Thursday, October 29, 2009

May I Please Order Off the Menu?

I'm not really up to speed on this one [something here about being a 3L] but the Spring Courses 2010 thread has seen a steady stream of comments like this one:
Anonymous said . . .

What is the story with the absolute garbage course selections? We had to petition in order to avoid conflicts between almost every ethics course and conlaw. Bankruptcy will never be taught again in the history of the school. Courses overlapping by 1.7 minutes with registrar AH exercising her twisted discretion to deny enrollment? If you would like to see a school with a respectable course schedule, check out Georgetown. Shmohawks!!!
It has been said before on this blog (at 9:55) that the internets let us hunt in packs. The first step is information-gathering. What's going on?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Does the Urban Dictionary Have a Name For This?

I remember doing this sort of thing when I was the editor of my high school newspaper. From a truant little punk, it's sort of funny. From the Governor of a state on the brink of fiscal doom, it's an embarrassment.

N&B Photo Caption Contest!

Bonus points for same-sentence references to the tablet computer in his hand and the visiting ABA Committee:


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scalia Would Have Dissented in Brown v. Board

You have to hand it to Antonin Scalia -- he clearly isn't trying to put a good face on originalism.
Using his "originalist'' philosophy, Scalia said he likely would have dissented from the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that declared school segregation illegal and struck down the system of "separate but equal'' public schools. He said that decision, which overturned earlier precedent, was designed to provide an approach the majority liked better.
This isn't entirely surprising. After all, Justice Scalia was part of a majority that went as far as it could to undermine the integrationist intent of Brown. Still, inasmuch as control over the judiciary is a political battle -- over the next three or seven years, President Barack Obama will have ample opportunity to shape the federal judiciary -- aligning originalism with a position that is wholly at odds with both history and the American public is not necessarily the wisest course of action for a Justice who has expended so much effort to sway the judiciary towards his point of view over his career on the bench.

Updated at 11:35 PM Pacific: Per Jack Balkin, Justice Scalia didn't actually say what the newspaper said he said. Here's the video.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

CA v. NY (the bar exam faceoff)

Since I'm still not sure exactly where I'll be next year, I have been looking into the differences between taking the California and the New York bar exam. Conclusion: nobody in their right mind would take the California bar exam unless they were really, positively, absolutely sure that they were going to practice law in the state for the next fifty years.

For one, the CA bar is ridiculously expensive. About $200* to register as a law student in California (and if you don't do this, you can't take the bar). Then there's about $500 for the moral character application. (Get this in quick, folks, the price goes up in January) Which seems a little expensive, given that the government does a way more intensive check when it does security clearances and doesn't charge you a dime, tax dollars aside. Then there's the test itself - somewhere in the range of $800. Add another $150 if you want to use your laptop.**

The New York Bar, by way of comparison, costs about $250 as far as I can tell, plus a $100 laptop fee. Incidentally, in both cases, the laptop fee seems to be to cover the license for the ExamSoft software. I'm having trouble believing that the software costs $50 more on the west coast.

Of course, you have to fly out to Albany to take the exam. Which starts at 6 am Pacific time. Plus, unless you're lucky enough to have relatives in the area, you'll be staying at a hotel and eating cheap take-out - not exactly ideal test taking conditions. On the upside, the NY bar exam is only two days long. There are less essay questions, and they're shorter. On the downside, classes at Boalt don't cover NY law for the most part, so you'll have to learn all the state specific stuff during BarBri. On the upside, BarBri does offer a NY course out here.

Both the NY and the CA bar exams are notoriously tough, so it's a pretty even draw there - although NY does have a slightly higher pass rate. All in all, it seems like NY is probably a better bet if you've got a job lined up that gives you the flexibility to choose.

Any alums who've taken both have any thoughts on the matter?

* All numbers are approximated from the online research I did yesterday. If you want to get the actual figures, you're probably better off checking the official websites rather than relying on me.

**What I want to know is, where is all this money going? Does the head of the bar association have a really nice wine cellar funded by law student dollars? Or do they actually do something useful with it, like scholarships or legal aid clinic funding?


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Moral Character Application & Memory Exam

I did not go to last week's informational meeting on the Moral Character Application for the California Bar (what's all this business about the food?), but I did get an email with the handouts. Later, I went to the Bar's website and started the application.

