Monday, December 20, 2010

Fall grades posted; is your holiday naughty or nice?

A few minutes ago, the law school posted the results of our final exams for the fall semester. Because most professors don't offer much in the way of quizzes or class participation points, grades are sort of the Big Reveal for the entire semester. I was intensely interested in the results after my first semester of law school. I was less interested this time around (my third semester overall), but I admit I was still following Facebook chatter and texting with friends in the hour or so before grades went live. Here are my results as they appeared on the screen:

Collapse section Class Grades - Fall 2010 
  Official Grades  
ClassDescriptionUnitsGradingGradeGrade Points
LAW 823EVIDENCE4.00GradedB12.000

For some reason, professors love to give me Bs. I've never received a law school grade worse than a B minus, or better than an A minus. Right now, the angel sitting on my shoulder tells me that I should be proud of my results. I do the reading, study hard, and give it my best shot. With an overall grade point average slightly north of 3.2, I am roughly in the top 15 percent of the class. Could be worse. But the devil sitting on the other shoulder tells me that, at this point in law school, it wouldn't much matter if I notched straight As for my final two years. I am stuck in the upper end of the vast majority of students who will not receive job offers from big firms with hefty starting salaries. These positions, as everyone knows, are more or less reserved for the top ten students in the class. Not top 10 percent, mind you, but top ten individuals. Don't kill yourself, the devil says. You'll do fine, probably snag a job at a smaller firm, and eventually launch your own successful practice. But wait, the angel says, you should keep your nose to the grindstone because you still have to pass the bar, and even the smaller employers look to grades to differentiate among candidates in a tight job market. Aack! Enough of this talk, both of you. I'm going to grab a beer, chase it with a shot of zen, and hang out with my family. Happy holidays to everyone. Listen to the angels if you can bear it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The law won't let you escape a bad deal

My first-year torts professor here at U of L Law once told our class that he found it hard to understand how non-lawyers found their way in the world. He was talking about the powers of persuasion that we are learning in law school. Even before I started taking classes here at Brandeis, I prided myself on being able to argue my way through problems -- you know, phone bills, traffic tickets, that sort of thing. Now, after reading hundreds of court cases and arguing about a lot of them in class, I've gotten much better at it. Just in the last week, for example, I sweet-talked my way into a discount on my property taxes that was worth more than $100. As I wade deeper into law school, I also am becoming more attuned to bad consumer deals. Take, for example, the above photo that I took in Louisville's West End earlier this week of a billboard promoting non-recourse settlement loans for car-wreck victims. These offers, sadly, are very common among low-income litigants. They're basically the equivalent of a cash advance on the proceeds of your recovery, with the plaintiff paying an exhorbitant fee in exchange for an upfront payment. 
But if you think that my hubris knows no bounds, you would be wrong. Case in point: I'm standing at the front counter of a private college bookstore near campus yesterday afternoon, trying to waggle out of a rental agreement that charged me seventy-some dollars for a Constitutional Law textbook that I needed for an entire year, but which was only mine for a single semester under the terms of the rental contract. Why, oh why, I asked the manager, would you rent a book to a student for a semester when the class spans an entire year? We hemmed and hawed over this point, but in the end I could not escape the manager's point: it's not her job to figure out how long I need my books. And that, unfortunately, is my tough lesson for the week. No matter how crafty or clever you are (or think you are), the law doesn't always allow you to escape a bad bargain. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Summer Clerkship starts early -- on winter break

Final exams have come and gone at U of L Law, and winter break has finally started. I figured this would be a great time to catch up on overdue errands, hang out with friends, do some work around the house, and drink beer in the middle of the day. I was wrong. This morning, less than 48 hours after the last test, I found myself sitting at a desk on the seventh floor of a building in downtown Louisville, suing a major pharmaceutical company. The summer clerkship started a bit early this year. Way, way early. But when the boss calls and says he needs help, the answer is “yes.” And while I will miss the down time, it’s tough to understate how thrilling it is to put into practice all of the things you learn in a stuffy classroom. It’s one thing to debate the nuances of a 70-year-old Supreme Court case with your classmates. It’s a completely different thing to be drafting documents for a severely injured client in a lawsuit, with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. I still plan to carve out time on the break to work on my law review note, see friends and family, and enjoy the holiday. For now, it seems that the beer will be relegated to the evenings. Have plans of your own? Take my winter break survey, at right. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Photo of the Week: "orange" you glad that final exams are nearly over?

Final exams will be over in a few short days. In the meantime, I am grateful for the little things, like the fruit baskets that the law school sets out on tables in the front lobby for students. Bananas are my favorite brain food for finals. Apples also are a good choice. It's no mistake that oranges are the only fruit left in this photo. Sticky fingers on laptop = major distraction in middle of exam.