Monday, February 28, 2011

Can I Get a Witness: Trial Practice Students Seeking Volunteers for Criminal Trial

Here's a chance for prospective U of L law students to get a slice of experience in a courtroom, and meet a few upper-level students at the school. Our Trial Practice class is seeking volunteer witnesses for our final assignment of the spring semester -- a mock trial for a fictitious murder case. If you're interested, shoot me an email at, or post a comment below. The trials will take place in mid-April, probably on a Saturday. The total time commitment will be a couple of hours max, including a brief meeting at the law school to go over the trial record, depositions, exhibits, etc. There are enough slots for at least half a dozen volunteers. You don't have to be a future law student to participate. Anyone, as long as they are not taking the Trial Practice class, can sign up. Let me know by mid-March if you are interested.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cee Lo's "F**k You" Law School Edition

Here's some comic relief on a rainy Thursday morning, while I'm stuck at home in bed, reading about Basic Income Tax and nursing a head cold. I'm not feeling nearly as creative as the George Washington University law students who created this video. Then again, I feel fortunate that U of L Law isn't anything like the atmosphere depicted here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What do U of L law students look like?

One of the best things about attending law school at U of L is the myriad backgrounds of the students who surround me. Just as impressive are the directions in which many of us are heading. Don't take my word for it. A new section of the law school's Web site profiles a handful of current and recent students. You can click on this link to check them out in detail. Above, photo of Alicia Gomez '10.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photo of the Week: where I work

The Kentucky Home Life Building
After struggling through an absolutely awful two-hour lecture in Basic Income Tax this morning, I'm feeling much better thanks to a dose of the real world at my part-time job as a law clerk. One of the great things about U of L Law, at least for upper-level students, is that it is not too difficult to find a job as a clerk  during the school year, in addition to the traditional summer clerkship. Louisville has hundreds of downtown law offices just a few miles from campus, including this one, pictured above, where I work in the century-old Kentucky Home Life Building at 5th and Jefferson. It can be tricky to balance even two half-day shifts a week on top of reading, studying, writing papers and other related school stuff. But the real-world experience is great, and it's rewarding to put some of the skills from law school into practice in a setting with actual clients and cases.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Speaking to a jury is harrowing, humbling

The professor in our Trial Practice class says she still gets nervous before a trial. But with enough preparation, she says the nerves usually calm just before she walks into the courtroom. Not so for me this morning when I walked into the courtroom at the law school to deliver a seven-minute opening statement to a jury of fellow students. We each had to prepare an opening statement for a mock trial, and deliver it just as we would in a real courtroom. This should have been an easy assignment for me. I'm the guy who emceed pep rallies in high school, the guy who took debate classes, who starred in class plays, and who coached little league teams. This was tougher. Way tougher. It's enough just to memorize a seven-minute speech. But then you must make it convincing, thoroughly organized, and conversational. Oh, and you need to walk around a room while delivering it. You can't speak too fast. You can't speak too slow. No shuffling, no "Umms," and no shaky hands. And it can't be argumentative. And you can't screw up any of the hundreds of facts that might be involved. Lucky for us, there was no actual defendant facing a murder charge.
In the end, I think I did pretty well. I worked on the damn thing all night and all morning, delivering it to mirrors, walls, and numerous other inanimate objects. Most law students don't become trial lawyers. I still don't know what type of law I will practice, but I highly encourage any prospective or current law student to take advantage of the opportunities you will get to hone your public speaking skills while in school. Here at U of L Law, we have a very solid mock trial program. Even if you don't participate in it, all 1Ls get a chance to take part in an oral advocacy competition in the spring. It's a harrowing experience, but you'll be better for it. And for a slice of a pretty good opening statement -- also seven minutes -- check out this one from Judge Sotomayor in her Senate confirmation hearing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cautionary tales: big Louisville law firm facing lawsuit from former client for alleged negligence

A story on the front page of today's C-J offers a fascinating look at one of the most dreaded experiences a lawyer can face: a lawsuit from his own client. Frost Brown Todd, one of Louisville's largest and most prestigious law firms, is being asked to fork over $93 million to a former client who alleges the firm bungled his case. The details are complicated, but they go straight to the heart of two core law school classes: Contracts, and Professional Responsibility. I won't repeat all of the gory details. To read the story, click here. The link will expire in a few weeks, so check it out now. Note: one of the only things that a Louisville lawyer dreads more than a malpractice suit is a phone call from Jason Riley or Andrew Wolfson, the reporters who did the article. Both are veteran legal writers for the city's largest newspaper, and they've spent much of their careers feasting on the misdeeds of local attorneys.

Friday, February 4, 2011

For the most part, law school is a serious endeavor. At times, it can be downright dreary. But this posting from U of L's daily newsletter proves that every cloud has a silver lining. Or, in this case, that even at some law schools, "every silver lining's got a touch of grey."

