Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breaking: Souter to Retire

See breaking coverage (among other places) here.

Early speculation had been covered here.

"Souter is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, which may or may not be accomplished before the court reconvenes in October."

Discussion topics:
- Arlen's impact on decision and future confirmation hearings
- Obama's parameters for a pick
- How that'd change makeup of Court
- Any strategy in anticipating other seat vacancies as well?

Additional topics added by Armen:
- His many talents
- And people who will miss him

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Helpful Health Tool

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Is The Real Stephen Colbert

My man-crush on Colbert is no secret. But this study comes as a huge surprise. (H/t: Benen). First, a request: anyone with lexis willing to e-mail me the full article? If you're too lazy to read the abstract, the nickel version is that conservatives don't realize that Colbert's a satire. They think he's pretending to joke but is offering serious political commentary. [insert puzzled look here].

Second, my immediate thought on the matter: this would certainly explain why someone at the White House thought it wise to ask Colbert to deliver the keynote address at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2006 (Benen quotes someone with a related observation). I still think that speech will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the modern GOP. Today's big news about Sen. Specter crystallizes this.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

3L Class Campaign

It's coming down to the last few days of the 3L class campaign.

What started out as a rather lackluster showing has been picking up speed in recent days and most mods are down to their last 3-4 people who have yet to donate.

Don't be someone who will go down in history as one of the handful of people without a star next to their name in the graduation book - for all your closest friends and family to notice!

Donation forms are always available in the library, next to the reference
desk. However, the easiest method is to donate online here.

Remember: it's the mere fact you're donating that counts - any [even small] amount will go a long way to helping your school.

Do it now - then bug a friend to do the same! You're almost out of time to be counted!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Future of Law Reviews

Yesterday at 3PM, representatives from most of the several Berkeley Law Reviews (including CLR, ELQ, BTLJ, BJIL, BJCL, AALJ, BJAAL, and others) met with Bob Berring and KVH from the library. The topic of the meeting was the complete digitization of law reviews (as in, there would be no more print editions). Some journals were concerned about the loss in revenue from subscriptions, but the group generally agreed that this revenue merely offset the production and print costs anyway. Subscriptions for law reviews have been going down across the board, which means reduced exposure for journals, and an accompanying loss in prestige. BB made the point that once you lose your influence, it's really hard to get it back. So the choice has become to maintain a print edition, making a diminishing amount of money and facing a loss of exposure, or bite the bullet and make the issues available for free online, raising exposure. Prompting this discussion in the first place is the "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship", a call to action by the law libraries of the top 20 (or so) law schools.

A somewhat-related issue discussed was an enhanced online presence for the journals. ELQ has led the way here; I'm embarrassed to say that the BTLJ's website is severely lacking, though this is changing. The cost of improving BLaw's online presence is a concern for many journals, so some collaboration was discussed in order to share resources and reduce costs across the board. I suspect this goal is more secondary, but some careful planning on uniformity now would pay dividends in the future (as opposed to letting the various journals' web presence grow organically, and then try to force them into uniform molds). This isn't to say that the websites would have to look alike, or that there would be any loss of autonomy for any journals. Rather, things like design costs, IT, hosting/storage costs could be shared.

Thoughts? I love that we're abandoning the print volumes. It's shameful we haven't made this leap before. One editor raised the concern that there are "some old judges" that still prefer the print volumes, but the sad truth is that those old judges are only getting older. I suspect some traditionalists on here will be upset, and I can't deny that I take delight in forcing my technologically progressive ideals down their throats! BB mentioned that the law school was prepared to help with the transition costs, and supplement (temporarily) any lost revenue. Further, if someone absolutely demanded a print copy, we could always print one off relatively cheaply (though not in the fancy print-volume format that we use now). Also, trees will be saved. Are there any other issues that we're missing?

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Construction Update



I snapped this photo late yesterday and figured the alumni would be interested in seeing the progress.

For reference, compare that door at the far building to where those trucks are sitting. Remember, those doors were only 3 steps up from the courtyard patio. Expect it to go down about two and a half stories in total before they start work on the structure itself (slated to begin late May).

Below, enjoy Boalt GC's T-shirt spoof. Thanks to the anonymous commenter for providing the link!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bar Bri / PMBR

11:21 AM will go down as the time all 3Ls collectively had to change their underwear.

Why? Bar Bri sent out the schedule for this summer.

Notes:

(1) Yay, I hear this will be FUN!

