Wednesday, October 19, 2016

They Will Not Show You the Rembrandt

I recall a couple of years ago when I was new to a particular hobby that is a bit like organized train spotting, but it sounds better if it is told in terms of museum patronage.  There aren't any formal meetings, but people eventually keep running into one another.  People would contact one another if they saw a painting that was out of the ordinary and people would flock to it.  I have added this story to my blog because it is sort of like practicing law.  

People have these great stories at CLEs about how everyone in a section is friends with one another.  They can all pick up the phone and call them!  Why, they call each other all of the time and pick each others' brains about how to handle a case.  They scratch each other's backs.  

When I hear this, I wonder how my experience with law has been more like the Solomon parable of "The Odious Woman."

I was unfamiliar with any of the basic concepts of art spotting beyond the fact that there are paintings in museums.  Some don't make any sense until you read the card on the wall.  Some are masterful.  Some are lucky to be shown.  Some are one blot of color.  Some are dribbles with multiple colors slung about in a frenzy.  Either way, people chased these things down and ticked them off their list.
 
One day, I met someone who volunteered to explain to me the cult of art spotting.  She took my information and told me where a meeting of art spotters was held, but I did not immediately jump on this.  I was afraid that I would be mocked for my lack of art knowledge, so I thought I would go out on my own a couple of times and investigate so that I could at least understand the basics.

I did this and ran into some people in the community, although I did not know it at the time.

This lady I speak of realized this later on after I told her where I went, but she did not tell me.

She quizzed me and asked me if this person told me about this really spectacular Rembrandt that had recently been spotted in the area that everyone wanted to see.  It was on display at a local museum, but she could not remember the name of the museum and claimed that it was not really a special exhibit that would be advertised in the media because only Rembrandt enthusiasts keep an eye out for these pieces and text their friends.  However, she would e-mail her friend to see where it was being hosted and arrange for us to see it because she was looking forward to seeing it herself.

Days passed, then weeks.  I mentioned it later on and she said that she and her sister went to see the painting and the exhibit was now closed.  I was a little upset that I was not invited, but I understood why she forgot her offer to see it with me since we were only acquaintances.  I was a little perturbed that she never told me where the painting was being shown, but I doubted my annoyance because she invited me to an event at the community art museum showing new works by a local artist.  She convinced me that the enthusiasts liked to spend their time viewing the works of up and coming artists, but I did notice that the halls tended to be empty except for a few retirees looking for a way to kill the afternoon on the cheap.  

I did not know any better.

I found out later after continuing self-study that everyone in the entire community knew where the Rembrandt was being shown because the museum was a primo destination on par with the The Met.  This woman was taking me to see local artists who had their works on display in coffee houses while the people in the know were at the Guggenheim and the Louvre.  However, I knew so little about the scene and could not come up with a reason why she would lie that I had no reason to doubt that she did not know what museum was hosting the Rembrandt.   Furthermore, she had been holding out on some other spectacular exhibits that had been coming through the area that I had stumbled across in my internet research.

I never found out the true reason why she lied to me about the Rembrandt, but suspected that she wanted the scene all to herself.  What she wanted to do was distract me then hope to bore me to death with these ho-hum pieces so that I would beg off the next time I was invited and put the art experience in my rearview mirror while the enthusiasts were hobnobbing with glasses of wine at yet another traveling exhibit from Paris.

That, my friends, is what people don't understand about the practice of law and it is the myth perpetuated by the same people who talk of "underserved needs" and "shortage of attorneys" because they are hoping they look helpful and non-threatening so you will give them a call after the CLE to pick their brains then eventually trick you into throwing some juicy cases their way or use you as a repository to dump the clients they are tired of looking at.

This may be painting everyone with a broad brush because it is more likely than not that the majority realize that they won't last that long if they run their practice that way.  The problem is that the weeding out process doesn't happen overnight and it is also like whack-a-mole because with every new class that is graduated, you run into yet another bumper crop of people who think they have figured out how to game the system.  There are some that simply continue the practice by moving on to another crop of victims.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I seriously can't believe that people are going to unaccredited schools at this point

I recently read an article about students that were going to unaccredited schools because they were taking a leap of faith their school would be accredited by the time they graduated/tried to find a job.

Not to be offensive, but what type of job were you hoping to find?  Do you hate yourselves or are you so adverse to finding a job that you will spend whatever money it takes to delay the real world?

You can automatically cross off BIGLAW from your list.   Some of you MIGHT find jobs in the DA's office.  That would at least count as steady income.    Unlike your world of working at Pizza Hut for $10 an hour, the practice of law is like auditioning for American Idol, and even if you make the Top 10, some nefarious group of pranksters is going to robo dial until you get the lowest number of votes at some point.

