Saturday, March 31, 2012

Me, You, and Outlining

The semester is winding to a close at this point. We have another three weeks of school and then finals start. At this point, everyone should be outlining or else having panic attacks about why their outlines aren't complete.

When my fiance decided to surprise me by coming to San Francisco for a week, I couldn't have been more thrilled. We've been doing the long distance thing for close to a year now and we snatch every opportunity to see each other. Of course, long visits require a certain allocation of free time. This means that sweeping romantic gestures, while highly encouraged, require extensive preparation and time management.

I am absolutely thrilled that I get to see my honey bear for a week. But my neurotic law student sense is tingling. I only had two days to prepare for his arrival and that was only enough to send out summer job applications and complete my initial, cursory readings. When will I get to finish that Property outline? What about the second round of Torts reading? Can I just get by with highlighting instead of briefing? Thank God that Moot Court's over but what about my Education Law class? I'm pretty sure we're going to have, like, six cases to read this week and I can't miss anymore classes.

As such, my fiance and I have found ourselves in the Gold Room this sunny, beautiful Saturday in San Francisco. I'm busy wrapping up Torts and moving onto outlining Property while he bangs out some sort of physics theory proof. It's a good thing that he also has work to do over his spring vacation, because otherwise my working alone in the Gold Room while he ventures into SF sans moi would be super pathetic.

Alas, that's the life of a law student. And grad student apparently. At least we have activities planned post-studying. Yes, I even made an itinerary for his stay. Don't judge.

tl;dr It's easy to make long distance relationships work so long as you both have no social life because you're in grad school.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Number Crunching: Debt and Salaries in the Modern Age of Lawyering

I get most of my lawyer information from ABA publications. The articles are written for lawyers, which means that they're concise and well-written because time is money.

(I've taken to computing my study time into dollar signs where I fantasize about paying myself per hour and figuring out how much I would make in a year just from studying. There's a hierarcy of per hour wages dependent on the quality of the studying.)

This morning I opened up my e-mail to find an article entitled "Average Debt of Private Law School Grads is $125K; It's Highest at These Five Schools."

Of course I followed that up with US News and World Report confirmation. USNWR might as well be the word of God in terms of rankings. Everyone says the rankings don't matter but when it comes down to it, EVERYONE looks at USNWR to get a good overview of program caliber. Even the administration of the school. The day that the rankings came out, the Dean of our school sent out an e-mail apologizing that our school dropped another two slots on the rankings but suggesting that the rankings were arbitrary and didn't take into account our strategic planning efforts. #DamageControl

So, for the curious, the most indebted of private law school graduates:

Law school (name) (state)Annual tuition and fees*Average indebtednessU.S. Newsrank
California Western School of Law$42,600$153,145RNP
Thomas Jefferson School of Law (CA)$41,000$153,006RNP
American University (Washington) (DC)$45,096$151,31849
New York Law School$47,800$146,230135
Phoenix School of Law$37,764$145,357RNP
Southwestern Law School (CA)$42,200$142,606129
Catholic University of America (Columbus) (DC)$41,830$142,22282
Northwestern University (IL)$51,920$139,10112
Pace University (NY)$40,730$139,007142
Whittier College (CA)$39,090$138,961RNP

*Annual tuition and fees are for full-time, in-state programs.

Of course, now we wonder about public school debt. According to US News and World Report, UC 'School of Public Interest Law':
Percentage of Grads with Debt: 88%
Average Indebtedness: $102, 030
Using an online loan calculator (the credibility of which is debatable because I just used a Google search), payment over 10 years at 6.8% means monthly payments of $1,174.16. 

For the record, our school was at the very bottom of the fourth page. There are 99 schools ahead of us in average loan debt.

US News and World Report suggests that if you'd like to pay down this debt faster and find a good job in a specialized field, go into Health Law or Intellectual Property. These fields are complicated and require a certain degree of specialization. 
According to PatBar, the average salary of an IP associate is $125,000 in the first year.  That's fantastic!

