Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bad People and Fools

Below, I have excerpted a comment "ibz" posted in the bar exam thread. The comment makes a great starting point for discussion, but first, the cliff notes: law schools (including, perhaps, our very own) have been inflating their stats on employment rates and average starting salaries. Many prospective law students do not fully comprehend this situation until they enroll, pay three years of tuition, graduate, and find themselves un- or under-employed. Recently (and rather predictably, given the particulars of their education and their relative idleness), unemployed alumni of Thomas Jefferson School of Law sued their alma mater, alleging various versions of detrimental reliance and fraud.

Here is ibz's take:
I had only skimmed the coverage of the newish lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, but David Lat pointed out today that the complaint was filed by a Boalt grad named Brian Procel. Cool.

The complaint is pretty detailed and worth reading, if you are interested in this sort of thing. My own intuition (moral, not legal) is that schools are bad if they misrepresent what happens to their graduates, but students are foolish if they rely on what schools say about employment statistics. Caveat discipulo, so to speak. (Third declension, right? It's been a while.)
My intuition is in line with ibz's. Absent other strong feelings I will root for co-Boaltie Procel as an extension of principle, but my enthusiasm wanes when it comes to the merits. The world is full of crookely people who will do crookely things to relieve other people of money. I can think of no good reason to believe that the individuals who run our academic institutions are magically above the fray when it comes to those impulses. But--as ibz points out--neither should prospective law students: if it sounds true good to be true, it isn't. I don't know what "caveat discipulo" means, but I have yet to be convinced that caveat emptor shouldn't apply here.

All of that is why I have a hard time getting fired up about this issue. I feel for the students who feel afraid for their futures and more than a little duped (most them went to law school to AVOID the school of hard knocks, only to graduate with an advanced degree) but I'm not yet convinced they are blameless enough to be entitled to a refund. A jury, I suppose, could see things differently.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I think this post by Adam Serwer on the imminent vote for cloture on the nomination of Professor Liu is probably spot on.  I'm not sure there's anything more to add to that, but I'm personally not very optimistic about Professor Liu's chances of confirmation.  I'm hopeful though that Democrats will use any filibuster of Professor Liu as leverage to push through other nominees, like how Bush pushed through Kavanaugh, Owens, etc.

* Reference.

SNARKY UPDATE #1:  Well here's a trivia question.  Which Bay Area law school is more likely to celebrate the appointment of one of its extended family members to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit?  Hint.

UPDATE #2 [and moving up]:  Well looks like it's over.  Would have loved to have seen Professor Liu on the bench, but again, I hope there's a silver lining that maybe creates an impetus in Chairman Leahy and Harry Reid to move along other stalled nominees.  [H/T:  Anonymous].


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Please 1.5 speed me!

Ctrl + Shift + G no worky. My life, terrible. Please help.

And yes, I know this is an individual plea, but I know I speak for many of us in making it.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Boaltie Running for US Congress

Ricky Gill, of the class of 2012, has announced his candidacy for a seat in the United States Congress. He hopes to represent California's 11th District. Check out Gill's campaign website at http://www.rickygill.com/

While I will likely support the Democratic incumbent, Jerry McNerney, I am excited to see a Boaltie diving head-first into politics. And I admire his decision not to "wait his turn" and run despite his youth (he is 24).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Futurue of LRAP?

Dean Edl*y sent out this email earlier today:
Dear Friends,

I recently received a petition signed by several Boalt students concerning the state of Boalt’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (or LRAP). Realizing how important LRAP is to the School and to many of you, I write to share some of my current thinking about LRAP in the context of the University’s budget turmoil.

First, let me offer some background. Approximately fifteen years ago, Boalt established LRAP to enable our graduates to pursue careers in public service by assisting them with loan repayment. As Boalt tuition increased with state budget cuts, funding for LRAP similarly increased, most notably in 2006 (my second year here) when it was substantially reformed. Under the original guidelines, only a relative handful of students participated in the program because the parameters were so conservative. This reflected the lower tuition, and the consequently modest typical debt loads of students but also the far smaller Boalt budget, of which tuition revenue is by far the largest component. Under this revised LRAP, graduates became eligible for up to 100% repayment assistance on as much as $100,000 of law school debt. For students working in qualifying public sector employment, the result could be a $0 out-of-pocket debt repayment for LRAP participants as Boalt absorbed the tab on the amortizing loans.

