Thursday, April 29, 2010

Top 10 Highlights of Being a 1L at U of L

In roughly 24 hours, I will no longer be a 1L at U of L. Instead, I will be a "rising" 2L, which doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but beats the heck out of repeating the 1L experience. Which is not to say that the past year hasn't been terrific in many ways. In fact, I can think of at least 10 highlights from my experience as a 1L that will not be soon forgotten. I leave this list as my (possibly) final sendoff as a law school blogger. There is a chance that this URL will be revived in the fall in connection with the admissions office's social media initiatives. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and hope to see you on campus in August. If you want to contact me in the meantime, just leave a comment below or shoot me a message at

Top 10 Highlights of Being a 1L

10.  Free pizza, highlighters, T-shirts, water bottles, and other assorted trinkets.
9. Saying bye-bye to my boss last July and ditching a 9-5 job for a seat in the ivory tower at Louisville Law (image at right).
8. Learning about the law of torts from a professor who attended Harvard, but says things in class like: "If I was the owner of the Corbin Motor Lodge, I'd be standing on my head spitting wooden nickels."
7. Surviving the same professor's brutal mid-term exam during the first semester, and being a better person for it.
6. Finding a lawyer in downtown Louisville who actually agreed to pay me to work for him this summer.
5. After eight months, finally getting a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I know a shred of something about Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law and Torts.
4. Being surrounded by 135 other incredibly smart 1Ls, becoming close friends with many of them, and jacking my Facebook friend count through the roof.
3. Frisbee on the lawn in front of the law school, and the occasional round of golf on a weekday morning. (Did I mention my boss is gone?)
2. Writing a total of 41 blog posts for the law school that collectively received 4,797 hits (according to Google AdSense) and earned me a whopping $7.92 in advertising revenue.
1. Finishing our fifth and final law school exam on Oaks Day, and just one day before the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brandeis, final exams, and animal crackers

I tossed a quarter this morning on the memorial (at right) for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who is buried just outside the front doors of the law school. For years, law students at U of L have placed coins on Brandeis' grave site during exams. If you are feeling really unprepared, or believe in lots of luck, you might place a box of animal crackers on the stone (Brandeis loved animal crackers). Anyway, we have now finished three of our finals, and there are two more to go -- Property this morning, and Civil Procedure on Friday. It's a grueling marathon, but the end is in sight. And when we finish, there will only be one day to go before the Kentucky Derby. Sort of ironic. The fastest two minutes in sports will arrive just after what has to be the longest year of our lives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Final exams looming

The outside world is once again disappearing as final exams approach. This morning I printed out my outlines -- roughly 20 pages per class -- and hammered staples into each one. For the next 13 days, these stacks of paper will take over my life. They will be scrutinized and memorized. They will join me for coffee in the morning, for study group sessions in the afternoon, and for a few hours in the evening (I draw the line at the bedroom. Nobody but my wife and John Grisham get near the sheets.)

So, what the heck is an outline? For the uninitiated, it's basically a long list of condensed notes from the cases we have read all semester. Black-letter rules are explained. Important cases are noted.  Lots of Roman numerals in between. No two outlines are the same, and what works for one person might seem like total garbage to another. Here's a sample from the first page of my Torts outline (I always put a quote from the professor near the top. I'm still not sure why I do this).

Leibson, Spring 2010
If I’m the owner of the Corbin Motor Lodge, I’m standin’ on my head spittin’ wooden nickels.” – Leibson, Feb. 17

* Negligence revisited, elements
            1. Duty owed by defendant to plaintiff
            2. Breach of duty
            3. Causation between duty breached and injury
            4. Injury
I. Intervening causes
A. Definition: an act, by a third party, that occurs after the original negligent act, and before the injury inflicted on the plaintiff.
1. Consequences that follow in unbroken sequence, without intervening cause, from original negligent act, are natural and proximate.
2. Recovery or not?
a. Complete lack of foreseeability of result = no recovery
b. No foreseeability of manner in which result happens = recovery.
c. Leibson: so long as some damage can be foreseen and you are negligent, any damage traceable to negligence can be recovered.
B. Moral element: factors such as imputable knowledge, justifiable ignorance, and D’s intent are often taken into account, but when injury is intentional, courts often stretch to find causation. If injury not intentional, courts often stop at earlier stage of causation.
            C. Palsgraf
1. Leibson: in order for negligent D to have to pay injured P, there must be a foreseeable risk to the plaintiff that establishes a relationship between D and P. Relationship is established by a duty, which is created by foreseeability.
2. Leibson: one word that drives liability in negligence: foreseeability, for both duty and proximate causation.
3. Dissenting judge: we owe a duty to everyone in world, not just particular Ps .
4. Mother of all nuggets: The risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed, and risk imports relation. AKA, the foreseeable risk defines the duty to be obeyed within the zone of danger/range of apprehension. (aka, you must have a relationship to have a duty)
5. Negligence is not actionable unless it involves invasion of legally protected interest or the violation of a right.

