Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Power of the Alumni

One thing that perspective law students do not think about is the power of the alumni. It is like some secret club that you have to be a part of [or almost be a part of] before you can fully understand. The Alumni can open some truly golden doors for you.

From a students perspective, when you meet someone new and they say, "Hey, that's my school. How is the law school dragon treating you?" You find an instant friend that just "gets" you. There is a bond, an unexplainable initial trust, because this person walked the path before you and MADE IT OUT ALIVE.

Since I live in the town the law school is located in, I run into alot of alumni. I make it a practice to always chat and network with these people. The added benefit is that they are the best sources of encouragement when you are freaking out.

I share this as a new insight I have. I think it is important for a student looking for a law school to ask to speak with some alumni. They are the ones that you are going to get the truth from and get a sense of what life was like for them while they were attending school, and how they have done since passing the bar.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New tip for law students: work out!!!

Seriously, find the time to work out. I wish I would have set a priority for this during my first year. There is so much stress that goes on during law school. In the two weeks I have been working out, I have felt a HUGE difference in my overall mood and stress levels. When I am feeling stressed now, I put the Ipod on, and then take it out on the eliptical machine.......I also hired a personal trainer who I can get mad and frusterated at on a frequent basis, but that is not always feasible on a law school budget.

What I am getting at is stress leads to alot of unpleasant side effects: weight gain, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, depression, insomnia, lots of viral infections/colds, or just plain mean and moodiness. I am sure there are more effects but those came quickly to mind.

Exercise releases endorphines to your body that counter some of these effects. I have been an insomniac for years now, but since seriously working my body, I find myself resting a whole lot better. Also, instead of feeling like I am wound up like a rubber band that is going to snap inside, I feel relaxed and ready to face everything.

So, try not to neglect this in your daily habits. You will feel better and have more energy. I work out in the mornings, and my mental focus is very SHARP right after when I have classes. If you are not working out yet, consider starting before you come to law school so that it becomes won't regret it.

Things you learn in law school

I love my employment law class. I never thought I would like this area of law, but it is all about fighting the "at-will" presumption that this country is so found of. I like thinking that you are giving the workers some more rights, without a union. Especially when the employer acts in a horrible way.

But I keep learning interesting things that bust things that I always assumed. HR departments always say that when a prospective employer of an ex employee is calling for a employment verification, you should only verify when they worked, what they made, and that is really it. But I found out that employer cannot be sued for giving information to the prospective employer about the ex employee. The myth is that this would be a defamation suit. But there is a privilege that applies for employers giving information about past employees. If the employer has a reasonable belief that there was a cause to fire and the new employer should know, you can't be sued UNLESS: you reveal it in an inappropriate way [broadcast it to more people that need to know], or you abuse it [usually by lying]. There is no cause to sue and in fact, these suits are RARE.....

Another myth bunked in law school....see all that money spent on tuition is doing good.

Another Moot Court Competition

Another moot court competition is coming up. I have decided to compete in the Open Appealate competition. I am excited about this competition because appealate work seems to be something that I could excel at. The competition is based on a research brief that you write with a partner [this year's topic is the 8th Amendment]. Then you have oral arguments based off the briefs.

Last year during the first year appealate competition I did very well. I am a fast thinker and respond well to firing questions from judges. Last year, the judge I had said that I have a "gift" in that it feels like I am having a cup of coffee and conversation with them when I am speaking. I want to brush up on this and see if I still "have it." I don't think that appealate work is something I would want to do, but you never know.

So, my brief is due Friday. Oral arguements are Feb 9-12th. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I am catching a cold and feeling yucky.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Some Professors are just nice!

My experience has been that the quality and friendliness of professors varies greatly. But there is always one that stands out. Yesterday in class, I actually raised my hand to volunteer an observation on a case in one of my classes [those of you that know me well, this should not surprise you]. This is a class that I would not normally enter the fray in, just because I know nothing about this area of law. Anyway, the Professor looked at his seating chart first and called me by the wrong name. To which I said, "Do you mean Lisa?" And he apologized and said yes and I gave my comment.

To my surprise, about 20 minutes after I left class, I received an email from the professor where he apologized again for the mix up and then said, "Really great comment in class today. Exactly what I was looking for." This type of encouragement and praise is rare. When a professor goes out of the way to encourage, it is something I value.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ah, things are heating up again at school

So, just two weeks in and the schedule is going strong. I signed up for Open Appealate with a friend of mine, Chris. So I have a brief due next Friday and oral argument competitions start a little over 2 weeks after that.

I am on the committee for FYAC, which is first year appeallate competition. All first year students are required to right a persuasive appeallate brief during their second semester legal research and writing class. Then, they are required to do a "mock argument" to complete the assignment. Moot Court also uses this as a way to find new members from the 1L class (I was runner-up last year and made Moot Court).

Reading is heavy! And I do mean Heavy. One class I have requires extensive out of class time with mentors and in court.

And I have work.

