Monday, March 28, 2011

U of L law students win trademark competition

March Madness was over a long time ago for the Louisville Cardinals, but a pair of students from the law school won big over the weekend, blowing past dozens of other teams to win the national title at the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C. In an announcement this morning, the school said that "Marilyn Osborn and Whitney True received the award for best overall team out of 78 teams after competing at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals . . .  They were commended on their presence, poise, and command of the issues.  The team was coached by Jack Wheat of Stites and Harbison and will be recognized by the International Trademark Association this spring." 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blog by 1L Details Agony of Oral Argument

For a fantastic description of one of the toughest parts of the 1L year at the University of Louisville, check out Sharon Wright's blog at this link. Sharon is a great writer, and, like myself, a former journalist who is now attending law school at U of L. Speaking of which, I'm curious about the backgrounds of the folks who read this blog. Got a second? Click on the appropriate field in the survey at right.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Basic Income Tax v. Dreadlock Rastas

Here's proof that Basic Income Tax and reggae music can co-exist peacefully in the same world. Who said that the accelerated cost recovery system for depreciation of intangible property wasn't a good source of rhythm?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Law Review 101: Interview with Tommy Sturgeon, Editor in Chief, Rock Star, and Soon-to-Be Lawyer

The below interview is the second installment in a three-part series about the University of Louisville Law Review. To read the first part, click here. Today's post focuses on the networking value of being a journal member, and I can’t think of a better person to focus on than Tommy Sturgeon, the law review’s editor in chief for the last year. As the leader of the school’s flagship journal, he essentially has a full-time job on top of law school. Even so, he has an unfailingly positive attitude, a great sense of humor, and an impressive willingness to spend time answering nit-picky questions from first-year law review members such as myself (full disclaimer: the editor in chief is technically my boss at the journal, but next year’s editors were selected before this interview took place). I’ve met a lot of terrific people in my first year on the law review, and they’ve helped me in many ways, from career advice to shared outlines to exam tips. I could rattle on about how helpful everyone has been, but I couldn’t say it better than Tommy.

Name: Tommy Sturgeon
Age: 37
Hometown: Louisville
Undergrad: Belmont University
Before U of L: Professional Musician
After U of L: Associate,  Frost Brown Todd

2L at U of L: I'm always interested in the backgrounds of successful law students. How did your career as a musician play into your decision to attend law school?

Sturgeon: I knew my season as a performer was coming to its end, and my father helped me to choose what the next phase of my life would look like.  His main advice to me: You have to find something that you love as much as music.  I tossed around some ideas of possible careers, and when I started looking into law school, I decided to buy a Con Law textbook at a used bookstore to see what the reading might be like.  As a musician, I spent hours and hours practicing my instrument (guitar) and songwriting. In other words, I enjoy immersing myself fully into whatever I do for long stretches of time.   When I started reading this used textbook, I realized how much I enjoyed focusing on it.  It was odd, but I found that my emotional response to law was very similar to my emotional response to playing and writing music.  I had found something that I could enjoy as much music, and, like music, there is no end--you can never fully master it--so there is an element of pursuit that remains, no matter how good you get.   I've never looked back.

2L at U of L: How did you pick U of L?

Sturgeon: It was an easy choice.  I love the Louisville community.  I had heard good things about the school, and it made no sense to leave Louisville to attend law school, only to return after graduation, when I could get the same quality education at greater value with the added benefit of networking locally while in school.  U of L Law School is a gem; I'm not sure if people truly appreciate the great opportunities that this school provides.

2L at U of L: What made you want to apply for the law review here?

Sturgeon: In my 1L year, I was trying to decide what school activities I wanted to pursue.  There are a lot of options.  So I asked a local attorney what was the best choice.  He told me that, by far and away, Law Review (not just any of the school's journals, but the University of Louisville Law Review) was the most important.  His opinion was shared by practically everyone I talked to.  In those conversations, I realized that Law Review across the nation is viewed like a stamp of excellence.  I wanted that stamp.

