Credentialism

Prompted by the recent firing of Marilee Jones, the MIT admissions dean, for falsifying her resume by claiming unearned academic degrees, Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias (among others) have pseudo-defended the fired dean on the grounds that we are living in an credential-obsessed society. The crux of the argument is that the fired dean is generally reported to have been very good at her job, such that perhaps it should not matter that she did not have the undergraduate and graduate degrees that she claimed. Ezra disputes that lying was the real issue:

But I don't think that's exactly why they fired her. Rather, I don't think MIT was comfortable with the idea of employing someone who is not only proof that complex jobs can be handled by someone without a university degree, but that a degree is a counterfeit prone piece of paper.

On this, I think Ezra is being overly cynical. I think there is little reason to doubt that MIT had to fire Jones because she lied about her degrees. For 28 years she claimed educational credentials to which she was not entitled. This basic act of lying as part of a job application would be grounds enough to fire her from any job. But to allow her to continue to serve as the Dean of Admissions, tasked with assessing the credentials of college applicants, would have been impossible. When this simplest of explanations is available, Ezra's allegations of territorialism ring conspiratorial.

This does not, however, discredit the attack on excessive credentialism. It just means that Ezra and Matt have hitched their wagon to the wrong horse. Put the lying aside for just a moment. To the extent that Jones did a good job as admissions dean while lacking the ordinarily required educational degrees, it is a data point for asking what those pieces of paper are really supposed to represent, and why we adhere to such a strict credential-based regime. Matt makes several good points:

There's this current well-intentioned mania for producing policies that will get more people to go to college, and to some extent to get more people to graduate from college, but it's clear that the first step in anything along these lines is that we need to know something about why a college degree is valuable. Insofar as it's a pure screening mechanism (and there's considerable evidence that this is at least what it mostly is) then expanding access to college is only going to devalue the credential. Presumably there are some actually useful skills being imparted to some college students... but it's really crucial that we figure out what these are and find ways to spread the skills themselves rather than the credential. Meanwhile, the habit of disqualifying perfectly competent people from jobs based on a lack of degrees has become yet another brick in the American wall of inegalitarianism.

The comments to Matt's post quickly point him to Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the 1971 Supreme Court decision that read Title VII to forbid the use of high school diplomas and broad aptitude tests as prerequisites for employment and promotion. There are some who argue that this decision has led employers to require college degrees as basic proxies for competence, since other possible "screening mechanisms" (such as aptitude tests) were forbidden.

Nevertheless, this is not a sufficient explanation for all of Matt's objections, nor does it cover other arenas of credentialism. While, Ezra and Matt focus on the undergraduate degree, I would point to another diploma as being far more perplexing as a required credential: the MBA. The MBA has always struck me as little more than a two year vacation from working, highlighted by heavy drinking and networking (often at the same time). Nothing about the MBA has ever given me reason to believe that the average businessman is better off stopping their on-the-job development for two years of classroom time than spending those two years in the workplace. Instead, it seems that the MBA as a required credential for upward mobility has been built right into the career path, with some employers actually paying for pre-MBA employees to go get that credential, so that they can then fill the next higher position in the business (which of course requires an MBA).

Whether the JD, which has been made a regulatory prerequisite to a law license in most states, suffers from the same defect is a question best left to those who lack the bias of law school debt.

Harvard Admissions

Gaining admission to Harvard just gets harder and harder, and I can say from my own experience as an interviewer in this year's admissions process that there is no doubt thousands of stellar applicants were turned aside:

Getting into Harvard University got tougher in 2007 as more students than ever applied to the Ivy League school's undergraduate program, many drawn by an attractive financial aid offer.

Harvard, the world's richest university, said Thursday a record 22,955 students applied for a spot in the Class of 2011. Of those, just 2,058 were accepted -- an admission rate of 9 percent, the lowest in school history.

All I know is that I am glad I was an applicant in the spring of 1998 and not the spring of 2007. That said, this line from the story makes little sense:

Harvard and other prestigious U.S. universities are benefiting from a surge in enrollment as children of the baby-boomer generation graduate from high school.

I don't know about other universities, but Harvard is not benefiting from a "surge in enrollment." Enrollment continues to hold steady at 1600-1700 students per year for an undergraduate enrollment of ~6500. There has perhaps been an increase in applications, which is partially responsible for the continuing decline in the overall admissions rate, but I don't think this represents an overall increase in the quality of the applicant pool. It is simply a numerical increase due to population growth. The country just keeps getting bigger, while Harvard has not (and apparently will not).

The other major factor in the admissions rate is the expected "yield," which is the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll. As Harvard's yield has risen to nearly 80%, the school only has to make ~2000 admission offers to fill its student body. That has as much to do with the admissions rate as the number of applicants.

Princeton Follows Harvard

As I had been hoping, it looks like Harvard's elimination of early admissions may be just the spark needed to inspire other schools to follow suit. One of Harvad's main competitors for the same applicant pool already has:

A week after Harvard became the first Ivy League university to announce the dismantlement of its early admissions program, Princeton University followed suit yesterday, moving to a unitary applicant pool for the Class of 2012.

In announcing the move, Princeton officials echoed Harvard’s words—nearly verbatim.

“We agree that early admission ‘advantages the advantaged,’” Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said in a statement yesterday. Princeton officials also said that early admissions programs can cause high-school seniors to make “premature” college choices.

Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said that the school had been considering changes to its early decision program for several years and that Harvard’s announcement facilitated the change.

“It would be difficult to make this decision unilaterally,” Cliatt said. “The fact that Harvard made its announcement was one of the factors we took into account when we were doing our review, and it did affect our decision.”

And that is exactly why Harvard was right to take the lead. In my years at Harvard and since, I've often been disappointed to see the university use its tremedous monetary and reputational resources largely to its own advantage, making strides in financial aid only in the wake of progressive moves by competitors like Yale. It is good to see Harvard taking the lead on this one, and I appreciate the candor of Princeton's spokeswoman in acknowledging that they might not have done this without Harvard's initiative.

Harvard Dumps Early Admissions

Kudos to my alma mater for leading the charge against one of the more unfortunate recent developments in higher education by eliminating its early admissions program for next year's applicant pool:

Interim President Derek C. Bok said that he and the six fellows of the Harvard Corporation, who approved the change yesterday morning, had concluded in recent months that “somebody had to take the lead” in eliminating early admission.

“We feel that if anybody is going to step up and take the lead to try to get rid of something which is really doing more harm than good in high schools across the country, it’s us,” Bok said.

The Corporation, which serves as the University’s executive board, decided to drop the program in large part because of concerns that early admission provides an unfair advantage to applicants from privileged backgrounds, Bok and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in a joint interview yesterday.

Jettisoning early admission, Fitzsimmons said, is “certainly a win for students in the bottom quarter and bottom half of the income distribution.” Students from more affluent families often apply early to express special interest in a particular school, while students from lower socioeconomic levels frequently hold off for the regular admissions process in order to compare colleges’ financial aid offers.