II. Superseding causes
A. A superseding force is not foreseeable by the party that creates the original negligence. A person must foresee the “normal consequences” of his conduct, but is not responsible for extraordinarily negligent intervening acts of third persons (or entities)
B. Leibson: the risk reasonably to be perceived drives the foreseeability, and therefore the issue of whether the cause is superseding.
C. Criminal acts: in Watson v. Ky, court says bridge company could not have foreseen malicious and criminal act (of lighting match) and therefore act of third party criminal is superseding cause, cutting off liability for bridge company that spilled fuel. Ky has since overruled stance, now says criminal act doesn’t always cut off chain of causation.
D. Suicide – in general, court may allow recovery for suicide based on irresistible impulse, but not for “considered and rational” decision. Other courts disagree, say even when there is mental disorder, suicide is a new and independent cause of death.
1. Leibson: under comparative fault argument, victim’s suicide might be tied to failure to seek medical treatment for seizures.
2. Eggshell plaintiff: take victim as you find him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

U of L rankings drop confirmed

I have confirmed the accuracy of the US News numbers posted earlier today. So, what does this mean? For many students, it won't mean much at all. Especially if U of L returns to the Top 100 a year from now or two years from now. Critics of the rankings system also say they are largely meaningless, and do not reflect the quality of the education provided by a specific school. But especially for students who plan to practice outside Louisville, a prolonged hiatus from the Top 100 will make it more difficult to find jobs. For better or worse, some employers value a law degree from a Top 100 school more than they do for a so-called Tier 3 institution. Louisville is one of seven schools that dropped out of the Top 100 this year.

We took a hit because the 1L class, of which I am a member, posted a slightly lower median LSAT score compared to the previous year. The school's student-to-faculty ratio also increased a bit, although our employment rate and bar passage results remained very solid. I have already spoken with two students in our class who said they would seriously consider the new ranking as a factor in whether they will transfer schools this summer. I hope that doesn't happen.

U of L dropping out of Top 100?

Several online sources are reporting today that U of L Law has fallen out of the Top 100 laws schools in the 2011 edition of the annual US News rankings. I don't know how credible this information is, but you can check out what appear to be photocopies of the magazine's rankings here. The official rankings are to be released tomorrow. I am gathering reactions from faculty and students to this (possible) development. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Survey: majority of 1Ls have summer jobs

Fifty-seven percent of the 1L students in our class who filled out a recent survey reported that they have some kind of summer job. That makes our employment picture better than last year's 1L class, but not as good as a typical year before the nation went into a recession, according to Dean Kathy Urbach, of the school's Career Services Office. Urbach (at right) shared the survey results with me this afternoon. 
"The climate is less robust than previous years," she told me. "Fewer students have paying jobs." 
A total of 67 students filled out the surveys, or roughly half of the class. Of that number, 20 reported that they will be paid. Fifteen will volunteer. I figured that the students who didn't fill out surveys probably don't have jobs, but Urbach said that's not necessarily true. Some students are still negotiating with prospective employers, she said, and others want to keep their job situations private. There also are plenty of students who will find paid jobs in coming weeks. Between now and June, Urbach expects to hear from at least one employer each week who is seeking a paid intern or clerk. And she said a student who is willing to volunteer is pretty much guaranteed to find something, partly due to the connections generated by the school's Public Service Program. Urbach also stressed the importance of contacting her office or at least sending her a resume if you want to find work. 
"We're here all summer," she said. "If we don't know about you, we can't help you."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Signs you attend law school in Kentucky

The law library is a wondrous place, filled with some of the most obscure and esoteric volumes in the legal world. Actually, almost everything in the legal world is obscure and esoteric. Anyway, a friend and I tripped across these volumes of the Black Lung Reporter after a study session in the library's basement, which, by the way, is my favorite place to prepare for exams. It's quiet, clean, well-lit, and the perfect place to catch up on all the latest developments in black lung, which, by the way, is a nasty affliction suffered by coal miners.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From real world, a sign of hope for U of L grads

Pop quiz: what percentage of U of L Law students from the class of 2009 were gainfully employed nine months after graduation?

  • A) 85 percent
  • B) 60 percent
  • C) 50 percent
  • D) 35 percent

The answer, actually, is none of the above. It's 98.1 percent, according to the results of a survey that the school recently conducted, and which will be compiled here with results from other schools. The local numbers (I got a sneak peak at them) are up from previous years, and they reflect, in part, U of L's position as a small school in a relatively large city with a solid number of law jobs.

But aren't these surveys voluntary, and isn't it true that the students without jobs typically are less likely to respond? Perhaps, but out of 113 students, the data in this year's survey include results from 109 students. The other four, I am told, did not pass the bar. Also true, however, is that the survey does not chart job satisfaction. It's a fair statement that not all of these students will be earning $97,000 a year at firms like this one. In fact, of the 107 students who reported having jobs as of this winter, more than half were at firms with two to ten attorneys.