(2) Yay, at least they got us a Berkeley location(s).

Any thoughts on them?
- Eshleman Library, 7th Floor, On Bancroft between Telegraph and Dana Streets
- Evans Hall, NE Section of Campus near Gayley Rd.
- I-House, 2299 Piedmont Ave.

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ALSO: PMBR - yes or no? Does firm payment change the answer?

Armen's fancy search box helped me find this earlier thread that discusses merits of PMBR in the comments. But please feel free to revisit the issue here as well...

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Bad News on the Rankings Front

A lot of people already know that, in the new US News rankings, Boalt has remained in the sixth spot.

But the bigger news is this: for the first time in seventeen years, Berkeley is no longer the top-ranking school for intellectual property. For 2010, that spot is held by Stanford.

I'm sad to say that I'm not terribly surprised. All the staff and faculty at BCLT and the Samuelson Clinic do great work. But I don't see any evidence that the administration has considered it a top priority to build on that reputation. Instead, there's been a kind of benign neglect, predicated on the assumption that Berkeley will always lead in this field. That's not enough.

I hope this serves as an opportunity for Berkeley to consider making a stronger commitment to one of its core strengths.

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Google on Google (or Why Blogspot Sucks)

The search feature on the title bar of this page sucks, which is pathetic considering blogspot is a Google entity. It only searches main posts but not comments. So when someone wants to know about a particular professor, say Professor Legal Accounting, she can't search the comments. To that end, I finally took five minutes to embed Google site search. You can find it below the archives on the main page. Now you just have to figure out whether to search with or without an asterisk. Figured this would make things easier for people doing research for their fantasy professor drafts.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Biggest Douche in the Universe Award

Goes to James Lindgren, a law professor at Northwestern and a VC contributor. Ever since Obama won the Democratic Party's nomination, he's been on a Quixotic quest to post the most absurd and unfounded thoughts. The latest gem is this post. For full effect, please do read the post. Try not to throw your laptop when doing so.

So here's why Lindgren is so deserving of this award.

1. No comments. Now I'm not one to give unsolicited blogging advice, but I find it curious that when VC commenters (not a liberal bunch) began to push back on his unhinged and unfounded speculations and innuendos, he solved the problem by disabling comments on his posts. Consider this post my "comment" prof.

2. Chutzpah. The guy is working on a PhD from the University of Chicago in Sociology. As a psych major, it is my duty to mock the entire field of so-easy-ology. But banter aside, don't you need to grasp like middle school level research methods to get a PhD in Soc? I have no clue who Lindgren's PhD advisor is, but I'd sure as hell have a talk with him about his basic competence if this post is any indication of his "research" abilities.

3. Providing a caricature of the "confirmation bias." The "methods" used by Lindgren are uh well they're not methods at all. It's just playing with data to get it to fit your preconceived notions. First, at best he points to a correlation. But there isn't really any evidence of a correlation either. Second, there's absolutely nothing to suggest that income tax rates and union participation in any way CAUSE higher unemployment rates. Nothing. I don't see a correlation because the data is grossly cherrypicked. Why focus on the top 6? The next states with the highest unemployment rates are: Nevada, Indiana, DC, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida. Nevada has no income tax. I'm sure Indiana is under solid GOP control. And Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida don't strike me as high taxes / high union states. Is the 10.4 unemployment rate in Nevada that much different than the 10.5 rate in Rhode Island that it warranted being kept off Lindgren's list? The larger point is, if there is any correlation, it should be formally established, and not just hinted at by selectively looking at the data only as long as they are favorable for your world view.

4. Again providing a caricature of the confirmation bias. Aside from looking at data highly selectively, Lindgren does not bother with any possible alternative explanations for the data. Again, reaching back to my LAUSD science education, I think this is a big no-no. He hints at geography as a factor for the states with the lowest unemployment. [This is of course an "uh drrrr" observation because the plains states did not have as much an increase in housing prices during the bubble, therefore they have not been touched as much by the burst]. But he ignores any alternative explanations for the high unemployment rates.