What remains to be seen is whether other schools follow Harvard's lead and do away with this troubling program, which adds unnecessary pressure to already stressed high school seniors and favors those who can afford to commit to a school without a financial aid offer in hand. Apparently, some are suggesting that only Harvard can really afford to do this:

Stanford’s dean of admissions and financial aid, Richard H. Shaw, said that many colleges could be hesitant to follow in Harvard’s footsteps.

“I applaud them for this—that’s a pretty gutsy move,” said Shaw, who previously served as Yale’s admissions chief. “But it’s possible that only Harvard could do it. A lot of other institutions would really have to be considerate about a change like this, since they don’t quite have the attraction that Harvard does.”

Let's see how this might work. After all, there are a finite number of applicants, and a finite (if flexible) number of seats at each school. While this change might reduce a school's yield (the percentage of students admitted who choose to attend), this should happen across the board. Beyond that, what is the risk?

Let's say in the current early admissions scheme, Johnny X would apply early to Brown University to maximize his chances of getting in there, even though he might otherwise like to take a shot at Harvard and Yale and Princeton (HYP). If there is no early admissions program, Johnny X will apply to all four schools in the normal process. Might he now get into HYP, and not attend Brown? Sure. But if he does get in, and does attend HYP, he's just bumped some other applicant who would otherwise have gotten into HYP. And that student, who was qualified to attend HYP, will also be well qualified to attend any other school they have been admitted to, perhaps Brown.

So there is some risk. Instead of being able to snag a few of the top .001% of that year's class by the guarantee of early certainty, the school might have to settle for the second .001% of that year's class. In exchange for this sacrifice, the lives of the applicants is made significantly easier, and the playing field is bit more even for those who have to see financial aid offers before they can bind themselves to a particular school. If the colleges really consider the benefits to the students, and not to themselves, I don't see how they can justify any choice but to follow Harvard's lead.

The Teaching Company

Perhaps I paid just enough attention in college to retain my love of learning. Or maybe my fascination with the law in law school rekindled a passion that had gone momentarily dormant while I used my college years to grow other areas of my person, like the social skills that came with joining a fraternity and the maturing responsibilities that came with ROTC. Either way, I've emerged from law school into the practice of law, and yet retain a vibrant interest in areas of learning from one end of the spectrum to the other, the sciences, the arts, the theoretical, and the practical. But where to get my fix?

I mentioned a couple weeks back that my daily commute (roughly 25 minutes each way) and my weekly return to Atlanta had created a block of 5-10 hours per week that needed to be filled by something other than mindless staring at the pavement ahead.

Back while I was in Charlottesville for the JAG Basic Course, my wife brought along my mail on one of her visits. Included in the pile of loan consolidation and credit card offers was a catalog from The Teaching Company, which claimed to offer college-level classes on a whole host of subjects that piqued my curiosity. I vaguely remembered seeing similar offers in the back of Popular Science type magazines, and few of the programs seemed to offer a level of quality that could trump my own reading of a good book.

But The Teaching Company seemed different, and with my newfound expanse of driving time (in which I obviously cannot read a good book), I thought I'd give one of their many courses a try. Fortunately, they have a large sale section, where every course is on sale at least once a year, so I could buy my trial course at a substantial discount.

After reviewing the options, I decided to go with the "Classical Mythology" course offered by Elizabeth Vandiver, a classics professor at Whitman College. I picked the class for a multitude of reasons: I love the Greeks and their mythology, and have ever since I read snippets of Bulfinch in high school; I will soon begin my journey through Homer, and a background in Greek myth will be of great help; and finally, because Professor Vandiver offers other classes that look appealing, including courses on Homer, Virgil, the Greek Tragedies, and Herodotus. If I like this class, I figured, I already know what to buy next.

I'm almost half way through the course, and it is fantastic. It consists of twenty-four 30 minute lectures:

  • Introduction
  • What Is Myth?
  • Why Is Myth?
  • "First Was Chaos"
  • The Reign of the Olympians
  • Immortals and Mortals
  • Demeter, Persephone, and the Conquest of Death
  • The Eleusinian Mysteries and the Afterlife
  • Apollo and Artemis
  • Hermes and Dionysos
  • Laughter-Loving Aphrodite
  • Culture, Prehistory, and the "Great Goddess"
  • Humans, Heroes, and Half-Gods
  • Theseus and the "Test-and-Quest" Myth
  • From Myth to History and Back Again
  • The Greatest Hero of All
  • The Trojan War
  • The Terrible House of Atreus
  • Blood Vengeance, Justice, and the Furies
  • The Tragedies of King Oedipus
  • Monstrous Females and Female Monsters
  • Roman Founders, Roman Fables
  • "Gods Are Useful"
  • From Ovid to the Stars
  • As you can see, Professor Vandiver begins with several lectures establishing the means and methods of mythology, as well as its boundaries. She then goes into Greek creationism, using Hesiod's Theogony as the primary source, before devoting individual lectures to several of the key Olympian gods. The structure is good, her delivery is clear, and she ties the lectures back to previously covered material, so the learning is cumulative as the course progresses.

    The quality of the recordings is also quite good, especially considering I bought the download version of the course, which allowed me to download the lectures in MP3 format and then put them on my iPod and/or burn them to CD. The download version was also the least expensive, and $35 seems an incredible bargain for 12 hours of top-notch academic lecture. All in all, I could not be happier with the quality of this course and I am brimming with the anticipation of choosing my next purchase.

    Harvard's Endowment

    My goodness, I guess the old saying is true: it takes money to make money. But this also raises fundamental questions about why the dining hall food was so subpar:

    Harvard University's endowment has surged past the $25 billion mark, the school said Friday as it named an interim head of the successful, quasi-independent company that has helped make the university the wealthiest in the world.

    Harvard said departing money manager Jack Meyer earned a return of 19.2 percent for the university last year, helping boost the endowment to $25.9 billion.

    I think I should be writing to them and asking for donations, and not the other way around. 19.2 percent!

    Best. College. Ever.

    A colleague at work passed along this amusing tidbit. If you visit the Univeristy of Tennessee at Martin website right now you will find a headline touting some great news for the school:

    UT Martin named ‘Best Southeastern College’

    Wow, that is quite exciting! I'm sure the kids at Emory are steaming, and I don't even want to know what the main UT campus at Knoxville thinks about this.

    But wait. Now I am actually reading the story:

    “University of Tennessee at Martin is one of 140 schools . . . receiving our 'Best in the Southeast' designation," said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review publisher and editorial director. “We believe these schools uphold the standards of our “Best Southeastern College distinction and provide students with a wide breadth of excellent schools to consider.”

    Oh I see. So UT-Martin is the ‘Best Southeastern College’ in the same way that chocolate is one of the best 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins (itself a myth, since there are always more than 31). I also like that they point out they are "West Tennessee’s only public, four-year institution outside of Memphis." And I'm the best-looking person sitting in my office wearing gray socks.

    Well, congratulations anyway.

    A Look Behind the Curtain

    First things first. I hate flying. It's just not my thing, and I don't do it if I don't have to. If I'm going to Paris, yeah, that's worth it. But if I'm going to Roanoke, Virginia, to take the bar exam, it is just an added aggravation. Thankfully there are direct flights from Atlanta, because I do not think I could have handled making a connecting flight just to go 400 miles.

