” I halfheartedly asked.

His face lit up. “Me, I’m from Philly. Lived in Philly most of my life. Spent my summer working there, in downtown Philly. I love that place.” He paused, and added, “Yeah, I love Philly.”

I found it odd that he said the word “Philly” four times in his brief answer, but before I could ponder it further, he continued. “Yeah, I worked for a firm in Philly. The work was okay, but at the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s what I would want to do permanently. It was mostly tax stuff I did. Tax is okay and everything, but at the end of the day, it’s not for me.”

I was about to ask why not, but as if anticipating my question, he kept talking. “Me, I want to do litigation. Now I know, a job is a job in this market, but at the end of the day, there isn’t much litigation in tax work. I want to be in the courtroom, trying cases. I don’t care if it’s criminal or civil, defense or prosecution, at the end of the day, I want to be in the courtroom.”

By now, I was both perplexed and trying to keep from laughing. He had this odd habit of repeating a word or a phrase over and over in a short period of time. It was irritating, but also laughable because he spoke so loudly with a rather thick accent. I could only imagine how a jury would react to this. My mind pictured him in a nice suit inside of a courtroom, delivering an opening statement.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, at the end of the day there are two things I am certain of: Me, I love Philly, and at the end of the day, my client is innocent…”

He snapped me back from my fantasy world with a question. “Did you do the reading for today?” Before I could tell him that I had yet to purchase the book, he started talking again. “Me, I read it. Well, not all of it, but for all intensive purposes, I read it.” My ears burned, and he continued. “I have a system for reading for class. I read the main cases, and nothing else. For all intensive purposes, the main cases are what matter.” He said this as though he was on to something no one else knew.

“Say that again,” I directed him.

“Say what? For all intensive purposes, the main cases are what matter.”

“Look,” I said. “I hate to be the guy correcting how people speak, but the phrase is ‘for all intents and purposes,’ not ‘for all intensive purposes’. I would hate to have you mispronounce this in front of a jury.”

Instead of thanking me for my speech lesson, he got defensive. “Hey! I say things how I want to say them, and I don’t need you coming in here and correcting me. Get out of here with this ‘intents and purposes’ shit.” With that, he snorted and said something under his breath.

During class, he continued to give me menacingly dirty looks, and the professor passed around a seating chart that bound me to the seat next to him for the rest of the semester. So what did I do? I went home and dropped the class.

I know it seems drastic, but the last thing I needed was my new friend from Philly bothering me all semester, and for all “intensive purposes”, moving to a new seat wasn’t an option since the class was full. Besides, I didn’t really want to take the class to begin with, so at the end of the day, it was the right thing to do.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bar Review Observation # 3

Lots of cliches lately...

To the guy who had on the Gadzook-esque shirt that said, "Trust me I'm a Lawyer",

Not cute

To the very attractive petite blonde who pinned her bangs back the other day to look like Reese Witherspoon from "Legally Blonde",

Very cute

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Whoever said that possession is 9/10ths of the law was an asshole. I never liked that rule. This guy is taking the remaining 1/10th and getting back what he deserves.

http://www.evanwashere.com/StolenSidekick/

Mike v. Professor, Part 2

Part 1

It all started during the third week of class. On that Tuesday, we were going over some assigned cases, and I was sticking to my usual strategy of sitting in the back, laying low, and hoping to get by undetected. The professor called out the name of another case, and said, in an exaggerated tone, almost like a carnival barker, “Mr. [Mike]…Is there a Mr. [Mike] in the house…Are you here, Mr. [Mike]?” I don’t know if he was trying to be funny or folksy or what, but it came out awkwardly, and once he was done grandstanding, I raised my hand and quickly explained what I knew about the case, which I had skimmed earlier during class. My explanation satisfied him, and sent him off on a 15 minute tangent about an unrelated topic while I sat back in my seat, knowing I was safe from being called on for a while. Or so I thought.

The next time class met was on Thursday, and since I had been called on the previous meeting, I naturally didn’t prepare. I was sitting in my usual back row seat, engaged in a few IM conversations and a game of Text Twist, when all of the sudden, I heard the carnival barker shout my name again. I was a bit surprised that he was calling on me, but at the same time, I didn’t really care. Once he was done with his silly name game and asked me to explain the case, without looking up from my laptop screen, I told him, “Sorry, I didn’t read it.” I expected him to move on to someone else, but instead, he decided to try and embarrass me. “Bad, Mr. [Mike]….Baaaad,” as if he was speaking to a misbehaving puppy. And his tone was no longer the jovial carnival barker, but took on a more serious nature. When he was finished scolding me, instead of letting it go, my high school class clown instincts took over and I responded. “Yeah well, it happens to the best of us,” I said to him, dismissively. He glared at me for a second, and I glared right back. This would be the beginning of our conflict.