Holy mother. An accounting of my location at all times in the last ten years? With my patchwork progress through post-secondary education, career diversions, and general slap-dash approach to important life decisions, it took almost an hour just to create a workable outline. Those months in Guatemala? There are fuzzy patches. That semester off from school in 2002? Come to think of it, what did I do with that time?

I know I am not the only one who doesn't want to blow this. Alumni advice on how to avoid tripping up here, and throughout the rest of the application process, would be appreciated.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spring Courses 2010

A commentator in the thread below correctly noted that it is high time for a spring courses thread. Feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts about the upcoming semester here. My offhand observation is that current 1L's should consider Con Law with the legendary Professor C. It will be a once in a lifetime experience if you can get into the class.


Any Interest in Property Investment?

If you look out of the north facing windows of the Boalt Library, you'll see a parking lot, trees and two dilapidated buildings obscuring your view of the beautiful palace known as Haas.

Ever find yourself dreaming that you could take a piece of Berkeley home with you when you graduate? You're in luck! Each of those buildings can be bought for the bargain price of a buck. That's right, one dollar.

It's true — see the craigslist ad here. And media coverage here and here.

And for the most amusing aspect of the story, make sure to check out the "catch" that comes with all supposedly good deals.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weekend Update

A few things have caught my eye, but been too busy to post, so here they are collectively.

-- Big ups to Daniel Redman ('08) for his recent article in Slate.

-- Insurance companies have an antitrust exemption? Let's see, by eliminating the exemption they'll have to actually compete with each other, stop colluding, risk losing geographic market power, which would lead to overall decline in premiums and an increase in legal work for litigation associates. And the down side is?

-- Birther Queen/Attention Whore Orly Taitz serves as a bright shining example to those awaiting their bar results that all that anxiety was for naught. (i.e., if she's a member of the Bar, how did you ever doubt yourself?) Conversely, she'll pile on to the anxiety for those who don't quite make it this time around. (i.e., but SHE passed?) Someone should remind her: when a judge imposes sanctions sua sponte, that's usually not an indication that the judge is out to get you, but that you're THAT crazy (and yes, there is a line that can be crossed after which it's no longer about the legal arguments you put forth but you personally).

-- Speaking of attention whores, did we need a squad of detectives to figure out that a guy whose lifelong dream is to be on a reality show (are there people like that? I thought everyone does a reality show as sort of a stepping stone to something more legitimate, like that Bachelor guy who does college football now), who called the TV stations first, emergency responders second, and who pitched a show to TLC recently would fake something as spectacular as a kid flying away on a balloon? I'm pissed off that they wasted precious resources, at the same time, this family is clearly in need of a good therapist. Relatedly, WIN!.

-- Top Chef predictions? (And I mean predictions only, no spoilers for you Dish/DirectTV people who watch on East coast time. After 24 hours, feel free to spoil though). Personally: Jen recovers and wins quickfire. Bryan wins the main. And Robin finally goes home, though I wouldn't weep if Mike I. got tossed either.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Rose Bird Scholar By Any Other Name

I'm hearing rumors through the grapevine that Boalt admin is considering some changes to help us in the Oklahoma land grab that is clerkship applications. Very speculatively, but specifically, there's a possibility of adopting something other commenters and I have advocated. As one commenter wrote in 2006:
We could also get rid of the optional class rank system and instead do what Columbia does. They have no class rank or GPA but for each year you're in the top 3%, you are a James Kent Scholar and for each year in the top 33%, you are a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. Getting rid of the optional class rank would allow you to list "my school does not rank" for clerkships on OSCAR. That cuts you into every search that a judge makes based on class rank. So a judge's search for "top 10%" would return every student who said she was in the top 10% and every student at Columbia, Yale and Boalt. And the students who really are at the top will still get the benefit of being recognized as an Earl Warren Scholar or a James N. Traynor Scholar.

We should have done this about fifteen years go. There's absolutely nothing gained by ranking students. On the contrary, even though we're only supposed to use the rankings for clerkship and academic purposes, you still have probably 90% of the student body asking for them just to satisfy a curiosity, which then induces anxiety when the results aren't ideal. With respect to the two stated purposes of ranking, I think the comment above illustrates how it actually hurts Boalties, and I just can't imagine how this helps us in the academic meat market. In fact, Boalties did quite well in academic placement last year in large part, I imagine, because we have Professor Harris quarterbacking a coordinated effort to help Boalties land those positions. A big kudos to her and others. Until then, landing academic positions was a bit of a mystery that you had to solve on your own, sort of like finding a working urinal.

