Thursday, September 29, 2011

Juxtaposed: exploring the similarities, and differences, between law school and kayaking

Wild West: boating in Montana (before law school)
Wednesday is my push day in law school. Up at 6:30 to study, then it's Secured Transactions at 9, then more studying, then Negotiable Instruments at 1, followed directly by Selected Problems in Civil Procedure. So it was a welcome sign when a buddy called between classes yesterday and invited me on a quickie whitewater paddling trip that afternoon on Elkhorn Creek, just outside Frankfort. By 5:30, I was crashing through waves as I navigated the Elkhorn, surrounded by soaring sandstone cliffs and the occasional heron. Whitewater kayaking is sort of like law school, I realized later. The waves keep coming no matter what you do, and the only option is to keep paddling. In fact, surfing a nice river hydraulic is even more like law school: violent whitewater is rushing by your boat, surrounding you on all sides, and if you find just the right balance and steer upstream the right way, there is a beautiful feeling of serenity in the midst of the storm. But most of the time you're just trying to not drown.
The above comparisons notwithstanding, kayaking is actually nothing like law school. However, like many other forms of recreation, it does help to maintain sanity. It is absolutely critical that you take a break every once in awhile. I've written in previous posts about other short trips from Louisville, including the Falls of the Ohio and Red River Gorge. I also did a list of the Top Ten Things to Do on Winter Break, from bourbon tours to museums to local theater. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you remember to breathe. This morning, I'm breathing deep, feeling good, and ready to conquer the law.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Law school videos: hip hop, indy rock & comic relief

Anyone who reads this law school blog knows I am enthralled by amateur law school videos. Hey, it's a weak spot. The latest to cross my desktop is a hip-hop ode to graduating law students. So it hits home. And the production quality is surprisingly solid.

To see other law school videos, check out this one from GWU, or this from UC Berkeley. I also have my own humble offerings, including an in-class reggae interpretation of tax law, and a tour of Louisville with my Con Law book set to an indy rock soundtrack. Come to think of it, the lure of law school videos makes a lot of sense. Law school is already part theater, and the pressure and seriousness of the experience requires a little comic relief if you want to refrain from going crazy. Let the credits roll.

Monday, September 19, 2011

U of L Law by the numbers: a lesson in the past, the present, and maybe the future of legal education

I've been doing some research this fall as part of an independent study project about our law school. The project is far from over, but I've learned a bunch of interesting things about U of L Law. Here's my attempt to distill them into a short list.

0 -- number of articles that new law professors were expected to publish annually as a condition of their employment when Lawrence Knowles started teaching here in 1959.
1/2 -- amount of their time that new professors currently spend researching and writing articles
5 -- number of women in a typical U of L Law class in the late 1960s, when students smoked cigarettes in the hallways and professors addressed classes as "boys" or "gentlemen"
7 -- number of law schools in the South in 1846, when classes here cost $20 each, payable in cash to the instructor
10 -- number of female editors, out of a total of 11, on the school's flagship law review in 1984, when men still accounted for 60 percent of most classes.
14 -- number of students for every faculty member at the law school.
50 -- average number of students in most of the classes I've taken at the law school.
66 -- percentage of students at the law school who are Kentucky residents.
100 -- U of L's current rank among the nation's law schools, according to US News & World Report.
126 -- rank of the University of Louisville Law Review, compared to 315 general interest law reviews worldwide.
156 -- median LSAT score for entering students
174 -- number of total students at the law school in 1962, of whom 88 were part of the school's part-time "night division"
400 -- approximate number of current students at the law school today, of whom none are in the night division because it no longer exists (a small number of students do attend part time)
1138 -- number of friends, including me, that our law school's dean has on Facebook, compared to 23 million people who "like" his former Harvard classmate, Barack Obama, on Facebook. OK, that's not really fair, but it is interesting.
1954 -- year that first African American student graduated from the law school.
1971 -- year that the law school hired its first African American staff member.
1997 -- year that law students gained widespread access to email and the Internet
2008 -- year that Prof. Knowles last taught a law school course at U of L
8,000 -- estimated number of living graduates of our law school
16,536 -- projected cost of one year of tuition for in-state students in 2011-2012.
72,340 -- total projected cost, including transportation, tuition, books, and health insurance, for a married law student at Yale for a single year.
75,000 -- typical debt after three years of law school at Louisville, including undergraduate debt.
320,000 -- number of minutes until I graduate from law school in May.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Staring at a "lousy" job market: 3Ls at Louisville Law looking at grim employment picture

When I started law school in 2009, I figured my timing was perfect. By the time three years was over, the recession would be a distant memory and I would have my pick of places to begin a shining new career as a lawyer. Today, my prediction is not looking so hot. Popular legal blogs such as Above The Law continue to describe the job market for law graduates as lousy. Heck, even top law review editors at prestigious schools can't find jobs.
Here at U of L, I know of a handful of people with permanent jobs lined up. But there are far more of us who have been turned down by employers, or told that there just isn't room next year, despite the terrific job you did as a clerk. This is hardly surprising, considering how big law firms in town are trimming their ranks by laying off associates, hiring fewer graduates, and down-sizing their summer programs. It's not time to hit the panic button yet, of course. We're still just one month into our final year. In some respects, I think Louisville graduates are in a better position than their peers at higher-ranked schools, where student debt is often in the six figures. In this month's edition of Bar Briefs, for example, LBA president K. Gregory Haynes points out that law school tuition increased 317 percent from 1989 to 2009, making a law degree an increasingly "risky" investment. Haynes also makes good points about the  manipulation of employment numbers by law schools, quoting a recent ABA resolution that discusses the "disconnect between law students' perception of their employment prospects upon completion of their law school education and the reality of what law students will realistically achieve."
Elsewhere in the same publication, our own law school's dean, Jim Chen, makes the case for Louisville Law as a value school where the debt numbers are far more favorable. At the same time, he points out that even at a value school like U of L, many students are leaving school with roughly $75,000 in debt, compared to average starting salaries in the private sector of $69,400. That last figure is not from Chen, but from the school's 2009 employment report, which also indicates that 77 percent of students received job offers before graduation and more than 95 percent were employed within nine months of graduation. Those stats seem overly rosy to me, although I don't believe the school is cooking the numbers. It's simply following the established system. Even so, it's not hard to find critics of law school employment stats. Depending on what you read, law schools "completely misrepresent" the numbers, or there are at least "ongoing questions" about the validity of jobs stats.
One excellent resource, Law School Transparency, puts the median private sector salary for Louisville at $55,000. I actually would be quite happy to find a job at that level, especially considering the low cost of living in Louisville. And while I do not have a job locked down yet, I know that no matter where I land, my long-term prospects will be considerably brighter than they were in my former profession. In journalism, just hanging on to the job you have is a victory.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blog bonanza arrives at U of L Law

When I started this blog a little more than two years ago at the request of the school's Office of Admissions, there wasn't too much company. In fact, there was no company. That's no longer the case. Sharon Wright, also a former journalist and now a 2L at Louisville Law, writes this terrific (and often very funny) blog about law school. More recently, a bunch of our new 1Ls have launched their own blogs with varying themes. I may be missing a few, but here are the ones I've tripped across recently.

Be sure to check out these blogs if you're thinking about applying to U of L Law. They'll give you a good look at a slice of life here from differing perspectives -- funny, poignant, frustrating, even hungry! If I've left someone out in the above list, please share additional links in the comments field below. Happy blogging...