Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Richie, Benedict, and moi

Okay, I'm really tired and should go to bed but first I must comment about Michiko Kakutani's review of Richard Posner's new book "Not A Suicide Pact: the Constitution in a Time of National Emergency" that appeared today in the New York Times. (Honestly I don't know why I even read the New York Times anymore since each time I do, I come away angry and frustrated, but there it is and here I am, so.)

First, I would like to just point out the silliness of having a non-lawyer review what is, in essence, a law book. Maybe it's not a casebook or a hornbook, but the fact is that to truly understand constitutional law, you need to have attended those fun first year Con Law I lectures, and you probably need Con Law 2 as well. Some upper-level seminars would be nice, too, because let's face it: constitutional law is difficult, and even though I have taken a number of classes on the subject and find it fascinating, I don't always find it accessible. At a bare minimum, advanced coursework in political science would be nice. So to have Ms. Kakutani (who may be well-versed in liberal rhetoric and may have gone to Yale, but clearly doesn't know jack about con law) to review the book is like asking me to review a book on electrical engineering.

What amused me most about the review is that she is more than happy to call attention to Judge Posner's so-called hypocrisy but is too blinded by political correctness or some other liberal diesease to see her own. For example, she believes it to be hypocritical to call for increased surveillance of terrorists without wiretaps, but decreased interference by the media when it comes to both personal privacy and matters of national security. I have already addressed my opinion on that particular issue, and I stand firm on it. There is absolutely no hypocrisy in wanting the government to be able to protect its citizens without being sold out at every turn by a violently anti-establishment media.

There is, however, great hypocrisy in arguing that when it comes to privacy and national security, the Constitution is a firm document with no loopholes and which is not subject to interpretation, but when it comes to individual rights, it's totally negotiable. Which is it? Because Ms. Kakutani's line of reasoning places her, hilariously in my opinion, right there in bed with my personal favorite jurist, Justice Antonin Scalia, and his whole "framer's intent" hangup. Let's consider: if the Framers were to consider the issues of abortion, contraception, gay marriage, the "zone of privacy" that permits homosexual sodomy, etc., how do we think they would have felt? I'm going to go ahead and guess that they might have been just a little bit surprised that the Constitution they wrote for this country has been interpreted to allow for some of these things. I'm definitely not saying that it shouldn't have been - and shouldn't further be - I am merely saying that the Constitution is more than silent on these issues. But if the Framers were also to be asked whether they meant the Constitution to tie the hands of the government when it comes to the lives of its citizens and the government's ability to protect them, I'm pretty sure again what their answer would be. Just as Judge Posner has suggested, it is ludicrous to suggest that they anticipated that the Constitution would ever be a hindrance to saving this country from an enemy so determined, so capable, and so fucking sick in the head that it would put a liquid explosive in a baby bottle in order to smuggle it onto an aircraft -- well, I'm personally left speechless.

Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. Michiko Kakutani and Justice Scalia; me and the Pope (and Richard Posner). How truly bizarre.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

In it for the money

One thing people say that has always struck me as absurd to the point of hilarity is when they look you in the eye and say on the subject of a job: "But of course, you're not doing it for the money."

Funny - I didn't know everyone was independently wealthy. I always believed that people went to professional schools and then got jobs in order to support themselves and their families, but I guess that's not what it's about. I guess what it's really about is the intellectual glory of doing document review. I mean, nothing is more challenging, satisfying, and overall life-affirming than making sure the paralegal input your changes. Which, of course, she didn't, so you then have to make them again. And maybe again. I don't know about you, but man, does that make me feel smart. It's pretty much all I need from life, and a paycheck is obviously peripheral.

It's just so weird. I thought that now that I am done with law school, the internship charade would end. I thought that people would understand that other people have bills, loans, lifestyle goals, shoes to buy, etc. But still, I hear this nonsense. So let me be clear: I am in it for the money. I want to enjoy my job, clearly, and I want to take pride in what I do and derive some kind of intellectual satisfaction from it. Naturally. But at the end of the day, I am working because I need to, and I went to law school because I wanted to make a decent living and not have to rely upon other people for the rest of my life. So if that makes me a base, shallow person, then I guess I am. But one day, I'll be a base, shallow person who is completely self-sustaining and I think there is more pride to that than taking money from one's family forever.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

She works hard for the money

Well the day had to come and here it is. I have someplace to go in the morning, I have a new reason to go shopping, I am finally going to get a paycheck one day, and I'm back to being happily sleep-deprived. Obviously I'm not going to talk about where I'm working, even though it is temporary, and even though there are some serious characters I'd love to discuss, like, for example, Michael Jackson lady, Sweet-But-Dumb 1, Sweet-But-Dumb 2, Jersey Trash, and the Defensive Middle Manager. Instead, I'll just say that I quite like it and I am so much happier now that I'm no longer a porch monkey.

(Not that I have a porch, but you know.)

One thing I've noticed is that since I last had somewhere to go in business casual clothing, styles have changed a lot. The new skirts that ladies wear to work are belted in a completely different part of the body. Last time I wore a belt, it went around my hips but that is no longer done, apparently. I just found out that I have a waist, and I'm really enjoying it. Who knew?

I've also discovered the joys of bringing my own lunch to work. This is partly a function of my complete and total insolvency but either way, it's kind of nice to come in with a gourmet tomato & balsamic salad and a sandwich just the way I like it. Plus that's $50 a week, give or take, that I just don't have to charge to my mother. I'm sure she appreciates it.

