Tag Archives: Law School

Techie Lawyers

From You Can’t Make Lawyers into Techies: 3 Lessons About LPM:

Certainly, lawyers are not Luddites, determined to resist progress and deny any change. It’s that they are lawyers, not IT types. So that’s Lesson One: You can’t make lawyers talk IT; IT has to learn to talk lawyer.

Lesson Two is that lawyers insist on immediate gratification. They will happily sacrifice technological sophistication with its attendant steep learning curve for instant utility.

Lesson Three is the need for patience when introducing any sweeping change that seriously impacts traditional behaviors.  Lawyers don’t welcome transformative changes, but they will accept sequential phase shifts if only because their competitors do.

Law Practice: Two First-Year Points of Practice

Two things I’ve learned the hard way during my first year practicing as a lawyer:

  • The Michigan Court Rules are extremely handy and offer clear directions in most situations. It’s good to read them thoroughly, and then revisit them for each specific matter.
  • Reading on paper is easier and “better” than any digital replacement for paper. This statement might surprise a few of my co-workers, but as I head into my second year, I’m trying to better strike a balance between using paper and striving to be paperless. The idea of going paperless is nice, but there has to be universal access to all files when out of the office for it to really be a benefit. I’m finding it easier to simply plan for work out of the office and take specifically what I need. Working out of the office is tricky because I usually forget exactly what I need to really get down to work. This is where I’d like to have greater virtual access, but that requires diligently scanning everything and then ensuring it’s on the server and in the right place. Baby steps!

Death and Taxes

The saying used to go, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” That is not the case this year. As 2010 nears an end, there is still little indication as to what will happen with the Federal estate tax. In 2009, the exemption was $3.5M and anything over that was taxed at 45%. In 2010, the Federal estate tax was repealed. (Good year, if any, to die if you have a sizable estate!) In 2011, the exemption will revert to $1M and anything over that will be taxed at 55% percent. Get used to saying, “Nothing is certain by death and (insert snarky comment re: Federal government decision making here).”

Note: The Future of the Federal Estate Tax blog is an easy way to keep up with the latest news on the topic.

My Thoughts On BarBri Thus Far

First, a short history on BarBri. “Bar” refers to “Bay Area Review and “Bri” stands for “Bar Review Institute.” The two were merged in 1974 and marketed thereafter as “BarBri.”

I’m nearing the end of the third full week of my BarBri bar exam review class. The first week was the Multistate Advantage; since then it’s been the “official” class, which covers the substantive law topic-by-topic.

With each new topic comes a new professor / presenter. I’ve had four professors thus far, and have been pleased with each of their presentations. However, Michael J. Kaufman of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, who covered Agency, Partnership, and Corporations, is my clear favorite. I think my classmates would agree. He came off as eccentric in an effective and energetic way, and conveyed the outlines memorably. (It helps that he’s got an MA and a JD from the University of Michigan.)

The other presenters were:

Richard Conviser, who happens to be the Founder and Chairman of BarBri and a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He presented Torts over the first two days. While not as memorable as Kaufman, he was clear and efficient in his delivery.

Michael I. Spak of Chicago-Kent School of Law finished his presentations on the sleep-inducing areas of Commercial Paper and Suretyship yesterday. My first read of the long outline for Commercial Paper was frustrating because of the amount of information and multiple levels of detail. However, what BarBri does effectively, and what Spak did clearly was to reduce the information to a memorable shorter outline that targets what I need to know for the bar exam. Spak possesses an interesting combination of grandfatherly expressions and off-color jokes pertaining to various sexual acts, which, commendably, are not easy to slip into a presentation on Commercial Paper.

Faust F. Rossi of the Cornell University Law School presented Evidence today and will continue to do so for another four hours tomorrow. His outline boils down evidence law to logical sequences that seem to be easy to remember. I remember taking evidence in law school and feeling, at times, quite lost. His lectures highlight a distinction between studying for the bar and studying in law school. The emphasis when studying for the bar is on knowing and understanding the law, not knowing specific cases or rules. That’s a good thing! One less level of information to remember.