Which begs the question: what about me? After 5 1/2 straight years, I have to admit to a burn out on school. I want my life back! But I keep marching on because I know that the law is my calling and the purpose for my life. AND, well, now I am so sunk in debt I have to keep marching on! I need a vacation---I keep promising myself one, so soon.........And really, after this semester, I only have one more year left!

Just when you think you have seen it all

In Employment law for today we read a case for negligent hiring. A trucking company hired a man who it turned out had criminal convictions for rape. He used his semi-trucks to pick up hitch hikers, who he then victimized. Once he was out of prison, he applied to work for a new company. The company did the required drug testing and driving record. The employee lied on his application marking he had no criminal record. The company hired him after his driving record came back clean. The driver ends up picking up a 17 year old hitchhiker and rapes and sodomizes her.

The victim sues the trucking company saying that they negligently hired the driver. The thrust of the claim is that the company had a duty to do a criminal background check because a) it was well known that contrary to company policy, truck drivers pick up hitchhikers and b) because the over the road long haul truck had a sleeper berth, there was a heightened duty to because basically there was a rolling bedroom and of course companies should be aware that drivers could commit crimes in it................

Can you say ridiculous? Where do I start with this one? Would it not be more foreseeable that the 17 year old should not have hitch hiked? I mean, didn't your parents warn you about the axe murderer? Mine did. Or what about the expense and impossibility of running a nationwide criminal background check on truckers? Trucking companies already have to pay out a load of money when trying to hire a new driver. They run driver license checks, pay for drug tests, and numerous other things to make them compliant with federal laws and regulations. It's ridiculous to think that they need to become crime prevention specialists based upon the fact that they have "rolling bedrooms" in the back of the truck.

Just goes to show that instead of taking responsibility for our own unwise choices these days, people are willing to shift the blame and sue someone else who did not even perpertrate the crime!!!!! The only thing the company did was hire the criminal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Children's Bill of Rights

I have been thinking about this for awhile now and getting my thoughts together. Society says that it does all these things to "protect" children, yet we fail them over and over. My job has taught me that while we think of the "best interests of the child" really they are a passing thought.

The US Constitution speaks of all "men" being created equal. The Constitution has been construed to give limited rights to children. The way to improve on the limited rights provided by the Constitution, is to expand the rights through the states. I want to draw up a children's bill of rights.

When the state goes through the process of terminating parental rights, the state is careful not to infringe on the fundamental rights enjoyed by adults through the 14th Amendment: the right to procreate, the right to choose who associates with your child, the right to marry [or not], the right to chose medical treatment for your child. We focus so much on parents, that the children, the vulnerable with no voice, are neglected.

Think about this: Mother is on meth. She is pregnant and delivers. Baby is taken by the state at birth and placed in foster care. For the first 15 months of his/her life, she is raised by a medically certified foster home. The state offers numerous services to the parent, but the parent remains on drugs......After 15 months, the state decides to terminate the rights of mom, and moves for a trial. The state starts looking for an adoptive placement. It takes 6 months to get to trial. Mother appeals. Takes 6-9 months for appeal to happen. Mother is denied. Somewhere in the six months for trial, adoptive home is found. Child is now 2, and presumably bonded to foster family. And now the state expects the child to be happy about being ripped for the only home she has known and placed with strangers. But all in all, in order to preserve the mother's constitutional rights, this child's life is placed in uncertainty for 2 whole years.

What about a child's rights? The right to be protected, to live in a loving home, to be in a household that is drug, crime, and sex offender free. How about the right to a speedy determination and trial if they are to be taken from their parents by the state and adopted out? What about the right to stability [financial and emotional]. What about the right to have their own voice?

I don't know how this bill of rights will shape up, but it will eventually. Parents who are addicts, sex offenders, abusers, and so on-------they should not have children who will become victims to the cycle that they perpertrate. Kids do not ask to be born. And they should not have to be asked to be protected.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday

I am the Aunt to a brand new baby girl named Brooklyn Grace. I skipped my classes today, but ironically enough, the birth room looks out over my there really was no getting away from school today. She is a beautiful tiny one, weighing in at 5 lbs, 8 oz. The miracle of life never ceases to astound me. And how she comes out of her mother's womb, knowing her mother's voice and knowing her mother's scent is mindboggling.

So, a toast to Brooklyn...May you grow to be a strong woman full of grace and integrity.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blogs by some of the professors I have had......

So blogging is a thing for professors as well. You want to know what is near and dear to their hearts, and maybe get into their minds for exams? Who doesn' read their blogs or find their law review articles. Either are useful for figuring out what the exam will be like.

Professor Standen's passion? Sports Law. Who knew?

Professor Appleman.....I could not find a specific blog for her, but type her name and see that she is active on SEVERAL is a link to one: Legal Ethics.

Professor Williams...also a contributor to a legal theory blog.

Professor Runkel....Law Memo. blog found, but some published law review article info......Abstract.

