Monday, August 31, 2009

Prison Reform

Q: How long will it be before the Philip Garrido story derails court-ordered prison reform in California?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pretext? Earl, it's the Post-text Event that Agitates Me

*Full disclosure: I'm still feisty after yesterday afternoon, when some guy on the phone while driving an Annie's Catering van nearly creamed me and my motorcycle by changing lanes without signaling, and then smiled and waved.

Under new statutes, anyone who texts behind the wheel and causes a fatality accident in Utah can be punished by up to 15 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine. Assuming the textor wasn't the fatality in question.

Is this a good idea?

This is a GREAT idea.1 Not just for Utah, whose Ogden-Provo corridor along I-15 showcases some of America's worst driving, but for everywhere outside of the textor's own driveway. Think about it:
  • you're not allowed to drive your car knee-walking drunk,
  • you're not allowed to drive at night without headlights, and
  • you're not allowed to drive while holding a phone to your ear . . .
. . . so why on earth should you be allowed to drive while pushing little teeny tiny buttons and watching a little teeny tiny screen on a little teeny tiny device?

Lastly, and if common sense isn't common enough, there are incidental benefits to would-be textors. Sure, the law is a step closer to making the road safer for other drivers. But trust me, the last thing you want me to learn is that you killed my loved one because, "omg g clooney is dreamy <3."

1 But see Earl Warren, dissenting based upon 'pretext' concerns.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Full boat? Fold

I remember reading somewhere (probably ATL, maybe here) about a newly minted associate asking what sort of car he should buy so that he could roll into his firm's garage looking 1) professional enough to avoid the "he drives THAT?!?" commentative end of the automotive spectrum, but 2) modest enough to avoid the cocky/radical/crusty-old-partner-thinks-its-too-flashy end. I remember musing to myself, "I will never compromise my taste in cars for a job", accompanied with the haughtiest of laughter. As it turns out, I haven't changed, and my first non-frugal splurge post-graduation will prove it (it'll be a 69' Mach 1 (is it a coincidence that the tinyurl path I got was "yakcky"?)).

Anyway, I don't think my resolve extends to poker. The most recent ABL PHT talks about a potential showdown between an associate-poker-stud and junior partner-poker-host. The general consensus seems to be that the bruise to rapport isn't worth the potential take. I agree... in any sport, people take pride in their performance, especially if they consider themselves above average. Even though the junior partner may not wield a particular amount of power currently, by the time your consideration for partner comes up, his bitterness (subconscious or not) may have swayed others against you. 90% is a tough number to get to, and egos are fragile.

The best strategy (as a commenter noted) would be to rake in against the other players, but throw the game to the partner if you meet head-to-head. This can be applied to other contests as well, so long as your loss seems genuine. So would you fold the nuts or take him for all he's worth?

If Information's a Drug, Multitasking is a Disease

Earlier this week, researchers at Stanford announced a “surprise finding” that people with access to many kinds of media tend to be more distracted than those who don’t. Come on Stanford, is that really the best you c…

[checks facebook]

The article itself is rather entertaining. Apparently, we lost children “love stuff that doesn’t matter” and “can’t help thinking about things [we] aren’t doing.” And when we descend into the shadowy underworld of so-called high multitasking, “[Our] greatest thrill is to get more.”

I wonder if it isn’t a bit of an overstatement to categorize multitaskers as lovers of triviality. The multitaskers in this study performed worse in concentration tests, true – but perhaps that’s because people with access to Blackberries/iPones/laptops/etc. have learned to prioritize their focus across media to maximize personal utility and entertainment. Why – for example – would I focus on some lab researcher’s red rectangles when I can look at the red and blue rectangles and simultaneously plan which 30 Rock reruns I want to watch while I Yelp where I can get some great potstickers tonight?

In any case – the article DOES contain some good news. It seems, “Lawyers or advertisers can try to use irrelevant information to distract or refocus people to influence their decisions.” Dang – that’s another one they forgot to mention in my legal skills class.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Argument No One is Making

I am not a politico. My experience in political strategy consists mostly of having seen every episode of The West Wing twice. That said, I've been crafting arguments for most of my life, and it seems to me the argument that could win the health care debate is one that no one is making. I don't know if no one has thought of it or if it's deficient in some way I haven't yet realized. We can debate this in the comments. In the meantime, I can't get it off my mind, and this is pretty much my only public forum. Forgive me for abusing it.

The fundamental problem with health care reform is that people fear the unknown. Change means uncertainty, and one thing people don't want to feel less than certain about is their health. People prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains, and they'll cling to even a flawed system when faced with the uncertainty of living without it.