The class in general:

The review class is huge. I thought the class size would shrink when the “real” review classes started because there would then be morning, afternoon and evening sessions. I was completely wrong. There are far more – hundreds – of fellow lawyers-to-be. It’s weird coming from the lone law school in New Hampshire, which cranks out approximately 150 new lawyers a year, to the third largest city in the US and being amongst more students in this one review location than in my law school class. (I’m probably making an obvious point, but still – there are a lot of them!)

Studying outside of class has been bearable, but not easy by any means. I commend those classmates that work part-time and do the review. I’m sure they sacrifice their studies to a degree. There is definitely enough review and practice problems to keep me busy for the majority of the waking day. Plus, with getting settled in Chicago, I’ve been absolutely exhausted about once every seven days.

The advantage of being in a new place, however, is that when I grow restless in one study location I can take a long walk to another one. It’s fun to people watch and get some fresh air.

Greektown has been good to me thus far. I’ve had more Gyros in the last three weeks than I had in the previous three years. At six dollars for an over-stuffed gyro, fries and a drink, how can I not eat them two or three times a week? I usually go to Mr. Greek’s Gyros on the corner of Halsted and Jackson because they have free drink refills. However, I need to try the place across the street.

Good stuff. More soon!

Spring Semester: Final Week of Classes

I am halfway through the first day of my final week of law school classes ever. There have been some tweets to this fact by a few of my fellow law school tweeters. The mix is from excitement to sadness. And I fall at both ends and in between. Or, at least I plan to.

The excitement hasn’t quite hit me yet. I still have a good deal of work to do to finish the semester in good fashion. But, come the end of finals, whether that is the end of next week or the week after (it all depends on how much I want to pack my days versus spreading the work out and delaying the ultimate end), I plan to be excited. I can imagine how it will feel. I’ll walk out of school after dropping off my last assignment. I’ll close my eyes for a second to adjust to the late-spring sunlight, and then I’ll smile. I’m not one to scream or jump around. Not about things like this, anyway. (I save that for the golf course and tennis matches and watching Michigan football games.) My smile will turn into a grin and my shoulders will relax. It will be a relief.

Inevitably, I’ll feel a sense of something short of disappointment that stems from my always wondering if I could have made the entire experience better, more efficient, more fun, etc. Something can always be improved. But instead of being disappointed this time, like I was when I left Washington D.C., I hope to accept that I’ve learned many things about “the law” and about myself during the past three years. It’s amazing, when looking back, how fast – how absolutely fast – the time has passed.

Looking back will be easy. There is a definite end to things. My last day of class. Finishing my last final. Receiving my diploma on graduation day.

Looking forward is less concrete. The rest of my life is going to start on May 17th when I get into my Ford Explorer and start driving west to Chicago, Illinois. I’m working diligently to bring the unplanned into focus. I’ve sorted my storage shed into “ship,” “sort,” “sell” and “toss.” I need to find an apartment in Chicago, a task I generally leave to the very last minute. (This past semester, I didn’t find an apartment until the day I arrived in town.) And most of all, I need to find a job while studying to pass the bar.

This is just me rambling. I could go on, but I have my third-to-last class in ten minutes, so I’ll end my commentary here.

Spring Semester: March Madness

I have ten minutes to write this. Go, me!

On Court: My bracket is holding up well with all four final four teams intact. The first weekend of the tournament really is one of the best weekends of sports all year. I’d put it up there with the Majors in golf and Tennis.

Off Court: This entire month has been a whirlwind of activity. I’m running in circles trying to keep up with my tasks that seem to be swept further ahead with each passing day. I have two major assignments in the immediate future.

1. A Business Entities Taxation midterm, which is falling very late in the semester. It will cover exclusively partnership law. The good thing is that the final will not be aggregate, so we’ll be able to “forget” partnership tax to the extent that it does not apply to corporations. I have a feeling we’re not going to be allowed to forget enough.

2. A presentation on Justice Benjamin Cardozo for Judicial Opinion Drafting. I will be discussing the persuasiveness of six of his opinions that I’ve carefully selected. While this isn’t exactly public speaking, it still involves speaking in front of people – something of which I’m not a huge fan. In preparation, I’ve Googled “presentation advice” and perused some tips on what makes Steve Jobs an effective presenter. I’ll let you know in a week if the advice translates to my classroom discussion.

My ten minutes is up. Say hi if you want. There’s a woefully underused Contact page in the top right of your screen. Have a good day!

