Law: T-Minus 8 hours

May 19, 2008

At 9 AM today I start my job as a summer associate.  I am not sure what I am supposed to think right now.  Part of me is really nervous, after all, this is a 12 week long interview/recruitment event in the middle of a weak economy.  On the flip side, this will be my first experince acting like a real lawyer.  I could see this beaing great but I could also see this being a lot of work.  Perhaps it will be both.  Priority 1 for this summer:  Secure an offer.  Priority 2 for this summer:  Learn some stuff.  Priority 3 for this summer:  Learn if this is a place I want to be.

I’m hoping for the best and planning on the middle.

I don’t even know my schedule for tomorrow.  I know that I am leaving my apartment at 8 and supposed to be at work at nine.  This gives me an hour to get there, get parked and get to the office.  With luck, I’ll have to kill some time in there.  I also know that they will be serving us breakfast and that Tuesday I am going to lunch with my associate mentor.  Beyond that, I have no idea what to expect from this week.

Wish me luck.  For any other summer associates starting tomorrow, feel free to leave me thoughts on how your first day went!



Law: Transition

May 18, 2008

So class ended Wednesday and now (assuming all classes are passed) I’m a 2L!  Yey!  Now that I’m done with 1L year, what am I doing?  Getting ready to start my job!  Today I flew in, met my family, and moved into my summer housing.  Its sort of bare bones but given what I’m anticipating the firm being like, I cannot see it mattering too much that this is bear bones. 

Monday I start work!  I still cannot believe that somebody is going to expect me to be able to do the type of work that real attorneys do!  I mean, I’m glad somebody is going to pay me what they pay real attorneys, but still.  This next week will be interesting.  I’m hoping they take it slow and help us get transitioned into our new life as “sort of lawyers.”  I read an email saying there will be a lot of orientation/training stuff the first week which is good.  I need to learn even simple things like how to bill a client.

On an unrelated note, I’m feeling healthy again.  My throat is all better and I’m feeling good in that sense (although I have a foot that randomly goes numb from time to time) so

Monday was my Contracts exam.  Overall it was a hair easier than expected, but that also takes out opportunity for differentiation.  Since our professor is theory obsessed and I focused on doctrine, I’ll guess this worked to my disadvantage.  Overall, I’m thinking I’m in the B/B+ range. 

The exam was six questions about issues with a real company.  The exam focused on doctrine but on a fairly shallow level.  Read one contract and answer six questions putting different spins on the same agreement.  Overall it was fairly interesting but not really a useful tool (as far as I could tell) to distinguish between different levels of comprehension.

The real fun was after the exam.  Turns out our section and another section had identical exams.  For our section, the exam fit neatly with what we were told it would look like, so we know our professor wrote the exam and we didn’t have any issues. Another section was told they would have two long issue spotters and looked at a lot of the professor’s old answers.  Needless to say, given the fact that this exam was totally different, they were angry.

This led to rumors flying.  The first rumor was that they got the exam by mistake.  Next up was the rumor that to fix this mistake they would be given the choice between taking their grade as pass/fail and taking their grade that they got on the exam.  Of course, time (and an email from their professor) revealed that neither of these were the case.  Our professor wrote an exam, their professor looked over it, thought it was interesting, and decided to use it.  Case closed. 

Tomorrow is my last 1L final.  International – joy.  So screwed.

Law: K’s Prep

May 12, 2008

Tomorrow (or later today) I have my contracts exam.  During the semester my general approach to this class was:  “Look, I can learn this form an outline, I’ll put in the time right before the exam.”  Well, now its right before the exam and (shock of shocks) I still haven’t put in the time.  So with the exam coming up tomorrow and about 3 hours of review left, I’m not sure where I stand.  Here’s the deal:

Parts of contracts make sense, its just applying the same three or four patterns to different questions.  Other parts are really tricky and rule driven.  I’m not really sure what to make of the class or the exam.  Add to this concern the fact that I’m not convinced the professor really knows what is going on (he is brilliant, I just don’t think he has much interest in teaching Contracts) and we end up with a scarey mix going into a final.