It's extremely easy to feed this fear. Despite the patent absurdity of the idea that a system of forced Euthanasia could survive in a free democratic society, the Obama administration has been forced to spend a significant amount of time and resources defending against this idea of "death panels." Their strategy, so far, has been to refute the misinformation, but this will never work. If a lie so brazen and simple could dominate the debate for three weeks, the Right should have no trouble coming up with another once this has been dispelled. These lies work because people are confused and scared.

It's time President Obama and his team put forward an argument that acknowledges this fear. People need to hear that what they fear is not true, but that's only part of it. They also need a defense against all the other uncertainties that haven't yet occurred to them. They need a failsafe. Luckily, one is provided in the Constitution. It's time the Obama administration began to emphasize the one element of certainty in government-managed health care that is totally absent from the private system: democracy.

Let's start with Death Panels. Obviously, there are not going to be death panels. This is not obvious because I have read the bill; it is obvious because if there were government-run panels that began to kill old people against their wishes, every member of congress would lose his job. Problems that big simply cannot survive democracy. Obama should use this defense writ large:

"Look, I promise you that the finest minds in Washington have been over every detail of this plan, and we're convinced it's going to work much better than the current system. That said, I know you still have concerns. Some of them might even be legitimate. But I promise you, if there's something you hate about the public option, and enough people agree with you, it will go away. That's because you have the power to elect us every two, four, or six years, and that means we work for you. Insurance companies, on the other hand, do not. If they deny you coverage because you're too sick to afford, as happens to X number of Americans every year, you don't get to fire them. If they raise their rates to the point that the middle class can no longer afford to get sick, as they've done in 10-20% increments every year for the last five, you don't get to vote on how wrong you think that is.

Giving the government a role in health care means YOU have a role in health care. So how you feel about this issue really comes down to this: do you want to work for your health insurance, or do you want your health insurance to work for you?"

Can somebody get this to Josh Lyman?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lawyering Like the Fonz

During my first full week of law school, I received many pearls of wisdom from my peers and the administration – some solicited, others not so much (I’m looking at you, 3L who told me to rename my book budget “Beer Budget.”) The one tip that struck me as most poignant: Take LRW and WOA seriously, they are the only thing standing between you and imminent doom this summer. Understood. In fact – I can’t wait to learn lawerly skills. Lawyers have rock-star status in my mind right now.

You can imagine I was excited, then, when my new-ish phone unexpectedly snapped in two over the weekend (yes, they still sell flip-phones new.) I thought to myself: I shall march into the AT&T store down on Shattuck and use a lawyerly death-stare to intimidate the sales clerk into giving me a replacement! Such interactions are sure to build my lawyer street-cred:
Me: Hello there. Let me show you something… [scatters dead phone parts on table]. I bought this phone from THIS VERY store less than a year ago. Humph. [death-stare]

Elderly Store Employee: And that is my fault… how?

[Staring Contest for the Ages ensues]

Me: Uh… erm… you know what? I must have put it in my back pocket a few too many times. And sat on it. My bad. Can I maybe… give you a couple hundred dollars for a new one??

Elderly Store Employee: Fine – but I’m just warning you now, we’re understocked. I have a lot of phones in neon green.

Me: Oh, well that’s perfect. Neon green? Who doesn’t love that.
Epilogue: I now own a neon green phone. In other words… EPIC FAIL. I thought that starting law school would imbue me with that magical intimidating quality most lawyers have, but (sigh) I suppose these things come with time. That said, I don’t think the administration should rule out adding another first-year seminar: Lawyering Like the Fonz, 101. Now those are skills I can USE.

The Requested No-Offer Survey

Update 08/27/2009: We're just not getting enough "no offer" responses to be meaningful . . . sorry to say that unless something changes, I'm unlikely to publish what I do have. I realize that's a drag for those who participate (thank you!) so if you email me I'll happily share. If are a 2L, the same goes - I'm happy to talk with you in person.


I'm timid to do this, because I don't want to out anyone and because I don't want to contribute to a general state of unrest. On the other hand, several people have pointed out that it would be helpful to 2L's to know whether they are interviewing with firms that no-offered the class of 2010.

So, I'm going to do it. Before we get going here I want you to know that the survey linked below is entirely anonymous. Further, I will only publish the results if we get a decent response (say, more than 25 firms). Fewer than that means (a) the response rate is too low to be helpful, and (b) 2L's would be better off doing their own research by asking 3L's individually. Which they should be doing anyway.

Click here for the survey. Boalt 3L's only, please.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Silver Cloud with a Black Lining

I just learned that some 1L's aren't taking any Civ Pro this semester. This is bad news in disguise. No Rule 26, but instead they get to suffer through Contracts, Property, and Torts, all at the same time. Plus LRW.

In the spring, they'll presumably get Crim, Civ Pro, Con Law, and WOA. And likely a kick in the shins to boot.

