#The3Llife: Equal Inequality

GUEST BLOG By Shaun Sanders,
3L at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law

One of the most common jabs I hear about law is how wealthy people appear to be immune to consequences.

In fact, it is usually the highlight of water cooler talk every time some celebrity gets arrested and is inevitably slapped on the wrist. Where most people view this as a blatant example of corruption and inequality, I completely disagree. Rather, after having the opportunity to see how things work behind the scene, I feel like it is actually an illustration of just how fair our system truly is.

First, consider how inherently subjective law is. At some point in time, legislatures identified an issue that was, at a fixed point in time, a problem. To address that problem, they created a rule so that everyone would know how to, as a society, deal with the issue. If the rule is too narrow, then there is a risk that it won’t be effective, and, in some way, the issue will not fully be addressed. On the other hand, if the rule is too broad, then it likely won’t survive scrutiny.

This is, ultimately, what provides jobs for lawyers. Even if there is a generally accepted way in which a law is applied, or has always been applied, all it takes is a skilled legal professional to find a valid, alternative way in which to apply the law to the unique circumstance of his or her client. In this way, phenomena like circuit splits represent a natural variance in thinking and reasoning amongst the population. Moreover, when a higher court decides to overrule lower courts or settle discrepancies across jurisdictions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that previous judgments were flawed — only that the system is attempting to recalibrate itself for all decisions going forward.

Second, consider how some people are more competent and capable at practicing law than others. Personally, I know the top five students at my school — and they deserve to be the top five students. They are brilliant individuals who are gifted in the way they can learn and apply the law. Conversely, there are other students who are likely to barely graduate and pass the bar.

So within any given pool of lawyers, just like any profession, you will have a minority of individuals who are better than everyone else, a minority of individuals who are barely competent to practice law, and a majority of individuals making up the average between either end of the bell curve. In other words: some lawyers are objectively better than other lawyers and more capable at their craft. The result, in an adversarial system like ours, is a competitive advantage.

Third, consider how we deal with advantages in society. If one item is objectively better than another, it is valued by more people, which drives up the cost of that item. Here, the item in question is a good lawyer — or, more specifically, the lawyer’s finite amount of time. This means that if you are a really good law student, who becomes a really amazing lawyer, you are likely going to have more job offers and potential cases than you have time to deal with. This means you can be picky and, of course, charge more. So much more that fewer and fewer people can afford to hire you and, at some point, only the wealthy can gain access to your legal genius.

Finally, consider that the justice system is not free. Criminals aren’t prosecuted by volunteers. Just like every other government body, your local district attorney has to abide by a budget, and there is always a cost/benefit associated with every decision.

So what happens when we add up all these factors?

JailCardWhen Average Joe is charged with a crime, Average Joe likely hires (or is appointed) by Average Attorney who will represent Average Joe in an average way, leading to an average result. Moreover, the DA is more capable of moving forward with the case because the resources associated with trying such a case have been factored into the budget.

However, when Celebrity is charged with a crime, Celebrity can afford to hire Superstar Lawyer who will represent Celebrity in a more sophisticated, substantial way. Superstar Lawyer can afford to do more research, deeper analysis, and explore any and all options to represent Celebrity as best as possible — options that are available to everyone, even Average Joe, but require more effort/time, and thus cost. As a result of of Superstar Lawyer being able to present a stronger, more effective case, the cost of prosecuting Celebrity increases significantly.

This is the most important part of the equation.

You see, whether or not a DA chooses to prosecute someone isn’t necessarily tied to whether or not they believe a crime occurred. Rather, the decision is based on the likelihood of being able to successfully prosecute someone. Thus, a strong defense is as much of a deterrence to prosecution as a weak case. Or, in other words, just as we expect charges to be dropped or reduced when the government can’t prove its case against an accused, the same is true when the cost of prosecution outweighs the perceived social cost of the crime. Thus, the apparent inequality of justice between the rich and poor is a product of allocating resources equally against those we choose to prosecute for crimes. The more sophisticated a defense, the more time and money it will cost society to pursue any action, which ultimately reduces the effectiveness of the system as a whole.

Ironically, the only way to truly address this issue would be to establish some sort of policy of inequality in which we, for example, increase taxes and set aside funds specifically for prosecuting the wealthy… and that wouldn’t be very fair either.