    Second things second. It is a desecration of all things rational that the Virginia Bar Exam takes place in Roanoke every July. This is a city that is so accidental in existence, haphazard in design, and inconvenient to every major graduating source of law students in the state that the choice can only be described as immensely wrong-headed and transparently political. Though if I had stayed until tomorrow, when the Roanoke Civic Center is playing host to Hillary Duff's Most Wanted tour, maybe I'd feel different. That's quite a week for the Roanoke Civic Center: Tuesday/Wednesday - Virginia Bar Exam; Friday - Hillary Duff.

    I flew into Roanoke on Monday afternoon. In a sense, my fear of flying put the whole bar exam into perspective. The plane landed safely, and I said to myself, "You're half-way there. Just one more flight.... and something in between, an exam of some sort." For at least a few minutes I was more bothered by the thought of another flight than taking the bar.

    I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott. On Monday night, there was a thunderstorm. At 8pm, the power went out in the hotel. That's right. No lights, no alarm clock.

    Now you have to remember, I can be a pretty arrogant person when it comes to exams. I was never particularly concerned that I was not going to pass the bar. So I took this simply as a sign it was time for me to lay down and relax. But many of the other bar takers in the hotel (and there were quite a few) were not so ready to acquiesce.

    The first innovators took flashlights into the hallways (where there was still some light, from generators I presume), and read there. I don't know if they brought flashlights for just such an emergency, or if they went out and braved Zeus' wrath to buy them, but there they were either way.

    The second group of innovators went down to their cars and read by the glow of the overhead light in the cabin. It would be all too ironic if any of them were unable to start their cars the next morning because the battery was dead.

    Anyhow, I set the alarm on my cellphone, listened to my Ipod, and went to bed. Unfortunately, I forgot to switch off all of the lights, so when the power eventually came back on around 1am, I had a rude awakening. Sleep was intermittent thereafter, and I ended up getting up a little after 6am.

    I got to the Civic Center a bit early, since I also have a bit of a parking phobia (airplanes and parking and heights, that's all). I did not wear sneakers, since I have a nice pair of soft-soled Bostonians. There were plenty of suits/skirts with sneakers, and it was absolutely ridiculous. That is another piece of Virginia Bar stupidity that should be put to death.

    I found my seat in the Civic Center, which like many bar exams, I'm sure, had all of the tables laid out where the basketball or hockey court is supposed to be, surrounded by thousands of empty seats where I half-expected to see family members and faculty cheering us on.

    The girl sitting next to me. My oh my, this poor thing. She was certainly nice enough, and I really do hope she passed. She's from Panama (which for some reason she felt the need to tell me was a "republic"), and I think she was an attorney there, though I could not quite piece together what she was saying. However... she showed up without a pen. Not a single thing to write with. I had a dozen, so I had no problem giving her a couple. But that was strange.

    I honestly don't have much to say about the essays themselves. I thought they were surprisingly fair and straight-forward. I think I did well. But I also think that most people felt the same way, so you never know.

    I left about twenty minutes early because I was basically finished, and because I didn't want to get stuck in the guaranteed awfulness that would be the Civic Center parking lot traffic after the session ended. It would have been interesting to see whether, if I really had needed all three hours, my fear of failure or my fear of parking lots would have won out.

    I went back to the hotel, ordered room service (a delicious caesar salad and chips with spinach dip), spent hours watching TBS (that Jerry Seinfeld sure cracks me up), and tried but failed to muster the energy to study for the MBE. I sympathized with my poor wife, who sat for the Georgia Bar which chose to use its meager four essay questions (Georgia has the MPT) to put its applicants through the gauntlet of Corporations, Con Law, Secured Transactions, and Partnerships. And the Corporations question had a subpart about arson, if you can believe that. My wife, who has a brilliant knowledge of property, trusts and estates, family law, and evidence, couldn't get even one question that was remotely up her alley. Meanwhile, I got adverse possession and a wills contest. No justice there.

    I showed up early again the next day, read the USA Today, and waited for everyone else to show up. The Panamanian girl? Yeah, she was there. And she brought a writing instrument: the pen I'd given her the day before. No pencils. That's right. No pencils. I had a dozen finely tuned Mirado Black Warriors ready, so I gave her a couple of those as well. I think that if I see her name when the successful names are posted in October, I'm going to send her a bill.

    I thought the MBE went very well. There were some "known knowns" and some "known unknowns" but hopefully not too many "unknown unknowns", as the SecDef would say. The Panamanian seemed incapable of doing two questions in a row. As far as I can tell, she was just flipping back and forth through the question trying to find ones she could answer. Not a good sign, and extremely distracting. I think if she had shared her table with someone less sure of himself, she'd have been on the receiving end of some nasty looks.

    I went through the questions at a pretty good clip, about 1 question per minute, but I still found myself depressed every five questions or so, at the Sisyphus-like effort of trying to do 100 of these question in one sitting.

    I'll tell you the one good bit of paranoia that I experienced. I became convinced that none of my circles were sufficiently darkened. It does not matter how hubristically confident one is about the quality of one's answers. If those bubbles aren't filled in properly, it is all for naught. So when I finished with time to spare, I sat and methodically gave a meticulous second coat to each little bubble. I'd like to have added a clear polyurethane finish to protect my efforts, but alas, the soft lead is all the technology will accept.

    I walked out of the hall, got in my car, rolled down the windows, rolled the windows back up (I'd momentarily forgotten it was 97 degrees out and I was still wearing a suit and tie), and cruised back to the hotel. I felt tired, and I felt free. Free to come back and read the new Harry Potter book, close on our new condo (11am tomorrow!), and starting painting and decorating.

    It's good to be a member of the human race again.

    Things Are Getting Very Serious

    PMBR's Multistate Bar Review flashcards are out of stock at Barrister Books. They are even running low on the brand new 18th edition of The Bluebook, though hopefully for different reasons (bar exam tip: no need for proper citations).

    I Graduated

    So today I graduated from law school. I'm moving to Atlanta on Tuesday, and if everything goes smoothly, we'll have internet access by the end of the week. If it doesn't, I start work on June 1 and will send my greetings from there.

    Congratulations to everyone else out there who is celebrating a recent or upcoming graduation. Doesn't it feel great?

    Productivity

    It should not be much surprise to hear that after 20-odd consecutive years of schooling, I'm a little tired of it. It's not that my classes are not interesting. They are certainly not rigorously intellectual, but that is a bit refreshing after taking five semesters of relatively serious courses. Rather, there just comes a point at which even a person who treasures their quiet time, as I do, needs to feel the pressures and pleasures of activity and responsibility.

    I felt it this past summer, despite my abundant skepticism about work in a law firm. I even felt it briefly the summer before, when my research work for a professor turned to concrete issues in a pro bono case. It may well be that after months or years of fulltime work, I will look back at a post like this and laugh at how eager I was to escape from a life that gave me so much leisure. And I certainly try to make the most of my leisure time, with my continuing obsessions with books and movies. But no matter how many good books I read, or good films I watch, the lack of production nags in the back of my mind.

    Exams, Exams, Exams

    It's that time of year. Blogging will be intermittent at best.