This change, however, still doesn't solve the larger problem that we have, which, admittedly is from second-hand sources. That problem is that each August, our private (UVA and Michigan probably included) peer schools funnel all their energies and efforts into placing their students into clerkships. They've been doing this for a long time. The more you do it, the easier it is because you have more alumni who clerked for judges that you can then lean on to place current applicants. I don't know the results of this year's cycle, but I imagine as a percentage they're not up to where we ought to be.

Anyway, thoughts? Comments? Suggested names for awards? Suggested categories? Hubert Keller Award to the person who gets HHs for 5 semesters but doesn't quite cross the finish line?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finally, a Reason to Read Birgeneau's Emails

In a typically grandiose (item 8) but atypically well-written email, Chancellor Birgeneau recently invited students to "celebrate the joyous announcement" that Professor Oliver E. Williamson has won a Nobel Prize.

This morning, Boalt's most venerable Federal Courts professor gave us a reason: the prize appears to distinguish Boalt as the first law school in the country with a Nobel laureate on the faculty.

No word yet on what the Dean has offered in exchange for the prize money.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Majors are More Equal than Others

Noticed this story about the UC Regents considering raising the fees charged to students who are either engineers or business majors. This is one of the dumbest things I've heard coming out of the UC Regents (which puts it high in the running for dumbest overall). Off the top of my head, here's what's wrong with this proposal.

1. Antagonizes and singles out teenagers who may or may not end up in the field they major in. Yes, I understand the reasoning of the Regents, which is myopic as usual. Engineers and business majors tend to make more than your average sociology major, therefore they're prime robbery targets for the Regents (think: law students but not as high a ROI). But these are just kids coming out of high school who really don't know what they're doing. Should we tax them for it? Just as an illustration, I was a math major for about 3 hours in undergrad.

2. $900 a year? Really? This is what it's about? There's more faculty at the UC than there are engineering and business students. Cut their salaries. I hear they love it. Or more seriously, if you need the money that bad, then raise the fees across the board. Conservatively estimating UCLA's numbers, there's probably 25 to 26K non-engineering/business students and at most 5K engineering/business (undergrad and grad), but I'm more concerned about the ratio, which comes out to 5/1. Meaning the UC will get the same revenue by raising everyone's fees by $200.

3. There's just something off-putting about charging different fees to different majors. As it is the science kids get hit with higher instructional fees for lab/classroom equipment use.

4. Easy to get around because you don't need to declare a major until junior year. In the case of business at Haas, you enter your junior year. In the case of engineering, you will probably see an increase in students who fulfill GE requirements in L&S or some other school an then apply to transfer over as juniors. Did I mention this just doesn't sound right?

Those are my thoughts. Maybe it's not that different than DE's plan with Boalt.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Skinny on Fair Use

It is ON: Ralph Lauren has filed a Digital Millenium Copyright Act claim against two websites – Boing Boing and Photoshop Disasters, for posting (and mocking) an ad that had been “retouched” to such an egregious degree that the model’s head appeared larger than her waist. Ralph Lauren claimed that posting the ad amounted to copyright infringement, falling outside the scope of Fair Use.

In response, Boing Boing not only refused to remove the ad, but issued a rather epic message summarizing their legal perspective:
"Copyright law doesn't give you the right to threaten your critics for pointing out the problems with your offerings. You should know better. And every time you threaten to sue us over stuff like this, we will:

a) Reproduce the original criticism, making damned sure that all our readers get a good, long look at it, and;

b) Publish your spurious legal threat along with copious mockery, so that it becomes highly ranked in search engines where other people you threaten can find it and take heart; and

c) Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models."
I ain’t studied IP yet, but seems pretty sound to me.

Curious George Goes to Cambridge

Consensus has it that after Justice Bird was ousted from the California Supreme Court, the Justices tend to keep their heads down and hands clean of California politics.

Consider that as you read Chief Justice George's remarks from just a few hours ago in Massachusetts:
In a rare public rebuke of state government and polices delivered by a sitting judge, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court scathingly criticized the state’s reliance on the referendum process, arguing that it has “rendered our state government dysfunctional . . . . he derided California as out of control, with voters deciding on everything from how parts of the state budget are spent to how farm animals are managed.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Negligent...

If you had to brief a case in 15 syllables, could you do it? Neil L*vy can.