#barpreplife: It’s Go Time

GUEST BLOG by Jennifer Varteressian,
Graduated from The University of Tulsa College of Law

Tomorrow I take the bar exam. I repeat, tomorrow I take the bar exam.

I don’t think the reality has set in. I am trying to knock myself over the head with the prospect of sitting down and actually taking the test that has been running my life for the last few months. I stopped by the testing center today to check it out and it was all very surreal, it felt like a scene from a bad movie.

Today did not go smoothly at all. The weather was terrible, and it took forever to check into my hotel. Once I finally got settled in I attempted to order some food, because the whole being out in public thing in this state was not an option. When the food finally got here it was stale and inedible, and let me tell y’all, I’m not that picky. At this point I realized that I needed to eat something even though my stomach was in knots so I proceeded to throw some sweats and slippers on, and go gallivanting around downtown Austin in search of some food. Not the best idea in retrospect, I’m pretty sure I looked homeless, and it definitely wasn’t my finest hour. Eventually, I landed on a sandwich and a cookie (because everything else was either closed or a five star restaurant and I can guarantee you they would have laughed me out of town). I finally got back to my hotel room, freezing as all get out, and I had to laugh at myself because I was sure as hell glad all these bumps were happening today rather than tomorrow.

I truly was a wreck all day, but as I sit here now I am finally at peace with my preparation. Yes it is going to suck, but the moment we have been slaving away for is finally here, and there’s nothing we can do but trust the process. I played softball in college and when I had to perform in pressure situations I would always tell myself under my breath “Relax, you can do this”. I have decided that tomorrow I will use the same approach. We have worked so hard for this and we are three days shy of saying goodbye to the bar exam forever! Good luck everyone! Lets go #OwnTheBar!

Until Next Time (WHEN WE’RE DONE!)

#The3Llife: Bar Prepping in Law School

GUEST BLOG By Shaun Sanders,
3L at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law

I am currently taking a bar prep course during my last semester in law school, which will lead into my BARBRI prep courses after graduating.

The class is pretty fantastic, but also upsetting. My professor is a genius. I often joke that he is a law robot, built in the year 2052, sent back in time to teach law. I will never be as capable as him when it comes to digesting large quantities of text and immediately saving it to memory. His ability to recall cases from years ago is astounding. He is truly an asset at my school, and his class will no doubt help me prepare for the bar.

So each week, Professor Lawbot gives the class one of his own outlines for a topic. His outlines are fantastic. An entire topic of law, that I have previously learned across an entire semester, is distilled into about 12 pages. At first, I was happily blown away with having access to such a wealth of simplified knowledge… but then I realized that these notes have always existed, yet I am only now getting them with mere months to study before the bar.

Wouldn’t it be better to just give every student these magical notes on their first day of their first year? Sure, it wouldn’t make sense at first — but it would give a great head start to everyone going forward. My biggest regret is that I had no ideas these outlines existed. I have been asking other students for their outlines and notes since first-year, yet I had no idea this is what I should have been aiming for.

So for other students going to schools with built in bar prep classes — be aware: there are some delicious notes and outlines that you may want to try to grab early. Seriously.

#The1Llife: Conquest

GUEST BLOG By Lauren Rose,
1L at the University of Detroit Mercy

Some of the first year law students that I have met are lucky.

Why are they lucky? They are lucky because they have a parent or close family member who is an attorney. I consider these people to be lucky because they probably have something automatically lined up for summer. If you’re anything like me, you are not related to an attorney. So you have to find a summer internship the hard way. The internship search is already underway and some of my classmates have already had interviews with Justices and law firms! Here are a few of the steps that I have taken thus far in my conquest to finding a summer position.

I went to the career office at my law school for information about events. During the meeting, the career advisor was able to tell me about an upcoming externship fair featuring externships with judges, government agencies, and nonprofits. She also told me that if I took an unpaid externship, I would be eligible to receive 3 credits! Who doesn’t love easy class credits – right? At this initial meeting, we scheduled other meetings to go over my resume, cover letter, and interview skills. If you have not yet met with your career office, do it now! The sooner you go and polish your resume and cover letter, the better!

At the next meeting, the career advisor reviewed my resume and cover letter. She provided me with some helpful advice about revising my resume so that it was better suited for legal internships (i.e. getting rid of unnecessary things from undergrad). She also went over my general cover letter and helped me tailor it for different kinds of legal positions. It never hurts to have another person read over your resume and cover letter for clarity and grammar.