    A Little Advice, Perhaps

    A 1L at UVA just emailed me asking for study advice, or rather "how would you recommend studying for the best test results first year?"

    Here's my rambling answer. I'll tell you how I did it, but I'll also say that my way was pretty unique, even amongst people who had great success. But it worked for me, so take from it what you will.

    I read way, way ahead. By which I mean I am usually finished with the semester's reading by week 4 or 5. I find that this makes it much easier to understand how all the concepts fit together, what direction the course is going, and what the important themes are. In addition, this makes it so that when I go to class, everything I hear serves as review, rather than it being the first time I've heard it, or simply a reiteration of what I read the night before.

    The only difficulty is when I'm going to be called on. If I know ahead of time, no problem. I simply review the relevant material before class. If not, I sometimes have to wing it a little. I have a good memory though, which is the only reason the system works in the first place.

    My first semester I used the 5-color highlighting system and wrote mini-briefs of each case. I think this is trite and cliched, but it is an ideal way of getting your brain to identify and categorize the elements of court opinions. Soon enough it will be automatic, and you can drop the silly methods.

    As for test-taking itself, I think the thing that really sets apart an A exam from an A- or B+ is not simply a grasp of the material. Half the class (at least) will understand the materials, but that only gets you a B+. What you need to do is be so comfortable with the materials that you can afford to be creative, inventive even. That's where my method helps. Because by the time exams come around, you will have already read the material, sat through classes (which will be effectively review sessions) and done your own reviews.

    Two other keys:

    1) Outline as you go. Don't try and take all of your notes, at the end of the semester, and condense it into an outline. That's how most people do it, but at that stage of the game trying to create the outline makes the outline itself effectively worthless. You want to be READING your outline in the week before exams, not making it.

    2) Listen to your professor. That's right, turn off wireless internet if you have to. I didn't even bring a computer to class last semester, and I got my best grades so far. If you really want to get the A, you need to understand what your professor is looking for in his or her exam questions. As such, you need to understand what was important to them in the materials you covered. What angles did they look at, what unknowns did they ponder? Then, when you sit down for the exam, you will see just what they are looking for with the question. Instead of struggling to remember case names or broad principles, you wield your analytic knife and carve out precisely the pivotal elements they want. Because you know your professor.

    Well, that's more than I thought I'd have to say, I hope it is useful.

    Harvard Personals

    My fiancee got a great deal of amusement out of the personals section of the Harvard alumni magazine, so I thought I'd share my favorites:

    Adorable and cute, beautiful through and through. Petite, toned, thin and sassy, Jewish brunette. Radiant smile and infectious enthusiasm (think younger Sally Field). Publishing executive with passion for art and photography. Gracious, confident, successful yet not lavish. Romantic realist, independent thinker, great traveling companion, no hidden agendas. Alluring dichotomy: sophisticated and low-key, urban and outdoorsy, hiking the Berkshires or indulging in dinner atop the Eiffel Tower. Seeks smart, confident, responsible, fit, man, 49-59, ready for lasting relationship.

    Nothing better than alluring dichotomies. This is a good one too:

    Seriously cute and much more.. Sophisticated, smart, sexy and successful. Slender figure, genuine charm, touch of whimsy and a splash of glamour. Business professional, divorced, brunette, 5'6", frequently likened to Jackie Kennedy: smile, coloring, shape of face but far more contemporary, hip, approachable. Terrific team player--creative flair, alluring quirky humor. Open and calm. Enthusiastic reader. Avid swimmer. Tennis dropout, ready to return. Loves movies, Thanksgiving, family celebrations, art, fashion, chocolate, Beijing, Sydney, NYC weekends, seascapes and the Sushi Bar at Harvey Nichols. Seeks educated, professional man, financially solid, divorced or widowed, 49-65.

    So she's like Jackie Kennedy, but not too like Jackie Kennedy. And that last sentence leaves some ambiguity. Does he have to be financially solid AND divorced/widowed, or does he have to be financially solid OR divorced/widowed? The former makes more sense to me (49-65 year-old bachelors are very unpopular in these classifieds), but who knows. Anyhow, click here for more.

    Apparently getting dates for Ivy League alumni is also a huge business. You've got The Right Stuff, Square Dating and the obnoxiously named Good Genes. You would almost think we Ivy Leaguers had less than stellar social skills.

    Get Rid of Legacies

    If the President is serious about this, I support him one hundred percent:

    President Bush said Friday he opposes the use of a family history at colleges or universities as a factor in determining admission.

    Bush stated his position to what's known as "legacy" in response to a question during a Washington forum for minority journalists called Unity 2004.

    He was asked, "Colleges should get rid of legacy?"

    Bush responded, "Well I think so, yes. I think it ought to be based upon merit."

    Now some people are going to jump on this the same way they jump on Clarence Thomas for opposing affirmative action: they'll assume (perhaps correctly) that George W. Bush himself was a legacy admission, and then argue that if you benefit from the program, you can not later attack it. Of course, this is a hugely fallacious argument. Often times, as with Clarence Thomas, it is precisely because an individual has "benefitted" from a program or policy that they can see the drawbacks. Or perhaps they just changed their mind. Accusing the President of hypocrisy will make for good rhetoric, but I see no reason to doubt that he simply thinks a straight merit-based admissions policy is the most equitable way to resolve this longstanding debate.

    2004-2005 Course Schedule

    Alright, here's my current course schedule for my last year of law school:

    Fall 2004

    Civil Rights Litigation - Risa Goluboff
    Conflict of Laws - Graham Lilly
    Constitutional History I - Mike Klarman
    Criminal Adjudication - Darryl Brown
    Trial Advocacy - Jean Hudson

    Spring 2005

    Advanced Topics in the Law of War - JAG School
    American Legal History - Barry Cushman
    Analysis of the Military Criminal Legal System - JAG School
    Legislation - Caleb Nelson
    Professional Responsibility - Richard Balnave
    Prosecutorial Function - Earl Dudley

    Not only do I get to take two classes over at the JAG School, I get to experience the last three professors I've really been wanting to take a class from: Cushman, Dudley, and Goluboff. And a third class each with Klarman and Nelson, two of the best. It ought to be a brilliant end to a very, very long academic career.

    Finished

    Yesterday I finished the second-year of law school. It was a murky experience that defies easy summarization. So I won't try. I enjoyed it, it's over, c'est tout.

    This coming week will be one of the more hectic of my life. In addition to the wondrous pleasures of a law review citecheck, I'll be moving out of my apartment, only to then drive up to D.C. on Friday so that I can briefly settle in before my 13-week law firm career begins on May 17. My excitement for both the city and the firm have only grown in the six months since I accepted the offer, and it sounds like they have some very exciting cases that I might have the opportunity to get involved in.

    On a less serious but equally important note, I have decided to reinvest myself in the photographic hobby. I became an enthusiastic amateur in the latter years of high school, but sold my Canon 35mm outfit during college to fund other pursuits. My first entry into digital photography was the Olympus E-10, which I had for a few months during my last year of college, but I had to sell it to finance my move down to Charlottesville. Now that my finances are more stable, and I'm spending the summer in one of America's most photogenic cities, I thought it was time to get involved again. If nothing else, it is a hobby that gets me outside. As someone who has become almost wholly devoted to reading, blogging, and playing the guitar, an outdoors pursuit is most welcome.

