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Archive for May 2011


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The first year of law school, which, combined with my marriage, continued gaming/Netflix habit, and life in general, caused me to abandon this blog, is over. Hallelujah.

I worked two years as a paralegal before coming to law school. I survived partners, unreasonable clients, overtaxed coworkers and 70 hour weeks. I missed Nine Inch Nails’ only appearance in China because I had to edit some document so that a client could build a mammoth new manufacturing facility. Joy. Still, it wasn’t all bad, and I saw the impact that the transactions I was quasi-involved in had on the real world, and a number of the people I worked with are still my friends.

The first year law curriculum is nearly identical everywhere: Contracts, Civil Procedure, Property, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, and Torts. One can never be over-prepared for exams, or for class, because the number of potential legal issues in any complex fact pattern is frustratingly endless. There’s two parts to the curriculum. What You Are Meant to Learn and What You Might Learn Along the Way. The first is fairly narrow. This case is known because it’s a good example of…specific performance, assumption of risk, premeditated murder, whatever. The second is infinite and anyone daring to delve into it during class is usually rewarded with a barrage of rolled eyes and exasperated professors. I should add that I think that law school has successfully proven that I am one of the worst ‘academic’ minds on earth. I’m interested in issues for about five minutes, until they cease to be coherent or apply to anything else I’m interested in. Economic theories of tort remedies? Tell me more. Wait, no, stop. That’s enough.

Next year I’ll be trying some new and more specific coursework, including tax, business law, real estate, and, as a random experiment, ‘Intellectual Property in China’. I cannot wait for my 2L tax courses. Either I will love them or hate them. I dabbled in international law this year but can’t see myself writing bench opinions on genocide or other crimes against humanity, even if they make fascinating and horrifying reading. I reviewed some opinions on the Rwandan genocide, and there’s simply no way that I could come close to comporting myself with the necessary impartiality and gravitas to handle trials like that, especially when the defendant is so, so, guilty. On the other hand, I’ll also be taking Immigration Law, which I have a personal stake in (my wife is Chinese) and may change my mind about doing something international. I’d also love to get involved with cross-border transactions and investment, because I have a feeling that before long, countries are going to be eager to invest in the US for manufacturing just as this past decade belonged to the Chinese. Perhaps they’ll learn from Japan and build more local manufacturing if they’re serious about selling us cars and other big ticket items. I’m typing this on a Lenovo, by the way…and my coffee cup was made in China, too…

My dream job is 10-15 years in a regional/national law firm involved in international business transactions/arbitration, and then a solo/small practice based on whatever I’ve enjoyed most to that point. I suspect the ‘dream job’ will change within 3-6 months, but who knows?

I learned a lot this year, including that I’ve declined in my ability to instantly absorb large quantities of information. You don’t really feel the loss until you’re under the gun and realize that you have no earthly idea, beyond what someone else has written, what the issues are in the case you’re dealing with. Much like my early paralegal experience, it has been a process of educated trial and error, except I have grades to memorialize the ‘error’ part. Am I better prepared to be a lawyer? Marginally so. But I’m actually less convinced, if that was even possible, that law school is a smart idea for very many people.

Even I, who had a pretty thorough look into the belly of the beast before coming here, was hesitant to actually go through with it. I envy people with the ability to dive right in to a life-changing, finance-destroying experience, but I was very nearly scared away by the awful employment numbers and prohibitive cost of opportunity. The JD is a great degree to have, and I’ll join the overeducated, overworked of America proudly, but I’m not sure that the inflation in the number of law students and the cost of education is justified. I’m certainly not going to land some plum position in NYC after graduation and live like a king, how could I justify dropping a quarter mil on school + living expenses? And yes, someone really spent more on living expenses than they did paying full price for law school. That must be one hell of a morning after…I did what? I owe them how much? Oh, Christ. At least I had a good time. Basically, if you don’t get a scholarship or participate in a public service/government LRAP (loan repayment/forgiveness program), you need to make around $65,000 a year to just hammer away at the debt accumulated by an average three year cost for law school. Tier 1 and Tier 2 Schools may report their ‘median’ salaries around 80-120k, but that’s just the people who actually answered the survey…you can bet the ones who didn’t answer aren’t making bank and drinking too many mojitos to bother checking the mail.

But there is reason to be guardedly optimistic, as well. Cleveland’s economy, long thought to be among the worst in the nation, is now outperforming many others. Unemployment has fallen by almost 2% since last year, and manufacturing, long the foundation of the region, is leading the recovery. The medical sector here remains abnormally strong and will soon be bolstered by the nation’s first dedicated ‘medical mart’ for product shows and exhibitions, the latest in a long parade of purported panaceas for the ills of downtown Cleveland.


Written by Michael

May 26, 2011 at 4:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized