Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Attack on freedom of spech in the DC metro: there's a sign in each car that says "dangerous articles" are prohibited. I guess I should leave that "Best of Ann Coulter" book at home then.
Song parody choruses for Simon & Garfunkel hits. Can you guess the songs?

Are you going to our career fair?
T-shirts, yo-yos, stress balls, and pens
Remember your resume and steal some food
Don't call recruiters 'honey' or 'dude'

Like a case with a troubled hist'ry
I will Shepardize
Like a case with a troubled hist'ry
I will Shepardize

And here's to you, Mr. Law Review
Judges love you more than you will know, wo wo wo
God bless you please, Mr. Law Review
Heaven holds a place for those who fix, footnote six
Footnote six

Skadden Bound
I wish I was
Skadden Bound
Firm, where my life's escaping
Firm, where there ain't playing
Firm, where my check lies waiting
Large enough for me

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Apparently, the writer of the NY Times' Bob Hope obituary died three years ago. Seriously.
A post on Waddling Thunder about law firm prestige inspires me to add my thoughts.

[big blank space]

Those are my thoughts. Seriously, I have nothing of any value to say about law firm prestige. A spam e-mail from Vault told me they'd released new law firm rankings, and some time spent with the free Vault access that Harvard's career services office has* didn't really help much. I have no doubt that Vault is ranking >something< and that it probably works like the college rankings -- it's not really clear >why< some places are ranked higher than others, but it all feeds into selectivity, and to some degree I suppose it feeds into what kinds of jobs people get after they leave their first firm, if they leave their first firm.

But unlike college (or law school), not everyone leaves their first firm to get another job, especially not one in another law firm or legal-related endeavor, so I think the rankings probably must have less of an impact on what people should do when choosing, just because it really may not matter, and lifestyle/location/area of practice/all sorts of other factors are important, and can surely matter more than a firm's rank. Like I promised, I've just said nothing of any real value.

From reading the Vault stuff, I've figured out that there a number of dimensions on which law firms seem to differ, and a number of dimensions on which they seem not to.

Dimensions on which they seem not to differ much:
>Dress code Monday through Thursday
>Lavish summer programs
>Health insurance

Dimensions on which they seem to differ a bit:
>Dress code on Friday
>Dental and vision insurance
>The existence of a subsidized cafeteria
>Practice groups
>"Face time" -- the mysterious concept that keeps you from leaving the office early if you have nothing to do; but I wonder if the existence of "face time" at some firms is exaggerated, and the lack of it at other firms is exaggerated as well. I just don't know.
>Internal staircase :)

This is not that helpful for making any sort of decisions. Clearly. And so the investigation continues.

* = I didn't realize I got free Vault access until three hours after I ordered the book online. They wouldn't let me cancel my order. I paid $35 plus $6 tax, shipping, and handing. So if anyone wants the brand new, 744-page Vault top 100 law firm rankings book, in untouched condition, I'll sell it to you for $30 and save you a few bucks, and I won't charge you any shipping (or handling!), because I'm more comfortable eating $11 than eating $41, and figure someone out there *must* want the book. So e-mail me if you want the book. First one who e-mails me gets it, and I'll delete this little paragraph after I have a taker.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

"How to Excel at Law Firm Job Interviews," by the National Association of Late-Night Telemarketers

Interviewer: Why should we hire you?

You: Why? Here's why. Three words. Speed, versatility, and value. First: speed. Most employees operate on only one speed. But the law-o-matic 3000 -- I mean, me -- I operate on twelve speeds. Blend, grate, chop, dice, mix, stir, shake, whip, grind, pulverize, atomize, and demolish. Fully adjustable, voice-activated, wireless, carbon-based, no need for expensive batteries, runs quietly, automatic shut-off, won't cost you hundreds of dollars in electric bills, and hardly spills. Second: versatility. Some employees just do one thing, like file. But the Law Lion Millennium Edition is like twenty-three lawyers in one. It files, faxes, reads, writes, copies, types, phones, e-mails, conferences, memos, briefs, argues, revises, submits, researches, staples, clips, binds, records, notarizes, alphabetizes, Shepardizes, and bills accurately -- all without clumsy attachments, small easy-to-swallow parts, tangled cords, expensive accessories, hard-to-replace filters, wasteful pulp and seeds, breakable handles, dangerous sharp edges, or addictions to Internet porn. Third: value. Comparable lawyers often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and require expensive moving allowances, signing bonuses, bar fees, and more. But if you hire me today, I can be yours for just fifty-two easy payments of $2404. That's right, just fifty-two easy payments of $2404. Plus, if you act within the next thirty minutes, I'll bring my own stapler, give up the dental plan, and proofread your web site -- a three hundred dollar value! Free, if you act now. Operators are standing by, laptop and Blackberry not included.

Interviewer: Well, can you explain the C on your transcript?

You: Yes, the C was an unfortunate bug in our prior model, the Law-o-Saurus 500X. We've retired that version and replaced it with the brand new Law-o-Saurus Deluxe XP, and the bug that caused the C has been fixed.

Interviewer: How about your LSAT score? Can you explain that?

You: In independent tests performed by our non-partisan institute, the Law School Admissions Council-o-Matic Deluxe Special Edition, I have consistently scored between 175 and 180. I see no evidence that the "official" version as administered has any greater validity than our own independent tests, validated by a man in a white coat, and another man who wears glasses. Crash tests have also shown that I can withstand a pressure equivalent to that of three hiring partners standing on my back and yelling profanities at me.

Interviewer: Am I reading your resume right -- it says one of your interests is placing small ads in local newspapers, and somehow turning them into a consistently weekly cash flow of up to $50,000, results may vary?

You: That's right. I also buy and sell real estate from my home, with no money down, and earn seven-figure profits using an easy five-step plan anyone can follow on the path to Easy Street.

Interviewer: And you used to weigh 500 pounds.

You: Indeed. But with a healthy shake for breakfast, one for lunch, and a sensible bowl of leaves for dinner, I've been able to take off the weight -- and keep it off! -- without pills, laxatives, suppositories, vomiting, untested herbal supplements, artificial drugs, natural flavors, food coloring, invasive surgery, electroshock therapy, psychotropic medications, fish food, fatal illness, or brussels sprouts.

Interviewer: Thanks. Just to finish up, do you have any questions for us?

You: Actually, I do. How would you like to turn your messy closets into neat, organized works of art, without expensive construction, backbreaking labor, or magic potions?

Interviewer: Hmm... That does sound useful... You're hired!

Monday, July 28, 2003

Thing it's weird to see: grown men reading Harry Potter on the subway.
A three-line restaurant anti-recommendation for "Sticks 'n Bowls" here in DC written in the form of a haiku:

My dish was too bland
My friend's dish was too salty
Though the price was right

(and, in case you're wondering, I didn't decide to make it a haiku until I realized it was awfully close anyway, so I may as well)

While I'm at it, a three-line restaurant actual-recommendation for "Zaytinya," a Turkish mezze (think tapas) place off the Gallery Place-Chinatown metro stop, written as a haiku:

Too costly for lunch
But good salad, lamb, hummus
Really good, in fact

Sunday, July 27, 2003

This is not making a political point at all, don't worry. It's just a sketch. Enjoy.

President Clinton, September 25, 1997: “All of us should embrace the vision of a colorblind society but recognize the fact that we are not there yet.”

(Lights up on an intersection. A pregnant woman begins to cross the street. A truck comes barreling down the road, and barely swerves to miss her. She is shaken. The driver pulls over and gets out of the truck to see if she is okay.)

DRIVER: Are you okay, ma’am? I’m terribly sorry… but you shouldn’t be crossing against the light.

WOMAN: Against the light? The light is red! You nearly ran me over trying to run a red light.

DRIVER: Run a red light? No, ma’am. The light was green.

(An elderly man walks by.)

ELDERLY MAN: The light was yellow, folks. Get your eyes checked.

DRIVER: Get your ears checked, old man. We weren’t talking to you.

ELDERLY MAN: Look, if you want me to exit your scene, you don’t have to get nasty about it. Just tell me to go, and I’ll go.

(He exits.)

WOMAN: I do think it’s possible my baby may have been a bit shaken up by the incident back there.

DRIVER: Good thing I’ve got some fix-the-shaken-baby powder in my truck. I’ll go get it.

(He goes to his truck. He comes out with two large boxes. One is bright green with big red letters that say “Baby Poison.” One is bright red with big green letters that say “Fix- the-Shaken-Baby Powder.”)

DRIVER: I know it’s one of these two boxes. I just can’t tell which one.

WOMAN: Me neither. I have no idea. They’re both blank. And kind of gray.

(Elderly man comes by again.)

ELDERLY MAN: It’s the box on the right. The other one’s poison. Get your eyes checked.

DRIVER: Get your prostate checked, old man. We weren’t talking to you.

ELDERLY MAN: Fine, fine. But I’m getting the same actor’s equity paycheck as you whether or not you let me in your scene, so it don’t bother me one bit to sit in the dressing room while you take one joke and turn it into a whole scene. Young people. Never know when to quit.

(He exits.)

WOMAN: You’ve been very nice to me since you almost hit me, sir. I was wondering if you’d like to come see a football game with me.