    Long story short, I bought the Canon Digital Rebel with the kit lens, and the BG-E1 battery grip (to make the camera comfortable in my largish hands). It does not have all of the features (particularly full control over exposure) nor the build quality that I would be most comfortable with, but the price is astonishing for the feature set. To accomodate the expected influx of photos, I set up an account at Smugmug. They have a very cool feature allowing "cobranding." Thus if you go to handfulofsand.smugmug.com (or click on the photos link above), you might very well think you haven't left this site. I think that's pretty neat.

    Enough for now. I'm going to try and finish Emma, pack some stuff, make some flight reservations, and maybe even relax.

    Exams

    Well, exams start today, and as strident as I am in pretending they do not, I probably won't be blogging until they are over a week from Friday. I'll see you on the other side.

    What Not to Do

    As exams approach, stress and frustration levels are rising at law schools across the country. Of particular annoyance to many are classes that were so boring or poorly taught as to make any time spent on them seem a waste. Nonetheless, I highly recommend that you not send an email like the one apparently sent by a NYU 1L to her criminal law professor and the entire class (I've removed all names to protect whatever shred of privacy remains):

    as one of the self-admitted "people [who] seemed to spend the entire class time doing things unrelated to the class on their computers," i just wanted to respond to your email and thank you for keeping the exam length at 24 hours. while i voted for an 8 hour exam in class, upon further reflection i have changed my mind and decided that a longer exam period will most benefit me, as a non-participant, in attempting to write a semi-coherent exam.

    i would also like to comment generally on my dissatisfaction in the first year law school educational experience as a whole. it has seemed to me to be more of a mind-numbing training procedure than an enriching intellectual experience. your class, however, stands out as a particular disappointment.

    may i respectfully suggest that perhaps having an instructor who seemed somewhat interested in actually teaching the material objectively and creating an even slightly welcoming classroom discussion atmosphere would have prompted both myself and the vast majority of the rest of the class to pay attention and participate rather than sending each other instant messages, playing online games, and checking our email.

    if i may be so bold as to quote one of my fellow students, i believe [name redacted] summed this general issue up quite succinctly earlier in the semester. in response to your half-joking comment referring to your disappointment in students' clothing choices today as opposed to in the past, he said, "the professors used to wear suits too."

    with this comment i merely wish to illustrate your personal role in creating an effective educational environment. personally, i was very eager to learn criminal law at the beginning of the semester. however, when it seemed that class was not going to help me much in attaining that goal, i decided to use the time to enjoy myself instead.

    i apologize wholeheartedly if my blatantly obvious dissatisfaction with your class was offensive to you.

    I mean, at least capitalize properly when chastising your professors. To do otherwise just makes you seem unprofessional.

    Taking Notes in Class

    I have not mentioned this before, but one of the main reasons my blogging has slowed this semester is because I stopped bringing my laptop to school. Even last year, when I was a 1L dedicated and devoted to my academics, I rarely took notes in class. I have always been a book learner, and fortunately most of my classes were tied sufficiently close to the texts we were assigned that I could, at least, get most of my notes from the reading I did outside of class. Thus, while I would still pay attention to the lecture, I did not take many notes on my computer during class. Instead, I would have Internet Explorer open and would bounce around the news sites looking for something to write about, and listen to the lecture at the same time. I'm sure some doubt whether this is really possible, but those who sat next to or behind me can attest to the fact that I would often raise my hand to ask or answer a question while simultaneously browsing the Internet.

    Well that worked very well last year because I was always, always far ahead in the reading. Thus I already had a good familiarity with what the professor was talking about, and was able to stay interested even if I had my computer in front of me. But last semester, when the weight of interviewing left me quite behind in most of my class reading, things were different. Since I had not done the reading, I had no idea what the professor was talking about. As such, I would bring my computer to class, open up Internet Explorer, and ignore the lecture for 50 minutes. This was a waste of my time.

    So this semester, I resolved not to even bring my computer with me. I would bring a notebook and/or printouts of my reading notes, if I was keeping up with the reading (which I did only for the first month). I still do not really take notes during class, but this has been quite a revelation. At least in the classes I have now, simply sitting and listening to the professor, with the distraction of neither note-taking nor web-browsing, has led to an increased ability to simply sit and grapple with the interesting questions being posed. When you are just scrambling to copy down the three-pronged test the professor just articulated, you don't really have time to swirl it around in your mouth and see how it tastes. You are always 5 seconds behind, operating on vacuum intake alone.

    My system would not work for many people (perhaps most). For those who really do need to write down what the professors say in class (and it seems most people would put themselves in that category), the idea of not taking notes in class is a non-starter. But for those who think they might be able to go without it, try leaving the computer at home too. Bring a notepad if you want to be able to copy down anything really important (I do this from time to time). And see how it feels just to listen to the professor. To ponder the questions they are posing as they pose them. It has been a great pleasure for me, and I am grateful I have lecturers this semester (BeVier, Nelson, Klarman) who make this worthwhile.

    Honor Trial

    I haven't written much in the last week, largely because I haven't had a lot of time to be online. Even moreso because the thing that has suddenly taken up so much of my time is something I can't discuss in much detail. Those familiar with the University of Virginia Honor System probably know that a student accused of an Honor violation is entitled to a trial before a jury (made up of either random students, Honor Committe members, or a mix). Well, through contacts between one of my professors and a local law firm, I have been asked to serve as defense counsel for an upcoming honor trial. We go to trial on April 10, and I first met the accused student last Friday, so you can imagine how quickly these things proceed.

    In addition to the mere time pressures resulting from this accelerated schedule, this is just a stressful time for all law students. Exams are just around the corner, I just finished a citecheck on Monday and am getting another on Friday. So things are busy. But even beyond the quantitative pressures on my ability to juggle these various responsibilties, the qualitative weight of the responsibility of being a defense counsel on an Honor Trial is pretty heavy. I am exercising real discretion and bear real responsibility for a real client who is facing serious sanctions (the single potential sanction, in fact, is permanent expulsion). That is not something I was expecting to experience while still in law school. That is obviously the great benefit of being involved in such an endeavor, but the sudden epiphany of the scope of an advocate's duty and responsibility to his client has come as quite a shock.

    From what I have gathered, that weight is all the heavier in cases where a defense attorney is truly convinced of their client's innocence. There is no way to seek solace in the event of defeat by recognizing that ultimately, it is the client's fault for having committed the crime. When the client really is innocent, it seems that much harder to see a conviction as anything other than a failure on your part as defense counsel. Let's hope I don't have to bear that burden right out of the gates.

    My Professors' Political Contributions

    I was poking around Open Secrets and thought it would be interesting to see if any of my law professors showed up. Boy, did they ever! Two of my four current professors turn out to be quite active donors, with a third making more modest contributions.

