Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Futility of Going to Class and/or Studying?

This is funny (at least to me)--

I had to wait until all of my grades were in before I could confirm the results of my experiment and they were consistent with my 1L grades- such that my two highest grades came in the courses I missed most while the two lowest were in the courses I attended most frequently. The breakdown was two each: B+, B-. And to control for studying differences I limited myself to the same total study time for each exam (4 hours). I failed to do so last year and was unsure if I could replicate my results. Also, the difference in attendance rates was not insignificant. I missed the last 5 weeks of Evidence and at least 4 other class meetings prior to just not going. I missed Crim Pro less than 5 times (if I recall correctly).

What does this say about law school? (Of course, it probably says something about me, too. But that is probably a comment about my psychological well being that I would experiment with grades in law school, given the risk involved.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What's Wrong with the Law?

The popular press is full of stories chronicling the troubles of the modern legal profession. And it would take no more than perhaps two minutes to find someone who has a gripe with our profession. Top that off with scores of attorneys who have left practice, or would like to if they could.

One has to ask the question- what is wrong with the law? Plenty of other folks have written more eloquently than I ever could about firm life and how it drives many people out of the profession or to a bottle of booze or drugs. What I am interested in here, then, is why are we held in such low regard by the general public.

I would argue that our problem is with our priorities. We place far too much emphasis on the primacy of clients to the detriment of our obligation to our profession, our society and ourselves. No other profession requires such allegiance to a client- doctors can refuse to perform a procedure they feel unnecessary to the patient, accountants can end their work for a client they believe is bending the rules of GAAP, teachers can teach evolution even if a parent demands creationism, etc.

The legal profession has taken the notion of zealous representation to mean whatever the client wants. The big corporate client wants to bury mom and pop in discovery? Sure... we can do that. The medical practice wants to use experts from all four corners of the US in order to make deposing them costly and time consuming for the plaintiff? No problem. All we care about is winning. There is very little consideration of the costs.

How much has this behavior cost the legal profession? Have you looked at polling data lately? Lawyers are somewhere above the devil and below the tax collector. Whereas once people looked at lawyers as guardians of our democracy and society, we are now seen as leeches on that society. And let us not lay all this blame at the feet of trial lawyers, who are by and large fighting to right some very serious wrongs.

We are all to blame, to some degree. Even those who do not engage in practice areas that might tend towards the shady are still at fault, for they have permitted their colleagues to engage in such behavior. The practice of law is largely self regulated and we have a duty to police ourselves in such a way that the highest ethical standards are met. We have a duty to not only our profession, but also to society at large, to provide them with fair and effective representation. Finally, we have a duty to ourselves and our individual conscience. Surely, we all want to be able to pay off our debt, buy a home and a car, etc. But, at what price are we willing to sell our ideals? I would argue that the price is all too cheap.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What's Wrong with Law School

There is what seems to be a long running debate about the roles of law school in educating students. Are they trade schools preparing another generation of BigLaw associates or are they a professional school imparting students with a healthy respect for legal institutions. More and more the former seems to be the case. Some of my peers have gone so far as to say they see no real difference (save salary prospects) between law school and tractor trailer driving school down the road.

Now, it might be easy to romanticize the historical role of law schools in society. Yet, one of my professors ('47 Harvard, I believe) mentioned that he did not hear a the word justice used during his time at law school until his final semester. So then perhaps notions of justice have been absent from law schools for longer than the past couple of decades. (Without knowing if this is true or not, one might be tempted to point to perhaps the Progressive era as a turning point in legal academia, as it was in so many other aspects of American life.)

Of course, there are those who will say- why does it matter? I would argue that it is important for law schools to produce students who are fluent in the language of justice, not just black letter law for any number of reasons. Lawyers are (rightly or wrongly) the problem solvers of our society. As such, we have to understand what justice means and how to weigh competing moral claims in order to resolve disputes. Law could be such a dynamic force, but it is limited by its reliance on precedent (which is obviously valuable to society, to some degree) and its practitioners' imaginations. Of course, there are those visionaries who have not been, or were not, beat down by the tedium of law school. But, in general, law school does a very good job at putting blinders on its students, getting them to focus on micro issues of black letter law to the detriment of dialogue about whether a particular law is just or efficient or equitable.