Let's look a bit closer at California as a state with high taxes and union participation. A lot of the job cuts are the result of the state budget crisis fueled in very large part by the California Republicans refusing any increase in taxes. That is, if we had raised our taxes, we would have had lower unemployment numbers. [One should not confuse this as contending that the Democrats in Sacto are effective at governing. I'd never slander their inability to get anything done.] Next up, Michigan--uh yeah I have noooooooooo idea why they have unemployment. Must be the unions!!! And to avoid an accusation that I'm doing the same thing as Lindgren, yes, years of cushy union benefits contributed to the eventual downfall of the American carmakers. But the complete meltdown of an entire industry that is the dominant economic engine of a state (see high tech in California) is an intervening cause with union memberships relegated to the sidelines. At least that's what I think just by looking at the situation. I'm not drawing absolute conclusions based on thin air. The Carolinas are suffering with the rest of the South (see Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida above). So taxes don't explain their problems. Leaving us only Rhode Island, which just generally sucks. We don't need to run an ANOVA to figure that one out.

But if Lindgren had is way, we'd slash taxes and unions and hope everyone ends up like Iowa. Seriously? Sociology PhD from Chicago? Any one in that department want to buy my rock that keeps away tigers?

5. John Edward has already won the award once.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Course Evaluations: More Carrot, Less Stick

I appreciated the candid emails from BB yesterday and today about course evaluations. He reasserted Boalt's dismay that since the school switched to an online system, "the return rate has been slowly dwindling," and he explained how the school has responded.

First, data will only be viewable by students who completed an evaluation the previous semester. (I'm willing to bet there is a giant exception for fall semester 1L's, so if you're lazy, that's who you should coerce. It shouldn't be hard.) BB explains that the school favors this scheme because it has generated a 90% response rate at Northwestern, perhaps because it has a "certain symmetry." It seems at least as likely to me that the high response rate at Northwestern is partly because it's so damn cold and miserable there that students have nothing better to do, but that's pure speculation.

Second, the school will begin releasing all quantitative data for all classes, with the exception of junior professors (but not junior lecturers - yet another short straw to the hard working folks in the Skills Program, no?)

Third, Boalt will begin offering a bigger carrot. Students who complete timely evaluations will be entered into some sort of Amazon.com raffle.  See the email in the comments.

Finally, the school is "still discussing" whether to release the written comments from the evaluations. This is, in my opinion, the key to the whole shebang. I understand that there is a California labor law problem with mandatory release of the written responses, but I continue to believe that if that information were released the response rate would skyrocket. No doubt Armen will chime in with lush and nostalgic praise for the system at UCLA, and with good reason: communication is a two way street here, and until we get the sense that WE can benefit from our input, assertions that the school "takes them quite seriously" continue to feel rather empty. I realize the labor law may pose a bit of a stumbling block, but I continue to have faith that if the school wants to, it can someday find a way around it. Where there is a will, there's surely a way, right? I probably shouldn't go there but, think: Prop 209.

Oh yeah, and click here to complete your evaluation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fall Courses 2009

[Update 04/19/09 (Patrick): One last bump here, as registration is this week.

Update 04/10/09 (Patrick): Hat tip and huge thanks to Anonymous in the comments, who shared a link to Berkeley Law's "two year plan" for course offerings.  

I had a pdf posted here until this morning, when I received an angrily polite email demanding I take it down.  The tone of the email (all demands, and no explanations) tempted me to leave it up, but in the end . . . meh.  I don't really have the energy to be stubborn over something trivial.  If you are an alum or someone with a genuine and legitimate interest in the plan, email me and I'll happily kick you an updated pdf. Current students can find a copy at the SID protected link, above.]
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The course list for fall 2009 will be posted tomorrow at this link. But given today’s lunch talk about graduation requirements, bar courses, and the like, we might as well kick this thing off. Here is a rundown from the talk:
To graduate, students must take the core 1L curriculum, Professional Responsibility (as a 2L), and Con Law (at any time). They must also fulfill a 40-70 page writing requirement, supervised by a faculty member, by the end of the fall semester of their third year. Recommended bar courses include Evidence, Civ Pro II, Corporations, and Crim Pro. Note tat this fall will be the last time Civ Pro II is offered at Boalt.

Lastly, the scuttlebutt is that John Yoo will teach one of the Civ Pro classes.
Some of that guidance is mandatory, and some of it is sort of over the top (e.g., exactly what are they doing to do to you if you choose not to take Professional Responsibility until your 3L year? Expulsion? Prison? Death?). I suspect that which is which should become evident as the comments develop. I’ll bump this thread a time or two as tele-BEARS Phase I approaches.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Petitioners' Victory! Or not.