Wait, rewind. According to US News and World Report, many law schools report that their first year post-grads are making an average of $160,000 in the private sector. How does that work? If IP pays the most at $125,000 and it's a highly specialized field where very few grads find jobs because of experience requirements, then how can most Tier 1 schools report that the average salary of their first year grads is $160,000? It seems as though there's some number fudging going on. 

I turned to The Association of Legal Career Professionals to remedy this confusion. Unfortunately, they had the numbers from 2010, when the legal market was stronger than it is now:
2010 Associate Salary Survey (Private)

Overall median first-year salary was $115,000:

$72,000 in firms of 2-25 lawyers, 
$117,500 in firms of 501-700 lawyers, 
$125,000 in firms of 251-500 lawyers, and 
$160,000 in firms of more than 700 lawyers.
$160,000 in Chicago, LA, NY, D.C. 
$130,000 to $145,000 in Boston, SF 

2010 Public Sector and Public Interest Attorney Salary Report

The median entry-level salary varies: 

civil legal services organization -- $42,000, 
public defenders -- $45,700,
local prosecuting attorneys --  $50,000, 
public interest organizations with issue-driven missions -- $45,000. 

tl;dr Law schools report whatever they want to. But we knew that already, didn't we.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Cold Call

There is a phenomenon in law school called "The Cold Call." It is the most feared experience of the first semester of 1L. By the second semester, no one cares. Your cold call doesn't determine your grade during 1L. Moreover, everyone's given up trying to impress each other. Your peers will judge you for everything that you say and do anyway. In and out of class, no one is safe.

Most professors savor the moment when they cold call an eager, fresh-faced law student. Even the most confident break down over the course of the hour where our professors stare us in the eyes, ask probing questions, and pause in anticipation of the answer. The pause is the best part. The whole class waits for you to open your mouth. No one moves a muscle. No one types. No one breaths. Everyone stares straight ahead. Some turn around to look at you. No biggy.

When I was cold called in Criminal Law--although it was the third time I had been cold-called last semester and I should have been a pro--I'm pretty sure I had some sort of panic attack.

I had lunch with my professor the day before and he asked me if I had done a case yet. Reluctantly, I said no and he told me that my day of reckoning was coming. (My words, not his.) The next morning, as I was showering, I considered just not showing up for class. If I'm not there, he can't call on me, I reasoned. But I knew he was going to be looking for me and I sat at eye-level in the center. I walked into class shaking, sat down in my seat, and pulled my books out of my bag with trembling hands. I tried to start typing notes but my fingers kept spazzing on the keyboard.

I had read the case four times. Briefed it. Re-briefed it. Knew that shit like the back of my hand. I can't remember the case name now but I know it was about burglary. Did I mention it's my professor's favorite case of all time? He re-reads that case for fun. He loves burglary. (I personally prefer rape and murder, but to each his own.)

The common knowledge definition of burglary and the legal definition of burglary are very different. We all have the vision of the burglar: swift like a jaguar, perfectly camouflaged for every environment, stealthy, smart, quick-footed. He would have to be in order to breach the sanctity of our homes, gaining access to the most intimate parts of our lives. Burglars cannot be stupid or slow or fat. They must be the picture of fitness, deftly twisting and turning their way through the laser beams that cross in front of the Hope Diamond. Burglars are crafty. And they steal things. At least that's what I thought when I read the case about burglary.

Burglary is not the act of stealing. It is the entry of a building with the intent to commit a felony. It's a pretty broad crime. And when I was put on the spot in front of my ninety some-odd peers, all I could think about was my pre-law school definition of a burglar. The professor's questions kept flying past me. I answered yes or no with no further analysis, silently praying that the torture would be over shortly. He asked me something along the lines of "Can a man burglar his own house if he enters with the intent to kill someone?" All I could think was: 'That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard because burglary isn't entry with the intent to kill.' After that, my next thought was: 'You're a fucking idiot. Pull it together. Entry with intent to kill is burglary. But, can a man burglarize his own home?' From there, I blacked out. I don't remember a thing. The next thing I remember is my friend Victoria leaning over and asking if I was okay.

