education


Lots of talk of change in the air.  The Santa Fe weather has finally decided to turn into Fall.  In the last month, I have officially submitted my resignation from law school, performed as the lead singer of a band at a Santa Fe nightclub (a feat I swore I would never attempt), and I turned down what otherwise might have been a lucrative, stable job offer to open my own business and succeed or fail on my own terms.  All things to be talked about in another post on another day.

No, it is difficult to go on as usual without acknowledging the real economic problems we face this morning and the Chicken Littles who are determined to make everyone feel like the Apocalypse is just around the bend.  Talk of The Great Depression and “bank runs” and “global meltdowns” do seem dire, but we must remember the sources of all of these  – both the actual events and the people determined to remind us (wrongly) of them.

There is a building I walk through each day whose lobby is populated by a large security station and a very large flat panel television that is alternately tuned to Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, depending on tastes of the guards on duty.  As I walked past yesterday, a voice caught my attention.  Lou Dobbs, CNN.  The market closed below 8600 points, and he was berating other financial experts on other channels who recommend that people hold steady in the market and ride out the storm.   “These people are insane!” he screamed. “It’s absolutely irresponsible!” he cried.  Frozen in my tracks, I watched this rant, mouth agape, for about 5 minutes.  He was advocating people panic, pull their money out of the markets, and then panic again, in that order.  I got mad.  This guy doesn’t get it, and he’s spreading his fear and ignorance to his viewing audience when he should be spreading information so that people can decide what to do for themselves.  So, let me fill in the blanks that Mr. Dobbs so effortlessly neglected to mention.

This Week’s Stock Market Crash in Real Terms, Part 1

Many people hear the cry of the NYSE trading at 8500 points and panic.  It was trading at 14000 points in January and now it’s lost over 5000 points!  But let’s look at what that means in real terms.

The stock market was trading at 8500 points in 2003.  2003.  5 years ago.  Not 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, but 5 years ago.  What I make of that is (A) 5 years ago wasn’t so long ago, and I’m still alive, so 8500 points isn’t the death knell that it is being made out to be, and (B) perhaps the 14000 point level was artificially high – pushed by the housing boom and easy credit – and we just experienced an unsustainable bubble, much like the bubble we reached in 2000 at the end of the tech boom.  People who “played” the markets then won big or lost big.  But those of us sitting on 401(k)s until retirement 30+ years in the future didn’t lose a thing.  It was Play Money to begin with.

The Lesson: Unsustainable increases (and decreases) in market values tend to self-correct over time.  This is not a cause for panic.  Consider it comfort for what is to come.

This Week’s Stock Market Crash in Real Terms, Part 2

As of this morning, I have lost 38.8% of the value of my 401(k) since Jan. 1st of this year.  It will likely go lower today.  But let’s look at how my 401(k), which is probably much like your’s, breaks down.

I am young and I invest aggressively.  I am in 100% stocks spread evenly over foreign, contra, and large/mid/small cap domestic funds.  I have 12% of my paycheck deducted pre-tax and shoved into my retirement fund, my employer matches up to 6% of my salary.  Over the years and as my account grows (or doesn’t), I get all sorts of bonuses – growth of the shares I own, dividends that are reinvested, interest, the works.  So, I figure that my current fund is now comprised of about 60% my money, 30% my employer’s money, and 10% “other” from the reinvestments.  In this light, if I have “lost” 38.8% of my account’s value, then I am still playing with someone else’s money – a combo of my employers and dividend money.  My own contributions, so far, have remained untouched.

But then let’s look at the number of shares I own.  At the start of Jan. 2008 (End of Quarter 4, 2007), I owned a combined total of 195.071 shares in my various fund groups.  At the end of Sept. 2008 (Quarter 3, 2008), I owned 588.999 shares.  With this current market sell off, I will own more.  Granted, I will own more shares of stock that is worth less than it used to, but when the stock market kicks into gear again (oh, and it will, believe me), I will be well positioned to make a small killing.  Buy low, sell high.  Those people who are pulling out of the market (and are many years away from withdrawing the money) are engaging in the equivalent of buying a house at the peak of the housing market, watching house prices fall, panicking, and selling their house when the market is the lowest.  It makes bad financial sense.

The Lesson: If you are many years from retirement, sit on your hands and do not touch your retirement accounts (except to go “riskier” and reap the benefits a few years from now).  If you are close to retirement, you should not have had your life savings in the stock market to begin with.  Pull out now and put it into cash and low interest bonds until things start settling down.