This is for all those readers not on DE's friends and family list. In the comments, I will quote an email received from the Dean in response to the JY petition. I think the two main points are:

1. DE firmly dismisses the issues raised in the petition.
2. Boalt will offer another Civ Pro II class, but for a different reason.

The new class is being offered because "[t]ypically, around 160 students per year have enrolled in Civ Pro II, which means next year’s offerings must accommodate roughly 320 students. This clearly justifies adding a third section." However, it would be "inappropriate" to make any curriculum changes on the basis of a few students' objection to JY.

I think it's notable that DE goes out of his way to clarify that he's not validating the petition. Your thoughts?

DOJ "Torture Memos" Released

President Obama has released four “torture” memos written by the DOJ Office of the Legal Counselor Lawyers. You can find the memos at the ACLU’s website. The memos were published with very little redaction – it looks like mainly names have been taken out.

Also of note is Obama’s decision not to prosecute any CIA interrogators who relied on the memos in good faith. In some ways, I can understand this decision. He says “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” On the other hand, how much of a difference is there between the Nazi guard at Auschwitz, or the Hutu who murders his neighbor because the radio told him to, or the interrogator who goes a little too far. If the premise in the first two cases is that these people should have known, superior orders or government information notwithstanding, that some acts are fundamentally criminal, shouldn’t that same premise apply in the third case as well? What’s more, I worry that this could set a dangerous precedent in future cases: will we now give immunity to all persons who commit acts of torture or other crimes so abhorrent that the international community has labeled them “jus cogens” (acts that are always prohibited) if there is a legal memo authorizing these acts?

I’m not disappointed in Obama, nor do I feel betrayed by this decision. He ran as a centrist, and I think compromises of this sort are exactly what he promised in his campaign. I suspect that a lawsuit challenging the President’s constitutional authority to grant this immunity is next, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

As a side note, Kevin Jon Heller on Opinio Juris has an interesting argument on whether the CIA interrogators were actually acting in good faith.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

First!

Someone was kind enough to email this (pdf) to me early this morning (before it broke at ATL) but laziness must have gotten to me first because only now am I getting around to posting it. The short version of the story is that Harvard is the latest "top law school" to adopt the Berkeley grading system.

Oh, wait, it's not the Berkeley grading system, because the Harvard cutoffs are different:
Honors = 37%
Pass = 55%
Low Pass = 8%
Fail = 0%
See? Thirty-seven percent? Fifty-five percent? Totally, totally different.

Let's be sure to get two things straight. First, Haaaavard remains willing to tag and brand the bottom of the class. LP = bottom 8% ??? Ouch. Second, the school has explicitly reserved the possibility of failing students . . . but apparently does not plan on it: the passing grade percentages add up to 100.

Am I the only who thinks that as the big schools trend toward warm & fuzzy grading systems like ours, we ought to get some firsties credit? We may be dirty hippies out on the west coast, but come on! A little credit here!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That Empty Berkeley Tradition Strikes Again

From the tread immediately below:
Anonymous said...

On a different note. Can we get a post on the silly petition being circulated re: Yoo's civ pro II class.

Posted by Anonymous to Nuts & Boalts at 4/15/2009 4:18 PM
I don't know about the petition, but if it is a demand to replace Yoo with someone else, I know what I think (comments).

[Update 04/16/09, Patrick: as a commentator notes, it's only a matter of time until this thread pops up elsewhere. So, maybe I should say what I think instead of just assuming I'm such a loudmouth that everyone knows.

What I think is this: we should let the University do its job. No one is using the Torture Memos anymore nor are the Memos part of the curriculum at Boalt, so there is no need to head off an emergency. It's downright disturbing to me that the very same people who are angry at Yoo for bending and breaking the law are also willing to sidestep the University rules in their quest for vengeance. I'd like to sit the petition writers down for a basic Q&A on topics like "explain with precision the legal flaws in the Memos, and cite the Memo that contains them," spell "Abu Ghraib" or "locate Iraq on a map." The results of that session would reveal the petition for what it is: an expression of political animus, heavy on passion but light on principles, and hastily conceived as the Torture Memos themselves.

Finally, this may be petty of me but as a factual matter I'd like to flag a hurried revision to the petition (HT, again, to a commentator). It used to be called the catchy, "Reconsider John Yoo for Civ Pro II." Now it is the much more benign,"More Options for Civ Pro II." The new title gestures toward free choice and expression, but not enough to carry the day: you'd like to see him fired. Fine. I get that. But if you love this country and its laws, may I politely submit that this is a fantastic opportunity to embrace them. Wait for a conviction, and then can him by the book.
]

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Time for DE to Step Up to the Plate for 3Ls

Today's ATL confirms what has been rumored for weeks: Northwestern Law is taking a number of steps to help out their graduating 3Ls.

