Friday, January 28, 2011

My Con Law textbook takes a tour of Louisville

Anybody can take an online tour of the University of Louisville. And of course you can check out the city itself using sites like this one. But if you're thinking about spending the next three years at the U of L Brandeis School of Law, you haven't seen the real deal until you've hung out with my Constitutional Law textbook for a day. So I created a video to tell the story. Hard to believe the school puts up with this stuff. Somebody pinch me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

U of L Law Clinic profiled in newspaper

The law school's fairly new clinic, located in downtown Louisville, was profiled in a front-page story in The Courier-Journal on Sunday. Check out the story by clicking here. Warning: archived stories are only available to the public for a limited time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Photo of the Week: ping pong

The latest Photo of the Week hints at a project that is up my sleeve: a tour of Louisville with my Constitutional Law textbook. That's right, I'll be toting all 1,825 pages of its glory around town, giving you a taste of the River City, and the law school in particular. This shot of Big Red is in the basement of the law school's student lounge. Got a tip for a great place to take Big Red? Post it in the comment field below.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Unraveling the mystery of summer job interviews for law students: a biased Q & A on OCI

The Aegon Center, Kentucky's tallest building and
the location of Saturday's mock-interview program
The on-campus interview season is arriving soon for U of L law students. This weekend, a terrific mock interview program for 1Ls will take place Saturday at the offices of this swanky downtown law firm. Students who participate get all dressed up, become incredibly nervous while riding a shiny elevator to the top of a skyscraper, and then meet with practicing attorneys who ask them crazy questions like what kind of super-hero they might want to be. All jokes aside, it's a very valuable experience. And more details about job interviews will be available at information sessions sponsored by the law school and by Westlaw in the coming weeks. I put a lot of energy into on-campus interviews, or OCI, last year. The result ultimately was successful, but it didn't come without some hard feelings. Take these Q & A tips with a grain of salt. I'm biased. Maybe even jaded.

Question: My first-semester grades were not that great and I don't have much work experience. Why should I spend time submitting my resume and grades to a bunch of fancy law firms that only want top students?

Answer: Experience. Job interviews are like riding a bike. The first trip may not be pretty, but the more you do it the better you will perform. You also need to have a strong resume regardless of where you want to work this summer. You might as well start now.

Q: What are my chances of snagging a job through OCI?

A: At some law schools, OCI is a huge deal. Especially if the school is highly ranked and located in a smaller town (Cornell, Indiana, Washington & Lee, etc.) this is the main way to get hired. U of L, for a variety of reasons, is different. Put simply, your chances are not good. Unless jobs start raining from the sky, no more than a dozen students from the 1L class will find jobs through OCI, and possibly as few as eight or ten. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Q: So am I screwed for a summer job?

A: Absolutely not. Louisville offers an awesome job market to law students, and the home-field advantage for U of L Law is huge. I honestly believe that every single U of L law student could find a paying summer job in the local market if they put in the necessary effort in networking, phone calls, research, etc. Volunteer jobs and fellowships also can provide great experience.

Q: But students who find jobs on their own will be paid less, right?

A: Wrong. The top five or so largest firms pay big bucks for the summer, at least by Louisville standards. Expect to earn at least $35 an hour, with lots of field trips, free parking, and other perks. The rest of the OCI pack is a different game, and you won't find out the numbers until you have an offer in hand. The basic deal: expect a range starting at $10 an hour up to perhaps $18 an hour, which is pretty much the same money that you would receive from any other small firm that you find on your own.

Q: What do OCI employers want?

A: Take this one with another big grain of salt, but in my experience there is really only one factor involved: grades. If you are a 1L and notched a GPA of 3.5 or higher in your first semester, you are in very good shape for the spring. I do know students who were north of that range and did not receive job offers, but in most cases this level should lead to a job. If you were at 3.3 or above, you are in OK shape, but probably will be working for a small or medium-sized firm. And if you are among the vast majority of students who are below that point, treat OCI as a learning experience.

Q: But what if I won a Nobel Prize, saved a bus full of small children from a raging fire, and my uncle is a partner at the firm where I'm interviewing?

A: The first two won't help. Uncle might.

Q: What happens if I get a "call back?"

A: Congratulations! Your chances of receiving an offer after a second interview, or call back, are dramatically better. Out of the sixteen OCI interviews that I did during the spring and fall of last year, I received two call backs. One resulted in an offer, and I'm working for that firm now. I clerked for a different firm during my first summer -- one that I found on my own. That experience was fantastic, and so far the OCI firm has been just as good.

Q: So what's the bottom line, blogger guy?