The Current Market Crash and the Great Depression

Comparing the current market crash to the Great Depression is my favorite scare tactic of the current popular press.  Most of us learned about the Great Depression through our history classes, through iconic images of men in suits standing in bread lines and women sweeping porches of ramshackle homes on the cover of Life magazine, and through the lovely writings of John Steinbeck.

What did you learn about the causes?  Do you remember?  Probably something about a stock market crash in 1929 putting an end to the flapper era and everyone losing their jobs.  Oh yeah – and WWII got us out of the Great Depression.  Stock market = bad.  War = good.  Right?  Am I close?  If I am, it’s because these are the lessons that I remember, too.  That is, until I did some investigating into the causes of the Great Depression when the 9/11 attacks were threatening another Great Depression.  This is what I learned:

  • The Great Depression was caused by an awful lot of factors – corporate greed, government incompetence, public panic, large personal and commercial debt as a result of free access to easy and abundant credit.  Sounds similar to now.
  • The US economy was primarily a farming (commodities) and manufacturing economy in the early 20th century.  These two sectors rely on massive reserves of human capital (i.e. labor).  When these sectors are hit, they lay off a lot of people.  During the height of the Great Depression, unemployment was about 30%, made up mostly of laborers.
  • US farming was hit by a massive Dust Bowl era, brought on by a drought (though no more severe than was typical for the region) and poor farming and land management practices.
  • The US economy operated on a gold standard, which severely limited the ability of money to change hands and to compound.
  • As a response to the economic downturn and resulting belt-tightening across the nation, the government instituted a number of disastrous reactions, which included (among others) placing higher tariffs on exports, resulting in a backlash of foreign country-raised tariffs on US goods.  This served to slow both international trade and the potential for the US to sustain the flush of international money it enjoyed during the Industrial Revolution.

My conclusion was and is that the conditions that created the Great Depression of the 1930’s simply are not evident today.  Our economy is more diverse (including the advent of the “knowledge worker”); technology and industrial diversity has lessened the effect of any one industry’s collapse on national unemployment rates; and regulations and programs put in place after the Great Depression (i.e., Social Security, unemployment benefits, and Welfare), though imperfect, ensure that a great many out-of-work citizens continue to have a certain amount of buying power that slows, but not halts, the economy.

Under these circumstances, the cry of the next Great Depression is greatly exaggerated.  I’m not saying that another Great Depression couldn’t happen in some other fashion, but current comparisons of our current situation to that which happened almost 80 years ago is disingenuous at best, and fear mongering at worst.

The Lesson: People who try to scare you want something from you – your viewing time, your vote, your money.  Be smart.  The internet is a wonderful tool for finding truth.  If something doesn’t sound right (or is morbidly calamitous), let your fingers do the walking and find out the real truth for yourself.

We all need to remember to breathe.  While it may seem that the sky is falling, look up, trust your eyes, see that it is still blue up there, and take a deep breath.  Altogether, now:  Inhale.  Exhale.

The shocking news about the passing of Tim Russert was made all the worse by the realization that he could have had a chance of survival had an AED been present and used after his collapse.ABCNews.com posted a video clip of GMA’s Diane Sawyer and Dr. Memhet Oz explaining the sudden cardiac arrest that Tim suffered and how an AED could have jumpstarted his heart.

Automated External Defibrillators do not help with heart attacks – the slower death of heart tissue, where the victim often feels terrible but is usually awake and conscious.AEDs were designed for specific incidences of sudden cardiac arrest, where the electrical pulses that run the heart get all out of sorts and the heart just starts vibrating in place, otherwise known as ventricular fibrillation. AEDs recognize the fibrillation patterns and recommends shock only in those cases.

Do You Know Where Your AED Is?

Maybe it is the safety culture here at the Lab, but I was completely shocked when I watched the video clip from above. They wandered around the halls and asked ABC staffers if they knew if an AED was on the property, where it was located, and if they knew how to use it.The answer, in a nutshell, was a resounding No to all questions.

LANL got AEDs beginning in 2000. The Wellness Center was one of two sites to pilot the Lab’s AED program, so I have been trained and kept up my AED certification since 2000. Today, my 7 story building has a total of 14 AEDs – 2 on each floor next to the stairwells and close to the break rooms.So to imagine that an organization the size of the ABC studios in New York, with all of the people that work there and the type of equipment they work with, wouldn’t have people trained in the use of AEDs or even people who know if an AED was on the premises is irresponsible at best.