How About a Raincheck on that No-Offer?

Commentators have been asking for a thread for 3L's who left their summer internship without an offer. It seemed like a good idea the first time it was suggested, and it still does.

Problem is, I'm not quite certain how to broach the subject. Some things are personal and therefore private, and some things only feel personal and in fact need not be private at all. I'm confident that a 3L job search is an example of the latter - I have no idea what the numbers are, but I do know there are a lot more Boalt 3L's on the market this fall than last. We all know that is because of the market, not because the class of 2009 was more qualified than ours. To put it bluntly, the collective response to a no-offer this year is "dude, that sucks," not "dude, you suck." That's how everyone I know at Boalt feels about it. And I know pretty much everyone.

Coming at this from a more constructive angle, well, it's hard to know what to say without reciting an email from the CDO. As a person who switched careers to come to law school, I feel comfortable saying that that opportunities really are myriad, even within the law: there are many open jobs in public service, there may still be networking opportunities with large private sector employers, and this country is full of small law firms that most of us have not even bothered to learn about. But most of all, there is a whole community of peers here at Boalt who are pulling for you, and who only wish we knew how to help. Maybe a thread is a good place to start.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Journalism 101

I just watched the TV version of Jon Stewart's interview with Betsey McCaughey (former Lt. Gov of New York, which I think is an elected office(!!!) and inventor and propagator of the term "death panels" in the current health care debate). First, it's sad, pathetic, and downright depressing that a comic is pretty much the most intelligent, thoughtful, and probing news reporter on television right now. Second, I would have been happier if it was Colbert, but nevertheless, I'm thrilled that the show doing this is one I've been a fan of from its early days with Craig Kilborn, "5 Questions," and "Dance Dance Dance" segments. Kudos to Jon Stewart, you just set the cable talking points for Friday.

Blogger is having trouble recognizing the HTML for the embed code (must be a day that ends in Y), so here are the links to the videos of the interviews: Part 1 and Part 2.

Fall Recruiting, Butts & Noalts Style

The posters here are getting long in the tooth and gray in the bead. (Seriously -- check out Toney's goatee.) Shoot me an email if you'd like to contribute to Nuts & Boalts. We'll start with a guest spot, and take it from there.

The Dean to the Left is the One in the Right

Via email to the good people at "Boalt Hall":
To Boalt Hall students, staff and faculty:

Associate Dean Bob Berring has already written to you concerning the disruptions on the first day of classes, Monday August 17th, by a group of approximately 70 people protesting the presence of Professor John Yoo on our faculty. In all likelihood, there will further protests with the purpose of disrupting Professor Yoo’s class, and spillover effects interfering with other classes and activities. Professor Berring will keep you apprised of our efforts to balance our respect for freedom of speech with our insistence that our teaching and other functions go on.

I write separately, however, to address the substance of the protests and to update my Spring 2008 comments on the controversy surrounding Professor Yoo's work in the Bush Administration concerning presidential power, torture, and measures combating the threat of terrorism.

Also, if you don’t want the entire exegesis below, I was interviewed about the protests for three or four minutes on KQED radio: [here]
The dean has, of course, gotten it right and I point with pride to his leadership. No doubt, commentators on this thread will disagree with me or with the dean or with both, but what can I say? Those commentators are ignorant, or mistaken, or proceed upon a normative view that departs radically from principles upon which the success of our society depends. Or all three.

You can find DE's statement posed in the comments. Apologies in advance for the piecemeal fashion in which it comes, but %$@-ing Google Blogger only allows 4,000 characters per comment.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prop 8 Goes to Washington

NY Times is reporting that Ted Olson, apparently a Boalt alum, is pursuing a federal challenge to Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court. He has won 44 of his 55 cases before the Court, including Bush v. Gore. That's right, he's a conservative.

Olson's politics and pedigree alone make this newsworthy, but the arguments he's pursuing, while not exactly earth-shattering, also provide a unique Federal spin on the issue:
In Mr. Olson’s analysis, the situation in California presents a favorable set of facts for an equal protection argument. Proposition 8 created three classes: straight couples who could marry, gay men and lesbians who had married in the brief period before the ban, and gay couples who wanted to marry but now could not.

. . .

Given that [Lawrence v. Texas] established gay sex as a protected right, Mr. Olson argues, the state must demonstrate that it has a rational basis for discriminating against a class of citizens simply for engaging in that behavior.