A: OCI is a great experience, but don't be disappointed if it doesn't result in a job. There are many fish in the sea here in Louisville. They aren't hard to catch, but you will probably have to do it yourself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Newest law professor arrives at U of L

When I started law school at U of L, one of the first things I noticed was the intellectual accomplishments of all the students around me. For perhaps the first time in my life, I was surrounded by 135 people on a daily basis who were at the top of their classes  in high school, college, even graduate school. Their backgrounds were equally impressive. Some came from overseas, or spoke multiple languages. Others had left promising careers to get a law degree. But if you think law students are smart, take a cruise through a few resumes for the school's faculty. A typical trajectory: top of the class at a prestigious law school, then a federal clerkship, then a few years at a top law firm, then a rigorous interview process in which they beat out several hundred (or more) other applicants for a teaching job. To be certain, all professors are not cut from the same cloth. And in a sign that is reassuring for the rest of us, there are plenty of terrific lawyers who were mediocre students in law school. Still, the professors here at U of L are an impressive group. The latest arrival, JoAnne Sweeny, is a good example. I have copied her bio below. 

JoAnne Sweeny comes to Louisville from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law where she was a Westerfield Fellow and taught legal research and writing as well as a seminar in comparative constitutional law. She also recently completed her PhD in law at Queen Mary, University of London. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Criminology from the University of California at Irvine. After graduating Order of the Coif from the University of Southern California Law School, she clerked for the Honorable Ferdinand F. Fernandez at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor Sweeny then practiced as an employment litigator at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP before venturing further into academia. While at Queen Mary, Professor Sweeny taught British constitutional law and legal writing skills to first year law students.

Professor Sweeny
Professor Sweeny's research interests are wide-ranging but focus mainly on the problem of how law cannot keep up with technology or changing historical circumstances. Her current scholarly pursuits include international constitutional law, criminal law and legal history. Professor Sweeny is currently researching criminal law issues such potential constitutional challenges to the prosecution of teenagers under child pornography laws because they have "sexted" each other nude or erotic photos of themselves. Her most recent publication, "The United Kingdom's Human Rights Act: Using its Past to Predict its Future" is a comparative constitutional law piece that uses legal history techniques and social science theories such as Rational Choice Theory and Social Movement Theory to analyze the factors that led to the creation of the Human Rights Act in the UK and may also lead to its repeal in the near future. Her past articles have focused on emerging wage and hour problems that result from the practical problems of modern working situations, as well as the civil procedure issues inherent in the imposition of appellate sanctions for frivolous appeals. Professor Sweeny will begin teaching classes in the Fall 2011 semester.

Friday, January 7, 2011

End of law school tunnel is (barely) visible

Maybe it's the spring semester. Maybe it's the possibility of being gainfully employed on a full-time basis in a little more than a year. Or maybe it's the fact that we 2Ls are now halfway done with law school. Whatever the reason, I am getting a very faint sense that the clouds are parting and we are finally on a downward slope toward graduation. I know the semester is only three days old. I know there is still much work to do, and many exams to write. Still, I'm feeling a small shred of optimism that is replacing my 2L funk from last fall.

For me, one of the more rewarding aspects of the spring semester, so far, is the chance to work part-time as a law clerk for a firm in downtown Louisville. It's been tricky fitting a job into a full-time schedule of classes, but the rewards of real-life practice (and a little extra money) are hard to underestimate. Today, for example, I will attend my three-hour Trial Practice class, then jump in the truck and drive 80 miles to the home of a client in rural Kentucky to do a video interview about her injuries for a mass tort case. There are a lot of more mundane tasks associated with a clerkship -- billing, paperwork, forms, drafting motions, etc. -- but everything is a learning experience, and there is a certain thrill to the idea that what you are doing is going to have a real impact on a client's case. So, while the skies are gray and winter is just begun, I'm feeling a small ray of light. Let's hope it gets bigger.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Five ways to slice the price of your law school books

The spring semester is still two days away, and yet I am holed up in the law review office, pounding away at the 200-plus footnotes that must accompany a mandatory 25-page writing assignment. More on that later. For now, check out my Top Five Ways to Slice the Price of Your Law School Books. See everyone on Wednesday.

5. Rent 'Em if You Got 'Em. This is a relatively new concept at local bookstores, but it takes about 50 percent off the cover price of a new book. Just make sure you return the text at the end of the semester.
Uncle wants to buy your books

4. Buy Used. This seems like an obvious choice, but you need to arrive early to catch the used copies. Usually saves around 30 percent off the cover price. Alternatively, if you have your act together, you can buy used law school books on Amazon, eBay, etc.

3. Borrow. This is my method of choice for the spring. So far, I am borrowing a tax book from a friend who took the course in the fall, a Con Law book from a guy who decided not to take the second half of the course this spring, and (hopefully) a wills and estates textbook from a friend who graduated last year. Savings so far: about $280. PS -- I still have my Evidence book from last semester if anyone wants to use it free of charge. PPS -- I don't know about other law schools, but the willingness to share books among students is a nice reflection of the friendly and generous atmosphere at Louisville Law. You might think that students in a competitive environment would not be open to trading books crammed with personal notes and so forth. Not true here.

2. Share. It's like kindergarten all over again! I recommend this strategy only for supplements and rulebooks that you don't need every day, but that still cost in the neighborhood of $40-$60 each. Also works for hornbooks and flash cards.

1. Go to war. Seriously. Join the military and you can get the government to pay for all your books and tuition. OK, maybe not the most practical solution, but I'm running out of steam. At least make sure that you keep your receipts so you can deduct the cost of your books as educational expenses on your income taxes.