Notably: health care extension and hiring opportunities

DE: now's not the time to be silent. You've done an excellent job preparing this school for those that have yet to come (new faculty and tearing apart our facilities while we're the ones here). Let's make it happen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

3L "Gap Fillers" Open Forum

3Ls: Time for an open forum on how you plan to "gap fill" your time between the bar exam and when you begin work.

Today's CDO presentation conveyed two interesting points on topic:

(1) If you're given the chance of a one year deferral, you should take it.

Reasoning behind this suggestion was (1) firms are hurting and you can help them; (2) they wouldn't have offered it to you if they didn't want you to take it; and, (3) money in hand is better than starting and getting laid off before next fall anyway (universally considered the WORST case scenario).

HOWEVER, and this likely can go without saying, it'd be career suicide to do nothing during your year off. Playing video games will likely mean you will not be around very long if they even let you back.

(2) Even those who plan to start Dec/Jan/MARCH?! should do something to improve their resume in the meantime.

But what can you do? CDO is starting a new section on b-line to house short-term placements for this period. Also, maybe sign up for a semester at the community college?

Any thoughts on the matter(s)?

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Bob's Plea For Help

Two things struck me about BB's email today ("Food, Vermin and You. A Serious Plea for Help.").  First, he must not be a fan of the serial comma. Second, does any of this really need to be said?

I disagree emphatically when it comes to serial commas, but I'm also BB's biggest fan so I'll cheerfully let it pass. I peeked into the Student Center on my way out of Boalt today and, sadly, he's correct on the second point.  

There can be such thing as a hygienic construction zone.  Let's make it happen.

Where Your Interest Payments Go

Why is this even debated? Of course it makes sense for the government to make subsidized loans directly and to cut out the middle man. But much like health care, it seems like the middle men are not too happy to lose their cut; so they're using your dollars to lobby Congress.

I can't help but wonder how college Republican groups will react. Maybe they'll hold a bake sale to highlight the inherent inequities faced by the economically disadvantaged.

Attention Future Advocates!

Interested in moot court or trial team? Enjoy public speaking and argument? Want to share idiosyncratic and realistically unfunny inside jokes with no more than three people for the rest of your life? Like cookies?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, one of the Berkeley Board of Advocates teams might be for you. Come to their information session TODAY (Monday) at 12:45 in Room 121 to learn more about the various teams and how to try out.

Also, to the person with a degree in Blog Management from the University of Annoying who is reading this and thinking about anonymously commenting that it belongs in the BBB, I just saved you the trouble.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guest Feature: Commentator Reacts to 3L Survey Questions

3Ls received a survey yesterday with the stated goal of understanding "post-graduate plans and how well [we] think Boalt addressed and influenced [our] career interests/aspirations."

Questions included:
  • What motivated you to attend law school?
  • If you took take advantage of the Edley Grant Program, what did you like about it, and what aspects of the program do you think could be improved?
  • To what extent did your debt burden influence your post-grad job choice?
Guest commenter Laura left a comment in the thread below and has graciously responded to a request by N&B regulars to produce the following post expanding upon her earlier comment.

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[From Laura:]

I was excited about the 3L survey email (with justifiable procrastination time written all over it). But as I started filling it out, I found that a couple of the questions just had a “gotcha” quality that rubbed me the wrong way.

Among the offending questions: How do I rank the prestige of various legal jobs? And how do I and others “value” public interest work?

I don’t think you can rank different career options in any sensible manner and I don’t think people can express value for something in the abstract (How much do I value world peace? A lot. But ask me how much I value finding my favorite cereal on sale and you’ll get the same answer).

But I think the more fundamental problem I have with these survey questions is that the term “public interest” – like its even more irksome sister “social justice” – is treated like it has one (super duper earth saving) definition. That’s not really the fault of the survey authors; people at Boalt talk about “public interest” in this generic way all the time.

And I think that’s a problem. Treating “public interest" as an amorphous blob is actually incredibly polarizing. In a black and white public interest vs private sector world, you are either (a) saving the world or (b) being a selfish prick. Or, on the other hand, you are either (a) a lunatic hippie who may one day stage a protest by living in a tree or (b) a rational human being who wants to pay their bills and live in a house. Needless to say, these dichotomies are unfair.