2L at U of L: You mentioned recently that the three biggest benefits of being on law review are skills, networking, and enhanced job prospects. Tell us a little more about the networking aspect of being on law review. 

Sturgeon: When it is all said and done, you are going to remember the relationships, the people that you surround yourself with.  In ten years, I doubt that I will remember the substance of all of the articles that I edited this year.  But I guarantee that I will remember the people that I served with, and I hope we will still be close friends.  The people on Law Review are just great people; they are hard workers; they are motivated; and, best of all, they are fun to be around.  The shared experience of law review membership creates bonds that will last.  And these are people who are going to go out and make a difference.  I anticipate great things from everyone on law review, and the ability to get to know each of them personally has been an extraordinary opportunity.

2L at U of L: What made you want to apply for the editor in chief position?

Sturgeon:  This may sound cliche, but I wanted to leave this school better off than how I found it.  I wanted to make a difference, however small.  My background gave me a unique skill set, and I truly believed that I was the best person for the job.  I wanted to raise the bar of excellence, and when it is all said and done, I hope I will have succeeded.

2L at U of L: Being the top editor of the law review is a ton of work. How do you balance it all and still find time for your family?

Sturgeon: If you think being top editor of the law review is a ton of work, try being a stay-at-home mother of two young boys (ages 3 and 1) while your husband is the top editor of the law review.  That is really a ton of work!!!  What I am saying is, I am able to do it for one reason--my wife, Paige.  She helps me to be able to focus on the boys when I am home, to keep me in check if I become too school-focused, and to provide me the opportunity to succeed when it comes to crunch time.  And frankly, when people ask me: "How do you do it with a family," my response is: "How do you do it without a family?"  It is honestly an advantage because I must be so time-conscious.   

2L at U of L: One of the things I appreciate about the law review here at U of L is that you don't necessarily have to be in the Top 10 Percent of your class to be selected. What advice would you offer a 1L who is thinking of applying? 

Sturgeon: Treat it as if finding a job after graduation depends on making law review (it might!).   Do it.  Absolutely.  Apply and don't second guess it.  Although grades are an element of selection, every year there are people who make Law Review on the strength of their writing in the application process.  My main advice is to treat the first few days after finals like you were still in school.  It's only one or two days.  Work hard on your law review application and you will have a very, very good chance of making law review.  As you can imagine, not everyone will work hard on their application, and those that put in the effort will stick out.  Effort is noticed.

2L at U of L:  What will you remember most about law review?

Sturgeon: I'm answering this question while I am in the Law Review office, and I am looking at a wall where we have placed the photos of our 44 members.  To some degree I'm repeating myself, but I can't really place into words how special this group has been.  I can look at each photo and tell you honestly that I am blessed to have known that person.  What an experience!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photo of the Week: spring break ends at U of L, but soft-serve season in Louisville is just beginning

 Today was a sad reminder that spring break doesn't last forever, and there are eight more weeks in the trenches before law school is out for the summer. Speaking of which, every good law school should be within licking distance of a good soft-serve ice cream place. Fortunately for us there is Dairy Kastle, which flicks on its fluorescent lights each spring as the weather warms up, advertising mangled English and a truly amazing menu of fattening and frosty treats. Dairy Kastle is located at 575 Eastern Parkway. Other must-visit ice cream shops in Louisville:

My kids at Dairy Kastle last week

  • Graeter's, 2204 Bardstown Road (Douglass Loop) and elsewhere
  • The Comfy Cow, 1301 Herr Lane at Westport Village (and apparently on campus at U of L sometime next year) 
  • Valley Dairy Freeze, 10300 Deering Road (in Valley Station)
  • Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen (lots of locations; click here for details)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Louisville back in the Tier 2 club: USNews rankings for 2012 give Brandeis a boost