This exam is just as likely to be straight law and econ/risk allocation as it is to be doctrinally contracts.  Origionally we were told we would get a large number of short answer (half hour or so) questions.  Then that was changed to a “potential preference for long questions.”  Personally, I’m hoping for a few long questions as I think I do better in these situations, but I’m guessing 6 questions with a half hour to answer each.  This is about as scarey of an exam formal as there is in my world. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.  After the exam, I get to grab dinner, relax for two or three hours, and then move on to the joy of preparing for the exam that I am most afraid of – International Economic Law.

Lets see how this goes. 

I am not an animal lover.  In fact, I’m closer to an animal disliker.  Sorry.  Today I was reading an article in a PRINT NEWSPAPER (they still have those, who knew) while not studying for contracts.  The article was about a Minnesota man who hit a dog in the middle of the street and is now suing the dogs owners for the damage it did to his car.  At first glance I was like “wow, another example of people trying to use the tort system to pass the buck.”  When I read the article, I started to feel somewhat bad for him (only a little, only for a second).  Basically, a 14 pound dog ran out into the street as he was driving.  It doesn’t appear like there is anything he could do to not hit it.  He hit the dog and damaged his bumper which in turn damaged his radiator.  He is asking for the cost of repairs plus the value of his time (he had to take off work).  Total price tag, about $2,000.

So ignoring the first question of where do you get a lawyer to take this case for that small pricetag, and assuming he is representing himself in small claims court, I don’t know how I feel about this case.  I can actually sort of see it going either way.  To me, it all seems to come down to this: What is the place of animals, specifically dogs, in the legal system.  If they are treated similar to humans, then he loses.  If they are more like furniture, then he wins.  But that isn’t the question I’m actually writting about today.  What I’m really writing is:  What SHOULD the place of animals be in the law?

Lets start by considering the extremes:

Animals as people:  With all due respect to all the people that think their dogs are their kids, but ANIMALS ARE NOT PEOPLE.  Sorry.  They are not.  They never will be.  That animal and somebody’s three year old are not the same.   Dogs are not people.  Dogs aren’t and SHOULDN’T be afforded the same protections as people.  If you see a dog run into the street and your choices are possible kill the dog or possible start a three car accident with the potential to kill somebody, you take your chances with the dog.  I think of it like this:  Somebody comes up to you and says “we are breaking your dogs leg, or we are breaking your neighbor’s son’s leg.  You let them break your dogs leg.  If dogs were people, then running one over would land you in jail.  Thats silly.  Sorry, it is. 

Dogs are furniture:  This isn’t really the case.  I mean, I don’ t like animals, want PETA to be labeled a terrorist organization, think we should test away on them if it can help humans, and think police investigating/prosecuting cruelty to animals crimes is a massive waste of taxpayer money, BUT I don’t think they are people.  If I see somebody take a chainsaw to their chair, I’d be like “whatever.”  If I saw somebody take a chainsaw to their dog, I’d be disgusted.  Then again, I’m not really opposed to a law that treats a dog as a thing for the purpose of CERTAIN parts of the law.  For example, lets say a 10 gallon drum rolls down your driveway and dents a car.  Clearly, you’re responsible.  I’m thinking it should be the same if your dog runs down your driveway into a car and dents it.  Then again, I’m not sure this isn’t the same for people.  Now lets say that drum rolls in front of a car and gets shattered.  Again, your responsible.  If its your daughter, the driver goes to jail.  Hmm, interesting.  This gets us back to the facts of this case, so really accomplishes nothing.  I think the “dogs and things” mentality has a lot of usefulness for certain elements of the law, but I cannot accept it in general. 

Something in between:

Now we reach the middle ground where I think everybody HAS to be.  The question is, where is the balance?  I don’t think there is a right answer.  The more I think about this case, the more I’m drawn towards the “dogs as things” mentality.  I think my ideal situation would be a legal fiction that says:  “in any situation where your dog causes an injury, your liability is the same as if it was a motor-scooter that was left running accidentally.”  Yes you didn’t accidentally do anything in this situation, but you did make a decision that imposed some risk on another person, so I’m thinking -bear the cost.  On the flip side, I realize that most people believe in some form of protection for animals, so this standard has to allow for a different role of dogs as “victims.”  I’m thinking here the rule is something about intentionality.  “The law will not protect accidental acts that harm dogs beyond the extent it would protect property, but it will protect intentional acts that harm them for no legitimate purpose” would be a compromise I can live with.