Specific issues resulting from this linguistic set up include:
  • Suggesting that people must fall into one camp or the other. In practice, many people may bounce between various legal fields (ie time in the public and private sectors). I worry people are discouraged from thinking like that and fully considering their options, however, because we tend to approach the career question by asking people which camp they fall into (implying that you pick just one).
  • Losing sight of government work. Working for the government may technically fall under public interest, but it doesn't get the same granola street cred as some of the other public interest-y options).
  • Losing sight of the many options available within the "public interest" and "private sector" categories. I think law school would be an infinitely more valuable experience if professors and others spent more time talking about various career paths and options in specific terms rather than just public/private.
  • Losing sight of the fact that “public interest” work does not have an inherent value based on that tagline alone. Depending on the causes you support (and don’t), some of this work will see helpful and effective, other avenues perhaps wasteful or harmful.
These are my thoughts, what are yours?

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

My Law School Has Sprung a Leak

One is a fluke, two is suspicious. As comments in the thread below point out, we're losing Shelanski and Hathaway. I loved the former as my contracts professor and really hate the thought of him leaving. Who will take his place and use "The Great Cornjolio" in a hypo? He visited HLS [GULC and NYU?], and I held my breath that the visit would not lead to a permanent move. But I guess the "universe has a way of course correcting." I don't know much about the latter. I've read her occasional op/eds in the LA Times coauthored with Professor Ackerman of Yale. I guess based on nothing more than pure speculation, she's just returning to the familiar, both in terms of setting and peers.

I have this weird tingly spidey sense that DE's success in recruiting lateral and entry-level faculty may be gaining the attention of other schools. Sklansky visited HLS last year. Talley and Lester this year. Notice that we poached all three from UCLA and U$C. The last time around Bundy was a finalist to be dean at Hastings. Will he be the official selection this time around now that their choice "loved 'em and left 'em?" Moran (and most definitely her dog) are visiting UCI for a year or two. What will come of that? Yoo visiting the other OC law school, Chapman. Is the absence of crazed hippies with too much time on thier hands inticing? I'm sure I'm missing others.

In short, just 4 or 5 years ago, our only serious threat was that school across the Bay. Given their size, they'd poach one or two choice talents (Lemley and Spaulding come to mind). Now it seems like everyone wants a piece of the pie that DE has baked.

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No Soup For You!

It turns out there is a food index to the legal job market: the worse 1L's prospects, the less likely the CDO will feed them lunch.

This thread is to channel the building speculation about why this spring's OCIP 'lunch talks' have been all talk and no lunch. Is the economy so bad we can no longer afford to buy disposable pans of cheap thai or boxes of greasy pizza? Is hiring so unlikely the CDO is using passive aggressive tactics to discourage attendance, perhaps on a sort of what-they-don't-know-can't-hurt-either-of-us theory?

Please. If our 1L's can't get jobs, then can't we at least feed them? We'd do it for Dean Prosser, and for that be-fanny packed, tooth grinding, book slamming "aumni" who sleeps on the couches in the back corner of the library. Surely we can do the same for the class of 2011.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Viva La Lawsuit!

It won't come as a shock to most of you that I am no fan of Coldplay. In fact, I hate them. Coldplay, to me, embodies the spirit of blandness. Their massive audience is a testament to their ability to completely boil out anything interesting (and thus possibly objectionable) from their songs, to the point where everyone seems to like them, but no one is really sure why. "Nobody said it was easy; no one ever said it would be so hard." No one disagrees with this axiom, but does anyone feel moved by it?

Another example: their latest mega-hit is called "Viva la Vida," which means "Live the Life." What kind of life, Coldplay? "Oh, you know, 'the.'" Even Ricky Martin managed to specify that we should live the crazy life! And although Ricky's message was kind of annoying, Coldplay has no message at all. No ideology. Nothing to ponder or embrace. Coldplay is the musical equivalent of the word "the."

Why am I posting this on a law blog? First, because it's been kind of a slow week at N & B. Second, because Coldplay is getting sued! Talented guitarist Joe Satriani has long claimed "Viva La Vida" is a direct rip-off of his instrumental "If I Could Fly." (You can compare the two tracks here.) The long-brewing suit finally landed in a Los Angeles court this week. Check out Coldplay's defense strategy:

Coldplay’s lawyers argued that the similarities between “Viva la Vida” and “If I Could Fly” weren’t enough to warrant a lawsuit. The band’s legal team also stated that Satriani’s instrumental “lacked originality,” and thus shouldn’t be covered by copyright law, therefore preventing “Viva La Vida” from violating any copyrights.