Louisville Law is in a three-way tie for the 100 spot in the latest US News & World Report rankings of law schools. Check out the list at this link. The 2012 edition of the rankings will no doubt bring a sign of relief to many students, faculty, and administrators along Third Street. Last year we dropped out of the top 100 law schools in the nation, falling into dreaded Tier 3 status. The University of Kentucky is 71 this time around,  down from 64.
But are the changes a big deal for either school? Depending on who you are, they're a huge deal, or maybe they mean nothing at all. The rankings are important to many prospective law students, and they're seen as an indicator of quality for some law firms. However, critics say the rankings are meaningless for students outside the top dozen or so schools. Think about it: if you're applying to a half dozen firms in your hometown, are those firms really going to care if your school dropped a few spots one year, or if you went to #86 compared to #93? The other thing that bugs me about the rankings is that the numbers are based in part on the opinions of faculty and administrators at other schools, which, in turn, is linked closely to scholarship, i.e., how many articles your law professors churn out. This forces law schools to put enormous energy into scholarship, which is fine, but for my tuition money I'd much rather have terrific teachers who are focused on showing me how to become a great lawyer. I could rant for a long time about the rankings, but I won't. Louisville is back in the top 100, and that's a good thing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lawyers, lawyers everywhere: local attorneys profiled in new edition of Louisville Magazine

The latest edition of Louisville Magazine takes an in-depth look at  the city's legal market, and therefore is a must-read for the area's current and prospective law students. There's a fun piece about Darryl Isaacs, a U of L grad who is best known as the "Heavy Hitter" on television (and on billboards, at right). On the more serious side, there's a lengthy article about what it's like to be one of the 62 attorneys who work in the local public defender's office. The upside: incredible experience in a very well respected organization handling high-profile cases. The downside: not as much money as you might make in private practice. The article is a good reminder that money isn't everything when it comes to being happy as a lawyer. Some of the brightest students from U of L Law have joined the public defender's office in recent years. It's also a good place to stay for a few years before launching your own private firm. You can check out the entire magazine, page by page, by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Journal 101: What I Learned in My First Year on the University of Louisville Law Review

When I learned that I had been selected to join the University of Louisville Law Review almost a year ago, I had two first impressions. The first was from a good friend, also a law student, who told me this: "Congratulations, you're going to hate it." The second was a line from The Pelican Brief, a John Grisham book that I happened to be reading at the time: "She suspected most law reviews and law journals were much the same. The top students hung out there and prepared their scholarly articles and comments. They were superior to the rest of the students, and were a clannish bunch who appreciated their brilliant minds. They hung out in the law journal suite. It was their second home." As it turned out, there was only a small shred of truth in both of these impressions. 
Being on law review has not always been a walk in the park, but then again, as one of our editors once told us, if law review was easy everyone would do it. In fact, the experience has been much more enjoyable than I expected, and more valuable. Because I think other students would benefit from an inside scoop on the so-called "journal," I'm offering a three-part series in this blog, focused loosely on the three biggest benefits of law review: experience, networking, and job prospects (disclaimer: I didn't come up with these three categories; they were described by the journal's current editor-in-chief at a recent informational meeting for 1Ls). 
I'm focusing on the experience category today. Law review is generally a two-year commitment, although the duties vary for individual members. A senior notes editor, for example, might put in 300 hours or more of work in a single academic year. The editor in chief probably puts in 30 hours every single week on top of classes. Other editors put in much less time. First-year members of the law review are obligated to spend one hour a week in the office doing editing work. We also are responsible for editing and cite-checking part of a scholarly article or note about once every two or three weeks. These projects are the meat and potatoes of law review. They're time consuming, detail oriented, and in some cases incredibly boring. But after doing about a dozen of them over the last ten months, I feel miles ahead in terms of my confidence in legal research and writing. I can find sources on Lexis and Westlaw lickety split, and tell you in the blink of an eye if a citation needs to be in italics or small capitals. If you think those skills won't matter in the real world, wait until your supervising partner hands you an appellate brief that is due in four hours and asks if you can make sure there are no errors. Any type of law-related work, from Legal Aid to Biglaw to a solo practice, requires attention to detail. Law review is a pretty good way to get it. 
The other major commitment of a first-year law review member is the dreaded note. I say dreaded because, even as a former journalist who wrote articles for a living, any time you are staring at a 25-page writing assignment (excluding footnotes), life feels a little scary. Fortunately, the process is divided into very manageable smaller parts, and there is a terrific support network in place. I had a faculty member read through my drafts and give me feedback. My notes editor, a 3L, also provided guidance. Even so, the note felt like I was giving birth to a baby, with the labor divided into five or six big pushes starting last summer and ending in late February. My wife will tell me that's a stupid analogy, but I can't think of anything better. Writing the note gave me a great appreciation for the amount of research that goes into a serious piece of legal writing. In the end I used 185 footnotes, including Supreme Court cases, federal agency directives, bits of congressional hearings, magazine articles, even phone interviews with professors at other law schools. The great thing about the note, at least at our law review, is that the topic can be pretty much anything. You can write about using miniature ponies as guide animals for blind people (see photo, above right), or analyze the pros and cons of new sentencing guidelines for crack users. I wrote about a new medical marijuana policy at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The topic appealed to me because pot presents interesting federalism issues (legalized to some extent in 15 states, but still banned under federal law), and because marijuana's legal status is shifting under the Obama administration. Only about half of the student-written notes are actually published in the law journal, but either way the note satisfies our writing requirement for graduation. I'm hoping that my note is selected for publication, but either way I feel grateful for the experience. I admit there have been patches of tedium and even dread in my first year of law review, but I can honestly say that the larger part of the year has been filled with great experiences that have given me skills and tools that will be incredibly helpful as a lawyer. In the weeks ahead, keep an eye out for the next two parts of the law review series: networking, and job prospects. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hope (Sort of) Springs Eternal: Top 10 Signs that Spring is on the Way at Louisville Law