DRIVER: Perhaps. Who’s playing?

WOMAN: The Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers.

DRIVER: Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass. I can never tell those two teams apart by their uniforms.

WOMAN: Yes, I have the same problem.

VOICEOVER OF PRESIDENT CLINTON: All of us should embrace the vision of a colorblind society…

(Elderly man comes out)

ELDERLY MAN: No, I really don’t think we should…

Some ramblings from a soon-to-be-1L on how he's worried about balancing law and life. I think even just acknowledging that there's a work/life balance to think about, regardless of where you come down in terms of a decision, that's still more perspective than a lot of people have. Good stuff.
Waddling Thunder takes me to task for taking him to task about being upset he didn't make law review. And he's right. I didn't mean to say ambition's bad, and that it's bad to care about stuff like making law review, or a businessman with lots caring about making his next million dollars, or Barry Bonds caring about hitting yet another home run. He wouldn't be in law school if he hadn't cared about stuff like that all along. And just because the prestigious law-related accomplishments people can attain aren't what drive me personally, it's not fair for me to say they shouldn't drive anyone. And, really, it makes a lot more sense for people to be driven by that stuff, given that we're in law school, than to be driven by stuff like whether people like my writing and think it's funny. So I take it back, and in fact I think it's probably good that cares -- if I'm hiring a lawyer, I want him to care that he didn't make law review, and strive in his professional career to show that he should have. It probably makes for a better lawyer.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

I used to think there was a moment in life when it all clicked, when it all just came together, and you were a fully self-actualized adult, immune from worry and fear, immune from insecurities and self-doubt, immune from the hazards of day-to-day life. I'm starting to realize it's more of a gradual process not of getting rid of all that stuff but of learning to deal with it, and understand that some things are important, some things aren't, and most stuff isn't worth getting all that upset about. I don't understand drivers who get really mad when someone cuts them off. After all, there's no one on the road who *wants* to get into an accident, and it seems pretty darn amazing to me that we drive around at 60 miles an hour in big steel boxes and there are as few accidents as there are. So everyone's just trying the best they can. And when someone cuts me off, I'm happy to let them in, mostly in the hope that the karmic bonus I get for being polite will be returned when I accidentally miss something in my blind spot and start to make an ill-advised lane change.

The reason why I write this. I was going to post something like, "I'm sorry Waddling Thunder didn't make law review." But then I realized, with apologies to Waddling Thunder, that I'm really not that sorry. And this isn't a comment about law review, it's just a comment about what matters and what doesn't. He admits he knows it, intellectually, that this won't really change the course of his life and probably won't turn out to matter. But he feels bad because it feels bad to get beaten by other people at something you think you're good at. I understand all that, and, yeah, I guess I am sorry for him that he didn't make it, but if Harvard Law students are still relying on external academic validation, the world is in trouble.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I went to a law firm recruiting reception tonight, held at the firm's gorgeous offices overlooking one of Washington's most beautiful structures. I'm trying not to give the name of the firm away, so I'll be somewhat coy about what it's overlooking. It was very nice. Nice hors d'oeuvres, nice people, beautiful building, magnificent terrace, gorgeous view. Met some people in my law school class I didn't know before, and that was very nice. Met some lawyers at this firm, who seemed as pleasant as any other lawyers I've ever met. Noticed as we saw one guy's office that there weren't people still there working Friday night at 8:30. From all accounts, it seemed like the people there really get along, really enjoy being with each other, don't take their work overly seriously, all look intelligent and pleasant, enjoy their jobs, have a work-life balance, all that good stuff. I've written before about how I think it's probably a good idea for me to work at a firm next summer, so I can make an informed decision about what I want to do in the long-term, and so I can see what life at a firm is really like and not just make assumptions based on what you hear. And if I wanted to work in Washington next summer, which I probably don't (I think it'll be New York -- or at least I hope it will, depending on the results of my interviews in the fall), this firm did everything to impress me and nothing to turn me away. I did not so much like the mini sausage pockets. But that alone will not turn me away. Some might have preferred Coke products over Pepsi products. But that ought not turn people away. Some people may have wished the office overlooked a different beautiful Washington structure. But they were doing pretty nicely as it is.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Content, content, content! Tonight I went to a Harvard Law School Alumni Association event here in DC -- a speech by the new law school dean, a chance to see some classmates in the area, and what they called "substantial hors d'oeurves." I figured that if I took a substantial amount of the substantial hors d'oeuvres, I'd be in good shape to save a substantial amount of money on dinner. And two chicken skewers, five mini crab cakes, two mini mushroom things, a piece of mini bread, two mini cubes of cheese, a tiny little piece of smoked salmon, a cracker, a mini egg roll, and, inadvertently, three toothpicks, I'm pretty full. Mission accomplished.

The event was pretty crowded -- perhaps 300 people, ranging in age from "in their 20s" to "born in the '20s." There were a bunch of incoming 1Ls there -- I'm guessing the admissions people notified the people who got accepted of these events, and urged them to show up. I feel a little bad for the one '06er who I ended up talking to for a little bit, just because I clearly wasn't the law school representative he was looking for.

HIM: "So, I see from your nametag you were just a 1L. Did you like it?"
ME: "Yeah, yeah, I really did."
HIM: "So what are you doing for the summer?"
ME: "[brief explanation of my summer split between two really non-legal jobs, relying for the tenth time this evening on the soundbite I practiced beforehand about my current job]"
HIM: "It's that hard to get a law firm job for the summer?"

[If I'd tried to get a firm job this summer, I think that would have been mildly offensive. But, no, at that point I simply started to realize what I have to say is of no interest to this guy. Nevertheless...]

ME: "I didn't actually try. I'm happy with what I got."
HIM: "And they have to do with law school -- how?"
ME: "They don't."
HIM: "Why not?"
ME: "Because I thought I'd try some stuff I'm really interested in."
HIM: "Did most people find it as hard as you did to get a law firm job this summer?"
ME: "Uh -- I didn't try. But a lot of people did, and some got jobs."
HIM: "At bad firms?"
ME: "Excuse me?"
HIM: "At bad firms."
ME: "I don't know what the difference is. Some got jobs with firms they really want to work at after graduation. And some went to second-tier cities."
HIM: "Like?"
ME: "I don't know. Columbus, St. Louis, Juneau."
HIM: "Juneau?"
ME: "No, I'm kidding."
HIM: "I don't want to be a Supreme Court Clerk."
ME: "Okay..."
HIM: So I can probably just squeak by and still get a law firm job?
ME: That's what I hear.
HIM: Great.
ME: Great.
HIM: Is there anyone here you know who's working at firm this summer?"
ME: Yes.

And then he kind of drifted away. I feel bad I failed him in his quest to get some dirt on firms.

I had a small bout of uncontrollable laughter at one point during the Q&A session with the Dean. Someone asked a question, which us young folks in the back couldn't hear, and she repeated what he'd asked: "The question -- the questioner said he's a trans---" And at this point my brain filled in the rest of the word, and I thought it was really funny. Obviously, the rest of the word wasn't "vestite." It was "actional attorney." And that's much less funny.

Tomorrow I'm going to a recruiting reception for a fairly high-profile law firm, hoping for more free food and perhaps a pen or t-shirt. I'll keep you posted... :)

Good stuff over at Ambivalent Imbroglio, the weblog of a 1L-to-be-very-soon. The post I'm linking to is a response to my post from this past Saturday, where I wrote about how I liked being a student, and if that's part of the reason I'm at law school... well... maybe that's okay. I've since edited that post down a bit, so the version quoted over there may not quite match what I've still got below... but the insights over there at AI are interesting. Basically, the point being made is that school helps you build a better life for yourself, so it's not a waste of time, even if it ends up being a waste of time. Or something like that. So I thought I'd flag it. Also because it says nice things about me. :)
I got an e-mail from a reader last night, asking what I thought was an interesting question. He's concerned because even though he's going to a top-notch law school in the fall, he went to a less prestigious undergrad, and he's wondering if his job prospects will be affected at all because his undergrad wasn't a "name" school, and if he's wasting his money on the expensive law school when he won't be able to get the good jobs it positions students for anyway.

I really don't know the answer (career services has never mentioned it as far as I recall, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about it), but it's an interesting question. Here's my intuition:

Where he's going is a selective school. For him to have gotten accepted there, there must be something he did that overcomes any liability that he may have based on where he went to undergrad. Because prestige of undergrad obviously matters in law school admissions quite a bit. Law firms, from what I understand, look at the prestige of your law school, and they look at law school grades (and they do lots of interviews, and there's other factors I'm sure). But if I'm a hiring partner at a law firm, and I see that someone's first year grades are as good or better than his classmate who went to Yale for undergrad, I don't think I'd have any good reason to hold his less-prestigious undergrad against him -- clearly, the law school liked him enough to admit him, and now that he's there, he's doing as well or better than this other guy. Why would I hire the other guy instead -- this guy's doing better, at the same school.

