Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Appellate Grief (Oh I mean brief).

The dreaded experience of the first year student is the appellate brief. The first semester the legal research and writing class drills into you the importance of writing neutral style. This semester, the student is taught how to write persuasively. But it's not like any persuasive I have ever written.

The appellate brief is a time intensive experience. Lots of research, lots of stomach aches, and little sleep=stressed out student. And all for a class that shells out only 2 credits and credit/no credit. (this is the grief part),

Part of the appellate process include a mandatory requirement to argue the brief where you are judged. The oral argument follows like an experience at the Supreme Court where the court will "pepper" you with questions, one after the other. The student is judged on how well s/he keeps composure, transitions, and deals with the judges.

The whole process gives a whole new meaning to the words "over stretched." 2L's, 3L's, and the Professors assure us that we will come out the other side alive and enthused. Right now I would be happy to just feel like I got some sleep:)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The moral dilemma of law school

Coming to law school, I heard so many conflicting advice. Some seemed reasonable, other advice seemed downright silly. One thing that I heard over and over was that the first year of law school creates a sense of having your beliefs torn apart. I totally concur in that analysis.

Reading as many cases as you do the first year, you note right away that the law is not always fair. Many times the decisions within the cases come smack against what your gut is telling you is wrong. And morally it is. The biggest struggle for me is that moral does not always equal legal.

Professors are at you all the time. And when you make a comment, you better be able to back it up with an intelligent analysis. Morality is not a good answer.

Here's a true story of legal vs. moral: A man lures a 7 year girl away from her father, into a bathroom at a casino in Las Vegas. The man proceeds to rape and kill her, leaving her in the bathroom stall. The worst was that his buddy watched over the wall of the next stall and did nothing. The police could not arrest him because he had not legal duty to stop his friend. And because he was not an active participant, he could not be charged with accompliace or conspiracy.

As a parent, you hear this story and feel outraged and disgusted. In the deepest part of your gut, it is beyond "icky," it is just plain morally disgusting. But legally, the man who stood by and watched a little girl raped in her last moments of life, and killed--he is innocent.

Swallowing this is a bitter pill. The student feels disillusioned because we are taught from the time we are little that the law is "just" and "fair."

I am still grappling with the identity crisis I suffered because of this horrible shock. It sounds dramatic, but is true. When a student, or lawyer, tells you that your soul will be challenged and your beliefs threated, take heed to the warning and be prepared.

I have no tips on how to deal with it. I tell myself that I am going to be a prosecutor, a "good guy" and I can live and believe in the law as it exists. I am still excited for my future, but more cynical.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Book Review: "The Nine" by Jeffery Toobin

Last week one of my professors recommended "The Nine" to our class. I was looking for something I could read, non-fiction, that I could get into, and so I purchased it.

If you are thinking about attending law school (or if you are currently a student), I HIGHLY recommend this book. I wish I would have read this prior to coming to law school. The book gives the reader a behind the scenes look at the Justices on the Supreme Court, their ideology, and their personal beliefs and lives. The author also details many of the Surpreme Court cases that I have read this year, and explains how deals were brokered behind the scenes.

Society often sees these men (and woman) as above the rest of us in some cloistered lifestyle. Yes, they are cloistered, but they are not immune from the very struggles that we the people (the ordinary ones) face. They carry the same dreams, the same fears, and face the same struggles like Cancer, Alzheimer's, bigotry, and paternalism.

The book also chronicles power brokers, lobbyests, and influential legal minds and how they have shaped decisions within the last 25-30 years of history.

Beware that if you are a conservative, that there are times that it may outright offend you. The author clearly has a political ideology agenda and is particularlly vicious and unflattering of the right. The book was written with an obvious bias, but that does not diminish the importance of the work.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Importance of a Nice Suit

For the first time in my life, I bought a suit. Being a poor law student with impeccable taste, this was a trying thing for me. I am also petite in stature, which makes it really hard to find something. I searched through piles and then hit pay dirt at Macy's. Since it was the end of the season, I was able to get a really nice suit that regularly sells for $320.00, for 59.99--Yeah me!

Now, I have always thought that women lose some femine looks in a suit. But not so. Suits are investments. Don't be afraid to pay the $$$ for one because when it is made well, it hangs well on the body and defines your curves.

Suits carry a certain amount of respect. I am slightly addicted to shopping. I don't have to buy things, I just like to wander and look and wish. Usually I do it in a pair of jeans and hoodie. Today, after my interview, I needed to pick up some MAC, so off I went to the mall in my suit. I was surrounded by sales people whereever I went. Suit=the look of money. Also, a good suit gives a woman a certain amount of confidence. This confidence actually boosts her femininity. And this draws additional attention to herself.

One important tip that Mom might not have shared with you: Always, and I mean ALWAYS, when trying on your suit, sit in it. Sounds funny, but this is actually very important. Why? Simple, you want to know if the waistband will cut into you. And you want to know if the suit jacket or pants bunch unattractively.