How would this work?  Cruelty to animals laws would stay the same.  If somebody walked up and shot your dog, you would be compensated, just like if somebody walked up to you and took a ledgehammer to your car.  If somebody is faced with “hurt and animal or possibly help a human” they are protected from getting in trouble for hurting the animal by the last clause. 

Is this my ideal standard?  No.  I think its too deferential to dogs.  But its a compromise I can live with.  What are your thoughts animal lovers?  Kurzman is much much more pro dog than I am, so don’t think he endorses this post.

If this principle were in place, how would the driver in our original hypothetical fare?  Well he probebally gets his car fixed at the expense of the dog owner (if your run away motor scooter goes into the street and damages a car, you fix it) if he can show there really wasn’t anything he could do to prevent it.   

Law: Why Study?

May 9, 2008

I wanted to post a review of my Leg-Reg test today but then I remembered its a self-scheduled exam so I can’t.  Anyway, I’m just going to post two general complaints:

1.  I didn’t do well, which is a complaint in and of itself.

2. Seriously, who wrote the first part of the exam.  I feel like the first half of this exam was SCOTUS-clerk masturbation.  I am sure I did it wrong since my answer amounted to something  a 1L that never took a day of this class could have figured out.  I’m extremely frustrated not because I didn’t do well on the first half (which I didn’t) but because the question itself was dumb! This is up there with “what would you change about Property law” from last semester.

A while back we wrote a few posts comparing law school to med school and noticing how they are in many ways similar but in some ways different.

Today I want to roll back the clock a half a decade (it sounds longer than 5 years if I say it like that) as a framework to talking about the differences between law school and med school.

Recently I read a few articles about how people go to law school for a lot of really bad reasons and how law students have much stronger regrets about their graduate education than others.  Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that the vast vast majority of students earn significantly less than they thought they would when they went into law school (Note:  As we have talked about before, if you did a modal 10K range, it would be 45K-55K). 

The study I was reading mentioned two large factors that they blamed for this other than inflated income expectations (perhaps more accurately, the article noted to factors that make not earning what people thought they would earn different for a law student than for every business graduate from an average school).  The first factor it mentions is that a lot of students go into law school because they don’t have any particular skills, consider themselves smart, and think law school is a good way for a smart person to make a living.

In some ways, there might be some truth to this, just with a much bigger adjustment to what defines “a living.”  If you are somebody that does well in liberal arts classes that are not stats based, odds are your “smarts” come in the form of reading, writing, and talking.  These skills could make you a gifted manager in a corporation one day (depending on your overall ability to get things done/manage people) but that would require an unclear path and some luck, not to mention a “low” starting salary.  No no, if you consider youself “smart” (remember this is a realative term, over a quarter of my high school was on some honor roll and considered themselves smart) then law seems like an appealing fallback.  For these people, I’ll just say that law school is tough and from what I can tell, practicing law is definately not a cakewalk.  There is “smart” relative to the population and there is “Smart” relative to law school applicants and the bar for the second is higher (the same holds true for any graduate school).

The second “all too common norm” in the article was a path that combines the two topics of this board:  A student wants to go to medical school and either can’t hack it in undergrad science, can’t get the MCAT, or realizes they don’t like the site of blood and decides they now want to go to law school.  I know a couple of people like this.  I’ve thought about this for a while and I must say, if I was an admissions rep, I would take this as a HUGE sign that this person is going to law school or all the wrong reasons. 

