Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interview: Eddie O'Brien, Comedian, 2L, and Next Year's Editor-in-Chief of the U of L Law Review

There are plenty of things that are unfair about law school, but in my opinion the law review is not one of them. As a member and editor of the school's flagship journal, I've learned invaluable editing, writing, and research skills, and my grades played only a marginal role in getting there. Being willing to work hard was way more important. Same goes for Eddie O'Brien, the new Editor-in-Chief of the University of Louisville Law Review and the focus of today's interview. Eddie is a 2L, a volunteer with the local chapter of Big Brothers, and a clerk at the firm of Weber & Rose. More importantly, he has a reputation for being a hard worker, a guy who gets things done, but also has a sense of humor and gets along with everybody. Eddie's story is a must-read for any law school applicant who thinks high grades are the only key to success. Have an idea for a law-related interview? Send it to me at

Name: Eddie O'Brien 

Age: 23
Hometown: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and most of my family still lives in the Baltimore-Washington area. When I was 5, I moved to Kentucky, and then moved to the Houston area when I was 13, where I attended high school and completed my undergraduate studies.
Before law school:: I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. During undergrad, I worked three days a week as a substitute teacher at the high school level.
After law school: Like most law students, I am still struggling with this. I know that I have no interest in civil litigation. Right now my aim is to clerk for a judge for a year or two and then enter an LL.M. program in the D.C. area. As an alternative route, I might like to try my hand at being a prosecutor or litigating on behalf of a governmental agency. I would eventually like to teach and spend my days writing and telling students why they're wrong. 

Why did you choose U of L Law?
I was immediately attracted by the responsiveness and friendliness of the admissions staff. The fact that I had ties in the area and the (relatively) inexpensive cost were major factors in my decision. Almost every day, something reminds me that I made the right choice: I have made great friends, been fortunate to learn from distinguished faculty who really know their stuff, and the atmosphere here is far more relaxed and open than other law schools. 

What's been the toughest thing for you in law school so far?
Law school. It is all-encompassing; you're either all in or you're out. I suppose the most difficult thing has been learning to prioritize, which is code for doing well while still maintaining some semblance of a social life. Also, law school and sleep are in constant competition, and law school inevitably wins. I had been hoping to achieve a bit more balance there as well, but then I was chosen as Editor-in-Chief. So much for that. 

How do you deal with the stress of school?
By remembering that while school matters, it's not the only thing. Particularly in your first year, you're almost conditioned to treat law school as a bubble -- you spend all of your time either in this building or studying at home, and even when you go out with friends, most of those friends are in law school with you and conversations almost always turn to the subject of law school. Getting out of that bubble while still succeeding within it is a big challenge. I used to count "pleasure reading" as a reliable and enjoyable diversion; no longer. The words "pleasure" and "reading" are juxtapositionally grotesque. So, I spent a lot of time going out with friends, staring at the television, arguing about sports and politics, and playing with my insanely cute dog.

I also feel obligated to give a shout out to the 1Ls in my Structured Study Group. Being an Academic Fellow really has been one of the most rewarding experiences in law school; it's fun to see 1Ls today and realize that not too long ago, I was just like them: both ambitious and nervous, determined and reserved. It's always nice to try to impart to them that this isn't as hard as it seems, and that next year they'll marvel in disbelief at just how much unnecessary pressure 1Ls place on themselves. So, in a sense, one of my diversions is encouraging 1Ls to find their own diversions. 

The job market for new lawyers is tough out there. How do you plan to attack it?
By avoiding it for as long as possible. (Kidding). All anyone can do is go out there and find something that they want to do and do everything they can to get a job in that area. I don't mean to make a statement that is so self-evident; it's just that I know from personal experience how indescribably big of a mistake it is to "settle" for a job. Beggars certainly can't be choosers, but there is nothing worse than hanging your lovely and impressive J.D. in an elaborate frame in an office where you will spend 50 hours a week being bored out of your mind. I am not sure how I'm going to attack the job market, but one of the key parts of my plan (whenever it may be devised) will be to avoid boredom. 

Congrats on being named Editor in Chief of the law review for next year. What's the big deal about being on law review anyway? 
Everyone loves the Bluebook, and law review is a great opportunity to get more intimate with the Bluebook. And like everything else, the Bluebook just gets better with age (it is in its nineteenth edition).

To paraphrase one of my predecessors, law review is what you make it. It provides an opportunity for students to learn the ins and outs of legal research (beyond what any first-year course can teach you) and writing, but perhaps most importantly, it gives students an opportunity to distinguish themselves. If you make it onto law review, you've demonstrated that you're part of the so-called "law school elite" (I prefer something less pompous, like law school gods). Law review also provides you with the opportunity to get your work published (yet another opportunity to distinguish yourself), and, of course, to attain an Editorial Board position. All of these are things that employers want to see. Finally, law review offers students the opportunity to earn up to seven hours of academic credit (which is a big chunk of the 90 hours you need to graduate).

The trade-off? It's a lot of work. But we don't talk about that. 

Why did you apply for the top job?
I like to be where the action is (in this context, anyway). The University of Louisville Law Review is fifty years old, so there is a great deal of history and a whole lot of tradition to preserve, but the future is just as important. I hope to build on the efforts of previous boards to improve the reputation and quality of the publication, and we have put together a great team for next year that I think will make considerable progress in that effort. I am very grateful for the confidence that my colleagues have placed in me; my job is to make sure that I don't screw things up, and hopefully even make things better. 

What advice would you offer to someone who is thinking about going to law school?
Think it through. Law school is a major commitment, not just for the three or four years you're in it, but for the rest of your life. I'm not talking only about those terrible student loan bills. Move beyond the threshold question of "do I want to go to law school?" and ask yourself what you plan on doing after law school. As someone who is more than half way through, I would certainly have attempted to develop a more realistic (and informed) game plan for myself. Bottom line: think it through. 

1 comment:

  1. I would be remiss if I did not give a quick shout out to the other law students selected for the editorial board of Volume 51. They are as follows:

    Senior Articles Editor - Lauren Claycomb
    Senior Notes Editor - Spencer Brooks
    Executive Editor - Stephanie Carr
    Managing Editor - Amanda Smith
    Article Selection Editor - Clay Talley
    Articles Editors - Carli Clowers, Matt Doran, and Patrick Smith
    Notes Editors - Ashley Haile, Jack Hartz, and Ben Lowry