Anyway, I love my suit so much, I purchased another one! Darn, I look good. (Although, my daughter says I look "boring." I had to explain I look lawyerly!)

Interviewing as a 1L

Yesterday and today, I interviewed for law clerk positions. The first was with the Marion County DA's office. The second interview was with the Department of Justice.

The process was interesting for me. I have not interviewed for 12 years. Prior to today, I have always been on the other side of the desk, asking the questions. Being in the hotseat again after so many years was, oddly enough, fun.

Now, as to the interviews: they were undoubtedly the most strange interviews EVER.

For the DA's office---No questions about my grades at all. Random questions like: "Have you ever been arrested?" I said no. They replied, "If you were to be arrested, what would it be for?" HUH?!?!?!?! Did I miss something? More seemingly random questions followed.

One thing having lived life prior to law school, nothing that was thrown at me intimidated me. I was calm, confident, and poised. Although, I left confused. Late last night it dawned on me the reason for the random questions. To make it to law school, you have to be intelligent. To place in the top 20%, you have to be smart and dedicated. The DA's office was looking specifically at my personality and whether or not I would mesh with the other lawyers, and potential law clerks in the office.

Next interview was with the DOJ. Here I made a crucial mistake. I was interviewing with two different departments. I answered why I would make a good fit with one department, and the person interviewing with the other department ruled me out because I sold myself really well to the first one.

I was interviewed by three people, all whom were very nice. But interestingly enough, I answered 4 questions total and they did most of the talking.

And then I committed the interview no-no. I was asked a question. The only way I could truthfully answer the question was to admit that I am a single parent. Something you are told never to do in an interview. The problem is that it is important that while interviewing YOU BE YOURSELF. And part of that was to explain who I am and how I got to where I am. My daughter is a large part of this.

They were gracious and actually made me feel good. They commended my accomplishments and congradulated me for meeting my goals.

Anyway, it was interesting all around............But very different from how I imagined.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Politics coming out of Wisconsin and Hawaii

Okay, second lesson about law school, most of us (admittedly not all) care about politics. What I talk about here, is what a good portion of us are discussing at school. But admittedly, I care about what is going on, I am writing about this, and therefore you are stuck reading it:)

McCain=we know he is the nominee, it's just a simple formalization at this point (or a deal with Huckabee), so that's all I am going to say.

Obama and Clinton. Much better story here. We have several interesting developments. First, Obama made inroads into white voters and union members. He needed this crossover to win Ohio. Things are looking up for him. AND he won by 17% points. A sound thumping.

Now, Obama as the front runner now needs to watch every word and guard every single action CAREFULLY. The first critical blunder happaned yesterday with his wife. The pundits are yapping and yelling and the Clinton camp is salaviting at this one. What do I mean. Mrs. Obama made a statement that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of America. Pundits say, "Hey, the lady is 45 and so many great things that have happaned in her 45 years: the Berlin wall coming down, great inroads into racial equality", so on so forth. And Clinton is clapping her hands, rubbing them together in glee, and spinning it for all it's worth.

I honestly think that Mrs. Obama made the mistake that any woman who was not a professional speaker and who is not used to having the spotlight turned on her would do: she spoke candidly about the fact that she is so proud of her husband and that America is turning out to vote like it has not done in years. I don't think Mrs. Obama was slighting any of the great things that have been accomplished in America. Give her the benefit of the doubt and ease up all you cynical people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lessons learned my first semester.....

Since I started this late (meaning in my second semester), I thought I would give a brief recap of the struggles I had of balancing everything my first semester.

1. Never procrastinate.
Seriously. Inevitably what will happan is that you put off a paper thinking you can do it at the last minute and your child gets sick. This is the pits. I have learned to work on projects at a steady clip and to be prepared to be done with it a couple of days early. Am I ever early? No. Why? Because put simply, something with my daughter always comes up. Always. So my tip here is plan well, plan often, and always work ahead.

2. You can take your child with you.
I did take my daughter with me to class one day when she had not school and my back up daycare failed. Admittedly, I okayed it with my professors. And I would not recommend it for younger children with no attention span. But bringing my daughter gave her an insight into what mommy does with her time. She was very entertained as well. Don't be shy about asking if you are in a tight spot. Most professors understand that things happan.

3. Treat this as a job.
This means clock in at 8:00 and don't leave early. Take advantage of the time your child is in daycare by studying or working on papers. This is your most valueable time. In other words, don't cut budget corners by not getting daycare--very unwise. Yes, in the long run it will cost you more money, but it will save you peace of mind.