So my intuition is that if someone does decently okay, it shouldn't matter. Maybe, maybe, maybe if you do really poorly -- maybe then a firm would use your undergrad to say to themselves that you didn't belong at the law school to begin with, and they'd be more likely to think that than of your classmate from Yale. Maybe. But if you do really poorly, it's harder to get a job anyway -- whether you went to Yale or to Joe's Crab Shack and 4-Year College & Seafood Breadery (I hope that's not actually where this guy went -- I'd feel bad poking fun at it).

But I have no idea if I'm right on the money, or if I'm giving out a bad answer to a good question.

Although, "bad answers to good questions" could be an awfully compelling idea for a syndicated newspaper column. Or something in The Onion.

Q: "I was adopted and want to find out my birth parents. How do I go about doing that?"

A: "Thanks for the good question. Here's a bad answer. Open the phone book, and, starting with the first entry, call everyone whose name sounds female, and ask them if they ever gave someone up for adoption. Here's another bad answer. Go to a psychic and ask her to conjure the name for you. Here's a third bad answer..."

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I saw a terrific movie last night. Spellbound (the link is to the Denver Post review, which is the most worthy-of-being-linked review I can find), a documentary about eight competitors in the National Spelling Bee. I know, it sounds awful. But it's absolutely captivating. It's eight mini-documentaries about the kids, but almost as much about their parents -- some simply in awe of their children, some wishing they'd go to the mall more instead of studying lists of words, and some pushing, and pushing, and pushing. In part, it's a story of the struggles of being a "smart kid." It's wrenching to see these kids standing up at the microphone, after hours upon hours upon hours of studying, one wrong letter away from hearing the ding of the bell and being eliminated. I don't want to give anything away. I just want to convince you to see this movie. Funny, suspenseful, fascinating. Great stuff.

But maybe it's just me. Maybe I just identified more, because of my own, albeit very low-level and not particularly dramatic, spelling bee story: in fourth grade I won my school spelling bee, and went on to the district. I don't know if it was the first round, the second round, I have no idea -- but I was given the word "halibut." The fish. Like at age 9, I'd been to a fish store. And the guy pronounced it kind of weird (actually, this is probably my imagination -- he probably pronounced it perfectly correctly) -- sounded like "hal-ih-biht" to me -- so I spelled it with an "i" instead of a "u," and that was the end of my spelling bee career. And the winning word in the district bee? "Refrigerator." Like any self-respecting 9-year-old speller can't spell refrigerator?

I'm not bitter. But I've never, ever, ever eaten halibut. And I never will. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Okay, my curiosity has been piqued. There's a thread on the Princeton Review law school discussion board where a hiring partner at a top firm is taking questions and giving his answers. He responded to one person that he Googles everyone before he interviews them. I'm sure there's at least a handful of lawyers who read this occasionally -- does the mere existence of my weblog put a real dent in my chances during the recruiting season? Or does the fact that someone might find it entertaining balance the risk that someone else might see it as a negative? At this point I'm merely curious. Any thoughts, shoot me an e-mail...
"Curvin' GPA" (to the tune of "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys) (and apparently now also by Aaron Carter, but I'll pretend I didn't just learn that when doing a Yahoo search for the lyrics) (and I apologize that the title is probably better than the rest of my lyrics)

If every final had an answer
That looked about the same
And every test was graded blindly
They couldn't see the name
You'd find it's hard to make distinctions
The differences so gray
But still you're stuck within the system
Curvin' GPA

You thought you probably were ready
The test was no surprise
But when you opened up the grade sheet
You couldn't believe your eyes
The letter's looking awfully curvy
But what is left to say
How do they sort among the pile
Curvin' GPA

One final seemed pretty hard
But that's what they all thought
And when the answers all are lousy
No one learned what was taught
So you thought it was a disaster
All you could do was pray
You ended up with something lovely
Curvin' GPA

Property and Contracts
And Evidence and Torts
Civil Procedure, Legal Writing
Federal District Courts
Collect the report cards
And then go out and play
What can you do when it's all numbers
Curvin' GPA

Everybody's been curvin'
Curvin' GPA

Everybody's been curvin'
Curvin' GPA
I know I've read something about this before, perhaps on Waddling Thunder's weblog a long while back, but nevertheless -- one of the stops on the DC metro line I take to work is called "Judiciary Square." Yet none of the "conductors" (the people who announce the stops) seem at all able to pronounce it properly. And it's never the same twice.

Among the variations I've heard:

Judishooary Square
Judisharary Square
J'dasharooney Square
Dupont Circle
Federal Triangle
Pentagon Octagon

Actually, come to think of it, the DC metro is pretty well-covered when it comes to stops named after polygons.

The other funny DC metro thing that's happened is that a train got stuck at one of the poorer-named stops, "Foggy Bottom." Leading to the following announcements:

"There's a train lodged in Foggy Bottom."
"We'll be moving shortly, after they get the train unstuck from Foggy Bottom."
"There's a backup in Foggy Bottom. We'll be moving as soon as we can."
"There's a line of trains waiting to get up into Foggy Bottom."
"We apologize for the odor in Foggy Bottom. That train was stuck there an awful long time." (Okay, they didn't really say that one.)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Good luck to Waddling Thunder as he awaits word as to whether he made it onto Law Review. I will refrain from commenting on which result I think good luck would result in. :) (I'm kidding; I've already posted enough about Law Review to want to open that can of worms again.)

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Just saw a commercial for "Who Wants To Marry My Dad?" a new reality show that takes over the "Meet My Folks" time slot. And they just keep coming. Finding true love. Variations on this theme have spawned, what, two dozen, three dozen reality shows? There's the "dating" set -- Love Connection, Blind Date, Love Cruise, Dismissed; the "pick from a bunch of suitors" set -- Bachelor, Joe Millionaire, Mr. Personality, For Love or Money; the "lots of people on a beach" set -- Temptation Island, Paradise Island; and the "stuff involving parents" set -- Meet My Folks and now Who Wants To Marry My Dad. Animal Planet should have Who Wants To Marry My Dog, the Bestiality Network: Who Wants To Marry My Horse, and, well, probably Fox will have "Who Wants To Marry My Deformed and Awfully Unpleasant Mutant Goat-Child For The Chance To Be On National TV?"

In more law-related pop-culture news, I saw Legally Blonde 2 today. A few inconsistencies in the otherwise true-to-life film: (1) Harvard Law School classrooms don't really look like that, (2) Harvard Law School professors wouldn't be interested in something as mundane as the Red Sox, and (3) it is virtually inconceivable that Elle Woods could have graduated from law school and not have some clue that sometimes lawyers don't do the "right" thing, especially if they have paying clients whose best interests lie elsewhere. Other than that, not a single bit of fiction in the movie. Except for maybe the part where, as a new staffer, she gets to talk in front of the whole Congress. Maybe. And don't worry, I really haven't spoiled anything for you here. Really, I promise.
"Mesothelioma" (to the tune of Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion")

Maybe you live inside a building old
And some of the walls are teeming full of mold
Maybe some tiles are falling down in chunks
Releasing asbestos fibers -- right into your lungs

Oh plaintiff now, get thee to a lawyer quick
And learn how to start looking sick
Oh, if you feel like being rich
I've got a name to show ya
Oh, mesothelioma
Oh, if you feel like giving me
A great big fat contingency
Oh, mesothelioma

Maybe you want to open up your heart
To let asbestos fibers in to start
Maybe you think that you can't play this game
That you don't want a disease with such a scary long name


Maybe you want to help me buy a plane
Maybe you want one more disease to feign
Maybe you want a join this class action suit
And share in all the corporation's easily-won loot


Well, if you feel like giving me
A great big fat contingent fee...
Oh, mesothelioma

Saturday, July 19, 2003

I'm pretty sure I've covered this ground before, but not for a while. Probably the hardest thing about the two years I worked before going to law school was that being on my own, being in a new city, having a job and an apartment -- it all meant I had to really make a life for myself. And I realized that without doing anything pro-active, it's easy to end up going to work, coming home, going to sleep, repeat, sleep and run errands on the weekends, and not really have much of a life. It's on your own shoulders to make plans, find activities, make friends, do things -- in a way that it's not at school. Because at school you have classes and extracurriculars, and friends, and things to read and write and study, and purpose and meaning, and all that jazz...

And so I hate thinking that one of the reasons I'm in law school is because I like going to school, and because I like the lifestyle of being a student, and that I find all of this easier than making a life for myself. Because thinking it kind of makes me feel like I'm just postponing the inevitable, or that I'm wasting time and money...

But if it's not one of the reasons I'm in school, it's at least one of the side benefits.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Waddling Thunder writes some thought-provoking thoughts (i don't think that's redundant, actually) on Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book, The Tipping Point. I read the book a few years ago after finding it on a bargain table for $2.99, and enjoyed it very much. It's interesting -- how new things become cultural phenomena. Like, for example, the Howard Dean campaign for President -- it seems to be building momentum, but is it enough to push it over the tipping point? Or is it just a fad that will soon fade? I hope it's the [former/latter -- insert whichever one corresponds to your own political beliefs, so that I don't alienate any readers with my radically right-wing/left-wing/moderate views].