Not Just for Fat, Old Guys

I heard that the Lab was introducing AEDs because The Mucky-Mucks were concerned about the aging population – some guys have been here since the late 1950s-early 1960s. But these have been used 3 times in the last 8 years that I know of, two of which I was generally involved in.

  1. A 50+ year old user at the Wellness Center was on a diet that he read about in Playboy magazine (low calorie, high exercise).After his workout, he went into the shower and promptly passed out. CPR was started, the AED was at the scene, pads applied, shock not administered.
  2. A marathon runner in his early 40’s came back to the Wellness Center after his afternoon 15-mile run, went into the weight room, sat in the chest press machine, inhaled deeply, and pushed on the bars while holding his breath (the classic valsalva maneuver). His heart stopped. CPR was started and AED pads were applied when the paramedics arrived (luckily they were on their way to the WC to workout). I had the distinct pleasure of tracking down the man’s wife in an executive meeting to tell her that her husband was about to be taken away in an ambulance.
  3. An electrician in his mid-30’s performing work on a ladder and was electrocuted. An AED was on the scene, a shock was administered successfully.

In each of these incidents, the people survived, even if the AED wasn’t “used.” It was a help to the first responders, however, knowing that there was a machine at the ready, monitoring the situation, and giving some feedback of whether or not they were on the right track. And notice, save for the first guy, we aren’t talking about overweight, middle-aged people that suffered sudden cardiac arrest. It can happen to otherwise perfectly healthy people, too.

My Recommendation: Get Training First

Even though AEDs are made to be completely dummy-proof, I would recommend training beforehand. For non-gadget people, they can be intimidating and confusing – especially in a panic situation. For non-medical people, the idea of stripping off someone’s shirt, applying sticky pads to their chest and pushing the ON/OFF button is really intimidating, much less push the SHOCK button. With this, practice and preparation helps.

Also, there are situations that you might run into that you don’t think about – what if a guy has a really hairy chest and the pads aren’t adhering right (the packs come with a disposable razor, gotta shave him)? Can they go over bras (sort of, push the straps out of the way, put the other pad lower on the ribcage – clear of the underwire)? What if someone has a pacemaker (use the AED anyway – if the person has no pulse, the pacemaker is broken so the AED shock won’t hurt)?

CPR/AED – Not Just for Strangers Anymore

I heard in one of my trainings (though I can’t find the statistics to back it up) that people perform CPR on others they know more often that the “stranger/bystander” CPR – likely because people often go into cardiac arrest when they are in familiar places (dining with friends, at a family member’s home, at work, in the gym, etc.). Take Tim Russert – he passed out surrounded by colleagues who loved and respected him, but could not save him through CPR alone.

So I encourage you to find a local chapter of the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association and sign up for CPR/AED class. Take a group of friends and make an afternoon of it.

So, I spent half the day today talking about dancing on bars — seriously. All in the name of Torts! The practice exam that we were working through was about a girl who entered a “Shake It Like Shakira” contest, sponsored by a tequila company and hosted by a local bar. Sorry to say, our ill-fated client slipped on the wet bar in her Barbie-heels and ended up (A) tearing a ligament in her knee, (B) getting a staph infection while in the hospital, and (C) losing her job because she was out for 6 weeks. Poor Barbie.

While we were working through it, all I could think of was “those were the days!” My study partner, Desiree, could talk about nothing but the great time she had in Mexico riding a mechanical bull in a dirt bar in Puerto Penasco. And my other study partner, Aaron, couldn’t figure out what to make of these two wild women he was stuck with in the very small study room reliving their glory days. Poor Aaron.

Au Revoir, Julie!

Julie Ranger (read: Zhulie Hon-zhay) is leaving on Monday. My Quebecois carpool partner will be missed. She drives like crap, which is ironic since she was pulled over on 599 for speeding (I started laughing when she called me and told me this. In a million years, I would never accuse Julie of speeding), but her cute French accent – through her many tears – convinced the sheriff that perhaps she could be forgiven her transgressions. She got off with a warning. To which Brent confirms his suspicion that all girls can get out of speeding tickets if they could just cry on command – a subtle art I have yet to master.