Come on, that's pretty hilarious. In order to defend themselves from a plagiarism suit, Coldplay has had to espouse their own lack of originality! Basically, "this song couldn't have been copied, because there's nothing new or interesting about it! It's unoriginal as a matter of law." I couldn't agree more.

Ok, thanks for indulging me. If any of you copyright aficionados would like to weigh in, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Way To Go Danny!!!

Daniel Redman ('08) has this interesting piece on Slate.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A haiku for an under-appreciated holiday

From stretch to strike zone,
Maple, ash smash over walls,
Life is sweet again.

PS: N&B is 1500 posts old. Go us!

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ATL at Boalt

Tomorrow afternoon, David Lat of the slightly more famous blog Above the Law will be talking during lunch. He will be discussing topics ranging from legal blogging to the effects of the economic crisis on the legal industry. One can only hope that someone (read: Patrick) will be live blogging the blog talk. He has promised to allow lots of time for questions. The questions asked will likely remain as confidential as CDO's employment panels, so come enjoy gossiping about gossip!

Who: David Lat
What: Talking about stuff
When: 12:45 PM, Tuesday, April 06
Where: Room 140
Why: Why not?! Also, free food.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

DE Stands Up For Academic Freedom

In today's Contra Costa Times, DE responded to an article which inferred that the University may discipline Y*o for his opinions during work for the Bush administration. Click on the title of this post for a link.

Please note that I do not include an opinion here as to torture memo's, or any other work by Professor Y*o. While I know that there are people who have strong opinions on both sides, MY belief is that this country, and even moreso this university, should be a place where people may express their views freely, honestly, and constructively. Professor Y*o did work in the service of this country, even if you disagree that it was the correct path for the country to go. He was doing what he thought was right, even though it may turn out that he was wrong.

Remember that a University is not a court of law, and is not a judge on whether academic views are correct, legal, or just. As DE discusses in the article, it would be a step back for academic freedom to punish someone for expressing views that foster academic debate. If Professor Y*o did something illegal, it is for prosecutors and courts to decide---not Berkeley.

I commend DE for standing up for one of our Professors. Even if you disagree with Professor Y*o (and many at Boalt do), we should all be glad that McCarthy-esque witch-hunts will not be tolerated by the leaders of our school.

Thank you Boalt, and thank you, DE.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

An Argument For Fox News Polls

Because they're so ridiculously funny, I think we need more of them. In what seems like a life imitates art scenario (see, e.g., "Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at foxnews.com"), here's the latest gem:
Do you think the federal government should increase taxes on the wealthiest individuals so that nobody gets to be too rich?
As a friend said:
Reminds me of a Soviet joke. "The son of an old revolutionary meets the son of a Kerensky loyalist. The son of the revolutionary says 'my father fought so that there wouldn't be any rich people.' The son of the Kerensky loyalist says 'and my father fought so there wouldn't be any poor people.'"
Yes I think the government should raise taxes so we don't have poor, jobless, starving people. *&%@ers.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

An Argument for Fire Alarms

Something (and probably something inadvertent) triggered the fire alarm today at around 12:20, and after my eardrums settled a bit, the whole experience reminded me: I love Boalt Hall.

I love Boalt Hall for the way its hokey, flakeyness creates eddies and pockets of social interaction. Fire alarms are a pain in the ass, but what better way to meet someone than standing outside a cement building and waiting for the shrieking to stop? That's the sort of experience that creates bonds (or therapy) for life.

I love Boalt Hall for each and every one of the savvy 2L's and 3L's who knew to position themselves right next to the entrances by the lecture halls while waiting for today's alarm, and for the 1L's who followed their lead. Why did they stage themselves there? Because that's the best tactical position for a stealth run at the BTLJ lunch food before the attendance nazis return.

I love Boalt Hall for the way word went through the crowd: "Cheeseboard pizza in room 115 . . . but it's for a BHWA lunch talk with Professor Swift, so you'll have to get in there and snag it before the Boalt Hall Women get back. You'll be fine if you run, dude. Just run."