The externship fair that the career advisor told me about was last week. It was awesome! There were a ton of lawyers there from all different sectors. Each lawyer was more than happy to answer questions about the internship position that they were offering. This was a great opportunity because it was an easy to way find out about a lot of internships at one time. If your school offers something like this, definitely make it a point to go.

I will be continuing my internship search as I send out my resume. If you’re a 1L going through this process, I would love to hear your thoughts! Tweet me @The1LLife

#barpreplife: One Day at a Time

GUEST BLOG by Jennifer Varteressian,
Graduated from The University of Tulsa College of Law

So were 3 weeks out

I think, but I don’t know because I refuse to look at a calendar. I’m just taking it one day at a time, doing my best to remain a BARBRI droid. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone on Twitter for being so supportive, it’s been really nice to be able to rely on a community, especially those that have already passed and can provide resources to us newbies.

I don’t have to tell you all that the bar is stressful, you know that, and I’m sure you are more painfully aware of it now more than ever. What I will do is try to offer some insight as to what has been helping me cope with my stress over the past few weeks.

Studies show that if you mix up your study environment that your success rates increase. Since we have to study ALL day, we may as well do everything we can to make it better. I have been going somewhere different every day, whether that be a coffee shop, a restaurant, a public library, even a park if it’s nice outside. I am lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world so I take advantage. If it’s nice out, go outside, bring your CMR with you and get some UV rays. If it’s not, go to a quaint coffee shop that has a fireplace. Go for a run, drop in for a yoga class. It’s the little things. Order that piece of pie; you deserve it! Hell after you’ve studied for 12 hours, if you don’t deserve a nightcap I don’t know who does. Make sure that you don’t discount every single one of life’s pleasures, if you do-you will go insane, and at this point our sanity is really valuable.

Lastly, I have been struggling with being really low energy lately (studying for the bar really takes it out of you!) My eyes are twitching, I’m fatigued, and I am drinking entirely too much caffeine. Last week I began looking for other options to keep me going all day. Y’all, guess what? It turns out coffee is not the only thing that gives you energy! Shocking, I know. A couple of friends of mine have given me suggestions as to steps to take to maintain higher energy levels throughout the day. I thought I would share in case any fellow bar preppers were experiencing the same problem. Some of them are obviously in jest, but the majority of them have been incredibly helpful to me. I am normally someone who needs a constant IV of coffee, but some of these suggestions have cut me back to just my morning coffee (which granted is still like 4 cupsJ)

Tips to feel less fatigued:

  1. The old freeze your ass off shower standby
  2. KALE: I swear by it-It’s almost as energizing as coffee-If you don’t like it put it in a smoothie-smoothies make everything better.
  3. Yoga: Hey, its proven that exercise releases endorphins and makes you happy, Yoga makes you less stressed too!
  4. Probiotic vitamins
  5.  Juicing
  6. 8 HOURS OF SLEEP: this is not negotiable, you cannot replace sleep! This is a marathon-not a sprint.
  7. Chia Seeds
  8. Tea in lieu of coffee (as far as I’m concerned that’s sacrilege but people swear by it)
  9. Apple Cider vinegar added to water
  10. Vitamin B
  11. Kombucha (this actually IS a caffeine substitute)
  12. Wheatgrass shots

I haven’t had an opportunity to try all of this, but the ones I’ve had the opportunity to try have been working great! Hope this helps.

Happy Studying,

#The2Llife: Externships

GUEST BLOG Harrison Thorne,
2L at UCLA School of Law

I externed at a state court, over summer after 1L.

I loved it, and gained a lot of practical experience.

I am currently externing at a bankruptcy court. I took a bankruptcy course last semester, and found it very interesting. It seemed like a unique field, in that practitioners get a good mix of transactional and litigation work.

I wanted to get more involved in bankruptcy, so I began looking for opportunities. I volunteered for a moot court type competition (that will take place next weekend) through the American College of Bankruptcy. We are performing a mock negotiation for a chapter 11 business restructure. Sounds complicated, but take my word – it’s fun!

But the best experience so far has been externing for the bankruptcy court. I love the subject, so that helps.

However, externing is extremely eye-opening. I have learned how to file motions, how and where to check local, state, and federal rules of court, how to interact with clerks, lawyers, and judges, and how to not anger a court!

I would highly recommend that everyone extern for some court during law school. It is truly an amazing experience, and the hands-on approach will really help round out the academic nature of law school.