Anyway, my “Montrealean” friend will go home on Monday, and I will miss her. She is smart, sassy, strong, and self-assured. If I were gay, I’d totally have a girl-crush. What am I saying? I’m NOT gay, and I TOTALLY have a girl-crush! Seriously, though. People come in and out of your life for a reason, and I am glad she came into mine. Through the eyes of this French-Canadian, I have been able to see my own country in a completely different light, especially in the realms of racism, civil rights, and immigration, and I have a newfound appreciation for the space America occupies in the world. And guess what? It’s not all about us! Go figure…

3 Down, 1 to Go

I have taken 3 of my 4 exams so far. Criminal law was pretty much what I expected – lots of conspiracy, someone died. The usual. CHLP (Comparative History and Legal Perspectives) was irritating. I studied like a mad-woman, and none of it helped. It was just like taking a Philosophy exam, which Jim would have rocked! But me? Not so much. Then we had Contracts, in which my computer almost crashed. But I feel pretty cocky in Contacts, so I finished early (probably to my detriment). On Thursday, I take the dreaded Torts exam. The least comprehensive and endearing of all of my exams. Have I told you that I will never be a Personal Injury attorney? No? Well, let me tell you – I will NEVER be a personal injury attorney. Torts is the most “American” of all of the subjects I’ve studied so far. Sue people for your own stupidity — The American Way!

In a few days, 1/6th of my Law School career will be in the bag. I can’t wait!

Haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been waiting to have something positive to say. But I am stuck in this funky place where I’m thinking about whether I’ve made the right decision after all. Law school sucks, to put it bluntly. The workload is simply excruciating, the expectations are inhuman, and most of the people aren’t very nice. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the students are always sizing you up as competition (or not, depending on how they see themselves), the instructors are vague and unhelpful, and the staff is surly. I have even filed a formal complaint against one little shit who works in the registrars office for insulting and domineering behavior…. And UNM bills itself as “the law school that cares.” Ugh. The Business program was so much easier.

But, trying to find the bright-side so as not to weigh down my audience, there have been a few moments of levity. I’ve found a good little group of friends who have their priorities in order. There’s a former paralegal, a former journalist (who has done work for Time and People magazine), a former high school teacher, and a former college kid who has her head screwed on straight. Nice people, and they put up with my whining, so you have to give them props for that! Finals run from Dec. 3rd – Dec. 14th, so we are diligently getting our course outlines together and taking practice exams. We have more of a safe-and-sane approach to finals than many of our comrades, which could either mean that we are being more efficient about the whole thing, or that we have missed the boat completely. Time will tell.

Another positive, though, is that I am starting to see what I can do with a JD. I’ve always said, “I don’t want to be a lawyer. I want to be a lobbyist!” Well, one of the clubs brought out a guest speaker from the Dept of Justice in Washington, DC who worked for the FISA court. His job was to take requests from FBI agents in the field who wanted to wiretap suspected terrorist cells in the US, and put together the application that then went to the FISA court for approval. His job, as he put it, was to balance national security with 4th Amendment privacy protections, and he took the personal privacy part very seriously. So, as I sat there listening to his story, it suddenly dawned on me that lawyers do other things than put people in jail, read contracts, and sue people for personal injury. It takes me awhile to “get” things, apparently…

I have received quite a few e-mails from you asking the general question of “how’s it going?” Truth is, I don’t really know how to answer that.

For the most part, I enjoy the subject matter of the classes I am taking (the “hard” subjects of Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, and the “soft” subjects of Comparative Legal History and Legal Writing, plus a Practicum). However, we don’t talk about things in class the way that I like talking about them – that is, we don’t debate issues as right or wrong as much as we analyze the issues for legal reasoning and rules. I hear this is a common complaint of First Years and that it gets less clinical in later years. But I get frustrated discussing whether or not a 2 year old child visiting his parent at work for lunch who gets brain damage when he slips through an open banister of a staircase and falls to the ground below is an invitee, licensee, or a trespasser under some semi-arbitrary legal definition, instead of arguing about whether or not the parent of the child deserves $8.4 million dollars in damages for not controlling her kid while they both descend a staircase with a clearly open banister. A whole lot of legal analysis without a ton of discussion about whether or not we as a society should agree with it.

Then I have the time-draining Legal Writing class in which I spend 16 hours on a Credit/No Credit assignment and get not so much as a checkmark on the stupid thing when it gets turned back to me (if I get it back at all).