Okay, enough for now. Maybe I will add to later. But seriously, part of writing that winning exam is to get in the heads of your professors. Every little bit counts!


I had an extremely distressing experience in class this week. We had an attorney in one of my classes this week who was a guest lecturer. While he was describing a real trial he did that day he made statements that pointed out that he had failed to report child abuse [as an officer of the court you are a mandated reporter] and he used threat of punishment of a crime as a means to settle a custody dispute. What bothers me the most is that he thinks he did nothing wrong. At first I thought it was just me, but I talked to other students and they were bothered as well.

Next, I talked to my boss who is a mandatory reporter as well and practices in the family law section. As I explained she said that he had breached his duty and by using an inferred threat to settle, he committed a crime.

Now I am left with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This attorney is well respected in this community. I am going to do what I know is right, but the hard part of being "ethical" and doing right, is knowing that there could be retaliation or consequences...............As a student you always hear about those slimy attorney's who give all attorney's a bad name----you just never think you are going to have one guest lecturing in your class!

This Semester

This semester promises to be a time of actual usefulness! So much of law school is abstract theory with no practice. What this means for the law student is that when you get out of school, and pass the bar, you have to LEARN how to actually practice law! You have to learn to draft motions, petitions, affadavits and so on.....It's very frusterating. Here is the recaps of the classes:

Family Law: Theory course, but very practical because we learn about dividing property and divorce. Something that I did not realize is how much federal law mandates family law in different states. Should prove to be interesting.

Employment Law: This class is about the employee-employer relationship. Basically we will study the "at will presumption" and then discrimination in the workplace. I was surprised to hear what a growing field of law this is.

Criminal Procedure: This is about the restrictions on police action. So far this class is fascinating and makes you think about what powers a police officer actually has to make stops, to complete seizures, to question you. Also, since it is taught by my FAVORITE professor and she is once again keeping me entertained with her dry wit and humor, I am in my element.

Legislation: The professor is a sitting appellate court judge in my state. He is a genuinely nice man. And he brings a passion about the subject matter. This course is useful. We are learning how to actually interpret a statute [something that some courses take a passing blow at trying to teach you] and we will learn to construct statutes. This is something that every law student should know how to do.

Oregon Family Law: This could possibly be the most useful outside of trial practice, that I will take in my law school journey. We have been assigned a spouse, and we are analyze and file petitions, motions, affadavits, trial memos, and general judgments of dissolution. This is a course in how to practice law, something that is rare in law school. The course is being taught by a practicing divorce attorney, so that makes it even more useful!

I finally feel as if I am learning about things that interest me in the fields that I want to practice. Which for once feels darn good!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What type of law?

Everytime I tell someone that I am a law student, I get this cautious, "What type of law?" I have said prosecution in the past. The next response is, "Well, good, as long as you don't do defense." And honestly, as I have posted before, I have always felt kind of sick in the stomach when thinking about doing defense work. But since the Don Turner competition, I have really been thinking hard.

Our legal system is unique. We are one of the few country's with attorney-client privledge. The only country who can plead the fifth. We are the only country that limits the power of the police to search whereever and whenever they want. We have a beautiful, enduring Constitution. A Constitution in which our founding fathers, whom I respect deeply, had the foresight to grant the right of the accused to confront thier accusors and the right to a jury trial in criminal proceedings [also rare in other societies.] I believe this nation is the best country for law and order.

So, if I believe in this then I have to believe that an accused has the right to council, otherwise, how would the system work effectively? It wouldn't. Do guilty people go free from the work of defense council? Why yes.....look at OJ Simpson's first crime spree [although he was convicted after his more recent brush with the law]. But simply put, Innocent people are convicted as well. Innocent people are placed on death row. The system is imperfect, but for it to work correctly, the defendant must have adequate council to mount a defense.

I may not like everything that happens, particularly when violent offenders are not punished, but defense attorney's safeguard the constitution. Maybe more than any other attorney's do. They are the ones that are the gatekeepers and check on power within the system. Only 3-5% of all crimes go to trial. The rest are plead out at the DA's instigation. The defense's job is to make sure that the power that the DA has is used correctly. That is an honorable and important job.

Here I go again....

No, not that awful 80's Whitesnake song.......the real deal. Class starts tomorrow. For some reason I don't think I am going to be able to sleep. I actually love the professors and classes I have this term (go figure) and I feel like a kid the night before Christmas [sick, huh?]. The classes I am taking will be useful for me in the future.

I also feel like I have a rockin' schedule...... only 2 classes per day and they are back to back, so I am not at the school all day long. On MWF, I will work, and T-Th's I will just do school.

New semesters are fun for me. It's like a clean, new slate where you get to start over. I am not sure why like them so much, but I do......

Reading for my first two classes taught me that I am really going to like Employment Law and Family Law [at least the textbooks]. Both the textbooks take a very sociological look at what work is to society and what family is to society. It looks like the authors continue to revisit these issues. And as a sociology minor, I dig this kind of stuff.