    My tax professor, John C. Harrison:

    9/24/1998 $300 National Republican Congressional Cmte
    9/25/1998 $300 Neumann, Mark W
    9/29/1998 $500 Inglis, Bob
    9/30/1998 $500 Boozman, Fay W III
    10/7/1998 $200 Smith, Linda
    10/16/1998 $200 Inglis, Bob
    1/15/1999 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    1/20/1999 $1,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte
    6/30/1999 $1,000 Abraham, Spencer
    7/6/1999 $1,000 Allen, George
    7/6/1999 $1,000 Allen, George
    12/31/1999 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    1/7/2000 $1,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte
    2/11/2000 $1,500 National Republican Congressional Cmte
    3/2/2000 $1,500 National Republican Congressional Cmte
    3/9/2000 $300 Bush, George W
    5/20/2000 $300 Lazio, Rick A
    7/31/2000 $1,500 National Republican Congressional Cmte
    9/30/2000 $200 Franks, Bob
    10/5/2000 $200 McCollum, Bill
    10/7/2000 $300 Lazio, Rick A
    10/18/2000 $200 Gorton, Slade
    10/18/2000 $1,000 National Republican Congressional Cmte
    10/19/2000 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    10/23/2000 $1,000 Republican Party of Virginia
    10/31/2000 $300 Franks, Bob
    11/15/2000 $1,000 House Managers PAC
    1/29/2001 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    1/31/2001 $1,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte
    9/24/2001 $250 Republican Party of Virginia
    9/27/2001 $300 Coleman, Norm
    11/29/2001 $200 Graham, Lindsey
    12/27/2001 $250 Ganske, Greg
    12/29/2001 $300 Talent, James M
    1/9/2002 $1,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte
    2/8/2002 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    1/22/2003 $1,000 Republican National Cmte
    1/22/2003 $1,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte
    7/16/2003 $500 Toomey, Pat
    8/19/2003 $250 Toomey, Pat
    1/23/2004 $1,000 Republican National Cmte

    My Free Speech and Press professor, Lillian BeVier:

    5/14/1999 $500 Goode, Virgil H Jr
    7/8/1999 $500 Bush, George W
    6/2/2000 $300 Allen, George
    6/5/2000 $500 Republican National Cmte
    6/7/2000 $500 Bush, George W
    9/7/2000 $750 Republican National Cmte
    9/12/2000 $500 Lazio, Rick A
    10/10/2000 $500 Republican National Cmte
    3/28/2002 $500 Republican National Cmte
    6/16/2003 $2,000 Bush, George W

    My Constitutional History professor, Michael Klarman:

    1/21/1992 $1,000 Clinton, Bill
    11/5/2002 $750 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Cmte

    Now that's obviously too small a sample to draw any conclusions about the political leanings of law professors, but it is probably food for thought.

    50 Years of Brown v. Board of Education

    For those who'll be in the area (or close enough to make an excursion), I'd like to offer an invitation to this weekend's Brown Symposium at the University of Virginia School of Law. I think it's quite a lineup:

    KEYNOTE ADDRESS by Jack Greenberg, Professor of Law at Columbia University, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1949-1984.

    BROWN AND SCHOOL INTEGRATION

    * Kevin D. Brown, Professor of Law and Afro-American Studies at the University of Indiana
    * Gary Orfield, Professor of Education and Social Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Director of the Harvard Project on School Desegregation, and Codirector of the Harvard Civil Rights Project
    * James E. Ryan, William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia
    * Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education at Columbia University's Teachers College

    BROWN AND THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

    * Michael J. Klarman, James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law, Albert C. Tate Research Professor, and Professor of History at the University of Virginia
    * Kara M. Turner, Assistant Dean, College of Liberal Arts at Morgan State University
    * Mark Tushnet, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University

    BROWN AND CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY

    * Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale University
    * John C. Harrison, David Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law
    Horace W. Goldsmith Research Professor
    * Akhil R. Amar, Southmayd Professor of Law at Yale University

    Hope to see you there if you can make it!

    Call in Troops?

    I don't usually blog much on Saturdays, since I try and treat it as a Day of Mindfulness, spent in leisure, meditation, cooking (and today, baking), and occasionally catching up on work. I just read something, however, which gave me a good laugh and I thought it'd be a nice thing to share. Every week, our law school newspaper publishes a column of amusing faculty quotes from the previous week. My favorite of this week comes from Professor Larry Walker's Complex Civil Litigation class:

    L. Walker: "So there's an injunction here. Now how do you enforce it? Come on, somebody. How do you enforce it? You. How would you enforce this injunction?"
    Student, quietly: "Ah, troops?"
    Walker: "I'm sorry... what?"
    Student: "You call in the troops?"
    Walker: "Did you say, 'call in the troops?'"
    Student: "Yes."
    Walker: "No."

    Good guess, though.

    No Reading, No Class

    For some reason, I can't stand going to class if I have not done the reading. Most of my friends laugh at me when I tell them this, either because they are constantly going to class without doing the reading or just because they like to laugh at me. Yet every time it happens, I feel awkward and uncomfortable and wish I weren't there. This wasn't usually a problem my first year of law school, since I stayed pretty far ahead.

    This semester, however, I can't seem to get motivated enough to get ahead, and things keep coming up which leave me doing the next day's work the night before. When I procrastinate too much or don't have enough time, I don't get the work finished. Then I'm left with an unhappy choice: go to class and feel depressed for not really understanding what is going on (and feeling like a lazy bum for not doing the reading) or skipping class and missing the lecture completely. The latter doesn't cost me as much as some, since I tend to be a book learner rather than a lecture learner. But still, what a crappy choice. The lesson for me: DO YOUR WORK! With that, back to the books.

    Vague Tax Mortality Issues

    I'm reading about the recovery of capital, and the Code exclusions from income for proceeds from life insurance. Simply put, if you get life insurance proceeds because the insured dies, the money doesn't count as income and you don't get taxed. Anyhow, the textbook uses flight insurance as an easy example of how it works:

    Suppose that a person pays $5 for $50,000 of such coverage. If the plane crashes and the insured dies, the beneficiary receives the $50,000 which can be thought of as consisting of a $5 recovery of cost plus a mortality gain of $49,995. The entire amount is excluded under Section 101(a). On the other hand, if the plane arrives safely at its destination, the insured loses his or her gamble with the insurance company. There is a $5 mortality loss, for which there is no deduction. In this lottery with life there will be those who gain, financially, and those who do not.

    I think it's an awful strange arrangement when the guy whose plane does NOT crash is considered the loser. I mean $50,000 is great and all, but you're... ya know... dead.

    Anyhow, I understand what the authors are saying, it just struck me as oddly phrased.

    Obnoxious Law Student Columnist

    Does your law school publish a newspaper? Does it feature an incredibly self-important, pretentious, and pathetic columnist?

    Mine does.

    (WARNING: Brilliant, biting, hyperbolic satire ahead; some self-censored use of nasty, foul language is involved; viewer discretion is advised.)

    Continue reading Obnoxious Law Student Columnist.

    Caleb Nelson, Blogger?

