Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The door's open but the transfer ain't free

This column originally appeared in the Georgetown Law Weekly Vol. 43 No. 6 on October 31, 2006

I had originally promised that I would devote this column to my personal struggles as a grab-bag of genetic detritus, but I've decided to renege on that promise. Reading about someone's difficulties in life is about as fun as listening to someone describe their dream from the night before, which is to say that it is not fun at all and kind of makes your angry.

Why do we insist on explaining our life story at every possible moment? Every discussion class I've ever had has involved someone describing their background, parentage, and major political views in detail before even answering the damn question. That is not warrented except in two instances: (a) you are in a class named "The Legal Philosophy of Second-Year Law Students," or (b) You are a transfer student.

If you transferred here from another law school, then congratulations! You've done two wonderful things by tranferring here: (1) You decreased the number of people at the top of your class at your old law school by one, thus making it easier for your old friends to get jobs and date the people who used to have crushes on you. (2) You've taken the place of one of the top students at Georgetown, who left for the bright lights of an even bigger pond. That is the feeding chain of transferring: we get some of the best students from The University of X, and we pass some of our best up to Y University. I'm almost certain there is some Buddhist theology that would be helpful here, but as a devout Catholic I don't actually read religious texts.

Before I get in trouble here, let me emphasize something all the students reading this, transfer or otherwise: don't base even a little bit of your self-worth on the fact that you're a law student at Georgetown. If I ever catch you making fun of a law school that happens to be lower-tier than here, I will personally hunt you down and kick your leg, Vossberg-style. The rankings that make you feel good when you talk to some people will make you feel like ass when you talk to other people. Go to ANY law school faculty web page and you'll find that they all went to the same six law schools, and Georgetown is NOT one of them. Go to any law school in the country and I will find students that are smarter, have better legal minds, and are less ugly than you. Everytime you look at a school lower on your preference list and breathe a sigh of relief, remember that there is someone at another school looking at you and breathing a sigh of relief themselves. You are lucky to be here, five minutes from the U.S. Capitol, at one of the best-regarded (rightly or wrongly) law schools in the country, and that is the extent of it. Be happy, but don't be arrogant.

Before I get in trouble for different reasons, let me emphasize this: This is a great place to go to law school. I've loved my time here, and that is despite the fact that the academic niche I've managed to fill here is not, shall we say, what I expected. The students who are my classmates are some of the most brilliant people I've ever met, and the facilities are top-notch. This truly is a wonderful school, and I'd like to thank Harvard and Yale for producing such amazing faculty members.

Anyway, back to the transfer students: welcome to Georgetown. I know you might think of yourselves as isolated, like it's hard to fit in, and that's understandable because it is. The untold story is that it is hard for the rest of us to fit in too. Everytime you walk into a room and think, "crap, I don't know anyone here," one of people who's been here as a 1L also walked into the room and thought, "crap, all these people were in a different section than me." You actually have an advantage, as you are an unknown, an exotic figure; people haven't heard you tell the same stories over and over again, read the same columns over and over again, etc. At the moment you arrive here, you have something many, many of us do not have: an impeccable academic record. One of the great things about law school is that status really is determined by academic acheivement, kinda like living in South Korea. Use it to your advantage! Your A-average brain probably remembers more about torts, property, and Con Law I than most everyone else here. Hell, Section 3 people didn't even learn the difference between contracts and torts; you could rule like a king over a group of Section 3 people, assuming you want a kingdom of ambiguous language and hemp clothing.

I know that it's not as easy to get to know people as it would have been had you been here as a first-year student, but think of how hard it must be for the evening students: those guys all have kids.

Mark Nabong is wondering who the 3Ls are who transferred away from Georgetown. His columns can be found online at chicago-typewriter.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So you're not getting any callbacks: a primer.

This column originally appeared in the Georgetown Law Weekly Vol. 43 No. 6 on Oct 24, 2006.

I have a secret to confess: When I was a 2L I did not get a single call back from EIW (Early Interview Week, which is the on-campus interview program). Not one. I went on thirty-three (thirty-three!!!!) interviews during EIW, and snagged zero of them. I write this column for all the students here who have a rejection letter stack bigger than they ever expected; if you have a job/clerkship/rich spouse, then congratulations. This column may not make much sense to you.