Not to sound judgmental (although I am judgmental) but if you say you “discovered a love for the law” in the middle of college, you are so full of fertilizer that its coming out of your ears.  Look, law and med school take two completely opposite types of people.  The only thing these folks have in common (on the whole) is that they both do really well on standardized tests.  If you were pre med and ended up pre law, you either 1. think you are entitled/should/need to make a lot of money/have a prestiege job and as a result took what you thought (wrongly) was the next best path or 2. Have parents telling you these are the only two acceptable jobs.  This is complicated by the fact that just getting into ANY med school is hard but if you are willing to pay 30-40K and are dumb enough to believe that it doesnt matter where you go, then there is certainly a law school that will take you.  Either way, you are a fool for making this decision.  If you “I’m not either of those” then I refuse to believe you, you are in the first group and in denial.  The only people I believe are the ones that are actually MD/JD’s.  These people were able to hack it in med school and still moved onto law school.  If you have the skills for both, be realistic, you’re going to elect to be a doctor (or at least go to med school and then change later).

How can I be so sure of this?  How can I so strongly assert that these are polar opposite skills/personality types?  For starters, because I’m opinionated and a post full of hedging doesn’t make for a good blog.  More importantly, I’m thinking back among all of the now law students or doctors I know (by the way, I cannot think of a single person that I graduated with in high school that is now a law student, if any of you can, please IM me).  From here out, I’m going to focus on myself and Kurzman because its easier than generalizing and the specifics definately hold true. 

Med School types (at least the ones that are going to be successful) like answers.  They know answers, they know how to get answers, and they can think logically to other anwsers.  “Now Clegal, isn’t all school about knowing answers?”  Why yes, but there are different types of answers. 

Guys like Kurzman learn the facts, the verifiable, one right way, answers.  “What is the shape of this molecule.”  “How do you calculate the relative speed of this reaction?” “Is this a one way or two way reaction?”  “Integrate this multivariable equation.”  These are the things guys like Kurzman can do, and they can do them very well.  Not only that, but they can think from one situation to another to use the answers they know to figure out new answers.  “Given what you know about covalent bonds, what will this look like?”  Even their “BS” questions are tricky, usually have objectively right or logical answers and can be verified “if thats the case, why does hydrogen do this?” Yes I realize I’m using Freshmen level chem and math concepts, but this is what I know ok, so back off.  Guys like Kurzman work hard.  They get stuff.  The understand the value of figuring out a right answer, they ususally know it, and they understand how they got there.  If you have those skills, you can perhaps do anything, I don’t know, but I do know that you need this to be a future med-student (at least from my non-med student perspective).  I base this on the fact that now, Kurzman is expected to learn answers.  Right answers.  And when he is in practice, he will be expected to take the right answers he knows, apply them, and get more right answers. 

Guys like me, not so much.  In high school, I didn’t really “figure out answers.”  I wasn’t dumb and I didn’t do poorly grades wise, but there was a big difference between the way I got through classes with “answers” (Math, Science, Etc) and the way someone like Kurzman did.  I was fine at memorizing a process and repeating it over and over.  Thankfully, if you can do this, you will do well in public high school.  High school calc and chem, even at high levels, is “monkey work.” Memorize and repeat.  Just learn the formula, know what all the letters mean, and be able to solve a basic algebraic equation (which is really just more memorizing).  I could get the answers, do fine in those classes, but I never really got it.  Ask me to think creatively in a chem or math class and I’m lost, always was.  I was a step and a half behind the kids like Kurzman and a step ahead of the people that just didn’t have the ability to memorize and repeat. 

So what is “lawyer smart?”  What kind of answers do we have?  Simple, we construct arguments.  We take situations that are similar and we twist them.  We push things to the edges to break them and we put them back in ways we like.  Better yet, we understand that similar words and sentences can have different meanings and we can think quickly on our feet.  By we, I dont mean all law students, I mean people with skill sets like me.  We are the ones that are having the BS conversation about something in high school and take somebody’s logic, exagerate it to the ends, perhaps make an analogy, and attempt to show thats a “silly” line.  We frustrate people and they don’t end up agreeing most of the time, but they just don’t poke that hole in the logic.  We will argue fringe things and leave the other side feeling like they were just robbed.  Our place of excellence isn’t the chem lab, its the lunchroom debate or better year, the essay exam.  Not the “what were the causes of the american revolution” essay, but the “analyze X and Y using the themes of this course” types.  We play with ideas, put them together, and make conclusions.  The things we think we know are usually things that aren’t facts but opinions.  Or skill isn’t the ability to get the right answer, its the ability to constuct an argument so you think our opinion is the right answer. 