I wish I could answer that question for you right now. I guess technically he can but it just doesn't seem right. Moreover, if you're going to burglar your own home, you're probably about to do something that is far more serious than burglary. Like murder. I think first-degree murder takes precedence. No one goes to jail for the rest of their lives because they burglarized their own home.

In any case, he had me on the spot for forty minutes while I sweated through my clothes, turned bright red (really, people asked afterwards if I was dying), and mumbled incoherent answers for all to hear and judge my intelligence on. My first cold-call went far better than this one, but when I fondly reflect on law school I will always remember my epic fail at the burglary case.

It didn't really matter though. When the final came, I didn't for one minute forget what burglary was. Our professor loves burglary and it was all over that test. Shazaam!

tl;dr Blacking out during your cold call just means the information was sent to your subconscious brain. No worries :P

Torts: The Act of Suing People

Humans are fallible. That's the mantra we all live by. Humans make mistakes and, unfortunately, we tend to make mistakes quite often. We get distracted. We overlook minutia. Sometimes things don't align quite properly in our brains and we have moments of idiocy. Even the most detail-oriented person slips up.

I'm not a fan of suing people for minor mistakes. I think it breeds social discontent and economic problems. People become resentful when they engage in lawsuits for benign reasons and when they pay unreasonable settlements. This resentment breeds, mutates, grows, and infects them and the people they interact with. No one wins in unfair or unnecessary cases.

So when the admissions department at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY accidentally sent out acceptance letters to 122 early admissions students instead of the 46 that were actually admitted, some people got their panties in a bunch. They hastily sent out an e-mail retracting the acceptances and refunding application fees. All should have been well with the world. 

But alas, in our tort-centric world, mistakes are not easily overlooked. Some parents are threatening law suits for getting their children's hopes up.

tl;dr Really? Modern Parenting-Fail

Don't Look at Porn on Your Family Computer

According to this article on the ABA GPS Solo Family Law publication, if you're a family lawyer and your client brings forth evidence that their spouse intentionally downloaded porn on the family computer, you can demonstrate that s/he is an unfit parent and restrict child custody in divorce proceedings. Possession of pornography is not illegal. Distribution to minors is. Keeping porn on your family computer makes it accessible to children.

Possession of child porn is EXTREMELY illegal. Basically, if you can prove that it's child pornography, your client's soon-to-be-ex-spouse is screwed. (pun intended.)

If you happen to represent the pervy client, refer them to a criminal lawyer. They're going to need all the help they can get.

tl;dr Watch your daily dose of lechery on your laptop or at work. (Actually, you probably don't want to do that last one either because most companies have installed spyware on company computers.) Bummer.

Rehabilitative Measures for Cheeky Juveniles

Finally! SF schools realize they need to curb their trigger fingers for suspending and expelling students. The most idiotic school punishment is taking kids that have committed minor infractions and giving them a break from school. Most every kid looks forward to staying home from school. Do you really think that allowing "nefarious" students a pass to be truant is really the right way to deal with them? Do you think that repeatedly nefarious students have stable home environments and will be monitored by their generally absentee parents? Illegal or annoying behavior typically stems from improper parental supervision, whether that be physical or emotional. Any parent can convince themselves that they're the best parent ever, but when it comes down to it, delinquents were corrupted somewhere along the line... Bad behavior doesn't mean juveniles are bad people, it just means that they're a bit counter-social.

So! SF schools have recognized that identifying kids as delinquents generally puts them on a path to more serious behavioral problems. Instead, they're focusing on rehabilitating students that have valid reasons for their delinquent behavior. They allow students the opportunity to defend themselves and enter into an open discussion about their behavioral issues. Wow! Treating students like human beings. Who knew?

tl;dr Kids = Mini-adults. Treat as such.

Education Law. Also Known as Kids Being Stupid.