    Stuart Buck notes that it is "[t]oo bad Virginia law professor Caleb Nelson doesn't have a blog..." It sure is! Perhaps I can convince him to be a guest blogger (ha!). I had Caleb for Civil Procedure last year and am currently enjoying the reading for the second week of his Federal Courts class. He's one of our young stars, and he's a great lecturer to boot. I fear we'll lose him someday to Harvard or Yale, but right now he's got young children and I think he's happier raising them in Charlottesville.

    Incidentally, I think that's one of the more interesting tidbits about law school hiring here at UVa. Apparently we have a good bit of trouble attracting single professors, as the Charlottesville singles scene is unimpressive to say the least. In contrast, several of my professors have mentioned that one of the reasons they were attracted to UVa was the possibility of raising their families here. So perhaps we get a little edge in hiring young, married professors who have young children or are looking to have children in the near future.

    Over the Hump

    I've now passed the halfway point in my law school career, and am very happy with the experience so far. My success, and my pleasure in achieving that success, suggests that law school was in fact a good decision, something I was not entirely sold on in the months before or after the start of my first year. For better or worse, one technique I've developed is that I do all of the semester's reading within the first few weeks and then have more free time for the rest of the semester. As a result, I'll probably be an intermittent blogger for a while. I'll still try to post at least something every day, but no promises.

    For those interested, here is this semester's course schedule:

    Const. History II: Reconstruction to Brown - Mike Klarman
    Const. Law II: Speech and Press - Lillian BeVier
    Federal Courts - Caleb Nelson
    Federal Income Tax - John Harrison
    White Collar Crime (short course) - Thomas McGough

    Should be fun.

    Marginal Taxation

    Here's a query: how many Americans (especially young Americans who haven't yet filed a tax return) don't really understand that the progressive element of our tax system is done through increasing marginal rates (e.g. that a single person in the "25% tax bracket" is really only paying that rate on the income above ~$29,000)?

    I ask only because, until two weeks ago, I myself did not understand this. Now I sit here reading the first chapter of my Federal Income Taxation casebook and feel a little bit stupid for thinking, most of my life, that someone in the "25% tax bracket" paid 25% of all their income to the federal government.

    For example, my first year base salary in the Army (excluding my lovely non-taxable subsidies) will be ~$42,000. This puts me in the "25% tax bracket." I thought this meant I'd pay $10,500 in federal income taxes. In reality, my federal income tax liability (with the most basic exemptions and deductions) would only be $5,360. That's just 12.76% of my income.

    Anyhow, it's not the most vital thing, since it is the marginal rate, after all, that counts for understanding incentive effects. Still, I wonder how many people have the same misunderstanding I did. I suppose it ought to be pretty clear to anyone who has actually filed a federal income tax return, but those things can be pretty confusing, so who knows.

    Law School Biases

    In preparing for next Monday's Evidence exam, I've been reading An Introduction to the Law of Evidence, written by my professor, Graham Lilly. In the opening pages he makes an observation that I thought rather provocative, if only because it is so simple and yet easily over-looked:

    Two concerns are central to all phases of litigation: first, a concern with establishing facts; and, second, a concern with the choice and application of legal rules. The formal study of law emphasizes the choice, construction, and impact of legal rules and principles. This academic preference has pedagogic advantages, but it obscures a basic reality: the outcome of most cases is determined by counsel's success in establishing facts favorable to his or her client. The governing rules of law are contested with much less frequency than is suggested by a study of the reported cases.

    For those of planning a future as litigators (and even those not), this is something to keep in mind. I've seen other examples of distorted perspective resulting from only reading appellate case law. In all of the criminal procedure cases, the defendant has already been convicted, so one can easily forget the occasional person put on trial who was innocent and/or acquitted.

    To BarBri or not to BarBri

    That is the question. I'm pretty hesitant to drop that much money in order to watch videotaped lectures. I've always been a book learner, and my gut instinct is to buy the books but not the lectures. I'll mostly likely be taking the Virginia bar. Any advice from the gallery? Remember that the Army does not reimburse for bar exam review expenses.

    I Agree, Release the Data

    Steve at Begging to Differ thinks Harvard Law Review should release the data regarding gender and their selection proces. I agree. As Steve says:

    If indeed they spent thousands of hours crunching the numbers, and if indeed the numbers show men outpace women in grades and legal writing, well, let�s see those numbers. Don't just throw it out there and expect anyone to take your word for it.

    If the numbers show the disparity, then we know that the point of attack should not be at the selection process, but in the training and testing of the students. But if they don't, then we know the problem is with the Law Review. And Sasha Volokh's whole "the Law Review's selection methods are not the HLS community's business" is way off base. Though it is a private organization, it is a student organization affiliated with the university, using the law school's name, and profiting thereby. No organization at Harvard may discriminate on the basis of sex (ask President Summers why fraternities and sororities are not allowed on campus), and the community has a right to verify that the law review is not engaging in such discrimination.

    That said, I would be surprised if there was such discrimination. That doesn't mean there's not a serious problem at Harvard (and at UVa, and I assume at our sister law schools). Women as a group ought not be systematically "underperforming" according to the law school rubric, and if they are, I for one think it's a problem with the rubric. So perhaps the law review itself doesn't deserve the heat it's getting, but if they'd release the numbers we'd know where to look for the source of this disparity.

    Reflections After Year 2, Day 1

    It was quite a pleasure to return to school yesterday and begin classes without any of the fears or confusions that came with the first year. A friend pointed out that it almost feels like being a high school senior... we get to drive to school, we have all our friends, we know where we're going to eat lunch. Then there are the poor, pathetic 1Ls. They're actually briefing cases, they're talking about the reading with each other before class, they're carrying around Black's Law Dictionary. I can hardly believe I ever was one.

    Seriously though, being back in school without those stresses has let me recognize how much I really enjoy law school, how positive an experience it has been for me (horror stories notwithstanding). I love the three classes I've been to (Judicial Role in American History, Foreign Relations Law, and Evidence) and the professors are all good teachers, a quality that clearly does not always correlate with academic reputation or tenure decisions. That's reportedly one of UVA's strengths, though the fact that I've not attended any other law schools limits my capacity for making such comparisons.

    I also got a very good prompt for a potential paper from my ConLaw professor, Mike Klarman. I continue to be fascinated by the early years of the Burger Court, despite several potential topics going nowhere, and his suggestion is that I look for explanations for the disparity in the Nixon appointees' voting patterns on constitutional issues. Briefly, there must be some reason why they put a halt to much of the forward progress on race and crime issues, but also declared the right to abortion, (briefly) struck down the death penalty, and finally recognized equal protection on gender grounds. Klarman's intuition, which I share, is that it reflects the power of social and political context upon even those justices we don't think of as activists. That should allow a limited amount of archival work, plus the political/social science research in polling and the media which I learned to love as an undergraduate.

    I'm Back

    So school is back in session and naturally my first class begins at 8:35 this morning. In the two weeks I've been away, there's not been too much excitement to share. My first law review editing assignment was actually pretty easy, thanks in large part to the author's being a current student here and gathering many of the sources for us. I narrowed my law firm interview list to 18, and submitted the first of them starting Monday of this week. I'll start hearing whether I get the interviews next Tuesday.