Expanding on that idea -- I wonder how the tipping point relates to weblogs. What is the threshhold for when a weblog all of a sudden jumps from, say, 40 visitors a day, to 200, or 2,000, or 20,000. I can't imagine it's a gradual thing; it's got to be exponential -- a particularly striking post that visitors forward to their friends, who forward to their friends, and so on. Who are, in tipping point language, the "connectors" that need to read the weblog before it becomes a cultural phenomenon. And what does that post have to be? How can one website find that tipping point given the vastness of the Internet?

A side note that was originally the reason for my post -- the guy whose apartment I'm subletting actually has a copy of the Tipping Point on his shelf. Sort of. He has the audiobook version. I have a problem with audiobooks. I mean, I understand their convenience, and why people might want to listen to them -- on a long commute, etc -- but there's pleasure in reading, so much more than listening. And somehow reading seems like a much more beneficial activity. We don't tell kids to go up to their room and listen to audiobooks when they're little because it'll make them smart. Yet more than once, I've been in a conversation with a friend, and a book will come up, and they'll say, "Oh, I read that" and later in the conversation they say they listened to the audio book. Yet they feel okay calling that "reading." It's not reading any more than I can watch a video on MTV (i mean MTV2 -- there are no videos on MTV) and say "I sang that." It's a totally different activity. Reading does not equal listening to the audio book version. Unless I'm wrong. Unless it does, and this transformation of what it means to read has passed me by, much like the mp3 player and high-definition television, and minidiscs.

Speaking of minidiscs -- the stream of consciousness rant that never ends!! -- why do we have such an urge to always make things smaller? CDs are not so big. Or cell phones. Isn't it getting a little ridiculous now? They're pretty darn small yet they're getting smaller. The distance between my ear and my mouth isn't. Yet the phone is. And it's doing more stuff. I like my gadgets to do one thing, but do it well. If you're a cell phone, I want you to let me make calls. I don't need solitaire, web browsing, schedule-making, pez dispensing, or food dehydrating. Just let me make a phone call without losing service all the time.
Received an e-mail with dormitory regulations for the upcoming year. Permit me the luxury of making fun of some of this stuff:

>PLEASE NOTE - ITEMS ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED IN DORM ROOMS: Pets, cooking appliances and halogen lamps (Also, firearms and dangerous weapons are not allowed on campus).

OK, so compared to pets, cooking appliances, and halogen lamps, FIREARMS and WEAPONS get placed in parentheses. NO FISH, and, by the way, just in case you were wondering, also maybe no nuclear missiles too...

>Your mailing address and telephone number was included in the confirmation for your dorm room. (Please save this information where you will not lose it and give the information to people who may wish to contact you).

Wait a second. You mean that if someone wants to contact us, we should give them our address and phone number? Really? And we should not just save it -- but save it specifically in a place where we won't lose it. OK, I think I understand now.

>Law School students bringing a car to campus compete with other graduate school students for parking spots.

Like in an Olympics? OK, now I'm just being a pain. There's really nothing wrong with this sentence, it's obvious what it means... but, on the other hand, it might be fun to have a parking spot Olympics with other graduate school students. We could have the rope-guarding-the-grass vault, and the library carrel hurdles, and the biathlon: reading combined with writing. That might be fun!
The last 800 words about grades (for now)

With a year of grades in hand (not literally in hand – I’m working from memory here), the sample size is clearly large enough that I can draw some conclusions:

1. I do better in classes with the smaller red casebooks than the bigger brown casebooks. Next step is to check which casebooks my scheduled 2L classes are using and add/drop accordingly.

2. I do about the same in classes where the professor wrote the casebook as in classes where the professor did not read the casebook.

3. My pass/fail “first-year lawyering” grades have no correlation with any other grades, except that the letter ‘P’ sort of looks like the letter ‘B’ if you hide one of the lumps of the ‘B.’

4. To best maximize the trends I have discovered, I should probably take classes from female professors who are losing their hair.

5. I do either better or worse in classes where I make my own outline versus classes where I don’t.

6. I may or may not do best in classes where we have a paper option, but since I haven’t had any of those yet, I have no way of drawing any conclusions.

7. At first I thought that the “plus” and “minus” signs next to the letters meant something about the grades, but a careful regiment of yoga and hypnosis have convinced me otherwise. Also, ‘D’ looks like ‘A’ if you have cataracts.

8. Not showing up to an exam, although not yet accounted for in the sample, would seem to be a poor strategy, given that for the exams I did okay on, I showed up 100% of the time.

9. I also showed up 100% of the time to the exams I did less okay on, so it is unclear whether showing up is indeed a grade-maximizing strategy.

10. Lists always look better when there are ten items than nine, but I’ve run out of things to say.

11. Lists look even better with eleven items.

12. But not twelve.

The real challenge that getting grades provided was calculating my GPA. Since my one spring elective was only 3 credits, and the 1L required courses were all 5 credits, it took some work. Also complicated by Harvard’s odd GPA calculation system. In two ways:

First, contrary to expectations, a three-credit class isn’t worth three-fifths of a five-credit class. It’s worth half. And a four-credit class is worth three-quarters. I don’t think I’m making this up. Unless someone was lying to me when they told me. A two-credit class is worth seven times what a five-credit class is worth, and for a one-credit class, you raise “e” to the power of your grade, divide by pi, and take the square root of an imaginary number. Then you go to math graduate school for 7 years, earn a PhD, and then, finally, you can maybe calculate your GPA. But then you need to convert it from Metric to Fahrenheit using a microwave.

Second, Harvard uses an 8-point scale. A+ is 8, A is 7, A- is 6, B+ is 5, B is 4, B- is 3… wait, I’m running out of numbers… C is 2, D is 1, F is 0? Maybe? D- is 0.5. F+ is 0.0001. B++ is about 5.42. A++ is infinity, which, even in a three-credit class, can radically change the overall GPA.

I can only think of one reason to use an 8 point GPA, besides to confuse people (okay, that makes two reasons). It’s all part of Harvard’s sinister plan to take over the world. You see, even if people aren’t swayed by the prestige of a Harvard degree, surely a 5.3 GPA is enough to make them swoon. A 6.25? The job is yours. Even straight Bs – a 4.0! – you’re top of the class. We all are. Those extra numbers on the GPA scale are part of what our tuition dollars pay for.

I wonder if people actually do list these 8-point-scale GPA numbers on resumes. “Quite a leap between undergrad and law school, you pretty young future trophy wife,” an interviewer treading awfully close to sexual harassment might say to a female candidate. “From a 3.9 to a 5.8. That’s quite remarkable. Especially for a woman with your – shall we say – attributes,” that same interviewer might say as they dragged him off to white-collar prison for sexually assaulting that other law student last interview season.

But regardless of whether someone's GPA is a 7.2, a 3.6, or a 1.2, my classmates and I finally have our grades. So we all can sleep easy now, worried only about where the heck we’re going to work for the rest of our lives. Yep, getting grades solved all of our problems. But at least I know not to take any classes taught by Swedish toddlers. I’ve never done well in any of them.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I should just go to sleep and get my full 8 hours. But no, I'm gonna type instead. A word of advice to law students starting to think about summer jobs and unaccustomed to warmer climates. Stay away. Doesn't matter what firm, find a satellite office closer to the arctic circle. Because this is brutal. Not only do the normal standards of the working world require clothing totally inappropriate for weather that approaches 90 degrees, humid and sunny on a cool day, but our bodies ain't built for this. If I was smart, I'd bring a change of clothes just for the 10 minute walk from the subway stop, as I trek into a baffling corner of Washington that, while rich with Starbucks (which, if they serve any drinks that are heated at these locations, is clearly being run by buffoons) has been deemed unfit for metro stations. So I walk, and I walk, and I sweat, and I sweat, and I get to work, half-melted, and I'm already ready for a nap. And this lunch hour that has no choice but to be in the middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak, leaves me wandering the streets of DC, wishing for a sidewalk smoothie vendor or better yet a thunderstorm, hoping that the direction I choose to explore toady will yield quick food and not long journey. This is why people at DC firms can be so productive -- no one can leave the office, for fear of heatstroke. Even at its worst it is simply not this hot in New York, or buildings block the sun, or subway stations are nearer to each other, or cold people give off cold air, I don't know. But I do know that it's hot out, and this is why people should not take summer jobs in Washington. Consider yourself warned. Go to Alaska instead (I know someone who did, and he sends me reports of fresh seafood and majestic scenery). Or Iceland. Or Greenland. But if you must -- and you shouldn't (Even for governmnet work -- go to Ottawa instead!) -- at least make sure to find an apartment with air conditioning.

And a haiku:

Air conditioning
Never heard two words so sweet
Well, maybe ice cream
I went to get a sandwich for lunch, just at a take-out sandwich place, no big deal, and the woman on line in front of me ordered 3 sandwiches, I guess for her whole office or something. She gets to the cashier, the cashier asks her what she got, and she tells them only one of the three sandwiches. She pays them $5. Then they give her her bag, with three sandwiches.

And they say there's no such thing as a free lunch. What's especially devious is that this woman isn't just getting free sandwiches -- she'll go back to work and give the food to her co-workers, and they'll pay her. So she's getting free money.