Flash forward a few years.  Last week Kurzman took a series of exams where he was expected to know things about certain body processes.  How they worked, what they did, in some cases what they looked like, and how they interact.  His creative thinking was connecting concepts.  Tomorrow I’ll take my second exam.  I’ve been studying hard and I’m running into problems because, in all honesty, I really don’t know anything.  There are facts and rules I’m supposed to know that I don’t because I just don’t learn those things well.  Hopefully it will work out, maybe it wont, but even if I knew them all perfectly, that wouldn’t be what this exam was about.  This exam is about taking those “facts” and “rules” (not the same as science facts) and applying them to a situation.  Play with the situation on both sides. Push and pull it, look for a path then try to build a wall to block it off, then climb over the wall you just built. 

The hardest part for me on this exam is that I don’t have the full knowledge base I should going into this exam.  In Kurzman’s world, not having the knowledge base would be the ballgame.  You can’t get a D without at least a strong knowledge base.  If I took a med school style exam about this material, I would fail.  Thankfully, lawyers don’t work on “these facts what result” they work on “these facts, what arguments.”  In this situation, with a last minute hail marry, I still have an outside shot at getting through this because even though I don’t have the full knowledge base, if I can figure out the general category, I can look up the rules and come up with an argument.  This would be like Kurzman going “well, I dont really know what muscles does that, but i know its in this broad family.  I’m hoping for a B and anticipating a B-.  Please wish me well. 

I have a sinking feeling about this exam, and the scarey part is, this is the one I’ll be best prepared for.  We’re not in high school anymore Rex (I didn’t wanna say Todo because 1. I don’t know how to spell it and 2. Rex sounds more manly). 

Law: Sick

May 6, 2008

Why is it that whenever finals roll around I get sick?  In undergrad it made sense to me.  The last Tuesday of class comes along, I drink myself silly that night, am hungover for two days, and when the hangover breaks I’m sick.  Fine.  I can accept that.  Then last semester, right before finals stared I got a cold.  It was the middle of winter, I wasn’t sleeping (trying to study and keep all my friends at home happy without abandoning my mom = no sleep).  Now, its Spring, not that cold, I don’t have a cold or the flu, but something is messed up with my throat.  I feel like my ears want to pop but cant and it hurts to swollow (but only on one side).  It seems like my neck is swollen, but I don’t feel it.  I have no idea whats up, so tomorrow I’m going to Health Services, but seriously, why always during finals?  I’m not even a super-finals-stressball, so I can’t blame it on that.

Perhaps Kurzman can enlighten me on sicknesses that only come on during finals (or December/May sicknesses). 

I’ve always been a “small victories” person.  I don’t mean that I celebrate small things or make silly excuses to feel good, I mean that I try to break things up and work towards one thing at a time.  Ever since I started getting some control over what goes on in my life (around middle or high school) I’ve always been a “baby steps” kinda guy. 

When I was young, this didn’t matter much because I didn’t really take any steps.  In high school I was…. hope do you say……. lazy.  I don’t mean like Kurzman and I talk about being lazy now because we only study a few hours a day, I mean lazy lazy, like, Union employee lazy.  We’re talkin’ the Denver Nuggets on Defense or Barry Bonds running out a pop up to short lazy.  Even then, I still had “baby steps.” 

In high school, I would set small goals like “during commercial start working and work until you finish three homework problems.”  Needless to say, this approach wasted more time than it saved, but wasting time wasn’t really the fear.  You see, in my teenaged mind, every point above a 90% was a titanic waste.  If I was going to get a B, every point above an 80 was effort that was better spent doing something else (like making fun of somebody, I know, mature).  

Oh, wow, Clegal, you’re sooooo cool, you were a slacker in high school.  Suburban kid doesn’t take school seriously, get the news stations out here.  Aren’t you so cool.