    As for classes, I decided to go a little easier on myself and dropped Employment Law, leaving me with American Role in Judicial History, American Legal History, Evidence, and Foreign Relations Law. With that lighter course load, I'll be able to continue my employment as Professor Anne Coughlin's research assistant, which is great because it means extra money in my pocket and a continued relationship with a stellar professor and caring person.

    The research for my potential paper is going pretty slow. It's been an eye-opening experience. I started out looking for a topic in criminal procedure and now I'm researching the relative conservatism of the Burger Court, the race riots, and the patterns of dissent by Marshall and Brennan once they lost their liberal majority in 1969.

    I like being back in classes, though I never feel sufficiently settled until I've gotten used to my new routine. Fortunately this semester should provide a routine I'll be happy to get used to. I've got four classes on Tuesdays and three on Wednesdays, but only one on Mondays and Thursdays and none on Fridays. That should leave plenty of time for law review, interviews, writing AND, of course, blogging.

    Ivy League Admissions Consulting

    Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. My dad passed along a link to this story from Bloomberg on private admissions consultants, and I can't help commenting on what a screwed up system we've created:

    Halfway into the first meeting with college consultant Michele Hernandez, tax attorney David Selznick walked out of the living room of his home in Somers, New York. He says his head was pounding after he�d listened for more than an hour as Hernandez dissected his son Ben�s high school transcript and college admission test scores, nixed his summer camp plans and described how playing up Ben�s strengths could land him a spot in an Ivy League college. �I was sweating, it was so draining,� Selznick, 47, says. �We got four hours of information in an hour.�

    Afterward, Selznick and his wife, Helene, agreed to spend $16,500 over the next two years to hire Hernandez, a Dartmouth College graduate and former assistant dean of admission at the school. She promised to guide Ben�an A student with Ivy League aspirations and a passion for drumming�through the intricate puzzle of getting into a top school. �It�s a lot of money; it�s obscene,� Selznick says. �But I had come to the conclusion that I was willing to invest in my son�s future.�

    It used to be we could just depend on the status of race, wealth, and connections to do all the work getting into the Ivy League. Then someone had to go and open the doors to the masses. So now the rich white kids have found another way to tweak the system. How glorious. I hope they fail miserably. See you August 20.

    My 2003-4 Class Schedule:
    Or How to Avoid Talking About Money in Law School

    Well after several weeks of planning, complaining, waiting, and generally learning to hate our new registration system, I've finally got into ISIS (who'd ever imagine that ISIS would seem like a relatively good system?) and set up a schedule I'm actually very happy with (number of credits in parentheses):

    Fall 2003 (no Friday classes!)

    Judicial Role in American History (3)
    Foreign Relations Law (3)
    Employment Law (3)
    Evidence (3)
    American Legal History (3)

    Spring 2004 (no Monday classes!)

    Federal Courts (4)
    Constitutional Law II: Freedom of Speech and Press (3)
    Constitutional History II: From Reconstruction to Brown (3)
    Federal Criminal Law (3)
    Analysis of the Military Criminal Legal System (2)
    White Collar Crime (1)

    I decided that as long as the fall was already filled with cite checks, interviews, and my seminar paper, I might as well take a fifth class and have no fun at all. The spring will be a lot more fun. I've got a lot of classes scheduled, but they are all either with my favorite professors or criminal law-related. I'm particularly excited about the class I'm taking at the JAG school on the criminal legal system (there were only 5 slots for it!); it ought to offer me a head-start on my military training as well as a more academic approach than I'll get when I report for my officer basic training in 2006.

    UPDATE: I just switched out of Environmental Law and into Lillian BeVier's ConLaw II: Speech and Press. She's supposed to be a fantastic teacher, and I'm glad to be able to take such a neat class with her.

    Banning the Internet

    I just received an email from my dean, who I like very much. It is an explanation of the findings of a committee on teaching that was supposed to "lead the faculty in a collective rededication to excellence in the classroom." The most interesting part:

    Third, the Committee reported widespread concern, among both students and faculty, with the misuse of computers in the classroom. Use of computers for purposes unrelated to the educational mission of the classroom distracts the students directly involved and those around them. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that use of computers in the classroom be limited to appropriate activities. Inappropriate activities generally would include sending or receiving e-mail, instant messaging, playing computer games, and accessing websites not specifically related to classroom discussion.

    While I don't entirely disagree with some of their descriptions, what bothers me is that this senselessly promotes mediocrity by artificially limiting the market through monopoly. Instead of promoting better and more interesting teaching, they seek to eliminate their competitors.

    In addition, banning the internet removes the competitive edge granted to those students who do pay close attention despite having the option to "misuse" their computers. Thus the market itself would reward both students and teachers who maximize their own potential, but wouldn't artificially bolster those who choose to be mediocre.

    I'd expect more respect for the supremacy of the efficient market from a school renowned for its law and economics focus.

    Fantasy Draft Results

    Alright, the first four rounds are over and I got my top 4 choices!

    Fall:
    American Legal History (seminar)
    Evidence

    Spring:
    Federal Courts
    Constitutional History: from Plessy to Brown

    SWEET!

    Job Placement

    I'm not particularly swayed by educational rankings of any kind, but when it's MY school that does well I've just got to pass them along. Brian Leiter has a new list of the schools with the best "national" placement at elite firms around the country:

    1. Harvard
    2. Chicago
    3. Yale
    4. Virginia
    5. Michigan
    6. Stanford
    etc.

    Yes indeed. Though in my case, you might even say UVA has an international reach, as I could find myself working in such exotic locations as Iraq, South Korea, Bosnia, and coming soon, Liberia.

    Casebook Help

    We've decided to use Lawrence as our main case in the "what do we punish" portion of the introduction. Now I'm looking for a persuasive argument AGAINST the majority, or rather against the idea that "morality is not enough." It should be in the vein of criminalization, not due process or equal protection conlaw stuff. It need not be a response to the case in particular, but something in the last 5-10 years would be best. I've found some good stuff in some of the Lawrence briefs, and the Louisiana Supreme Court decision upholding their sodomy law in 2000 (State v. Smith).

    If anyone remembers reading something along those lines, let me know. Thanks!

    Faculty Alma Maters

    Somewhere in the back of my head I harbor aspirations of some day teaching law, so I took a quick glance at where UVA Law's resident faculty got their law degrees:

    Yale - 16
    UVA - 15
    Harvard - 8
    Stanford - 4
    Chicago - 4
    Penn - 3
    Michigan - 2
    Columbia - 2
    Duke - 2
    Berkeley - 2
    various - 1

    No big surprises.

    Course Selection

    The UVA Law fantasy draft begins on Monday for 2Ls, so I've been trying to prepare my draft board. Here's my ideal course schedule for next year (course credits in parentheses):

    Fall 2003
    American Legal History seminar (3)
    ConLaw Ii: Speech and Press (3)
    Evidence (3)
    Foreign Relations Law (3)
    Negotiating Institute (1)
    Professional Responsibility (2)

    Spring 2004
    Constitutional History from Reconstruction to Brown (3)
    Environmental Law (3)
    Federal Courts (4)
    Federal Criminal Law (3)
    Trial Advocacy (3)

    Fortunately there is a lot of depth at several positions, so if my top choices go fast, I have a lot of alternatives.