Monday, August 29, 2011

Hidden Attic at U of L Law Revealed

A view of the law school library's mysterious attic
As I plow through my third year of law school here at U of L, there are plenty of days when I just want to be finished. Today is not one of them. I had two very good classes today, in which I learned some pretty useful things from excellent professors. For example, I've always thought that it is best to sign one's complete name in legible cursive on the back of checks. Not true. You can use a stamp, a squiggly mark, a circle, even a smiley face as long as that is your customary method of signing. You can even have someone else sign for you (agency law). I also recently learned that I enjoy no Fourth Amendment protections if a police officer comes to my house dressed as a gas meter reader and convinces me to allow him inside. These are good things to know.
But nothing can top the visit I made this afternoon to the law library's dusty attic. I knew we had a basement, and even a sub-basement, in our library. But if you ask the reference librarian at the front desk to see the attic, she'll gladly wave you in to a separate little elevator behind the desk, which will take you to a tiled-floor room filled with thousands of books that look older than dirt. Some of them even are older than dirt. In the attic, you can peruse thick tomes about aviation law from the 1960s, or Supreme Court decisions from World War I. You can even find cracked and faded compendiums of Kentucky statutes from the 1860s and earlier (intent of the drafters, anyone?).  I realize that things of this nature may not be interesting to everyone. But if you agree with me that hidden attics are great and mysterious places, good for you. I also understand Professor Metzmeier has recently written a column about the same attic in the LBA's Bar Briefs publication. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Photo of the Week: law school's new front lawn

There's a new front lawn at U of L Law, apparently paid for with a federal grant. According to the university, the lawn is part of a bunch of improvements aimed at making the oval a "beautiful front door" for the school. Unfortunately, the lawn has not helped me answer any of the problems that I must finish before today's Negotiable Instruments class with Professor Leibson. If anyone knows of a federal grant for that, please advise.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quiz: how to face "free pizza season" in law school

Let me guess: the admissions office didn't tell you about Free Pizza Season when you applied to law school. No, it was not wedged in next to median LSAT scores and judicial externships on that glossy brochure. Nonetheless, Free Pizza Season (FPS) has officially arrived at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. FPS is the time of year when student groups and various commercial ventures attempt to capitalize on your three-year vow of poverty in order to capture a slice of your precious time. It's the law school equivalent of the free-vacation-in-Florida-to-sell-you-a-condo-time-share. This week alone, for example, there are three days in a row of lunch meetings sponsored by student groups. For the uninitiated, I offer the following true/false quiz on FPS.

1. I should go to as many FPS events as possible because I'm broke and free pizza sounds great.
Answer: FALSE. It's a good idea to become familiar with a few of the student organizations at the law school that cater to your own personal interests, but you'll be blowing valuable study time if you go to all of them.

2. I should at least go to all of the FPS events that offer something better than pizza, such as catered box lunches or Qdoba.
Answer: TRUE. Notwithstanding the above, you should always get free Qdoba and box lunches. They just don't come around very often. Furthermore, FPS typically winds down by early October.

3. I need to join a student organization if I eat their free pizza.
Answer: FALSE, although you can "join" most student groups at U of L Law by simply putting your email address on a list. And you won't be invited to do much of anything until your 2L year.

4.  It will help my resume if I join a few student groups.
Answer: FALSE. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh. But in most cases, employers will not look closely at membership in student organizations. They already know your resume is thin. They usually care about three things: grades, grades, and grades. However, joining one or (at most) two student groups is a nice way to meet other people, lay the foundation for joining a study group, or maybe do some volunteering in the community.

5. I thought this quiz was about pizza. It seems like we're getting off topic.
Answer: TRUE.

6. FPS events sponsored by groups such as Westlaw, Lexis, Barbri, and Kaplan are not as valuable, even though they typically have better free stuff.
Answer: TRUE. At least in my opinion, you should choose wisely when it comes to burning an hour of your time with one of these groups. I'm not saying that the intriguing info session on how to search state statutes using truncators isn't worthwhile. Just be careful with your time.