I keep having to remind myself that law school really is a trade school. They are training me how to “think like a lawyer.” The morality is left up to me to decide. More often than not, I find myself singing that classic line to Rage Against the Machine song, “F@#k you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Not a good way to spend any day…

From the “I Can’t Win” File

In the span of about a year, I have miraculously turned from a bleeding-heart hippy to a conservative corporate hack. How did I do that?, you may ask. I went to law school. Let me explain…

When I was in business school, I learned that companies are in the business of making a profit for their shareholders, and not much more. That’s the shtick. So, barring any illegal activities, anything that helps them earn a profit (selling more goods, cutting expenses, etc.) is fair game. This includes moving operations to other countries where there is cheap labor and lax labor laws, pushing the outer limits of emissions regulations (or, again, moving to countries with more flexible environmental laws), and the like. Under this model, one cannot look at corporations as being “evil,” they are simply doing what they need to do to turn a profit for the shareholders.

Well, this model didn’t sit well with me. Just because you can move operations to a place where you can pay an 8 year old child $1/day to make your shoes doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can pour chemical waste into a river (and there is, presumably, no law against it) doesn’t mean you should. And just because you can pump our food supply with growth hormones and chemical preservatives doesn’t mean you should. A sense of basic moral ethics and global responsibility should be infused in most business operations, I argued. Consumers may have to pay more to sleep better at night. So what? Americans are too spoiled as it is. The Invisible Hand of the Market, be damned!

Well, what a difference a year makes. In law school, most people (in my classes, at least) are looking out for the Little Guy. So far so good. But this protection extends to (in my opinion) ridiculous places. The classic is the McDonald’s coffee incident.

Most people know the story – old lady goes through McDonald’s drive-through, orders coffee, puts coffee between her legs while still sitting in the car, opens lid to pour in cream and sugar, coffee spills in her lap, sues McDonald’s, and wins $2.9 million dollars for spilling hot coffee in her lap. Classic case of American civil courts gone wild. I have studied this case, now, in both my business classes and my law school Torts class.

What usually happens is that once folks find out that she got 3rd degree burns from this, that McDonald’s coffee was brewed at much hotter temperatures than other coffee sold elsewhere, that they had received over 700 other complaints of burns from the coffee across the globe, and that McDonald’s management were jerks and wouldn’t settle with the old lady for her medical bills (all she was really asking for), most people feel like the company needed to be taught a lesson.

However, I still don’t feel like courts should reward people for their own negligence. In my opinion, if the court wanted to punish McDonald’s then fine, pay the old lady for her medical bills and lost workdays, and then make the company pay the millions of dollars to a Burn Victim charity or something. We should be able to both punish people for wrong-doing while not reward others for their own stupidity. Personal responsibility. That’s all I ask. Somehow, though, this makes me a shill for the Man.

Same goes for this case where the child fell through the open banister of a business’ staircase and sustained permanent brain injury that would leave the child with “behavioral problems” (what child doesn’t have behavioral problems, I ask). The doctor estimated long-term care for the child at $1.8 million, but the judge awarded the parents $8.4 million, essentially because the business wasn’t following building codes and should have known.

Let’s see here, so a mother walks with her toddler down a staircase with an open banister and doesn’t carry the kid or hold his hand as they walk down it? Hmmm…. sounds like natural selection to me. Yet, we are rewarding this behavior at a tune of $8.4M? This is better odds than winning the lottery! All I have to do is give my kid a slight push down a staircase and I’ll never have to work again!

Well, that makes Jennifer a Baby Killer. “But, Jennifer, don’t you think it’s tragic?!?” Of course it’s tragic. But for whom? The child? The parents? Or the 100 people who will be unemployed if this judgment sticks and the company has to go out of business? Or the next potential entrepreneur who can’t open a shop because the liability insurance is too high? There’s a bigger picture, here, People. They don’t get it. Apparently, they are just much nicer people than I am…

So, in a nutshell, that’s how school is going. I’m learning a lot, but I’m not sure that I love it. Not yet, at least.

The last two weeks have been difficult, but I’m starting to find my stride. Lots of reading (we’re already on page 233 in Criminal Law – and not very far off from that in 3 other classes) and lots of busy work in my legal research and writing class. It seems to come in waves, though, so just when I’m losing it, there is a small break to catch up again. Every time I take a day off over the weekend, I regret it. So if I can get a solid 5-6 hours of studying in each day, I’m in a good position for the week.