"Prof. Tomain is accepting applications for a research assistant to start working ASAP.  The project involves reviewing, analyzing and organizing approximately 377 law review and journal articles into five categories.  The commonality of these articles: they all mention the “Grateful Dead.”  Up to 58 hours / $500.00 are available for this project.  If interested in this project, please email a resume and statement of 400 words or less explaining: (1) your interest and (2) availability in February and the first week of March."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brain dump: law students and professors give tips to next year's 1L class at Louisville

When I entered law school at the University of Louisville in the summer of 2009, my expectations were based largely on two books: One L by Scott Turow, and Getting to Maybe. The latter did a fine job of explaining how classes and tests work. The former is described on the author's Web site as a "virtual Bible for prospective law students." It's also nearly 35 years old, and is focused on the competitive and often neurotic culture of Ivy League academia. Louisville, by comparison, has been far more collegial and inviting that I ever imagined. At the same time, parts of the law school experience have been demoralizing and downright terrifying. With that in mind, I have gathered small pearls of wisdom from Louisville law students, members of the faculty, and a few lawyers. I hope they are useful.

If you don't know why you applied to law school, consider not enrolling even though you have been accepted.  If you would rather work for the State Department than write for a living or would rather spend your time outdoors than in an office, then law probably won't be a good fit for you. - U of L law professor 
Find something you are interested in and run with it. I started to attend the Federalist Society debates and got involved and now I'm the President. It is something that really floats my boat and sometimes you need something you really enjoy at the Law School to keep you going when it seems like you just can't take it anymore. - U of L law student  
Law school is a marathon.  If you are diligent throughout the semester with reading, note-taking and critical thinking, you will internalize the material and be better prepared for exams.  If you wait until the end of the semester to cram, you are less likely to reach your potential. - U of L law professor 
Learn to be patient. The LSAT is like a lot of things with the law. You are going to want the answers right away, but you just have to wait. - U of L law student 
Voluntarily participate in class.  Some students feel nervous about speaking in class.  Keep in mind, there is very, very little to lose by participating in law school and very much to gain. It is better to practice public speaking and articulating legal reasoning in law school than in front of judges, clients, opposing counsel, and employers.  Plus, the exam grading is anonymous.   Thus, there are no real or imagined consequences for your grade by speaking in class. - U of L law professor 
Like anything else that you've never done before, the first year of law school requires a complete commitment of time and energy.  Take advantage of your access to faculty, never be shy about asking questions, and stay off the Internet during class. - U of L law professor 
Find something you are interested in and run with it. I started to attend the Federalist Society debates and got involved and now I'm the President. It is something that really floats my boat and sometimes you need something you really enjoy at the Law School to keep you going when it seems like you just can't take it anymore. - U of L law student 
If you do accept the offer (to attend law school), remember how happy you were when you received it.  And remember how excited you were the first week of law school.  It is probably a good idea to write something down about it so you can refer to it later.  You will want to be able to recapture that sense of purpose and excitement in the fourth week of law school when you realize it is difficult, and you are unsure what you are doing or why you are in law school. -  U of L law professor 
Don't blow off Legal Research! - U of L law student  
Focus on learning the material, not on doing what is needed to earn a high grade.  You may actually discover that you love the law.  If, however, you discover that you don't love the law, then focus on learning some skills that you enjoy and will need in the workplace, such as writing, networking, verbal communication, or problem solving.  If you can do that, you will be a good attorney. - U of L law professor 
Remember, for better or for worse, these individuals for the most part will BE lawyers, and they will be your colleagues for the rest of your life. Make friends, or at least don't make enemies. I have been rescued from 1L hell by the most unlikely of people.  - practicing attorney 
Get to know your peers fast, within the first two weeks of school.  Cliques solidify quickly, and you will need a social support system at the law school, even if you have a strong one outside of it. Get to know your professors too, which may take longer but will be well worth it because you will learn about being a professional from your relationships with them, and they will recommend you to others.  It may feel like you have to prove yourself to them, but just be persistent and you will. - U of L law professor  
Learning the law is like learning a foreign language by immersion.  Stick with it and you will be proficient after the first year.  Remarkably, after approximately five years of practice, you will actually be fluent. - U of L law professor 
It is most definitely going to change your day-to-day life. Married-with-kids....beware! Your family will suffer. Help them through as they help you through. - U of L law student
A law school education prepares one not just for the practice of law.  It provides the skills and tools to be a problem solver in a wide array of areas, from political to business to social justice.  Students in their first year need not worry if they don't know what they want to do with their degrees.  The basic tools will be valuable in a variety of settings.  Second and third year of law school is a time to explore and try out different interest areas through courses, research, and internships, which will allow them to apply the analytical and reasoning skills learned in the first year. - U of L law professor   
Realize that there is literally nothing worth stressing out over, so don't: 1) get caught up in it and 2) take it out on your loved ones. - practicing attorney