To put it in more academic terms, law school emphasizes the positivist theory of law. We study, in the words of Hart, the concept of law. And, while Hart certainly improved on Austin, he still remains true to the positive tradition. What I would argue is not that law schools ought to ignore/avoid/neglect the question of what is law, but rather use that as a starting point for a dialogue over the normative question about what law ought to be.

Law schools are not only in the business of training future BigLaw associates, but must also be educating a new generation of legal reformers. In order to do so, they must place more emphasis on legal history, jurisprudence, the intersection of law and the social sciences, etc. Students should leave law school with a healthy understanding of the roots of the Western legal tradition and some semblance of a theory of justice (apologies to Rawls). If all someone knows is that a will requires x number of witnesses but cannot explain why that requirement is good or bad, how can that person be expected to move law, and society, forward?

No on Gonzales

While I tend to default to the position of a president's choices for his cabinet to be his/her prerogative, for the following reasons I have to abandon that position with respect to the Gonzales nomination for Attorney General.
As a law student, I realize that legal opinions have real world consequences. And, as White House counsel, Gonzales presided over an apparatus that not only approved of torture, but misused the tools of the legal profession to subvert American values and human rights. Such a man is unfit to be the people's attorney or the highest ranking law enforcement official in the United States.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Considering this blog is called musclehead and further, that the author thereof (me) is a bodybuilder, it seems odd that I have never really written about training (there was one post, I believe, about steroids and/or andro a while back). In order to correct that grave injustice, I give you two workouts to bust out of your winter humdrum. The first is a killer leg workout and the second is the extreme chest workout. These are not for the faint of heart or queasy stomach (I have actually made a training partner vomit in the past). Here goes--

Smith machine squats--> 8-10 reps
Leg press--> 10-12 reps
Do four supersets. No rest between exercises, except as long as it takes you to walk over to the leg press machine. The amount of weight should be just enough that you could probably squeeze out 12-14 reps if it were not for the superset. (going to failure on legs is generally not a good, or safe idea)
Leg extensions--> 15, 12, 10, 8, 5

Romanian (stiff legged) deadlifts--> 8-10 reps
Leg curls--> 12-15 reps
Do three supersets. No rest between exercises, as above. I suggest only three supersets, because even though squats and leg presses target your quads, they will secondarily hit your hams, glutes and calves.

Standing calf raises (machine, barbell or dumbbell)--> 4 sets to failure
Seated calf raises with dumbbell (you place the dumbbell on your knee and put either a plate or a step lift below the ball of your foot)--> 4 sets to failure

Cable crossovers--> 10-12 reps
Incline dumbbell press--> 8-10 reps
Cable crossovers--> 12-15 reps
Do three or four sets. No rest between exercises. The weight should be heavy enough that you WILL fail somewhere in the appropriate rep range. On the second go round with the crossovers, the weight you use should be about 50-60% of that used on the first.

Flat dumbbell press--> 8-10 reps
Decline dumbbell press--> 8-10 reps
Incline dumbbell flye--> 8-10 reps
Pushups--> to failure
Do two or three sets. As above, the weight should be enough that you fail within the rep range for each exercise. Again, NO rest between exercises.
(hat tip to Muscle & Fitness for the chest workout, which I tweaked slightly)

The warning above was not meant solely in jest. These are advanced training sets and should be approached with caution. In addition, the chances of vomiting are rather high with the leg workout, if done correctly. And, the lactic acid buildup that results from the chest workout is not particularly pleasant. Remember to warm up before working out, especially before training legs.

Good luck and Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Long Time No See

So I have not died yet. Just enjoying life outside of the internets and taking a break from politics (sort of). Just trying to appreciate the beauty of the world around me (ackk.. that sounded hippie).

Here is what is going on this semester-
Con Law- Religion and State
Comp Legal History- Western Legal Tradition
Economic Analysis of Law
Trial Techniques
LWRAP II (because I dropped it at Wash. U. last year)

As you can see, I tried my best to avoid traditional law school classes (ie- Tax, Corporate Finance). That was a largely successful endeavor with the exception of TT, which all 2Ls have to take in the spring. In addition to classes, I am going to be working for a couple professors putting together material for their seminar on victimless crime. And I may also do some work with an adjunct on transnational criminal law or other criminal law issues.