Over the next month, he called on me at least once per class. It wasn’t always to explain a case; sometimes he threw a random question my way, other times asking for my opinion. But regardless of the purpose for calling on me, on thing became clear in my mind: This was his was of exacting revenge for my previous lack of preparation. If I knew the answer or read the case, I participated. If I didn’t or hadn’t, I said so. And if he tried to embarrass me, I would make a disrespectful comment towards him. (Who says I have to be mature?)

For as smart as law students are purported to be, some have a very difficult time determining if a professor is good or not. A few people have told me that all a professor has to do is “not be mean”, and he or she will garner their respect and affection. My Entertainment Law professor fell into this category for some. Between his jovial (yet fake) demeanor and quasi-former celebrity, he could have sat in the front of the room and ate a can of beans, and some people would adore him. But the smarter people who take him recognize him for what he is: Simply put, a bad professor, and nothing represents his incompetence more than his final exam.

Part Three coming next week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Curious Case of Mike v. Professor, Part One

Ever since entering into the world of higher education, I have treated professors much like I treat wild animals: I won’t bother them, and hope that they won’t bother me. I have never been the type of person to ask silly questions or offer up crackpot answers during class. I never really felt compelled to contribute to classroom discussions, especially in large classes. I have never sought out a professor for his “wisdom” once the designated class period ended. On the rare occasions when I did have to meet a professor in his or her office, I felt uncomfortable and did my best to end the meeting as quickly as possible. In short, I did my best to blend in as one of the many faces in the crowd, and hoped that they would treat me as such. And for the most part, until this last semester, my strategy worked.

When I was choosing courses for my final round of law school classes, I needed three more hours, and I begrudgingly added Entertainment Law to my schedule. I say begrudgingly because in addition to meeting twice a week at 9:30, I had the prof for Con Law II, and walked away with the opinion that he was a terrible professor. On the other hand, the class didn’t meet on Friday, and Entertainment Law was supposedly this professor’s specialty, since he had worked in the industry both as a performer (in a well-known musical group that did covers of pop songs from the 50’s and 60’s) and on the business side. So I bit the bullet and signed up.

The first few weeks passed without incident, although I did begin to regret taking the course, because I immediately realized that he was the same horrible professor in his supposed specialty as he was in Con Law. What makes him so bad? The list of grievances is long, and any one taken alone isn’t cause for concern; but when taken as a whole, it paints the portrait of a man who has no business making a living as a professor.

His manner of “teaching” is difficult to describe. He doesn’t present himself as a hardass, but rather as your friend. However, his style is passive-aggressive, almost sarcastic, and you never get the feeling that he is actually one of those profs who wants to be everyone’s buddy. It was almost as if he humors you, like when you are subtly making fun of someone to their face, only the other person isn’t aware of it. His attempts at comedy were not funny, nor were they corny enough to garner a mixture of groans and giggles. Rather, when he made a joke, it was met with silence, or perhaps the odd chuckle, because he was simply trying too hard. He blatantly flirted with female students, even giving some of them pet names. He would assign 45 page reading assignments and cover only three of them. He would spend half of the class on a four-line note case and ignore a 15 page Supreme Court opinion on the next page. He seemed to enjoy asking his students lots of questions, although you couldn’t describe him as classically Socratic. It was more like a game of charades, when one person would give the other a clue, and then expect him to figure out the answer by simply motioning his hand in a “let’s go” fashion. In fairness, he wasn’t demanding in the typical sense, and didn’t lay into student who got stuck with one of his vague queries. He did, however, like to pick on certain people in the class, and try to embarrass them. This was where he and I clashed.

Part Two coming later this week

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bar Review Observation # 2

The subject today is "Suretyship." I brought this up at a party this weekend that I was at with 4 other law students or recent grads. No one knew even the definition of the word.

Can't be that important then.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bar Review Observation # 1

I'm taking the Bar in Chicago. There are 3 schools in Chicago that each have classes of 400+ (I think), DePaul, Kent, and John Marshall. You'd never know anyone went there though by looking at the shirts of the people in Bar Bri class. If you only used T-shirts as a barometer, it seems that Chicago is flooded with Michigan, U of Chicago, and Northwestern grads.

I can't blame some of these people. I can wear all the Banana Republic clothes I want to look like an upwardly mobile yuppy but some fat balding slob can throw on a Stanford shirt and make me look like a trash collector in comparison.

I did find one girl's choice of attire rather amusing, however. What goes best with a pair of heels, Kate Spade bag, and a black skirt? Why, a navy and orange University of Virginia School of Law Section A 2003 Orientation commemorative T-shirt sponsored by Cravath, Swain & Moore, of course! Work it girl.