Some surprises

As with most things, the instructor sets the stage for whether or not you’ll like something, but who knew that I’d like Criminal Law so much? My professor is a well-respected defense attorney who is dynamic, challenging, and organized (a rare law professor quality, I’m finding). He certainly puts us through our paces in class, facilitating tough sessions of Socratic Twister (right brain Blue!), but at the end of the class, I know exactly what I was supposed to learn. My notes read like outlines. Love it.

He also runs his class by the Designated Hitter Rule – he lets you know in the prior class if you are “on deck” next class, and you are expected to know your stuff and be the subject matter expert for that class. He chooses Hitters by going through the class list alpha order, so since I’m close to the top, I was a Hitter last week. The preparation was nerve-wracking, but I figured out that it isn’t about the home runs – the trick is getting the base hit. Small successes often mean as much as the big wins. It helped that I was assigned the Michael Milken and RI nightclub fire cases (two cases I already know a lot about), but I did pretty well and my self-esteem boosted a bit for the rest of the day as a result.

Another surprise is that I quite like my Contracts class. It could be that my business education has predisposed me to analyze contracts and transactions more than the average bear, but I enjoy defending the small business person against a lender who claims that spending $10,000 for a business trip to Asia wasn’t an operating expense (hey, she could have been talking to manufacturers about making her gadget to sell in Wal-Mart! We are in a global economy…). It’s also fun to read about a bunch of drunk hicks who make a deal to sell a family farm for $50,000 on the back of a customer ticket at a bar and argue about whether or not it’s an enforceable contract (it was in that case).

Some things never change

Student groups are a big thing in law school (networking, resume building, blah, blah, blah), but I resolved not to join anything my first semester. I couldn’t resist, though, when the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund club announced their first meeting. New Mexico not being much of an activitist State, I had almost forgotten how crazy animal people can come off. The president of this club is what I would define as “militant.” She’s more concerned about turning everyone into vegetarians and boycotting Babe movies than in legal advocacy. Although I agree with a lot of her views (I consider myself an Ethical Vegetarian, after all), I’m more interested in the low-hanging fruit – like making cock-fighting a felony and enacting stricter penalties for companion animal abuse and neglect. The traditional animal welfare/rights rhetoric turns the average person off, and this girl looks like a whack-job. It is my new mission to either soften her message, or to lay in wait until she graduates at the end of the year and stage a coup.

I went to Orientation on Thursday and Friday, and I lived to tell about it. More importantly, those around me lived, as well.

Maybe it’s my inner Event Planner coming out, but these things should not be so hard. Everything was presented out of order; very important pieces of information were left out until a last minute “Oh yeah, …this is where you can find your assignments for Monday” as everyone was walking out on Friday afternoon; we got to hear all about the student associations, the student bar associations, and the alumni associations (never too early to start feeding us the “giving back” spiel after graduation in 3 years), but simple things like, oh, computer network registration, class registration, financial aid questions, where to buy books, the location of the copy center, were either rushed through in the interest of time, or completely lost altogether. Does anyone have a spare Comment Card handy? So frustrating.

I did learn a few things about law school, though, that will be helpful for me to remember in the coming months.

1. Almost everyone who works at the law school has a JD.

I’m not talking just about the professors and the Deans. I’m also talking about the Career Services people, the Student Services people, the computer techs – everyone. For them, this means that everyone at the law school can understand what we, as students, “are going through.” To me, it means that everyone has a “legal ego” (see #2).

2. People with JDs have huge egos.

I’m sure this is not the rule. I don’t know very many lawyers, and those that I do know are very nice people. But the people who have JDs and work for a law school seem a different breed.

Maybe it’s what draws them to academics – the idea of projecting their vast legal knowledge into the future – but the message I kept hearing over and over was how smart I was for choosing a legal career over some other career that made less of a difference. There’s an arrogance there that I have no interest in being a part of.

3. Law school is an indoctrination.

Wow. These people take this stuff seriously. Not the Law (which is important for everyone to take seriously), but the Pomp and Circumstance of law school. At the end of a very long first orientation day, they held a dinner and a “Pinning Ceremony.” In this Pinning Ceremony, new students were called one at a time, shook hands with professors, and were given a pin “in recognition of the start of your legal career.” What? Are you serous? Have I just pledged a frat? I don’t need a pin to remind me (A) that I am in law school or (B) why I’m here. That, plus the fact that they had nothing vegetarian for dinner, convinced me it was time to go. Brent and I skipped out of the Pinning Ceremony and went to dinner by ourselves. And I do not feel bad about it.

Yes, surviving Orientation was a big step and I got through it with very few scrapes.

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