Getting into Character

I just read an interesting post on Kottke.org titled, “Getting into Character.” It talks about how actors, athletes, and business people wear two different hats – a private one and a job one.

Many of us see our parents do this to a degree when we are growing up. There is an added awareness, more than anything, of where they are and what has to be done.

I think back to my time at Ruckus and K12 knowing that I could have cultivated and displayed a more consistent work persona. I worked hard and was attentive, creative and efficient, but these things varied from week to week. (This ties in with the concept of having a defined approach to work.) What I’m trying to say is that I was not always able to get into character and stay there all day.

As a lawyer-to-be, I’ve been thinking about interacting with clients. Regardless of what area of law I end up practicing, one of the most important aspects of both being successful (garnering clients) and being effective (doing good word for my clients) will be getting into a consistently professional, knowledgeable, and compassionate character while working.

Spring Semester: Week 9

I’m doing these “Spring Semester Reviews” more for me than you. Years from now, when I’ve long since outgrown my blogging britches, I hope to be able to revisit these autobiographical entries for a brief chuckle. “Oh, the glory days of FPLC,” I’ll say to anyone who will listen. “Those were the days.”

Classes: Classes are going well, although for the first time I’m finding myself envious, from time to time, of my classmates who have externships. Maybe it’s the “gotta get a job” cloud that’s suddenly set in fast and low. Or maybe it’s the fact that the word “externship” does not exist in most dictionaries. Either way, I’m looking forward to working when the day comes.

  • Business Entities Taxation: Going well, but slow. We started with partnership taxation and are still in the “middle” of the life of partnerships. Our midterm will fall in early April, unusually late. As with most code classes, the weekly struggle here has been to learn how to best navigate the code and recognize when exceptions apply. Once I get a semi-working knowledge of a topic, it’s far more enjoyable.
  • Environmental Law: I don’t know what to think of this class. The material is very dry, and I didn’t see that coming when I registered. We deal mostly with massive federal statutory schemes – National Environmental Police Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act. What I enjoy most about the class are the historical, geographic, and scientific aspects of the cases.
  • Copyright Licensing: This class is nuanced and very hands on. I like it. We are given a hypo going into each class, must review select clauses from a license, and then negotiate with the opposite party (licensor and licensee). I will leave a more capable contract drafter and a more skilled negotiator.
  • Estate Planning: This class was largely review up until last week. We’re finally getting further into taxation issues and more detained trusts. I like this area of law, so I look forward to the three-hour Estate Planing-a-thons.
  • Judicial Opinion Drafting: Drafting orders is a unique writing experience. I’ve quickly learned to be very careful in how I frame the arguments. I’m liking legal writing more and more with each passing day.

Getting to Done: Week nine is coming to a close. Spring Break (week seven) felt like every other week of this semester, except I attended fewer classes. My grand plans – I always have grand plans via lists, emails, and other web applications – were not fulfilled. I failed to apply to hundreds of jobs, read weeks ahead, and start a new business as a side project. The result of this was that I sought and found a more structured way to accomplish tasks. I found a very simple solution: at the beginning of the week, make a list of three things to accomplish each day. This has gone pretty well with one blaring exception – applying to jobs daily. Here’s a sample-list for one day:

Monday P G
1) Read Environmental Law
2) Work on JOD Order
3) Apply to 3 jobs

P = newspaper and G = gym. The three tasks vary daily. I’ve found this is a good way to keep things in check. The downside is that the system is meant for someone who works and has eight solid hours to accomplish their tasks. I’ve excused my failures in accomplishing all three daily tasks each day, yet hope to be more successful in the future.

Donating Blood: I donated blood today at school. The beds were set up in the Jury Box (cafeteria), which seems like an odd place to be performing medical procedures. The woman assured me that lunch was loud and hectic and people were not deterred from eating.

Sleep: I got two hours of sleep on Monday night and it has messed up my entire week. I’ve had to nap, I’ve overslept, and I’ve been living in a fog. This never happened in college, or I didn’t care. I could play poker all night, go to an 8:30am class, sleep during the afternoon and start over without the next four days being a disaster. Now, and this aligns with my “Getting to Done” above, I’m finding consistent sleep invaluable.