I went into law because I could WRITE.  I made law review and I thought that life was good.  Then, the year of unemployment began.  I had a short-term job, but I did not fit into their culture.  Then, I finally "made it" and landed in something that ran for a good five years, but then I made the mistake of broadening my horizons.  Suddenly, the phrase, "But what have you done for me lately?" comes into play.  The LSAT does not measure the soft skills.  Even if you make it out of law school with a decent set of credentials, that will not matter within months of receipt of your bar exam results.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Suing Your Law School for Transparency

I wonder what the legal team's basis for "meritless."

Thomas Jefferson Law School. Really?

I think it's meritless because one should "buyer beware" of any such type of school to begin with, even if you were valedictorian.

Someone sent me a link the other day in which some BIGLAW associate described his/her daily job of spending nights, weekends, and holidays tied to a computer and reading boring contracts until your eyes turn to dust.  It's interesting reading that when you read about the credentials of the newest Supreme Court candidate Merrick Garland.   When reading about this woman's fruitless lawsuit to get her money back in conjunction with all of these other facets, it's really hard to believe that all of this stems from the same root profession.  When you think about it, a doctor is a doctor even if they are working at Walgreens, but the disparity of professional outcomes in the legal field is mind boggling in comparison.  You have a spectrum of panhandler to McDonald's cook to food prepper in a high-end macrobiotic kitchen that serves glow in the dark food to chef in the White House.....and the humorous thing is that despite the ranking of the school, all of these people sat in the exact same 1L lectures explaining the Uniform Commercial Code.

Somehow, Merrick Garland beat the system.  That's not a slight against his skills because he seems admirable, but when you think about the people out there who do not even get an opportunity to practice, who do not pass go and go straight to document review, who end up in a shady ambulance chaser firm and flame out two years later, or who spend their days in a dead-end job poring over business acquisition deals and never seeing their friends and family ever again, one can more fully appreciate that he not only got the opportunity but was able to hold to his guns and be well-respected when the expectation held by many is that you be a shady mother-effer.  When I read Garland's credentials, I felt that hope from the initial days of law school orientation.

Monday, August 10, 2015

You Too Can Pay $100,000+ for a Degree You Will Use for Three Years!

This is a serious question, but I wonder what goes through the mind of people that pay for a law degree, sit for the bar, and then decide after three years that they're going to open an Etsy store and sell shabby chic wall decorations.

I know that some people do that out of necessity because they made $3 as an attorney after deducting the expense of having a research data base, ProDoc, business cards, attending CLE, paying bar dues, and having an office space.  Heck, many might make more money by putting boxes of AMWAY and Scentsy for sale in the lobby.

Monday, July 27, 2015

I'm Moving!

To where and to do what?  Hmmm.....

But let me share with you, dear reader, a plea, while I am going through my things.

My place is a graveyard.  I don't know if this has happened to anybody else out there, but I have uncovered things that don't belong to me that I never wanted in the first place:

Books.

I am annoyed when people give me books that I have shown no interest in and expect me to read them.  

I am even more annoyed when I tell them that I will not have time to read the book and they insist that I read it anyway.

I am even more annoyed than this when I tell them that I will probably lose the book and they insist I take it home.

This is not because I'm a hoarder.  It's because I try to keep the item separate from my things so that I do not accidentally shelve them or mistake them as my own, but then it inevitably starts running with the wrong crowd: clutter.  One day, it becomes sandwiched in between enough clutter that it is stuck on top of my desk. 

Then, like dust, other little pieces of clutter start falling on top of it.  

A year later, it's time to sort and shred, and suddenly, I've uncovered a book that I have not read and I can't figure out how to give back to that person without them asking what I thought about it.

You see, I am not a thief.  I have reached the threshold where I recognize the pattern after it happened once or twice that I can give a full and accurate fortune telling account of what will happen to your book.  I think now that I have to actually move into something more drastic such as waiting until their back is turned, hiding it under their couch, and pretending like I put the book in my purse when I leave.  That way, when they move, they'll move their couch and find this mysterious book lying underneath it.

But why don't I just refuse the book to begin with?

In one case, the woman became quite whiney when I wouldn't accept the book.  It was about endangered tigers or something to that effect, and I'm not even sure she would have cared that much except that she was trying to ingratiate herself upon me because of my lawyerly resources.  That book subsequently became jumbled around in backseat clutter of my car.

Another book was loaned to me by another crazy woman.  This one was eaten by my desk and I had completely forgotten about it.  I was a good friend of hers at the time and this was accepted out of friendship even though I had also told her that I probably wouldn't read it.