4. Don't cut your childs extracurricular activities.
What do I mean? My daughter is a very gifted dancer. She attends classes at a studio three nights a week. At first I did not see how I would accomplish this. But soon I found this time was good for her, and great study time for me. You can form carpools with other moms, or you can find a good coffee shop near by in which to study at. OR I bought an Ipod that goes everywhere with me. I filled a playlist with music in Italian & classical so I don't sing along. I play this in the dance studio and study. It blocks out the sound and soothes me at the same time. Great thing about extracurricular activities is you study, child is entertained, and when it is over, you have time to play or talk with your child without snapping his/her head off because you are studying.

5. Be upfront at the beginning.
I either email or talk in person with each of my professors at the beginning of each semester. I tell them that my phone will be on vibrate and that there may be times I have to leave during class because I am the sole provider for my daughter. Each professor has been understanding.

6. 8 o'clock a.m. classes are a pain.
Yep, they are. You don't want to walk in late and have everyone starring at you. Every 8 am class for me is a day when my daughter wakes up cranky and with an attitude. Expect it.

7. Build a village.
What do I mean? Mrs. Clinton once said that it takes a village to raise a child. She had a point to an extent. It takes a village to help you with your child while you are in law school. I was fortunate in thinking about this prior to coming to school. I have built a strong network of people I trust, who love my child, and whom I can call anytime I need to study or when something unexpected comes up. A good source for me was church. But if you are not a church-goer, that's okay. There are places like the YWCA or the library that will put you in the path of some really nice people whom you can start building relationships with. Also, don't be ashamed to share with your childs classmates parents. Many will agree to trading "babysitting" duties and playdates that free-up time for you. Work whatever networking you can in this area. I guarantee you that at some point it will be critical to have in place.

8. Consider staying local.
I will be honest. I could have gone to an east coast school with a better tier rating than where I am going now. But, a legal education is what you make of it. And unless you want to work for a top 100 large firm, local law schools are fine. If you stay local, your family is close to help out. And in addition, you will not have to deal with uprooting your child and dealing with the fall-out of this during your first year of law school. The first year is brutal enough without having to deal with emotional problems and insecurity with your child. Remember that you will have less time to spend with him/her than you may want. And removing them from what they know and where they are comfortable could make for a very angry child.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekend Politics.........

This weekend saw some interesting results and somewhat unexpected.

Mr. Obama enjoyed an overwhelming victory over Mrs. Clinton. I was quite surprised that he won Washington. Mrs. Clinton is in trouble. As I see it, this race may come down to how the super delegates vote and Mrs. Clinton better make sure she gets those votes tied up.

And, Mr. Huckabee enjoyed 2 victories proving that he can turn the South like no one else due to his "evangelical" roots. I don't understand this draw though. I come from the same evangelical roots (I have to note I part ways with a lot of social views though---gets me in trouble sometimes!), but I have done my research on this man. What his views are should make any self respecting person who believes in God and Jesus, quake in their shoes. He wrote, scathing maniacal letters to a newspaper editor that are frankly embarrassing (google Bad Huck) and he had a very bad Michael Dukakis moment--yes, he was responsible for the release of a violent rapist who then got out and raped and killed another woman. Not an inspiring record.

I continue to be surprised by the interest in the 2008 elections.

Super Tuesday

Okay, so you know that you are in law school when the biggest social event of the week are the Super Tuesday parties going on! I have to say that I was very amused by this development.

I also was somewhat surprised for the results of Super Tuesday. As a politics major, I tune into anything political. I was the nerd, with two televisions on in the house tuned to CNN and Fox News, watching the returns roll in. (I should note that I have tuned out MSNBC because I do not like all the personal attacks that have occurred--this is my opinion, of course--over the last year or so on political figures).

As I see it, the Republicans have a problem. The best any one candidate can do is gain a plurality. The three candidates who we were handed were McCain (a liberal leaning moderate), Romney (a moderate, moderate, who once leaned liberal, but turned right when he decided to run), and the dark horse Huckabee (who is so right, as to scare even this born-again Christian!).

The Democrats have just as many problems. This race, we are handed with something slightly more interesting than the above problem. We are handed a change vs. establishment race. Obama (liberal as, if not more than, Kennedy--Ted that is) and Ms. Clinton (Hillary Care, need I say more)? What is interesting about this is simply the potential that Obama has to fight and win the machine of the Clintons. Eight years ago, the democratic party were giddy and in a full fledged love affair with the Clintons. Today, Obama can do something that no other candidate has done in years--he excites new and young voters AND he mobilizes those in the party that think he would be a big mistake.

This race, I am an independent. Yep. I am an undecided, really. I will be honest enough to say this: Even though I deplore the foreign policy plan that Mr. Obama is touting, there is something about the man that I am fascinated by. Whether it is charisma, youth, good looks, confidence, or message--I have yet to figure out. I am drawn to watching him speak because he is an orator that America has not seen since the days of Martin Luther King Jr. (And no wonder, he has studied the mans speaking mannerisms). But I think it's more than that. I think this man really believes he can make a change in a system that is by design, a system meant to slow the tide of change.

Anyway, this was all a long winded way of saying: Law school = a LOT of politics.