BarBri Early Start

I’m about to start the BarBri Early Start program. For some reason the name makes me think of a sober house or clean living – preparing for the bar is quite sobering, albeit less of a health risk.

This is the beginning of my formal bar training. It seems far too early, but there’s a few of us here – the few who have paid at least $1500 out of $3000 due to be re-taught what we’ve learned during the past three years of law school.

These Early Start sessions take place on each of the next five weekends, take about five to six hours each, provide general test-taking advice, and cover broad legal topics often tested on the bar exam such as Torts, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Property, Evidence and Constitutional Law.

I arrived early enough to get my seat at the top/back of the tiered classroom and donuts were provided – I got my butternut. Cheers to a fun Sunday of bar prep followed by more work! At least it’s sunny out.

I am here because…

In working on a cover letter it dawned on me that there is much more to who I am, where I am, and how I’ve arrived at this stage of my life than my academic and vocational accomplishments. The formality of a cover letter – especially one targeted to lawyers conducting serious business at prestigious firms – is constricting. Thankfully, my blog is none of those things! So, what I have to say follows.

I was born in the cherry capital of the world to the two greatest parents in the universe. I am here because I watched hours of Voltron and Thundercats, experienced the creative wonders of Disney World at an early age, and learned hockey stickhandling from Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. I am here because I spent every spare second from my 9th birthday through the beginning of college consumed by the sport of golf, which taught me the value of patience, brutal honesty, and friendship. I am who I am because of the many wonderful people who have been kind enough to say hello to me when I was too shy to say hello to them and because of the few great friends I’ve had over the years and because of the girls with whom I’ve fallen in and out of love. I am here because my sister has made me laugh, inspired me and nudged me in the right direction.

I built monsters and houses from LEGOS and Lincoln Logs. Refrigerator boxes became spaceships. Summer days ran until dusk then darkness. I fell down, then stood up again. Those hours of sax practice – or the lack thereof – are not lost on me. I will never forget the dinners at Mabel’s. I studied economics in college while wishing I was a writer. When not writing and reading, I played poker with friends until the sunrise. Law school has been a good excuse to explore New England, a place that reminds me of home. And a reminder of home is always a good thing.

I am here in Concord, New Hampshire two months away from graduation to the next phase of my life because I’ve done a million different things in my past. I have a feeling, regardless of how I package who I am on this cover letter, it will matter more that I’ve been where I’ve been, seen what I’ve seen, and met the people I’ve met.

Here’s to the next step – the great beyond. I love looking back, but I have to move forward. There’s a ways to go.

Should I Quit Facebook?

First, read the following excerpt of the “Licenses” clause of Facebook’s new terms of use:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

If that’s not bad enough, read the “Termination” section:

The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: … Licenses …

Since I’ve been alerted to Facebook’s new terms of service, I will not longer be importing the posts from this blog to Facebook’s Notes application. Further, I will no longer be importing photos via the “my flickr” application or directly into Facebook’s default photo application.

Facebook is now just an elaborate address book to me.

Update: Consumerist has a nice summary and highlights that if you restrict your privacy settings then you may not be as exposed to the drastic licensing provision quoted above.

Spring Semester: Week 4

It’s already the middle of the week – nearly the end of my school week. I’m done at 10am on Thursdays, which is great for now but will make adjusting to an actual job environment all the more difficult.

In an attempt to sabotage my studies, I bought and have been reading John Grisham’s latest legal thriller, The Associate. The story is making me want to go into big law and be worked to death to the tune of a $200,000 salary. The character states that if he works 56 hours a week for 11.5 months, he’ll bill approximately 2500 hours. An impressive number.

Of course, actually getting to 56 (or 2500 for that matter) is harder than it seems. Can’t bill at lunch, in the bathroom, or while chit-chatting. I worked longer hours than 56 during some weeks at Ruckus. I arrived to work at 7am and left at 10 or 11pm. I’m not sure what the hourly breakdown between work and play was, but I worked a lot. I think I could handle the legal work.