Although this revised program was one of the most generous in the country, two developments prompted a further modification of LRAP in 2009. The first was rising tuition rates across the country at both colleges and professional schools, including here at Boalt. With 1Ls arriving with already significant undergraduate debt-burdens and 3Ls leaving with even larger ones, it quickly became clear that even our commitment to repay $100,000 of law school debt may not be enough to assist Boalt graduates interested in pursuing public interest careers.

At the same time, however, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (CCRAA) created both the Income Based Repayment (IBR) program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that provided a way to address this challenge in a fiscally sound fashion. Under these two programs, any graduate who enrolls in IBR for their federal loans will make minimum monthly payments based on their income. And for those who consolidate or have all of their federal loans with the Direct Loan Program and make 120 scheduled monthly payments while working for qualified public interest employers, their remaining loan balance will be forgiven by the federal government. Based in large part on Boalt student input in 2008, we revised LRAP to take advantage of these benefits: Graduates pursuing a career in public sector work could consolidate law school as well as college loans and elect IBR. Berkeley would then provide assistance with making all or a prorated amount of IBR payments for ten years, at which time the remaining debt balance would be forgiven.

In my judgment, the move to IBR seems undeniably a win-win for both Boalt and our students.[1] Graduates can now pursue a career in public interest work regardless of the size of their law school and college debt burdens. Meanwhile, Boalt benefits by making the most efficient use of scarce financial aid resources, freeing up more money for other important grants and fellowships. That so many of our competitors have since emulated the manner in which we have integrated LRAP and IBR/PSLF seems to confirm the wisdom of this strategy.

Notwithstanding these benefits, however, the student petition as well as research by the Financial Aid Committee this year have highlighted two areas in which this strategy merits further review to ensure that LRAP is the best that it can be. One relates to the cost students could incur if they leave public sector work prior to making their 120 payments under IBR; the other focuses on the chance, which in my political judgment is remote, of adverse changes to CCRAA by Congress.

For this reason, I wanted to let you know that we will be inviting BHSA to work with the Financial Aid Committee next year to undertake a substantive review of these issues and to investigate the different approaches Boalt might take to address them in a reasonable fashion. BHSA’s involvement is especially important because almost all LRAP resources necessarily come from tuition revenue, making the program one in which students cross-subsidize each other over time and across careers. At this point I have no strong view about what alternative approaches might look like. We don’t even know how much further our state funds will be cut in the next six months, much less beyond that.

But for those of you graduating and who worry about the issues raised in the petition, I assure you that absolutely nothing is more important to me, or the faculty as a whole, than the robustness of our Financial Aid programs. They shape the character of the student body, and express a core component of Berkeley Law’s mission. Therefore, the Financial Aid Committee and BHSA will have my focused attention on this matter as they analyze these issues next year. I can also assure you that if we adopt positive changes to LRAP, I will make sure they are retroactive for the class of 2011—the “Hardhats”.


Christoph[*]r Edl[*]y, Jr.
The Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Chair and Dean

[1] I can’t resist adding that in 1987, presidential candidate Michael Dukakis proposed a very similar program, designed by Gene Sperling and me. I was national issues director for the campaign, and Sperling was my junior staffer on economic policy. He’s now director of the White House National Economic Council. I’m a fundraiser. But I’m not bitter.
It seems like he provides some good context for why he is transitioning the program to be based on IBR. Admittedly I do not have the most complete knowledge of this issue, however. For example, I do not know what exactly the petition in question contained.

At any rate, I am sure opinions will be diverse on this issue! I look forward to seeing them in the comments.

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Lost in the Bar

You know you’re studying for the bar when:
  • Everything as a potential lawsuit: (1) The street people on the corner who as you for money are potential trespassers; (2) your friend’s drunk dialing to tell you “what a fun night you’re missing” is some sort of infliction of emotional distress; (3) you consider ceasing to pay your credit card bill because the contract is unconscionable.
  • You openly fantasize about blacking out and being hospitalized for the week of the bar exam.
  • You have legal Tourette Syndrome. If someone looks at you the wrong way, you automatically fire back with unintelligible legalease: Tort! Hearsay! Rule in Dumper’s Case!
  • You suspect Miranda or Shelly would be hot if they were women and not rules of law.
  • You have nightmares about fertile octogenarians.
Welcome, class of 2011, to bar studies.

California BarBri for most Boalties began earlier this week an judging by the facebook chatter I have seen so far, many of you are freaked the hell out. If that’s you, your feelings are normal, for what that is worth. Things will settle down a bit in the next few weeks and at any rate this whole thing will be over in a few short months.