Now, I didn’t do that long lead in for the sake of showing how little I cared in high school (but seriously, when the kid that failed out of NIU is sitting next to you getting the same grade and trying not particularly hard, what is the motivation to put in any effort) but rather to demonstrate why I screw myself every finals season.

Today I started to do really hard nosed work.  I sat down just me and my outline and I started to work.  I was cranking through cases using a template I borrowed from a friend and moving along just fine for about 10 minutes when I started to get this “itch.”  Clegal, what do you want to accomplish today? I began to wonder.  “You aren’t really going to try and go through this whole course, are you?” I found myself daydreaming.  Of course not.  So I stopped and set a goal, something logical (I wanted to get through all of the legislation stuff in my Legislation and Regulation course). 

Great, I had a goal.  Back to work I went and I started cranking through things until eventually I was at my goal.  The problem is, I hit my goal sooner than anticipated, but my goal for the day was reached so I packed up and went home to waste the rest of my night.  Now, this isn’t a huge problem per se, after all, sometimes you overestimate and sometimes you underestimate, so who cares.  Well, the problem is, I always underestimate.  In my desire to always be done and put things off, I always shoot too low, so when I hit my target, I’m still not as far as I could have been if I set my sights higher. 

With this in mind, I’m decreeing now, I want to get through half of the Leg Reg course tomorrow.  Not half of what I have left, Half.  I want to get through all of the administrative law stuff and into the stuff that combines the two (deference to agency interpretation and whatnot).  So there it is.  I set a big, fat, hairy, difficult to achieve goal.  Lets see if I can achieve it.

Today marks another in a line of “should that really appear on this blog” type posts. 

In the middle of Fall semester, or section leader held a section meeting to talk about what Interntional electives we wanted to take.  This was a generally pointless meeting, he told us how all the faculty were superstars and all the classes were great.  At the end, I raised my hand to ask what would be the most practical course.  You see, my logic was, all of these classes are going to be like pulling teeth for me.  I don’t like international stuff.  I don’t find other countries interesting and the only “interplay between nations” that I am really captivated by will take place this year – the olympics.  Heck, I even picked a college largely based on the act that I would never have to take a foreign language class.  In undergrad my “non western civilization” course would have ruined my semester if I didn’t take a joke of a class with four fraternity brothers.  All I remember was my professor making some anti-Israel comments and saying “Middle of vhat, East of vhat” 5 or six times per class period.  Basically, I am disappointed that the school added the international elective and figured if I had to suffer through it, I might as well take something useful. 

So I raised my hand and in my uniquely smart-assed way said “Can you talk a little about which of these courses would be the most practical, I assume not Duncan Kennedy’s course but beyond that could you offer some insight?”  Duncn Kennedy of course is best known for deciding that current methods of analysis in legal academia were not far enough left and seeking to fix this by inventing an entirely new legal paradigm to the EXTREME left (nope, not a conservative bias at all in that sentence).  To quote paradoy:  Duncan Kennedy knows things nobody else knows….. because he made them up……. and published them. 

Anyway, when I asked that question, my professor launched into some off topic rant that basically said “this is HLS, you will get enough practical stuff and you will be well prepared, take something fun.”  When I followed up with him about this late, he noted “take a little dessert with your veggies,” meaning do something fun.  Sorry sir, but nothing Interntional is particularly fun to me.

Today I went for a little dessert with my veggies.  I had been studying all week, so today some friends and I went out and had some legit fun – we went to a Red Sox game.  Now, for a hardcore baseball junkie, Fenway is the place.  Cubs fans things Wrigley is the place to be, but thats Midwest arrogance (which is still nothing compared to East Coast arrogance).  Wrigley is an interesting museaum, Yankee stadium is a great cathedral, but Fenway…. thats a great ballpark.  The fans know the game and cheer.  Chants and excitement start from the field and work their way up (no PA announcer “clap clap” or rally meter, just fans that want to cheer their team on).  I always thought the 8th inning sing-along was somewhat silly but when you are actually there and do it, it is a really good time.  Overall, the whole game was a blast. 

I still prefer Comisky the Cell, but only because the White Sox play there.  This was an awsome experience and one I hope to repeat when friends come in from out of town.