Ten Really Terrible 10-Second Law Firm Interview Answers To The Question, "How Do You Like Law School?"
1. "I don't. At all."
2. "Except for my awful grades, it's been great."
3. "It's been surprisingly good, given that I'm one of the stupidest people in the class."
4. "Oh, I wouldn't really know. I hardly ever go to class."
5. "I like law school so much I never, ever, ever want to leave."
6. "It's been great for helping me figure out how to get away with crimes I've committed, or am planning to commit in the future, especially in the office of whatever law firm hires me."
7. "Excuse me? I don't think that's an appropriate question and I'm going to have to report this as an incident of sexual harassment."
8. "It's made me really hate the law and dismiss any notion of actually practicing law anytime in the future."
9. "I like everything about it except how the loans I'm taking out will force me to take a job I will be sure to dislike so much that I sabotage the firm I'm working for and cause them endless grief and trouble."
10. "I'd been liking it just fine, until this interview started and you began talking."

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

New day, new city. Splitting my summer between two jobs. Was in New York. Am now in DC. And it is hot here. I have a 10-minute walk from where I get off the metro to get to my office. And I was soaking wet. And couldn't figure out how the buzzer on the outside of the door worked, but that's besides the point. I eventually got in, and got settled, and got a key card for tomorrow. Fun, fun, fun.

Baseball's All-Star Game last night made me think of a cool law-related idea for a reality TV show (on Court TV, I guess). Lawyer Showdown. Basically a professional's version of moot court. You get two superstar lawyers (the superstars part is what came out of the All-Star Game -- I realize as I type this that there's very litttle connection here to the All-Star Game. But I will not be deterred) and assign them to argue for and against some legal thing -- liability of McDonalds for obesity cases, pain and suffering limitations, OJ Simpson's guilt or innocence -- and have a panel of C-list celebrities, or, in the alternative, a studio audience, pick the winner. Winner gets some obscene amount of money to make it all worthwhile, Court TV gets a cult hit. Or maybe not.

OK, now a song parody.

"Our Lawyer's Here To Stay" (to the tune of George Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here To Stay")

It's very clear, our lawyer's here to stay
Not for a year, but forever and a day
He signed a contract, for a salary, that will make his lifestyle rise
To where he can't afford to, say his firm goodbyes

Oh, partner, dear, our lawyer's here to stay
Together we're billing a long, long day
In time his marriage may crumble
His happiness tumble
As he grows old and gray
But our lawyer's here to stay

Oh, partner, dear, our lawyer's here to stay
The takeout meals, will add to the pounds he'll weigh
As he grows bitter and lonely
We will be the only
He's never gonna stray
Oh, our lawyer's here to stay
Our lawyer's here to stay

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Best way to fill my inbox: accuse all of my readers of having weblogs of their own. :)

A few haikus about law school grades:

Thought I aced that test
So did all of my classmates
Mandatory curve!?!?!

Man that test was hard
Questions made no sense to me
Good thing I cheated

The teacher read this?
I don't think he did because
I ought not have passed

Did you get a B?
Yes? I feel much better now
No? I hope you die

Which semester's grades?
They're running three behind now
Not on their term bills

1Ls -- want my notes?
You're more than welcome to them
Won't tell you my grade!

Employers: they care
But all they see is first year
Then they don't matter

One dumb professor
Turned in all his grades on time
His colleagues shot him

Monday, July 14, 2003

Like my colleague Waddling Thunder, I (finally) got my spring grades today. Like him, they're fine. I'm still a law student. :) Like last semester, my prime complaint is that they mail them in such a thin envelope that before I open it, I know what it says. So there's no way to make any ritual about it -- plus it's kind of annoying that probably at least one of the half-dozen postal employees who probably touched the envelope along its journey happened to catch a glimpse of the grades before I did.

My one observation of semi-consequence (but, then again, small sample size renders this point pretty much irrelevant) is that I was able to predict my grades with pretty solid accuracy (one grade differed by a third of a letter, but the other two were spot-on), so, at least for me, this semester, they don't feel particularly random or arbitrary. But that could just be coincidence -- and who's to say my guesses were really anything more than random or arbitrary.

But enough about grades.

On Saturday, I posted about a hypothetical $1000 law school shopping spree and asked people to e-mail with their suggestions. A weblog-record 3 (!) people e-mailed me their thoughts (that's not really a record. I'm being sarcastic.). And two of them (or "two of you," if you're the ones reading this), suggested an iPod. $300 to move all of your music to a little travel thing you can use to ignore the world around you and/or avoid disturbing people who wish you wouldn't play your music so loud in the library. One suggestion for 300-thread-count sheets (to go with the comfortable pillows I suggested). Earplugs, concert tickets, eating out in nice restaurants, and alcohol were the other suggestions, all by Andrew Raff over at Brooklyn Law School, whose weblog I want to plug. If you hate e-mail spam, but like Radiohead, you'll enjoy reading. It's good stuff.

I had a fleeting thought as I received all three of these e-mails that I wonder if just about everyone who reads my weblog is someone with a weblog of his or her own, and that in fact the only people who read any of these weblogs are other people with weblogs, and we're all just amusing each other, with no influence at all in the world beyond our circle of weblogs. Eh, even if that's the case, I'm still cool with it. An audience of fellow webloggers is still an audience. (And a fine audience at that...)

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I've gotten a couple of e-mails from people asking me if I've read "Brush With The Law," because they thought it was a great, super, fantastic, life-changing book. And I did read it, last year before starting law school, and thought it was pretty absurd, a tale of people completely outside the mainstream of law school life, and completely foreign to anything I was at all likely to experience. But thinking maybe I missed something, and would have a different perspective now that I've finished a year, I went back and read it again over the last few days. And, while it's somewhat more interesting now that I know a lot of what the Harvard parts of the book (it's a dual memoir of someone at Stanford and someone at Harvard) are referring to and they have context for me, I still didn't think it came anywhere close to painting a realistic portrait of law school life for the vast majority of students -- unless there's this vast underground of illicit behavior that I'm too naive to know anything about. Putting realism aside, I think the book would make a compelling movie and tells an interesting -- if depraved and worrisome -- story. But as a guidebook to law school life, and a "must-read" for incoming 1Ls, sorry. I don't think it's got a ton of value there.

What the authors try to get across is that it's possible to do virtually no work, attend few classes, and do well on exams solely through the use of other students' outlines, commercial study guides, and old exams. And while those are useful tools, and you can probably swing decent grades if you're bright enough, you're pretty much throwing out your money and not learning all that much. And some of what you learn is actually interesting, and class isn't really a bad thing. I have no idea if there are people at law school who go to Foxwoods and gamble away their financial aid checks, or smoke crack every weekend, or anything else they describe in the book. I don't know these people, and I don't want to know these people. And there's the problem I have with the book -- maybe law school can be like that if you want it to, but why would anyone in their right mind want it to?

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Forget the pre-law preparation courses. If you really have $1000 you want to spend on stuff that's going to make you a better and happier law student, here's my first take at what would be involved in the $1000 Law Student Quality-of-Life Shopping Spree. E-mail me with other suggestions and I'll post a follow-up in a few days.

1. Down pillows. Comfortable pillows are so important. For a good night's sleep, for something to lie on while reading casebooks, as a little piece of luxury you can give yourself even in the smallest of dorm rooms. Personally, I have two awesome down pillows I got for $30 each at Bed, Bath and Beyond. But with this hypothetical $1000, I think good pillows are so crucial that I'd probably trade up. A quick Google search later, and I'm awfully impressed by the website over at DeWoolfson Down. Two pillows, $80 each. $160 down (pun unintended, which makes it even better), $840 to go.

2. Wireless networking. Seems cool. I don't have it, but I bet it would be cool to be able to do Internet stuff from anywhere in your dorm, or outside, or in the library without plugging in, or in classrooms.... Obviously some schools are probably more wired than others for this. Circuit City's web site surprises me how cheap it is to do this. Home wireless kit. On sale for $129. $289 down, $711 to go.

3. A subscription to a magazine that will give you a half hour a week of something completely frivolous and non-law to read. I prefer Entertainment Weekly, but pretty much anything except the Harvard Law Review will do. Probably about $30. $309 down, $691 to go.

4. Already running out of things. See, I need your help. Hmmm. How about a selection of pleasant study music. The 5 CDs that probably got the most play all of 1L year, in my CD player? (Apologies if my musical tastes run frighteningly close to those of your parents) James Taylor's Hourglass, Don Henley's Inside Job, Billy Joel's Cold Spring Harbor, Bruce Hornsby and the Range's Scenes from the Southside, and Marc Cohn's The Rainy Season. 5 of your favorites? $0 using your favorite file-sharing program, probably about $75 elsewhere. $616 to go.

5. TiVo. I have friends who have TiVo and love it. Why waste valuable study time with commercials? Why waste valuable study time programming a VCR? Why waste valuable TV-watching time sleeping? $249. And that monthly fee I guess, but we'll ignore that for now. $367 left.

OK, I'm out of stuff. Maybe I'm just cheap. Cheap enough that I can't even spend hypothetical money. I'll take the easy way out. 1 movie a week, you're probably at school 30 weeks, so $300 ($10 tickets in Boston and NY at least...). And use the remaining $67 to buy a cheap inkjet printer so you don't have to trudge to the library every time you want to print.