In the meantime, feel free to use this thread to cry, vent, or anonymously ask questions about the bar exam that you would be far too embarrassed to ask in person. I hope you’ll find this to be a pretty supportive thread. Good luck!

(HT: Legally Noted.)


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Probably the Most Pointless Post Ever

Some anonymous whiners wanted to bitch about how the class of 2011 had to sit through 3 years of construction or something, and they wanted a post about it I guess?

So, yeah, here it is. Converse away.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"I Prefer Logical Punctuation". "Others Don't."

One of my biggest beefs with English style (and accordingly, those who pick grammar's nits) is the handling of hierarchical punctuation and the inconsistent American English approach to dealing with it. For example:

1. Toney scissor-kicked the mailman with what could only be described as "badger-like fury".
2. But in Toney's defense, the mailman said Toney "wrote like drunk 2-year old."

In traditional American English, example 1, while beautifully illustrative, is incorrect, all because the little "." at the end of the sentence isn't tucked inside the closing quotation mark. I actually learned this rule as a kid, but somewhere along the way, I developed a distaste for putting periods (and commas) inside quotes and brackets, and can no longer bring myself to do so. This is a bit of a problem when I hand in a draft to an overseeing attorney who prefers the old school line of thought, but nothing a little preemptive Ctrl-F'ing can't handle.

Ben Yagoda (one of Slate's finest) pens an article highlighting the turning tides against the traditional American way, and towards what he calls "logical punctuation". He gives two main reasons for this: 1) computer programming (operative punctuation must be place outside grouping/statement punctuation), and 2) the American way doesn't make sense.

Brits (who took Saxon olde English, circumcised it, and gave us the Chancery Standard) put periods outside of quotation marks. What happened with us? Yagoda's research finds that periods inside quotes developed because it is more "aesthetically pleasing". Yuck. I appreciate that beauty trumps practicality when it comes to many things (such as architecture and handbags), but punctuation should not be one of them (similar to mullets and tuxedo t-shirts). In addition, the way different punctuations are handled in American English is inconsistent. ?'s, ;'s, and -'s go outside the quotes. Yagoda also highlights the new composition medium, the internets, for being ripe with examples of periods outside quotes. If there's one thing we all know by now, it is that the internet never lies.

Anyway, I'm fully on board with this. Tradition for the sake of tradition (without logical purpose) drives my batty, and is to blame for everything from Prop 8 to those silly paper facebooks they still make at BLaw. It is only a matter of time until periods outside quotes becomes standard usage, but until then, I will grit my teeth and will plan the future demise of the capitalized "internet".

Also: congrats to you graduating 3Ls! I hope the protesters weren't too meddlesome this morning.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Whine and You Shall Receive

Just responding to a request for a forum for 1Ls to complain about being graded for WOA this year. We all need to whine sometimes, particularly during finals, so let me indulge you.

I sympathize with you guys. As one commenter pointed out, having a P in WOA wouldn't exactly be ideal for those with an interest in litigating (though I don't think it's fatal). It is a nice opportunity for strong writers, who might not do well in first-year required courses, to set themselves apart. I also agree with McWho that the complaint about the curve could apply equally to doctrinal classes.

I will go ahead and strongly disagree with the person who said the only feedback you're getting is your letter grade and some "checkmarks." That's patently untrue. From TA feedback to instructor draft feedback to oral argument feedback to final brief feedback, everyone involved in WOA worked pretty hard to make sure you knew where you stood and how you could improve.

Have at it.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Library Hours/Access

Per Anonymous's request, here is the thread.  My own view has always been in line with McWho's.  There is absolutely nothing preventing the library from having more restricted access.  Just because it's a depository of public documents does not mean it must have a welcome mat for every frat guy who wants to study for a soc final. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

As I am sure many of you know, U.S. Armed Forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan earlier today. I do not know what will result from this (if anything), but at the very least it is a symbolic victory for the U.S. in its counter-terrorism operations world wide. Feel free to discuss the significance (or lack thereof) of Bin Laden's death in the comments!

[Invisible Hand Update (Armen):  I guess I am now old enough to find these types of advances in technology and mass communication impressive, but I find it absolutely remarkable that someone could have unwitting liveblogged the raid on Bin Laden.   I have posted some screen shots, but please scroll down to the bottom and read up.  Pay particular attention to the jaded wit.  Sounds like a Boaltie, almost.]

And later...