Let's review: I have approximately a 2.8 GPA. Please do not freak out because I told you my GPA; I have revealed much more damning, and much more biological, information in this column over the last three years. I have what is generally considered a "B-" GPA, which is totally and completely adequate so long as I do not try and become an actual lawyer. I have heard tell of law firms that hire people with such a GPA, but most of those turn out to just be Nigerian scam artists. The job search experiece was not an exercise in self-empowerment for me; it was an exercise in reliving junior-high era self-esteem issues.
Getting a job is stressful in general, whatever your profession may be. What makes getting a job as a law student more emotionally crippling is the fact that your very best friends, the ones who drink with you, study with you, and occassionally make out with you, are so much better at getting them than you. People who are your peers, who take the same classes and eat lunch at the same time, are much, much more desireable lawyer-material than you are. You know that because you see them take time off from class to "go on callbacks," "fly to interviews," and "get offers." You, on the other hand, are busy trying to network with your mother's dentist's brother, because that is the only personal leverage you've got left.

Why am writing about all this? I'm writing about all this because there is a series of untruths we've been spoonfed, and I want to relieve you of them. I will be the ipecac of untruth.

Untruth #1: EIW is stressful.
Bullhockey. EIW is an annoying meat market, but you at least leave it with some honor. The real stress is the four, five, eight months you spend after EIW getting rejection letters and waiting for a job offer. You think dressing up in a suit and lying for fifteen minute interviews is bad? Try sitting in the cafeteria and overhearing people at another table discussing the pros and cons of accepting one of their offers versus another. THAT is stressful, not EIW.

Untruth #2: You may not be at the top of your class, but interviewers will get a sense of how great an addition you would be.
The average interviewer has the following ability to bump you to the top of this list if you have sub-par grades and a great interview: none. Interviews are done via committee, and no one impresses so much out of a 15 minute interview that they can convince the firm to hire you over someone with a so-so interview and a 3.8. What the interviewer CAN do, however, is write you a nice email back to elaborate on the rejection letter's opinion that you do, in fact, have a bright future ahead of you in law. And that there were many qualified applicants. Note, however, how few rejections letters say that you are one of them.

Untruth #3: It was a mistake to come to law school.
You're just thinking this because you'll have almost a quarter of a million dollars in debt to pay off. You're worried that it was a mistake to come here, that maybe you should have accepted that offer to go to Local Regional Law School on a full scholarship, or that maybe you shouldn't have come at all. This is crap: you're not even halfway through law school, and the reason you've soured on it is that you haven't done anything yet. You think your difficulties during 1L mean that you won't be good lawyer? The only people who care about what happened 1L in the long run are people who write law school guidebooks. You haven't hit the meat of law school, which come up in your 2L and 3L classes, or in your clinic, or in your internship. If you want to feel better about yourself as a future lawyer, sign up for pro-bono work; I guarantee you'll be less likely to feel bad about the privilege of being a law student.

Now, let's move on to some truths.

Truth #1: You only wanted a firm job because that seemed to be the thing to do.
You don't actually want a firm job. What you want is to be a lawyer, which is not the same as being a firm lawyer. Everyone around is getting firm jobs, and that gnawing chasm between you and them feels the same as when everyone else saw The Matrix without you and kept making references to it you didn't get. You feel like you're doing something wrong because you're not juiced into the $$$ for the summer, and that you're in trouble. THAT'S why you feel bad, not because you were really dying to work as a summer associate for the firm of Wasp Name, Wasp Name, Jewish Name, LLP. You haven't considered what more there is to do as a lawyer and with a law degree because no one really talks about anything except applying for a big firm; there's more and you shouldn't be afraid to look for it.

Truth #2: Oddly enough, your future happiness is independent of the crappiness of your job search experience.
This is not a feel-good statement; it is the truth. If you think having a big firm job right now will make you happier in the long run, then you are just projecting your self-worth onto something you think you can control. A big firm job will not make you happier; it WILL make you richer. Now, money is a good thing. Anyone who tells you that money is evil has never been broke (Credit: Ice Cube). No, my point here is that, if you look at the top partners and the senior associates at most any law firm, you will not find people happier or more intellectually challenged than in the population at large. Is the rate of alcoholism greater or less in the big firms than in the population at large? You know the answer to that question without even having to look it up. Don't trick yourself into creating any surrogate for happiness; only happiness is happiness. You WILL get a job, you WILL end up hating in about five to seven years (this applies to everyone, the bad and the good students), and you will take up a hobby that you will like more than your practice. "Yes, I'm a lawyer, but what I really like doing is Indonesian cooking."

Next week, I'll discuss what it is like to be a 3L, jobless, and with a family history of diabetes and heart disease.

Mark Nabong's columns can be found online at http://chicago-typewriter.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bears 24 Cardinals 23 - Urlacher defeats Leinart in the "Slept with Paris Hilton Bowl"

I am just now recovering from one of the most exciting games I've ever seen. The Bears rallied from a 20-0 halftime deficit to claw their way to a win. On the road. Despite six turnovers. WITHOUT SCORING AN OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWN.

Find the story on CNN/SI here.