Not all things that are lost are books, however.  I lost a DVD once about artsy fartsy things, so this was not something one can buy at Best Buy for $5.  A woman loaned the DVD to me after someone else borrowed it, and it turned out that the previous borrower had failed to put the DVD back in the case.  The previous borrower gave the DVD to me about a week later, but I didn't have the case in my possession.  I told the woman that let me borrow it that I would probably lose it, and it turned out that I was partially correct.  I went into a cleaning frenzy and did not recognize the disc and threw it away, thinking it was some old junk garage band CD I picked up once in my youth.  No, it turned out that this is a $30.00 DVD that can only be purchased from the artist's website.  The honest thing to do is to buy a replacement even though I could not imagine this woman ever watching this DVD ever again.  However, it makes me appreciate the benevolence of the junk piles because they hold and protect these sorts of things from my own stupidity.  I swear that I racked my brain trying to figure out why I had this disc, but I could not remember until long after the garbage collectors came.

However, I have resolved that before I move that I'm going to have a mailing party where I'm going to mail things to people so that they can't quiz me if I liked the book.  Thank god for media mail rates.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Greed will come back to haunt you

Not even I could have predicted this outcome.  

Between the day that I was first enrolled in law school and today, the price of tuition has jumped about $400.00 per semester hour.  It already started climbing quite a bit when I was there, and the attitude of certain individuals was that the market could bear that price.  This person viewed it the same as if you wanted to buy an autographed football or an original Warhol.  After all, a law degree works in exactly the same way.  You shell out $100,000.00 and voila!  You are an attorney.

However, I have recently discovered something interesting.

The bar passage rate went down in the ensuing years.

That was the first clue that something was going wrong, and so I looked at the admission stats and found out that the median LSAT scores for the current class are also lower than when I attended.

Some people might have theories about why this has occurred, but let me tell you speak the truth on this matter and say that if you aren't Harvard or Yale law, there is a point where a so-so candidate (which is what my school was already attracting) is going to look at the price tag versus the employment prospects and run like the wind and just not attend law school all together.  The majority of people left are the ones that are too dumb to do the math, people whose post-undergrad job prospects are already crap, people who don't want to go into the real world, dreamers, and people that view law school as some sort of finishing school where they can kill another 3+ years (usually more than the standard three because they usually end up flunking quite a bit) before they go work at the family business.

Naturally, this doesn't mean that if a person falls into one of the above categories that they must necessarily have worse GPAs and LSAT scores, but consider this:

If, the overall experience of going to law school was--oh, let's say--about $30,000.00 cheaper than what it is now, and the employment prospects afterwards were better, the school would have a larger pool of competitive candidates.  This doesn't necessarily mean that they are competitive to the point that they would have been accepted at better schools.  Instead, their profiles mean that they would be better candidates for keeping up with the coursework and passing the bar afterward.  However, the slightly more competitive candidates have better employment prospects and better graduate school options.  Plus, they are apparently smarter at crunching the numbers and keeping up with current events to where they realize that even if they do graduate with a law degree that the worst of it is still yet to come.  

Unlike medical school that has residency programs, you are on your own unless you are connected or find a job afterward.  If you cannot find a generous individual to mentor you, then you have flushed thousands down the tube.  A few years ago, these people would have been absorbed into the public sector or legal aid, but those prospects are GONE.

Therefore, while there are still going to be a few dreamers and people who think they can do this if someone gave them a shot, one cannot help but think that if the school is attracting people who are not worried about their debt load and employment prospects at the end of the day that this is also playing out in the end result because they probably are not going to study that hard when it comes time to take the bar.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dear Law School....

You have found my new land line number somehow and have started calling and asking for donations.  I seriously don't know how you did it and frankly it is a bit creepy because I get creditor phone calls for people that used to have this number before I did and the creditors have no clue that their quarry has moved on.  If you can, please call the collection agencies and tell them that David Cruz no longer has this number, thanks.

I've had a chance to compare my legal skills to laypeople and other lawyers recently, and I recall how things were when I was a 1L.  It takes me back to those heady days where even I racked my brain and likely spit out wrong answers 4/5ths of the time.  That was a blast!  Oh, if only the public knew how the most basic and common sense beliefs are turned on their heads for the sake of making us study an ungodly amount of hours.  Oh gee, what happens when a person buys blue widgets and receives pink widgets?  I can stand in line at the return counter or keep them.  In the course materials, these scenarios are sometimes depicted with drawings or with fact patterns.  Again, I am sure that the public that pays lots of money for these services would feel better knowing that their attorney received training via cartoon drawings and flash cards.

I didn't learn anything in that environment except for the basics on how to pass the bar.  Thanks to the real life work experience I've had, I can now "think like a lawyer."  If only I could point to something and proudly say, "Professor Such'n'such told me how to solve it this way!"  But no.  I think of the practicing attorneys, judges, my job, and the non-attorney coworkers who taught me how to approach problems and solve them.

Thank you, again.  I realize that it isn't your fault because law school was created to be a barrier to keep people from practicing law, not for getting people ready to do their jobs.  I should commend you for fulfilling your niche in this assembly line through the lack of useful information to the point that I could not even file a lawsuit in JP court without receiving assistance from the clerks if I wanted to, as well as the sheer expense of attending.