I love Boalt Hall for the "alumni," one of whom (dressed in blaze orange button-down shirt, sporting three fanny packs and a blackberry) explained loudly, fervently, and passionately, to anyone willing to listen or unable to escape about all the ways Boalt has changed: "We used to do everything by hand around here," he emphasized, wringing his hands for emphasis. When the alarm silenced he was the first in the door, yelling, "See you in the courtroom," and sprinting to the BJLT lunch table, where without breaking stride he grabbed a sandwich and dashed toward the library. "And whatever you do," he hollered wildly over his shoulder, "stay out of municipal court! Stay in federal court! Federal court!"

And I love Boalt Hall for the students' casual and utterly flagrant disregard for rules. The Director of Student Services frustrated pleas to not renter the building even though the alarms had stopped had as much effect as the "no food or drink" signs in the library. This is a law school, for chrissakes. But really, who are we kidding?

This place, which is some delightful combination of candyland and Lord of the Flies, is great. Just. Plain. Great.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Your Own Worst Enemy Has Come to Town (She’s that Lady in the Back Row)

Update [April 02, 2009]: I note below that this post is based on second hand informaiton, and I ask to be corrected where I err, instead of insulted. After fielding a bit of both, I'm in a position to offer some clarification.

First, (in response to Dan in comments) I did attend the Brruuuuuuuce show, and it was awesome. Best concert of my life, hands down.

Second, our own worst enemy isn't lady in the back row after all (I'll leave you to speculate where that enemy is sitting). The lady in the back row is Petra Pasternak who reports on behalf of Cal Law, which is a subsidiary of American Lawyer. She wrote this item after attending the Zeughauser career event yesterday, which she found notice of on Boalt's web site.  She called the career services office to check if she could attend, and was given directions.  She was not informed when she called that the portions of the event would be confidential, and she arrived to the event a few minutes late, so if there was discussion about the event being confidential, she missed out on that. 

Third, just to be clear, there was discussion at the event itself about confidentiality, and assurances that it would remain so. Students were told that the event would not be taped or recorded, and students were encouraged to identify their firms by name. I'd be very, very irritated if I relied upon that representation to share information about my firm, only to learn that the school had invited the press. That, essentially, is the thrust of the post.

Lastly, while the article done sensitively and well (no harm, no foul, right?), but as a commentator notes below, it also undercuts the tendency to share information -- both for students and for professionals like Zeughauser. Can we keep the press out of a public school? No. Should we even want that? No. But could we do a better job of tailoring our candor to suit our environment? I think the answer is yes -- especially if we are giving reporters driving directions to our talks. What, precisely, was the rationale behind inviting a reporter while promising not to record the event? If there wasn't a rationale, why not?


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The story that follows comes to me secondhand, and while I belive every word is accurate I could be mistaken. If so, don't yell at me. Correct me.

Apparently yesterday’s CDO lunch talk about firm stability in this economy came prefaced with assurances that the discussion would not be taped, that the conversation would be confidential, and that students should be candid the speaker. Students were encouraged to share the names of their firms, and the details of the changes to their summer programs, and to ask questions like, "Will my firm make it, or not?"

Sounds pretty cozy -- sounds pretty much like that chill Boalt community we read about in the admissions packet, right? It might have been, except that the talk was infiltrated by a reporter from American Lawyer, who sat through the entire presentation in all of its candid glory, then sought one-on-one interviews with students after the presentation.

I have every reason to believe this story is true. If it is, it seems like one of two things happened: the CDO failed to make clear the special way in which it used the word “confidential,” or the CDO was hoodwinked by a cagy reporter. My guess is it's the latter, and to be fair it must hard for them to prevent this kind of thing. If we can't crack down on the pill snorters from the men's restrooms around here (see Anonymous at 2:42 p.m.), how can we expect to exclude a highly motivated journalist from a crowded lecture hall?

Either way is a huge oops and a bad deal all the way around. I’d be physically ill if the next American Lawyer qotes Boalt students on the instability of any particular firm. Especially if I were the only Boaltie headed to that firm.

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*Yes, this story is real. Yes, I know it's April 01.

DE back to Harvard?

Good catch by Matt:

The LA Times has a good article highlighting how DE has been back to Boston three times in the last month. Combined with the recent scandal their current Dean has been in, they draw the conclusion that DE is interviewing for the job.

Too much of an inference? I don't know... you can't really control when a job opens up, but at the same time, it would have been nice to have DE around until at least the construction was finished. Anyway, discuss.

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