Alternative Education

Some career-driven folks jump right into the belly of the beast after graduation.  Others take the leisurely route, like many who graduated college in the early- to mid-1970s.   I was focused on a career as a public-interest lawyer; I satisfied my need to meander when I left college after my sophomore year.  The writer of the NY Times May 1 Op-Ed titled “The Pink Floyd Night School” wandered for five years after college.  Worth reading, whether you are one of the driven or one of the aimless.

Semester Summary

Facts, insights, and musings from the spring 2010 semester.

  • Average grades:  Real Estate Law 87.9/3.35; Internet Law 88.9/3.41; Intro to Law 86.9/3.30
  • Number of A/A- grades: Real Estate Law 14/10 (27%/19%); Internet Law 19/7 (37%/13%); Intro to Law 16/7 (31%/13%)
  • Number of students who elected grading option B:  Real Estate Law 5/9.6%; Internet Law 5/9.4%; Intro to Law 10/21.3%
  • Number of students whose letter grade increased because of option B: Real Estate Law 4; Internet Law 2; Intro to Law 5
  • Number of students whose letter grade decreased because of option B: Real Estate Law 0; Internet Law 0; Intro to Law 0
  • Number of students who complained about or asked for the chance to do extra work to increase their course grade:  0  (this hasn’t happened in years)
  • The number of students who visited office hours was historically low this semester.  Some of my law faculty colleagues had the same experience.  Previous posts have speculated inconclusively why this is so.
  • I plan to scrap and rebuild real estate law by discarding the Jennings text and shifting to a case- and problem-based curriculum.  Real estate law does not pose as many broad and cutting-edge policy issues as Internet law, but it is filled with juicy family squabbles, obnoxious neighbors, vile slumlords, nasty tenants, greedy developers, over-reaching regulators, and other human-interest drama that was lacking from the text.  I’ve not resolved who best to feed the law to students–a custom outline of the relevant terms, concepts, and principles?  That will require lots of work for me to prepare.  A canned commercial law-school outline of real property law?  Possibly too broad, technical, and dry.  A law-for-non-lawyers handbook?  Good materials but too topic-specific, e.g. they deal only with landlord/tenant law, or buying a house.  Topic-specific web-based content?  I’ve not located one good authoritative site, so the material will be of piecemeal quality and consistency.  Right now I’m leaning towards the custom outline while continuing to explore the alternatives.
  • I completely overhauled Internet law last summer.  Changes for the 2010-2011 academic year will be less dramatic, mostly updating existing cases, blending more cases into the text (like Krinsky v Doe in the Anonymous Speech chapter), finding more recent and more interesting cases for a few topics, and adding transitions and expository material to the casebook.
  • Internet law topics that deserve more course time:  privacy, the DMCA, and licensing (including Open Source, Creative Commons).
  • I’m going to move the order of Intro to Law topics to put more course time into business organizations.  Some other topics will have to move to make this happen, although I don’t know what.

Law: The Cuddly Profession

Here are two recent articles—or more accurately blurbs–of interest to prospective law students, sent my way by a current law student.  Survey: Most Pre-Law Students Confident re Own Prospects, But Dubious About Others reports on the results of a Kaplan Test Prep study of 330 pre-law students:  “52 percent are ‘very confident’ of finding a legal job after graduating from law school and passing the bar exam. However, only 16 percent are ‘very confident’ that most of their classmates will achieve the same success.”  Someone from Kaplan opines that the results show prospective students’ “optimism in an economic turnaround” and speaks to the respondents’ “self-assurance.”  A less-flattering interpretation is that  84 percent of pre-law students are “very confident” that most of their classmates will be losers? Imagine the survey respondents’ first day in law school.  In her welcoming remarks the Dean says “each of you look around–the two people to your immediate left and the two people to your immediate right–plus 1/5th of that next guy–believe that you will not find a legal job and/or will fail the bar.”  Disdain, arrogance, smug superiority, and self-delusion, all in the name of self-assurance–welcome to law school indeed.

The second blurb, Researcher Says Law Students Need to Learn to Read Like Lawyers, has little substance.  The comments, however, admittedly from a small population, reveal bitterness, disillusionment, cynicism, and frustration with the practice of law.  One reading is that these are the first article’s 84%, still looking down post-graduation on judges, courts, clerks, and other lawyers.  Another is that trial practice stinks.  Another is that there are a lot of unhappy lawyers.  Another is that lawyers like to bitch.  Another is (e) all of the above.

Saturday Night Study Fever

Exam week is in the air. I finished writing the Internet law final about an hour ago and am, at 9:30 on a Saturday night, still at the computer. (If you wonder why my wife is putting up with me being such a rocking bundle of fun, she is away for the weekend.) All day–well not really all day, the emails didn’t start until after noon or, as it is known to college students, the crack of dawn–I’ve been hearing from students with I’m-planning-to-study-soon questions (“when will you be in your office?”), I’m-studying-right-now questions (“can you confirm my understanding of generic marks is correct?” [yes, it is], I’m-just-now-encountering-the-material-for-the-first-time questions (“can you explain copyright law?”), and I’m-not-studying-right-now-but-I’m-also-at-my-computer-on-Saturday-night commentary (an interesting and entertaining discussion of ethnic identity and the best cannoli in Boston).  The full range of study-period expression.

Anyone got extra hyphens?  I’m running out.

If You Drop It, They Will Come

The large plastic dog-treat container slipped from my hands when I was returning it to the top of the refrigerator.  I arrested its fall by trapping it sidewise with my hip against the counter.  Its top popped open and mixed dog treats spilled to the wood floor and scattered across the kitchen.  It was a religious experience for Cleo and Chelsey.  I grabbed the broom and swept and scooped up as many treats as I could but was no match for the girls’ low center of gravity, four legs, and voracity.