Friday, July 11, 2003

I have seen the devil and he is a lawyer. This story is the perfect illustration of what you don't want law school to allow you to become, of the dark side that's out there, waiting to steal your soul. You see, I'm on an alumni e-mail list called "Princeton-lawyers" -- for lawyers, law students, people interested in legal stuff. Usually very little action. Questions about how to find a [personal injury / contracts / international tax] lawyer in [Detroit / Des Moines / Denmark]. Occasionally a question about employee non-compete clauses and whether they're enforceable. But yesterday, someone posted a question like this:

"I will be starting law school in the fall. I have been asked to sing in a choir at a close friend's wedding in September. Going will require me to miss classes on Friday, potentially up to four courses. Are 1L classes so important that I should give up going to the wedding so as not to miss them?"

{Note: the quotation marks are merely illustrative; I've paraphrased for issues of space, clarity, and anonymity protection}

I hope you're laughing. Or at least shaking your head and thinking, "Incoming law students. How naive and well-meaning." I understand the impulse to post the question, I really do. He doesn't know what law school's like, he's anxious, he's worried, he's concerned about doing something stupid his first month there. I never respond to stuff on these lists, but I felt like I had something to contribute, so I shot him an e-mail that basically said that missing a couple of classes is really no big deal, especially for a good reason like you've got. People will share their notes, make sure to catch up on the reading, people miss class all the time for no reason at all, so you really shouldn't worry too much about one day. I thought my response was pretty typical of what any sane and rational person would say. And apparently it was. He posted later that day saying that he'd received 29 e-mail replies, and the verdict was unanimous in favor of him going to the wedding (yes, 29 replies. I have no bad words to say about Princeton alumni. Except for the bad words to follow in the next paragraph.)

And then someone replied to the whole list.

"Weddings are only once, but so is the start of law school.... I'd say: Don't even think about singing, in this context; go to class. You're really not in that tough a spot, in fact. What you have is an unfortunate conflict, but the decision, though causing a regrettable absence, is easy.... Not to minimize your concern, but if you take a long-term view of things (imagine looking back at this one in 20 years -- or 2 months), I think you might agree with what I've said."

{Those quotation marks are legitimate. I can't improve on that response much.}

My first reaction was that he must be joking. Especially regarding the long-term view. Twenty years down the road: "boy am I glad I missed my friend's wedding for that Friday morning contracts class. Learning about the parol evidence rule was something I couldn't have gotten from a book; but seeing the wedding photos was just as good as being there. More classes, fewer friends, that's what I always say. And I totally understood when my friend missed my wedding because his printer at work ran out of toner and he had to go buy more."

That was followed by another reply:

"I am with [that other guy] on this one. I am into friends and friendship... [b]ut this is the beginning of law school, of which there is only one, and I think you will be in quite a hole missing all those classes so you can do something that is really, really nice but not really urgent."

Are there words? And both of these people are well out of school, at a point in their lives when they should have perspective on what's important. And admittedly I'm picking on the two outliers; everyone else said he should go to the wedding. Two posts especially helped restore my faith in the goodness of my fellow man, after reading those two that made me want to rip my eyes out.

The first, short and sweet: "It is easier to put things in perspective after you've been through them. Ten years out of law school, I have a better sense of what made a difference. Missing a few classes for a friend's wedding isn't one of them."

The second played a trump card and seems to have ended the debate: "As an Adjunct Professor of Law, if you showed up in my class and I heard your dilemma, I would immediately grab you by the shirt collar, lead you out of the building and throw you into a cab headed for the airport."

Thank you.

Please don't become those other two people. Please. They scare me. They make me sad. They make me worried for the state of the world. They make me lose my faith that all people, deep down, are good, and know what really matters. People matter. Friends matter. Relationships matter. The heart matters. A law school class, quite frankly, just cannot compete.

I have seen the devil, and he is a lawyer.
Attention summer associates! Working too hard and/or time billed at too high a rate to justify writing an e-mail to your friends letting them know how your summer is going? Then you need the summer update letter-o-rama. Just choose one from each set of bracketed terms in the template below, and you'll have fulfilled the burdens of summer contact without the work.

Dear [Friend / Classmate / Person I continue to e-mail only because someday you may be able to help me in my career]:

I'm having a great time here in [New York / DC / Farm Country] working for [Skadden / Cravath / "a great law firm"]. Of course, the pay has been great, as expected -- [$2500 / $2400 / $2600] a week, in case I hadn't already told you a bunch of times -- but what's really surprised me has been the [free food / free events / free office supplies]. Every day, a partner takes me out to a new [restaurant / strip club / body of water filled with dead animals poisoned by the toxic chemicals my firm has allowed one of its clients to continue dumping]. They're really trying to [impress / fool] me into thinking this is a great place to work. On one of my projects, I got to work with the [hip, young / wise, veteran / only minority] attorney in the office -- a real treat! We stayed up well into the night chatting about life, law school, and [his crack habit / her gobs of disposable income / the friends and hobbies he used to have]. I really think this could be the place for me -- it's like meeting a girl. One look at her [unlimited expense accounts / killer business cards / prestigious address] and you know it's right. I'm working right now on my dream project -- trying to help a company [evade taxes / avoid giving its workers health benefits / screw pretty much everyone on the planet in more ways than I can count]. I'm really trying to impress the [hip, young / wise, veteran / only minority] partner -- I think she's the key to my ultimate offer at the end of the summer. Anyway, just wanted to drop you a line. I [couldn't care less if / really don't care if / am completely uninterested in whether] you're having a great summer too -- drop me an e-mail and let me know [if you're making as much money as me / if your office is as nice as mine / if you've finally lost that pesky conscience that's always getting in your way] and we'll grab coffee [sometime next week / sometime next summer / not until you can help my career in some obvious and clear-cut way]. Enjoy [New York / DC / the back woods] and be sure [to watch out for ticks / to deposit your paychecks before your firm goes bankrupt / to check the to: field of your e-mail for heaven's sake!!].

Your [friend / classmate / occasional correspondent who you know just e-mails you so that one day you can help his career],


Thursday, July 10, 2003

JD2B talks about law school grades being some combination of legal ability, burnout, and luck, with the perceived arbitrariness of them enhanced by the fact that there are so few grades to give out at the top that minutely fine distinctions must be made, and the rest of the stack just gets shunted off into the B-range. I suppose I agree (although I'd probably collapse "burnout" into a broader category called "studying skills" and call my components of grading (1) legal skills, (2) writing skills, (3) study skills, (4) luck and/or fate). The way I think of it is not so much that the grades are arbitrary but that they are valid but with a margin of error larger than the distinctions between grades. So the B+ may in fact (as if there's an objective "fact" as to the quality of an answer) be an A- or a B without proving the invalidity of the whole process. The other thing is that grades may not be measuring what they intend to measure. Being asked a handful (or, on one of my spring exams, just one) question that touches on themes/topics/issues/facts brought up in the class may not cover the breadth of material adequately enough that luck isn't a factor as far as which pieces you understand better and which show up on the exam. Writing ability to the extent that you can cover up a lack of understanding and depth can also be helpful for some questions -- although I'm content with the justification that writing ability can save you in a real legal setting too, even if you don't really know what you're talking about -- especially if the professor is grading the exams quickly, or the questions are easy enough that everyone's nailing the concepts and the only clear way to separate and rank is through clarity and quality of the writing (a note on this point: to the extent that someone's "writing skills" being greater than their "legal analysis skills" could play out on exams, I would think it would play out more in policy-related classes with relatively easy-to-comprehend law, like contracts, as opposed to more complex and hard-to-grasp subjects like civil procedure. Not enough data to support or reject this hypothesis, so it's just a thought for now). And perhaps some sort of exam-taking skills.
Courtesy of Baseball Primer, a site that all baseball fans ought to know about, here's an article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a Pirates player hitting a racing sausage with a baseball bat. Let me explain, I guess. In Milwaukee, to entertain the legions of fans that flock to each night's game, people dressed as sausages race around the field in between innings. Pirates first baseman Randall Simon, perhaps not realizing that these were people dressed as sausages, and not actual racing sausages themselves, hit one of the sausages with a baseball bat. Oops. He was led away from the park in handcuffs. (Hence, this is law related.) If I was Simon's lawyer, after thanking the spirits for giving me a wealthy client who has done a stupid thing that will eat up lots of hours of billable time, I'd perhaps think about basing a defense on Simon being Kosher, and not approving of sausage in any form, on a plate, or running around a field. Or not.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I went to the Mets game with some friends last night, one of whom said he'd read my weblog more if I mentioned him in it. Hi Eric. Anyway, the guy who sang the national anthem was James Earl Jones. But he didn't actually sing it. It was more like he dramatically spoke it. "Oh, say. Can you see. By the dawn's. Early light." The first hint that trouble was coming was when he said "...whose broad stars and bright stripes." But not too many people picked up on that. He got to "O'er the ramparts. We watched." And then he stopped. And on the big screen you could see him look down. At a very visible sheet of paper. But he couldn't find his place. So he paused. And searched. And searched. And searched. And then, after what was probably a solid four or five seconds, he continued. "Were so gallantly streaming." One fan began to boo. Perhaps that was uncalled for. But I couldn't help but laugh. I don't know if there's a broader point here, perhaps about how Americans ought to know the national anthem (eh, not really -- I don't think I really believe that's necessary), but more importantly, how people who are going to stand in front of a crowd of 29,000 (that's the paid attendance; actual attendance probably more like 500. These are, after all, the Mets) and recite the national anthem really ought to make sure they've got it memorized. And over at CNN studios, I can just picture Take 1 on the promo recording. "This is C-N...Z?" "Sorry, James. Why don't we try that again."