On a different note, I am watching "Without A Trace" which is sort of a bad show but addictive nonetheless. This episode, however, is chock-full of both people with fake Romanian accents and alumni of "Dead Man on Campus." Remember that movie? If not, go rent it, because Zack Morris is totally hilarious in it. So both the crazy frat guy and Josh's love interest, Rachel, are in the episode, which is quite amusing. I wonder if they stayed friends.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I want my MTV

This weekend, I watched the Video Music Awards on MTV for the first time in a couple years. Boredom will do that to you. What shocked me most was not how bad most of the music nominated was. I was also prepared for the fact that I had never seen a single one of these videos. Calling it the "Video" Music Awards is kind of a joke at this point, since everyone knows that MTV doesn't play videos anymore. In a sense it's kind of like the Radio Music Awards, because that's the only place these songs are actually getting played. Video killed the radio star and then somehow died itself, being replaced again, magically, by radio. How meta. But I digress.

What was really surprising to me was how old I felt watching the VMAs. When did it become obligatory for dudes in rock bands to wear black eyeliner? Why was Jordan Catalano himself wearing eyeliner?? How come I've never heard "Dani California" by the RHCP before today? People still think Jack Black is funny? When did the Killers start singing over piano? What is Jack White doing onstage being a sideshow for Jack Black's "humor?" And what on earth is the visual imagery in the video for "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" by Panic! at the Disco supposed to represent?

Obviously I am showing my age here. I can remember Kurt Cobain singing "Lithium" at the VMAs, and I can remember shows like "Headbanger's Ball," "Yo! MTV Raps," and "120 Minutes." I still have on tape the "120 Minutes 10th Anniversary" special from, oh, 1994? 1995? Does anyone besides me even remember what "120 Minutes" actually was?

Music has always been an important part of my life. Lately it has been much less so. I usually blame that on the state of modern music, but I think MTV is partly to blame for this too. Ever since they shifted formats from showcasing new music to showcasing blond idiots I lost my easy access to finding out about good new bands. I enjoy "Laguna Beach" as much as, if not more than, the next guy. But why must the "reality" shows and portrayals of guys who allow lobsters to bite their tongues for fun preempt the good work MTV used to do? I used to sneak out of bed to watch my favorite video show on MTV, which aired Sundays at midnight, and I'd learn about new bands that way. I'd write down the videos I liked and go buy the CDs the next day. Hell, this was so long ago I might have bought the tapes the night day. I learned about some of my favorite bands in this way. And now what? I may have learned a fair amount about the real Orange County, but now where am I supposed to go for music? I know there are sources out there, but where? MTV: come back!!

Cry me a river

I am easily offended when it comes to certain subjects: the Middle East, my family, religion, and big law firms' desperate search for candidates. No wonder, then, that this New York Times article made me want to punch a wall. No, it wasn't the brunette in the Legally Blonde suit holding out her BlackBerry defiantly, being so important she must check her e-mail even during a photo shoot. It wasn't the mention of the firm with whom I had the single most traumatic interview of my life. It was this:

Most firms followed suit [in raising the starting salary from $125,000 to $145,000] because they compete for the same law students, and also need to stanch attrition of their current associates. Hiring has become particularly competitive because of expanding practices in corporate law, litigation and bankruptcy.

William V. Fogg, one of the partners responsible for recruiting and hiring at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, said that “law firms are getting bigger at a faster rate than law schools,” creating a growing demand for lawyers and commensurate salary increases.

Boy, what a fucking tragedy!! I feel so bad for these firms. They just can't find candidates.

Which universe are they living in? I did OCI at the beginning of my second year. Now, when I say I "did OCI," it means I had two interviews, both of which were courtesies, and I observed the law review d-bags walking around in suits with full interview schedules poking out of their leather folders. "I have Weil at 10:15 and Willkie at 10:40, am I going to have time to review my notes in between? Ugh! This is so frustrating!" I was depressed about the whole thing, knew I wasn't going to get any callbacks, which I didn't, and knew I had wasted the $5 I had just spent on stockings. And I was one of the lucky ones, because with my grades, I shouldn't have had any interviews at all.

This is clearly way too obvious a solution for people like Mr. Fogg, but if you are only willing to interview 4 people, you kind of can't complain about why there are no candidates. The problem is that you have antiquated standards, and you believe that grades and LSAT scores are the only worthwhile predictor of performance as a lawyer. I don't dispute that they are a predictor. While I firmly believe that they are unrelated to intelligence, first-year grades will show which people are willing to have no life, work around the clock, and skip relatives' funerals (this really happened). So go ahead, snap 'em up, but keep in mind that these are also the people who will be burnt out by the time they start to work, and can keep it up no longer than two or three years. Then they will jump ship and go work for a mid-size firm, or go in-house, or whatever, anything to get out of there.

Many of the people I know who didn't make law review from my school often worked harder, were smarter, and overall less excruciating to be around than the law review people. Why didn't they make law review? I don't know. Numbers, I guess, only ten percent can and we all know that going in. Does that mean the other ninety percent are worthless and couldn't hack it in a law firm? It just can't be the case.

What's the solution? What are other predictors? How can you weed out the people who are smart and who will succeed from those who won't? I don't know. I don't have all the answers. But it's kind of not my job to figure that out. William V. Fogg and counterparts, it is your job. The problem isn't that law schools aren't putting out enough lawyers to supply your departments. The problem is that you will only interview from a very limited number of schools, and only a very limited number of people from those schools. Trust me, the people are there and they are willing to work for you. It's time to pull your head out your ass and look around at the new legal landscape. Things have changed and it's just going to keep costing you more and more money to keep doing things the old way.
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