This semester of law school has been the toughest for me in terms of workload. In the last week, for example, I've completed a 43-page law review note, a draft of a 10-page will for our Decedents' Estates class, a three-page essay for Constitutional Law, and a job application for an editorial position at the law review. Throw in the usual crushing reading assignments, and a few shifts at my part-time clerk job at a law firm, and you get the picture. Life is busy. At the same time, there are glimmers of hope in the long, dark tunnel of law school. If nothing else, the weather is warmer. With that in mind, here's Yet Another Top 10 List, this time focusing on signs of spring.

10. Yellow crocuses in my front yard (photo, at right).

9. Speaking of seeds, March Madness is almost here. The latest projections show the Cards as a 4 seed, and the Cats as a 5. Not too shabby for either team.

8. It's crunch time for 1Ls, who are finishing their briefs for Basic Legal Skills. I do not envy you. In terms of stress, my 43-page law review note was nothing compared to the dreaded first-year brief.

7. The Humana Festival of New American Plays is running at Actors Theatre in downtown Louisville.

6. The Kentucky Derby is starting to get a little buzz around town. My favorite horse so far: Mucho Macho Man. You can't go wrong with a name like that.

5. Speaking of races, we're one leg into the Triple Crown of Running, a series of three road races in Louisville before the Derby. Congratulations to all of the Student Health Law Association runners who took part in the Anthem 5k last weekend. Go Ambulance Chasers!

4. Prospective law students are freaking out about where they will attend law school next year. My best advice: don't spend too much time at this Web site. It'll drive you crazy.

3. U of L law students are wearing fancy clothes to school. Some are interviewing for summer jobs. Others are starting summer clerkships early.

2. We're less than a week away from the annual Mardi Gras party at the law school. It's a little reserved compared to the New Orleans version, but still fun.

1. We're halfway through the semester, and a skip away from spring break. That means 3L students are a ridiculous 91.7 percent of the way through law school. 2Ls are 58.3 percent of the way through, and 1Ls are 25 percent done. Prospective law students are, well, still 0L. But you're that much closer to starting.