Is this related to law school? Not unless the Mets sue him for non-performance. But if they weren't paying him, and if no one left the stadium because of it (it's the Mets' play that makes the fans leave, not the national anthem), I don't know what kinds of damages they could claim... aw, too much law here. This is what happens when you go to law school (or at least when you try and write about it). You see the legal issues in everything, even when you don't need to. Can't we just enjoy seeing celebrities make mistakes without worrying about the legal implications? Kobe Bryant's lawyer agrees with me on that point, I bet.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

The last weekly newsletter we got before school ended told us that spring semester grades were due from the professors by June 13, and would be mailed out to us sometime between July 9th and July 18th. As of this afternoon, I can say with confidence that they were not overestimating the time it would take in between when the professors turn in the grades and when they'd be mailed. Because I have no grades yet.

And so I find myself a bit torn over what I know less about: what my grades will be (no clue), or why it could possibly take something on the order of a month for the registrar's office to do whatever it needs to do such that we can receive them (no clue).

Even assuming the professors don't have to send the grades in any kind of computerized or format, or bubble them into a bubble sheet that can then be processed in some electronic way, I still have no idea what could take so long. 3Ls get their grades before graduation (the "expedited" plan... which makes me wonder why if they can get them then can't the rest of us?), so there are about 1100 students left to have grades processed. Probably an average of 4 classes per student. 4400 grades. Even if there's only one person dealing with these grades, that's about 220 numbers to enter a day, if this man or woman works 5 days a week; about one every 2 minutes if he or she works 7 hours a day. That's an extraordinarily long amount of time. I've written this whole paragraph in about 2 minutes. Surely someone could type the letter "B" more than 30 times an hour.

And that's the estimate if they're inputting things by hand. If there's a computerized system, I simply have no idea what takes so long. The sheets they mail us have nothing extraordinary on them -- not even a calculated GPA... just a list of classes and the grades. I have no idea why this can't be done on the web somehow, so we could get them marginally quicker, but that's another issue entirely. They have our mailing addresses, the envelopes aren't hand-delivered, nothing could possibly happen in between the professors handing in the grades and the school sending them out... I simply have no clue.

Perhaps they need to verify that each class conformed to some curve. But how long could that really take? Perhaps they input them and then send out confirmation sheets to the professors to verify with their own records. Probably not. But even if so, could that really add more than an extra day or two. It's just a list of names (I mean ID numbers) and a couple of letters. Which are pretty much all Bs anyway.

I have no idea what my grades are, am more curious to see what I got than I am really concerned about the result. But I think I'm most curious why it takes so darn long.

Monday, July 07, 2003

A New York Times article about summer internships. Thanks to Zach for pointing it out to me. It's interesting stuff, whether you're a law student or not.
Follow-up thought to my last post (below) -- some things it might be WORTH worrying about if you're an incoming 1L, as opposed to worrying about what a tort is, and when the UCC applies to contract situations:

1. Do I have a place to live?
2. Do I have clothing to match the climate of my school?
3. Am I taking too much crap with me that I'm not going to use or need, and that I'll just have to lug back home with me at the end of the year?
4. If in a dorm -- do I have flip-flops for the communal bathroom that will prevent me from getting a fungal disease on my feet?
5. Does my computer boot up with error-free consistency or is it going to crash during an exam?
6. Do I have enough money to buy textbooks?
7. Do I have enough strength to carry textbooks?
8. Does my breath smell bad enough that no one will want to be my friend?
9. Have I gotten the most of my current health insurance before switching over to the meager university plan -- make your dental / vision / urology appointments now before it's too late!
10. Have I gotten any lingering addictions under control so they're not a problem at school?
11. Is my future roommate learning how to play the oboe this summer?
12. Do I own a toilet plunger?
13. Have I figured out some easy and quick breakfasts to grab on those mornings when I'm running late but can't imagine sitting in class for 90 minutes on an empty stomach?
14. Do I have a good starter set of highlighters?
15. Do I have access to a printer that will be available whenever I need to print stuff?
16. Does the cable TV package at school include the Food Network?
17. Where did I put the remote control for the stereo I'm taking to school?
18. If I have a car, do I know where I'm parking it?
19. If I don't have a car, do I know someone who does?
20. Am I sure I sent in that deposit check???
Waddling Thunder posts a comment on JD2B's link to's review of pre-law school preparation courses, like Law Preview and Bar/Bri's equivalent.

WT says: "These companies are preying on people who don't know better. Please, for the sake of your pocketbook, don't take these courses. I don't care who teaches them, or how good they might seem, or how confident "graduates" look the week after getting out. They're a waste of time, money, and effort, and all you get in return is a reputation as a gunner if word ever gets out about you."

And I totally agree. Basically. I think in general they're probably pretty useless. Even if you're nervous about law school and feel like you'd be more comfortable knowing some background about each of your first-year classes -- even though it's really, really, really not necessary, and you really, really, really shouldn't be worried about this -- instead of paying $1000, or whatever it is these things cost, go onto and download the free course outlines, and take a quick glance. You'll probably find them pretty boring, but if you're really, really worried about this, they do give a nice summary of the courses. You won't find it particularly useful, I don't think -- maybe on day one, if the professor starts talking about the overall scheme of the course, you'll know some vocabulary your classmates don't, but if it'll put your mind at ease, maybe worth a day or two of your time. But they're free. Free.

As opposed to these courses. 3 problems I can think of with the courses that are more subtle that the overall fact that they're useless wastes of money and time:

1. Each professor teaches his or her course differently. So you may in fact spend a week learning stuff that your professor won't require you to learn -- or stuff that they intentionally don't want you to know right at the beginning, because they have their own way of presenting material so it makes the most sense in their scheme. For example, in contracts class we learned remedies first, and spent a good 3 or 4 weeks talking about what you do when contracts are broken before looking at all about what a contract is. And the professor had a reason, and wanted to teach it that way so we could see contracts from a certain angle and with a certain understanding... so if I had taken one of these courses beforehand, I would have gotten less out of my contracts class. Would have not just been a waste of money, but a real academic negative, potentially impacting my grade in a bad way.

2. Like Wadding Thunder says, socially it can't possibly help. Even if you don't tell anyone, any knowledge you have that comes out in class will brand you a gunner, or a suck-up, or some other negative thing. I know of one person whose comments in class seemed to indicate that she may have read some stuff before starting school, and always seemed "too informed" about the topics in class. This became the subject of a few lunchtime conversations and probably didn't help her make friends right away. Personally, I think holding stuff like that against somebody is stupid. But other people may feel differently. Why risk it?

3. With the $1000 you might spend on these courses, you can probably pay a 3L to take your exams for you. Problem solved.

Of course, I'm kidding about #3. Mostly because I decided I had 3 points to make before I figured out what I was going to say, and so I had a #3 I needed to fill. But #1 and #2 are real and honest. These courses don't provide anything you need.

INTERESTING THOUGHT: If, by some stroke of magic, your 1L professor is teaching the course -- and you somehow know this before you need to sign up -- I wonder whether it would be a help (get to know the prof, no risk you'll be taught something other than what you need) or a hurt (prof sees you as a desperate, worried law student being sucked into these stupid courses). Certainly I can't imagine it's a $1000 help in any event. But what an interesting situation that would be. Something to ponder while you incoming 1Ls wade through the piles of material about health insurance, dorm life, and financial aid I'm sure you're being bombarded with.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Sorry about the two days with no posts. Was away at a wedding with -- gasp -- no Internet access. Also sorry that East Coast radio stations appear to be obsessed with the Kelly Clarkson song, "Miss Independent." But at least that gives me a song to parody. Sort of. The title here is better than my parody.

"Missin' Defendant" (To the tune of "Miss Independent")

(Verse 1)
Missin' defendant
Frustrated lawyer
Summary judgment, mmm

Plaintiffs allege
A crime on the street
And missin' defendant arrested

Evidence shows
Maybe unclear
But lawyer can't do much if the client don't show

So, there he sits down at the table
Defendant don't answer her cell phone
Little miss plaintiff's lawyer
Says ooh, declare this done

What is the judge going to do?
Where is defendant, where can she be
Why all your clients never show up
This ain't the first missin' defendant; maybe your lawyering's not effective
Going to jail, and lawyer you fail

(Verse 2)
Out on the street
Violates bail
Missin' defendant won't show up but police are out on her tail

But she miscalculated
She didn't wanna end up incarcerated
But this missin' defendant will end up in jail

But by showing you she didn't want you
She went in a new legal direction
And you've been fired, you've lost one more client
You've been disbarred

What is the judge going to do?
Where is defendant, where can she be
Why all your clients never show up
This ain't the first missin' defendant; maybe your lawyering's not effective
Going to jail, and lawyer you fail

Also: an interesting article in this weekend's NY Times magazine about Baby Names. Not relevant to anything at all, but just kind of interesting, if you're bored.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Haiku poems about dorm rooms

The heat just came on
The first time it ever worked
It is summertime

A smell in the hall
Not food but sort of like food
It's leftover food

Hear that awful noise?
I wonder what it could be
The guy next door snores

Look in the toilet
No, look closer, look closer
Ha. I made you look.