The best part of EdLaw is that we get to read cases about children in sticky situations. Some of them are fairly tame (do we expel this child for some benign reason?). Others are straight up distressing (parents beating children in homeschooling environments). Others are just plain ridiculous.

This kid made a website detailing plans to kill his teacher via hitman. Oh yeah, he also turned her into a Hitler .gif. He tried to pull the First Amendment card. He failed.

This kid gave a detailed plan to hack the school's computer system in a public newspaper. Boy-genius turned white-collar criminal. Whoops.

Lastly, my personal favorite. This gutsy young man brought a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign to a school pep rally. The administration didn't find it particularly amusing.

And, a most recent current event that I find amusing.

A school expelled one of their seniors for dropping f-bombs on twitter. While the tweet occurred off-premises, the student had signed onto Twitter at the school and the computer security system picked up on the profanity.

tl;dr Let them be children. Except for that hitman one. That's just creepy.

Inappropriate Google Searches

Sometimes law school yields extraordinarily inappropriate Google searches.

For example, my Education Law class requires statutory interpretation. As such, we read a number of statutes from the California Education Code every class.

While reading Cal. Ed. Code s. 48900, I happened upon a word I did not know. A word that had its own subsection of the statute. Cal. Ed. Code s. 48900 outlines grounds for suspension or expulsion of students enrolled in California public schools. While it includes the usual suspects like assault, robbery, extortion, sale/possession of illegal drugs, I happened upon s. 48900(p) which explicitly outlaws the unlawful offering, arrangement to sell, negotiation to sell, or sale of the prescription drug Soma.

Now, as a lifetime student relatively uneducated in drug subculture, I was exceedingly confused. What is this Soma? The only SOMA I'm familiar with is South of Market district in San Francisco.

So I turned to my law school bestie (sorry J-Koo) for the answer: Google. Apparently Soma is some sort of muscle relaxant that kids use in school to get through the day. They drift through classes in a pleasant haze. Additionally, it's an adequate date rape drug. That's probably more what the legislature was trying to prevent. In any case, I included my search history for your pleasure if you'd like to read more about it.

what is soma?
soma ca high school (FAIL)
soma outbreak ca high school (FAIL)
soma teen use
soma teen distribution
soma teacher ca distribution (FAIL)
soma illegal distribution california high school students (NOT CA, but just as good)

Reviewing my search history, I started to experience a wave of panic. What if someone else reviewed my search history? Did I alert the FBI as a suspect for Soma distribution? What if I ever decided to become a teacher and some sort of crazy search recorder released my information?

My neuroses meter started beeping like crazy. Frantically, I went to my search history and erased everything. Maybe no one would notice. Maybe nothing would be recorded. So what does a good neurotic person do? Post the results on her blog with a full explanation.

I, J-Hizzle, do not intend to distribute Soma to high school students.

In any case, this drug must be a serious problem if CA specifically outlawed it. I checked Westlaw for NY statutes and there were no references in the Ed. Law to prescription drug Soma. New York high school students may use Soma. I never heard any whispers of it when I was in school. Moreover, when I was doing my certification, there were no references to it. I suppose the West Coast is just more in vogue than the East Coast.

Of course, back in NY, we had to worry about more important drugs than Soma. Like heroin. Between 2006 to present day, there has been a HUGE outbreak of heroin and prescription pill popping among high school students (and apparently college students if you review the link below). Unfortunately, a boy from my high school passed away the year after we graduated from a heroin overdose. The high school I did the majority of my field work at had a huge heroin outbreak in 2008 where a bit less than a third of the senior class had to enter rehab during the middle of the year.

ny heroin outbreak
ny heroin outbreak long island high school students

More inappropriate Google searches:
--violent serial killers (I spent three hours on Wiki for that one the other day)
--violent sexual assault
--drug paraphernalia ca schools
--prostitution child

Really, this all applies to my education. Unfortunately.

tl;dr I hope the FBI doesn't check my search history.