He dismisses [the] contention that the California ban is justified by that state’s interest in encouraging relationships that promote procreation and the raising of children by biological parents. If sexual orientation is not a choice — and Mr. Olson argues that it is not — then the ban is not going to encourage his clients to enter into heterosexual, child-producing marriages, he insists. Moreover, he says, California has waived the right to make that argument by recognizing domestic partnerships that bestow most benefits of marriage.
Lawrence makes homosexuality itself a constitutionally protected right, and marriage inequality discriminates against people exercising that right; therefore, gay marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Seems straightforward enough to me, but it leaves little room for compromise. A ruling in Olson's favor would not only overturn Prop 8, but also effectively legalize gay marriage everywhere in the country. Obviously, I'm in favor. The question is, are the Court and the Country ready?

Perhaps Olson's name on the docket will make them think twice before answering.


Overheard Today Outside Boalt Hall:

"If I were a Butts & Noalts commentator I'd write about the plastic bookmarks in the yellow planners. Mine was stuck right in the Honor Code section. I wonder if everyone's was?

. . . I mean, 'Nuts & Boalts.'"


The Hammer is Still Falling

It's also rising (with OCI) in hopes of a whack at the class of 2010.

Anyway. Three things today:

First, commentators on Dan's thread below have been asking for "a new thread on this." I'm not certain I understand what was wrong with the old thread but at any rate, here it is.

A second and related issue has to do with fall recruiting: as OCI begins, 2L's would love to know which firms no-offered or cold offered some or all of their 2009 summer associates. For that matter, the 2L's would also like to know which firms followed through with offers as well. Please consider posting that information anonymously into the comments here -- if the response rate is high enough, I'll build a list similar to the OCIP callback threads of yore.

And third, a note on OCI. I'll be doing a callback thread similar to the link above. Time will tell all, but if you have a question about that (or a related issue, like bidding), and it simply cannot wait, feel free to post it into the comments. Someone will get back to you.

Best of luck to everyone in all three classes!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Big Brother is Watching

I was rather disturbed to come into the building this afternoon and notice the bright yellow signs plastered across the hallways. The school has always been rather strict about where signs may be posted. But a notice that all persons entering the building are subject to search?

My guess is that this is related to the Yoo prank. If that's the case, I'm extremely disappointed in the administration by dealing with the matter in such an authoritarian way. But since there's no indication of why the signs were posted, I'd rather not go there.

Instead, I'll simply question whether it is a) appropriate b) desirable or c) sensible to post signs like this without either an explanation or an email or other written notice stating that this is school policy.


After running into some of the protesters when I went down the hill to get some lunch, I'm even more sure that this was really the wrong way to approach the situation. A brief discussion left me convinced that what they're looking for is attention. And like the three year old child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store, the best way to deal with it is to ignore the behavior until the child calms down enough to talk rationally. Uniformed police officers and a mob scene just reward the drama.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How Are You Paying for School?

I received an email, requesting insight from the N&B community:

"Sweet Jesus! Tuition & Fees this year total nearly $36k. I scoped out my "offer letter", only to find $20.5k in federally subsidized & unsubsidized loans. The money I made this summer will cover my rent for the year, plus a little food here and there. Minimally, I need about $15k to make up the tuition gap. How the hell are other people paying for this? Private loans? Does anyone have any recommendations?

I have no savings, no parental assistance, and my wife is a student as well. I'd rather not just grab my ankles and accept the grad plus loans, as the terms seem quite unfavorable to students, and the commercial loan market has better alternatives. Right now, including my grad school debt, I'm sitting at $100k in loans (prior to this year). Thoughts?"

I'm in a similar boalt. Well?


Friday, August 07, 2009

Warmup: OCIP 2009

OCIP bidding is upon us. Rising 2L's can find a list of previous threads by entering "OCIP" in the search field above (the OCIP/Employment label seems not to be working properly lately). Be sure not to miss Disco Stu's pearls of wisdom from 2005.

Chances are, any question left unanswered by those resources is irrelevant. But you should feel free to use this thread to ask anyway.

Good luck!


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Toto, We're Not in Berkeley Anymore

This might be old news, but I just caught this LAT report that the three Americans captured by Iran after straying across the border are all Berkeley grads. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and hopefully they'll be out of harm's way in the near future, but...

[It shouldn't be too surprising what follows after the "but." Part of me thinks it's in poor taste and I should stop the post right where I have it. The other part of me offers a simple contradiction.]

. . . but what the hell were they thinking? The Iran/Iraq border running through Kurdistan isn't exactly Prague. You might want to consider backpacking there if you have a convoy of heavily armed HMMWVs as escort. Again, I feel bad, and I'm pulling for their safe return, but WTF?


Monday, August 03, 2009

Why Didn't I Think of That?

This is a pretty frivolous lawsuit, but that shouldn't stop the mind from pondering the what ifs. What if this happened after the upcoming OCIP / Offer season? Maybe a class action from the Class of '11? I think the mere possibility is fodder for great humor. How would the complaint read? How would T.G. choose to answer?