Look in the shower
A rat peeking from the drain
But at least he's clean

Forgot my sandals
Is this really a big deal?
My foot's infected

Trying to study
But someone is having fun
Stop having fun please

4 in the morning
But it's very hard to tell
They're all still awake

My alarm clock rings?
No, it is my neighbor's clock
But I can hear it

There are no windows
The brochure did not say that
They think lying's fun

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Another link today from JD2B. I always feel pressure when I get linked, to post something extra-good so that any new visitors are extra-impressed and want to come back. (I'm afraid it's thoughts like that which may have led me to become a law student, too...)

So, I posted a sketch last week sort of about the Supreme Court affirmative action decision (below). Against my better judgment, here's one sort of about the other Supreme Court decision last week, about that thing that rhymes with lobotomy. But not really.

"Tourism Committee"

(Lights up on WALLY BELL, state tourism commissioner)

I'm state tourism commissioner Wally Bell. Over the past few years, I've been working to draw more and more visitors to some of our state's greatest attractions. And I'm proud to say that my campaign has been a tremendous success. In the past ten years, more people than ever before have swam in our polluted rivers, picnicked in our mosquito-infested parks, and bathed on our filthy beaches. But one site has proven especially attractive. Under my watch, we've increased visitation ten-fold, and made this place "the place to be" for visitors to our state, whether they're here for a week, or for a lifetime. It's become the hottest ticket in town, hosting more Americans than ever before. Of course, I'm talking about jail.

(A chain gang enters)

I know jail's not often thought of as a popular tourist attraction, and it's true, in the past it's been somewhat neglected, and the prisoners - I mean tourists - haven't experienced the first class treatment we'd all like to think our state is known for. But under my watch, that's changed. I've invited some visitors to talk about the renaissance that jail has undergone recently, and let you know about some of the improvements we've made. It's all part of the kickoff to my campaign, entitled "That's Today's Jail." But don't take my word for it. Listen to what these fine folks have to say.

I remember coming here when I was a kid, with my parents. This was their favorite vacation spot, and they never missed an opportunity to spend some time down here with their buddies in the neighboring cells. They wanted me to have fond memories of the place, since even when I was young I showed a great interest in coming back here myself one day. And ever since I was a teenager, I've chosen to spend more and more of my free time down here, in between jobs, or as a needed break after a strenuous business transaction. One thing I remember from my trips here as a kid was that the cells were pretty small, and had no windows. But since the new tourism campaign, they've put one little window in each cell, tempered glass with reinforced steel bars. At the right time of day, if I stand on the toilet and squint, I can see a ray of sunlight reflecting off the electrified fence. A tiny little window. That's today's jail.

When I first got to jail, I was surprised at the lack of scheduled activities. Besides mealtime and hard labor, there really wasn't much in the way of recreation. But ever since they brought in that deck of cards and installed the gumball dispenser, it's been like a whole new place. Plus sometimes there's even chocolate chips in the cookies. More variety. That's today's jail.

Although it may not always be apparent, most of us here in jail want to be law-abiding citizens, and it frustrates us when the things we enjoy doing happen to be prohibited by law. For me, it created a lot of mental anguish and distress when I discovered that one of my favorite activities here in jail was actually illegal. Since this activity was one of the pastimes that drew me back here time and time again, it kept eating at my soul that every time I did this thing with one (or more) of the other prisoners, I was breaking the law. But now that the Supreme Court has said that this thing is legal, I have nothing to worry about. Me and my friends can enjoy this pleasurable prison activity without worrying that we're running afoul of federal statutes against that sort of thing. Favorite prison pastimes now legal. That's today's jail.

As you can see, jail is really the place to be here in this state. And with our crackdown on crime - I mean our new tourism drive - we're offering almost everyone a free stay, for a limited time. Whether you're speeding down the highway, smoking in any public establishment, jaywalking, or killing your wife with an axe, you'll get a chance to see for yourself how much we've changed, and what it's like to spend some time at this state's most popular tourist destination. A tiny little window, gumballs for a quarter, and exciting other now-legal activities. That's today's jail. See you soon.

Haven't added one of these installments in a while, and can't think of anything else to write about today, so how about...

The Children's Guide to Law School, Chapter 3: Legal Journals

At home, you or your parents probably receive magazines in the mail. Some magazines are about sports, some are about the news, some are about famous people and the tiniest details of their lives that no one really needs to know about, some have pictures of pretty people, some have pictures of pretty, naked people, some have pictures of pretty food, some have pictures of pretty furniture, some have pictures of pretty window ornaments, some have odd, pretentious cartoons that only sophisticated people find amusing, some have long articles about how bad Republicans are, some have long articles about how bad Democrats are, and some just have long lists of everything that's on TV. A legal journal is like a magazine about law, except there are no pictures, and instead of the articles being interesting, they're really not. In fact, one rule of thumb is that the more interesting the articles are, the worse the journal is. The very best journals, in fact, are barely written in English. Each journal weighs about as much as a canteloupe and is roughly the same texture on the outside.

At law school, most students work on at least one journal. Some say the reason they do this is because they enjoy the work. Those people are liars. Some say the reason they do it is because it looks good on their resume, and the work's not really that bad. Those people are just rationalizing. A rare handful of people say the reason they do it is because everyone else is doing it, and so if they don't know it, they're worried that somehow this will reflect poorly on them, even though it's not completely clear how and why. Those people are going to be terrible lawyers, but live honest and genuine lives. Working for a law journal because you like to write is like working for a mining company because you like gold jewelry. Yes, there is writing in these journals. No, your work has nothing to do with anything that can even remotely be called 'writing' or compared to, say, the articles in any magazine ever published for a mass market audience to make a profit.

People who do work for legal journals typically are tasked with checking footnotes. There are two different dimensions on which footnotes need to be checked. One is worse than the other, but I'm not sure which. I think it depends on the person and how little of a personality he or she has. The first dimension is technical comptence -- is the footnote actually technically correct? Are the commas in the right place? Is the font right? Is the name of the source spelled correctly? Should there be one space or two spaces after the period? Should there be a period there at all? Should there be two? Should they be printed or hand-written in on every copy? Is that a comma or a cookie crumb? What does it taste like? The second dimension is substantive correctness -- Is the right source being footnoted? Is the quote copied exactly? Is the page number correct? Does the book stand for the proposition that the text says it does? Does the book exist at all? Did the author make it up just because he needed a footnote there? Does it sound real? If we leave it, do you think anyone will notice? Could "Lawyer McLawyerson" really be an author's name? And could he have really written the book, "Lawyer McLawyerson's Guide to Lawyerly Law and the Lawgal system as practiced in Lawyerland, Lawburgh, Lapland, and Lawville?" And is there really a page number 23.6?

As you might imagine, checking whether a book really stands for the proposition the text asserts it does may in some cases require you to actually find the book and even open it up and read a few pages. Luckily, many law books have titles that make their point of view self-evident. For example, "Ships Are Subject To International Law," by Admiral Jones. If that book were to be cited, it would not be that hard to tell if the footnote was okay. But some books, like "Important Law Stuff," may have a less clear point of view. These require reading. But first they require finding. Luckily, every library in the world has every book ever written, and owns an unlimited number of copies so the book you need is never missing from the shelf. Like Blockbuster, which always has copies of all of the new videos, even if you show up Sunday night after a long weekend when it's been raining and the only new movies in the theater are 'From Justin to Kelly," and the new one with Kirstie Alley and Tim Allen, "Low-Budget Romantic Comedy With A Bad Script." Also starring three people who used to be on Saturday Night Live, and four people who wish they were. And Ron Reagan, Jr. And Pat Sajak. And Ivana Trump. Where was I? Oh yeah, legal journals. They're not terrible, but they're really that much fun. Although, for the amount of the time they take up, it's probably worth it and it can be a decent experience and it looks nice on a resume and your name is on a masthead of something, and sometimes they give out free food at meetings. Cool.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

I had a dream (a nightmare?) last night that I got my spring semester grades (yeah, still haven't gotten them). In my dream, I got an F, an F, and an F+. Really. But in my dream, I also got the grades for next semester's classes that I haven't taken yet. And in those I got an A, an A-, a B++, and a W. I don't know what the W stood for. Perhaps "What a weird dream," or "Wow, you need to stop thinking about law school," or "Why would you be taking new classes next semester if you get 2 Fs (and an F+!!) this semester?"

Hopefully not an indication of things to come, whenever it is we actually do get grades.