And for those of you wondering, Brian Urlacher is the Bears middle linebacker, Matt Leinart is the Cardinals quarterback. Urlacher slept with Hilton first, so technically Leinart only got sloppy seconds. Just like in this game.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Autumn Reading

I put up a short list of books that I like in the News section of ChicagoTypewriter.net. If you have any suggestions about what you think I should read this fall, leave me a comment.

P.S. Go Bears.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Foreign LL.M.s: Smarter, more attractive, and having more fun than you, too.

This column originally appeared in the Georgetown Law Weekly, Vol. 43 No. 3 on October 13, 2006.

The biggest conundrum you will face here at the law school is not whether or not you should take Tax II (you should not), not whether or not you should accept that job offer with the firm that requires 23,500 hours billable a year (you should, then film your quitting speech). The biggest boondoggle is how much you choose to get to know the foreign LL.M. students.

Why should you try and hang out with foreign LLMs? You have plenty of friends already, and most of them don't hold you personally responsible for the ludicrous actions of President Bush. You're comfortable, and you don't really need to add more complication to your life. If you are like the typical American in her or his mid-twenties, you already have the following:

-Two (2) Parents.
-One (1) Step-parent.
-One-point-three (1.3) Siblings, at least one of which is trying to stop using drugs.
-Two (2) close friends from college.
-Two (2) friends from college whom you actually dislike but you have to see sometimes because they now live in the same town as your parents.
-One (1) ex that you would like to begin dating again if you could.
-One (1) ex that would like to being dating you again if they could.
-One (1) pet that you left with your parents, or, if you are Asian, an elderly relative.
-Twelve (12) "close friends" here at law school, which actually consists of five people you will stop talking to by your third year, four people with whom you will try unsuccessfully to hook-up, and three people you only know from IMs and Facebook.

That seems, to you, like plenty of people in your circle. I urge you, urge urge urge, to broaden your horizons. There is a wealth of untapped experience here, and it comes in the form of the foreign LL.M.s. The LL.M.s are ALREADY lawyers, so you can rest assured that they already know how stupid you are as a J.D. student. You don't have to fake intelligence like you do with your other friends, and you don't have to pretend like you know what do do about their landlord problems. Also, every LL.M. is hot. Every single one. Why? The reason is that there is a definite association of "foreign" with "hot." If you have a non-American accent, you can immediately seem at LEAST 15% above your normal attractiveness level, and that is the minimum. Canadians, for example, seem 15% above their objective attractiveness level. French people are 30% above, while French Canadiens are 20% above (it would be 25%, but there is an 5% penalty for Avril Lavigne marrying the fugly primate-dude from Sum 41).

The foreign LL.M.s are also much, much smarter than you. While YOU can barely speak English without dropping an F-bomb or dangling participle into every sentence, the foreign LL.M.s speak grammatically correct English in addition to their native language. While you absorbed your knowledge of the English language from Jeff Foxworthy DVDs and Nelly albums, the foreign LLMs were studying proper grammar, vocabulary, and relatively little porn dialogue. They probably also speak many more languages, especially if they're Swiss or West African. By the end of their LL.M. year, they will have gleaned a proficiency in another seven or eight languages, too, thanks to their classmates. In fact, by the end of their year here, many foreign LL.M.s no longer speak one discrete language; they instead speak a conglomerate pidgin of French, Spanish, English, German, Urdu, and Hindi, with up to five Filipino words (all curses). The guy who invented Esperanto did it in Washington, D.C., while trying to hit on a Venezuelan LL.M.

Speaking of dating, there is a significant advantage to dating an LL.M.: they will leave within a year. There messiness of "where do we go from here?" is alleviated because whomever you date will have to leave in eight months to take a job in Brussels, Jarkarta, Narnia, Waterdeep, etc.

You: "Baby, after you get your degree, where do you see yourself going to?"
LL.M.: "I think you mean to say, 'To where do you see yourself going?' Your English is very bad, lazy American middle-class student."

The number one complaint by the foreign LL.M.s every year is that they do not know many American J.D. students. The number two complaint is that our beer tastes like it came from a stadium trough, but that is a story for another time. (To my foreign friends: please do no blame us for the current administration or the beer. We did not elect either of them.) You should get to know the other students who share your classes, your school, your bathrooms. They're great people, and I guarantee you the stories you hear will be better than anything "Glen," the guy who sat next to you in torts, has to say. The next time you spot a group of LL.M.s (the proper term is a "murder" of LL.M.s), stop by and introduce yourself.

One caveat, however: do NOT date the taxation LL.M.s.

The author wanted this to run last week, but he turned it in two days after the paper had been printed. It can also be found online at http://chicago-typewriter.blogspot.com. The author can be found napping in the first floor of Hotung, or at paleobiology(at)mac.com.

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