After reading Palsgraf v. The Long Island Railroad Co. for Torts last week, Supermod 4,5,6 was pleasantly surprised to find a haiku written by Professor L*vy published in the notes of the casebook. While discussing the case in class, L*vy made no mention of his poem and began to move to the next case when a brave student requested that he recite the haiku. He obliged and it was nothing short of fantastic. It reads:

A man, a package,

push, bang, the scales are falling.

Poor Helen Palsgraf.

After a few drinks at bar review, some 1Ls were feeling inspired and attempted to haiku-ify some other cases we’ve read. Even with the benefit of a beer to get the creative juices flowing, I have no problem admitting I’m no good. The others displayed more poetic flair. Regarding a case about a man (Crankshaw) who slipped in vomit and sued the restaurant that served bad shrimp to the hurler, a friend versed:

Bad shrimp, guy gets sick.

Uh oh here comes Crankshaw, SLIP.

No proximate cause.

Could Lexis and Westlaw include a haiku along with key cites, head notes and case summaries? I’d really appreciate it.

So my question is, who’s the Boaltie with the most poetic prowess? Who can versify my reading for the coming week? The most creative case haiku in comments wins… the title of N&B Haiku Master. I just made that up but I’ll work on getting some sort of sash/tiara/trophy. I have connections from my pageant days. KIDDING.

Get out those syllable counting fingers!

Monday, October 05, 2009

It's Complicated

I don't want to bump L'Alex's great post, but the fine folks at the Samuelson Clinic are putting on a conference on "Social Networks: Friends or Foes? Confronting Online Legal and Ethical Issues in the Age of Social Networking." Looks like David Lat will be a panelist. And you can find more info at the website.

Just for my $0.02, I think there are ups and downs. For the time being, I think we're simply experiencing the downs, e.g., yapping about clients, providing way, way too much information for public consumption*, ruining relationships, ruining the English language**, etc. But as technology evolves (see, e.g., Google Wave), I think we'll see some notable changes in the profession, namely long-distance collaboration. Though the speed with which this takes hold will probably depend on breaking the Microsoft Word stranglehold on e-filing and redlining.

*I really don't understand how people post SO MUCH about themselves on facebook. It's nuts. I can find someone's birthday, phone numbers, address, how many of their friends are single, how drunk they got during spring break, and which [Insert TV Show Character] they are according to a horribly designed quiz. Just weird.

** For a contrary view, see this story about research by a Stanford lit professor concluding that Stanford undergrads do not use "LoLz" and "u r a h8er" in online communication.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Brief Facility Update, and Some Outstanding Questions

An exciting development this week: giant mud pit has evolved into… steel rebar pit! Steel rebar pit is WAY cooler than mud pit: it looks like a giant, tetanus-laden jungle gym for law students. I wish I could play out there…

In the spirit of such renovations, I have composed a short list of facility-related questions that I've been wondering about for the last several weeks. Any and all input is welcome. Ehem:

1) Does Boalt have a first aid kit? If so, where is it located?

Brief background: I was mildly surprised to learn that law school does not distribute pain-killers and band-aids in giant vending machines, alongside redbull, vodka and jellybeans. My mistaken belief was, no doubt, attributable to a background in investment consulting where vodkabull sprang from corporate fountains like water, right next to the Tylenol PM-sponsored conference rooms… In any case, I noticed several limping 1Ls at orientation (brand new shoes) and 2Ls during OCIP (fancy shoes) – what are they to do?

2) Is there a women’s (or men’s) bathroom in the building that contains a feminine products dispenser? You know – the kind you find in most garden-variety strip malls, that take quarters?

Brief background: A few other students and I got into a conversation about this… and I suspect the answer is “no,” which is somewhat unfortunate as the closest convenience store is on Telegraph. Then I got to wondering: is this state of affairs the result of no class representative wanting to take on a “tampon” platform?? If this is the case, I officially promise $10 and a home-baked apple pie to the first student rep who takes on the tampon platform, OR the first alum who makes a donation to Boalt specifically to establish a “[INSERT YOUR NAME] Tampon Fund.” The hilarity is worth it to me.

3) Where is the closest ATM?

Brief background: This one’s pretty simple. Zeb & Strada don’t take debit/credit, and I am a caffeine addict. The other day, I had no cash and found myself offering another student my soul plus a $10 IOU in exchange for $1.40 upfront. Any secret ATMs hiding out in nearby buildings?

4) Where is the best place to sleep in the building, because..umm, 20-minute power naps = amazing?