7. I can take the free pizza, stay for five minutes, and then go study somewhere else.
Answer: TRUE. You could, but it's tacky. Don't do it.

8. I should also be careful about the FPS events hosted by the law school to discuss job interviews, professionalism, studying abroad and other stuff.
Answer: FALSE. At least in my opinion, the events hosted by the school itself, especially those focused on OCI and job interviews, are worth attending.

9. Student groups that host an FPS event with no pizza are definite skippers.
Answer: FALSE. Some of the best student organizations at U of L Law do not offer free food because they are small, have meager budgets, or simply choose not to spend money on free food. In many cases, it will be easier to get involved with these groups because there are fewer students in their membership, and they need volunteers.

10. FPS is a good representation of how Louisville does pizza.
Answer: absolutely, positively FALSE. Most student groups, at least the ones I'm familiar with, buy the cheapest pizza for FPS events. That means Domino's, Papa John's (actually a local company), Pizza Hut and the like. If you want to try "real" local pizza in Louisville, check out Wick's, Spinelli's, Papalinos, or one of the other shops that appear on this list.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Photo of the Week: first day of law school at U of L

Some of my fellow 3Ls are posting comments on Facebook about today being their last first day of school ever. That's hard to believe, but I'll take it. A year ago, I published a photo of myself wearing a new pair of shoes, along with a post about the mixed feelings I had about the start of the 2L year. There are no mixed emotions this time around. My mantra heading into 3L: get 'er done. But not everyone is in the same boat. To the new 1Ls, I offer you a hearty welcome to U of L Law, personified by the "welcome" sign drawn in chalk in the above photo. To the 2Ls, I offer a reminder that things could be worse, i.e. you could be pushing a broom on a construction site. Actually, for all I know, this guy is probably happier than 90 percent of law students. Either way, keep working, you'll get there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Contrarian law school tip #37: make a reading list

The start of the fall semester at U of L Law is now less than a week away. The first-year lambs are picking up their case books, browsing student organization tables at orientation, and doing other various activities that will eventually lead them to slaughter. Just kidding. Louisville Law does a great job of making sure that 1Ls and upper-class students don't lose their heads during what can be the most stressful years of one's life. I am volunteering at a panel next week to talk about balancing law school and family. The best advice I've heard from anyone about starting law school came from Kathleen Bean, the school's dean of student life. Her words to us two years ago: don't let them mess with your head. The pronoun "them" was a  general reference to students, faculty, exams, jobs, and perhaps most of all the pressure that law students put on themselves to succeed.

There are plenty of ways to not let law school mess with your head, and I'm not going to try to list them all in this post. One of my favorite is to keep a personal book list. That's right: read for pleasure. Even with all of the dense legal tomes that overwhelm our lives for hours each day, I look forward to spending the last twenty or thirty minutes of each night with a good book. Before my 1L year, I read A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr, along with Getting to Maybe, One L by Scott Turow, and quite a few John Grisham novels. Below are three of my favorite books from this summer. I am betting they will stick with me at least as well as my fall reading material on negotiable instruments and secured transactions.

  • How to Start & Build a Law Practice, by Jay Foonberg. This class how-to book shows how to open your first office, where to buy your stationary, how to avoid sketchy clients, and how to minimize your chances of total and absolute failure. You can buy it for $80 in hardcover, or check it out from the law library for free. 
  • The Testament, by John Grisham. I just can't make it through a summer without reading one Grisham novel. Classic literature they are not, but I love 'em just the same. 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. An airplane stewardess saw me reading this and gave me a strange look. Why would you want to read that again, she asked, referring to the obvious fact that every American high school or college student was forced to read this classic. To me, the answer is just as obvious: because I am no longer being forced to do so, because it's a wonderful love story, and because it offers terrific insights into the practice of law and life in general in the South. It also contains amazing descriptive language, like this passage about summer heat and humidity: "Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."