Another 24 percent were working for the government, and 17 percent were in the "business and industry" category. Students also reported working in 15 states, up from 13 for the previous year's class. For a more detailed look at salary and other information from the survey in previous years, click here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1L exclusive: interview with Josh Porter

There are plenty of impressive students at U of L Law. In fact, one of the things I most enjoy about being here is the energy and intellect of the people around me. I met Josh Porter (at right) for the first time a week ago, when he trounced me in the quarterfinal round of our 1L oral advocacy competition. Mr. Porter went on to win the competition, which made me feel slightly better, and prompted some curiosity about his road to victory. Mr. Porter was kind enough to participate in an exclusive interview via email, in which he shared his thoughts about law school, success, and life in general.

Name: Josh Porter
Age: 27
Hometown: Jackson, TN
Undergrad: University of Tennessee at Martin 
Before law school: Army Officer

1L at U of L: congratulations on winning this year's 1L oral advocacy competition. Do you have any tips on what worked well and what you learned from the experience?

Porter: Thanks, I think the best advice I could relay would be the same I heard from my Professor and Moot Court Board members which is to practice as often as possible.  After writing out a general outline, I practiced as many times as I could and the more I spoke the words out loud the better I was able to process possible questions or pitfalls I might run into.

I learned so much from the experience it is difficult to list it all, I was very fortunate to argue against some amazing public speakers (Robert May, Hunter Brown, Alex Davis, Thomas Stevens, and Jenn Siewertsen) and be able to emulate some of their styles and approaches to the case.  I was also privileged to hear questions from practicing attorneys, law school professors, and sitting appellate judges, each of whom offered insights into the case that we all had been studying since January, but that I had never remotely thought of. I also gained a lot of respect for people who were forced to argue "off brief".  I was very fortunate to be able to stay "on brief" for the whole competition, and I know that played a big role in me making it as far as I did.

1L at U of L: What was the toughest part of the competition?

Porter: It is a toss up between the second and third rounds.  The second round showcased the most intimidating questions, in that they were from practicing attorneys, and came at such a rapid pace it was very difficult to stay on track.  The third round had arguably the trickiest questions.  Profs Abramson, Powell, and Milligan were not as "confrontational" as were the attorneys, but their questions demanded very careful answers.

1L at U of L: What are your plans for this summer? 

Answer: I will be working as a summer law intern with the Kentucky Dept of Public Advocacy's Post Conviction Office in La Grange, KY.

1L at U of L: Do you have ideas about what you want to do when you finish law school at U of L? Litigation?

Porter: I'm still not 100% sure yet. I do have a strong leaning toward Govt service be it Public Defense or Prosecution, and based on this experience I am very interested in the litigation side of the profession.

1L at U of L: What's the biggest or most important lesson you have learned in law school so far? How has it measured up to your expectations? 

Porter: That's very difficult to narrow down, but I think the most important lesson I have learned so far is that very rarely is there a "black letter law", that instead reasonable people can apply the same law to the same facts and arrive at different conclusions.  That is what makes the study of law, especially the study of persuasive writing and speaking, so fascinating to me. It really is an art.

Law school has more than lived up to my expectations, I really cannot say enough about not just the oral advocacy competition, but the first year as a whole. It has been difficult and challenging but I am definitely glad I made the decision to come here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

U of L class of 2013 breaks the ice

It's hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be "rising" 2Ls at Louisville Law. I was reminded of this at lunch today when I filled out a course registration card for next fall. And I was reminded again a moment ago when I ran across this "icebreaker" discussion thread on Facebook for the entering Class of 2013. It honestly seems like just a few weeks ago that I was poking around on a similar icebreaker thread for our own class. It appears that next year's 1Ls have many of the same diverse stories and backgrounds that have made our classes interesting this year. Here are a few of their introductory posts:

  • I am 28. I am from Nimes, a beautiful city from the south of France. I arrived in the USA almost 4 years ago to be with my husband (who is from Panama, Latin America). I graduated from a French law school a few years ago. 
  • I am a 40-year-old single mom who should have gone to law school 18 years ago. I am so thrilled to finally be pursuing my dream. My boys, ages 12 and 6, are so proud of me. I live in Floyds Knobs, Indiana. I obtained my B.A. in History (with a minor in Political Science) from IU in Bloomington. I can't wait to get started at UofL Brandeis!
  • I'm 26, from Dayton, Ohio, and I graduated from Miami University in 2008. I majored in Psychology and minored in Political Science. I have been working for a custom home builder since graduating doing just about everything involved in building houses. I am really looking forward to returning to school and hanging up the tool belt.
  • I am 22 years old and currently living in Birmingham, AL, but I am originally from the small country of Costa Rica. I am graduating with a B.A. in Foreign Language with a double major in Philosophy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I must admit I have little knowledge of Louisville, and the Cardinals for that matter, but I am excited to get to know you guys and the city for the next three years!
  • I'm 31, from North Carolina, and currently living in Seoul, South Korea. I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 with a BA in poli sci, and i spent quite a few years in the rat race in Washington DC. i gave it all up to come to Korea and teach English as a Second Language to kids here 4 years ago and have loved living abroad.