Aside from the novel, there’s lots of reading about various topics of law. We’re finally getting into actual environmental law in Environmental Law. For a while there I thought it was a trick to get me to retake Administrative Procedure and Con Law. We’re still covering Partnerships in Business Entities Taxation. I’ve got a decent grasp on the material, so its somewhat enjoyable. Wait, that was the wrong word. It’s not horrible. The other classes are fine. I have an Order due on Monday for Judicial Opinion Drafting. I’m procrastinating on that with this post.

Not much else going on at school worth talking about. More next week.

Litigation Batman Style

I have never wanted to be a litigator because I’m a baby when it comes to public speaking. I’m sure if you examined my childhood there would be explanations for this. Regardless, the following quote from The Dark Knight made me rethink litigation. I would appear in court if just to say this:

Sometimes, truth isn’t good enough; sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.

In what context could I say this?

Is it possible to deliver something better than “truth” in a system that so cherishes it? At what cost?

Illinois Bar It Is

I don’t know if deciding on a state in which to take the bar and subsequently practice law was easy for most, but it was subtly grueling for me. There are many factors I can cite that have complicated the decision. First is that I do not yet have a job lined up. If I did, it would be a no brainer to take the bar required to start my job. Second is that I’ve spread my networking base and presence a bit thin over the past five years by working in Virgina and going to law school in New Hampshire, and now have to make adjustments and work harder to make up for my past.

With that said I’ve decided to apply for the July Illinois State Bar Exam. My intention is to practice in or near Chicago. I like the city very much, it is close to family, and many of my friends now live and work there. Further, if the decision is between the Illinois bar and the Michigan bar, I have more leeway in transferring my MBE score from IL to MI (3 year) than I do from MI to IL (1 year).

While the Feb 1st deadline is forcing my decision, it is by no means the reason for my decision. I have for a long time been undecided, but MI and IL have always been the forerunners unless there was something significant that compelled me to go elsewhere. That hasn’t happened, and if it does I’ll deal with it in due time.

For the immediate future, my focus is on finishing the Illinois application in the next three days, then diving into the job search.

Spring Semester: Week 2

Considering this is my last semester of law school, it seems only right to document some of it. I’m starting a week late, but that is kind of the theme thus far into the semester. Just this morning did I receive my last of five grades from last semester. Administrative Procedure was the holdout. When you think about it, the drop/add day has already passed. Technically, had I not passed Admin Pro I would have to stay an extra semester because it’s a required course. I’m sure exceptions could or would be made, but the point is that receiving grades this late is unacceptable.

Concerning my own snafus, I’m just now settling into my course schedule. I had to drop the mini-course, International and Comparative Copyright Law because it conflicted with Estate Planning for a grand total of 1.5 hours later on in the semester. I was told by the registrar that that was unacceptable. I switched to Federal Trademark and Copyright Registration, but later had to drop than when I discovered that Copyright Licensing does not fulfill the upper-level writing requirement I need. So, my final course load is as follows:

Environmental Law (EL)
Judicial Opinion Drafting (JOD)
Business Entities Taxation (BET)
Estate Planning (EP)
Copyright Licensing (CL)

Last semester I had it good. The grading of most of the classes in which I was enrolled was heavily weighted towards the final exam or project. I liked that because it simplified the semester. I wasn’t bothered with writing projects, oral presentations, and midterms. I could learn for four months and then regurgitate it on the page. And, no, I don’t think I crammed and then just forgot it all. It was a solid semester.

This semester is a different story. Despite my weeks concluding at 10am on Thursday and having 3.75 day weekends for the entire semester, my courses are absurd. Judicial Opinion Drafting involves writing three opinions and a 45 minute oral presentation where I am to lead class discussion regarding a justice or judge of my choice. Stop right there. That is enough to ruin my semester. Legal writing AND oral presentations. I seriously considered whether I really wanted to finish this whole “law school thing” when I saw that in the syllabus. Then there’s Copyright Licensing which is “simple,” yet it involves negotiating (read: talking).

I guess it’s finally time to face my fears. To open my mouth. To crack open my BlueBook (legal citation reference) if I can find it in storage. This is going to be a hectic semester, and I haven’t even complained about life decisions, bar applications, and searching for a job yet.

To do this weekend:

EL: Read about Eminent Domain and The Takings Clause
JOD: Read “How I write” law review articles and draft standard of reviews for a NH trial court.
BET: Review partnership taxation.

Fun stuff. K. Time to work. Bye.