Note to Self: Never Tweet “That Dress Makes You Look Fat”

As my Internet law students know from my recent classroom rambles lately I am focused–it sounds much better than obsessed–with exploring and defining the complex relationship between privacy, social media, and electronic data tracking. The issues are not new to me but something has ratcheted up my appetite for privacy stories, like this from the NYTimes about tensions that arise when one partner in a couple objects to the other partner’s public disclosures.

[S]ome spouses have started insisting that their partners ask for approval before posting comments and photographs that include them. Couples also are talking through rules as early as the first date (a kind of social media prenup) about what is O.K. to share.

“Talking through rules as early as the first date?” Do couples handle these conversations face to face or via text? I’m just wondering.

Public Like Me*

If you wonder what it is like to be a Foursquaring, data-tracked, social-media denizen then read Living in Public: What Happens When You Throw Privacy Out the Window on Lifehacker. The author, who normally does not expose herself to location tracking, online data collection, and personalized ads, abandoned her clickstream reserve for a few weeks to experience life with a constant trail of digital breadcrumbs. She reports it had some positive aspects but not enough to convert her. (Thanks, E.C.)

*Few of my readers will conjure up the association this subject line intends. Click here if you want to get the joke.

It’s Whimsy, Not Actual Math

Re: Parsing LSAT Stats: My fanciful point, unrelated to real-world arithmetic, is that future law school classes will be so heavily populated by underperformers that the bottom half won’t accommodate them. I do know that it is not actually possible for the bottom half of a class to contain more than 50% of its students–but law students can display fantastical perceptions of their chances of success relative to their peers: see Law–The Faith-Based Career Choice and Law: The Cuddly Profession (”In a recent survey of 330 prelaw student by Kaplan Test Prep, 52% felt “very confident” that they would land a legal job after graduation, although only 16% felt confident that most of their fellow graduates would be as successful.”

It’s Between “Scalper” and “Scandal” in Black’s Law Dictionary*

It’s low-hanging fruit, I know, but I cannot pass up juxtaposing my post about the smartest people avoiding law school with this ABA Journal article about a law firm that got hooked by a first cousin to the Nigerian 419 scam:

Milavetz Gallop fell victim to the scam when someone claiming to be a 40-year-old Korean woman hurt in Minnesota told the firm she needed help securing a 400,000 legal settlement, report the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Courthouse News Service. The firm received a settlement check for the amount, received assurances it had cleared, and forwarded $396,500 to a Hong Kong bank for the client.

While this scam’s narrativemay not be as outlandish as “I am a government official/son of Mohammed Gaddafi/whatever and need your assistance transferring $27 million in assets from my country,” extraordinary skepticism is not required to recognize that this smells like week-old walleye. Variations on this scam have been Internet regulars for 15 years or more. From what I’ve read Wells Fargo is not blameless but still, I’d like to believe lawyers are a little savvier than this.

Another reason not to go straight to law school from college: you get life experience necessary to develop the common sense and good judgment to avoid falling for something like this.

*Not in mine, actually, which is the 5th Edition from 1979, but that’s where scam would be.

Parsing LSAT Stats

The latest indignity for those thinking of becoming lawyers: Are Smartest People Avoiding Law School? Stats Show Bigger Drop in High LSAT Applicants.

Are the wrong people losing interest in law school?

That’s the question posed by the Atlantic, which notes a 13.6 percent drop in applicants who scored highest on the Law School Admission Test, but only a 4.3 percent drop in applicants who scored the lowest.

The linked Atlantic article includes a chart of the year-to-date percentage changes in the those taking the for ranked by LSAT score, e.g. 140-144. The Atlantic characterizes the results:

The number of students applying who probably have no business going to law school has dropped the least. The number of students applying who probably should apply to law school has dropped the most . . .

[T]he smart kids got the memo. Law school is largely a losing game, and they’re not going to play, even though they can probably count on a better hand than most. Meanwhile, the number of laggards applying has barely budged.

Of course this means less competition at the top of the law school heap. Hmm . . . can more than 50% of law students land in the bottom half of their class?

Business Education = Trade School?

Undergraduate business majors are a dime a dozen on many college campuses. But according to some, they may be worth even less . . . The biggest complaint: The undergraduate degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates and other hallmarks of liberal-arts coursesMelissa Korn, “Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major,” The Wall Street Journal, 5-April 12 (Emphasis mine)

This theme resonates powerfully in my attitudes about teaching. My business-school courses involve extensive discussions, critical research and analysis, and clear, concise writing. Perhaps 20% of my students engage with our course material across this spectrum of activities. Others do what’s necessary to get by. They finished in the upper quintile or higher of their high school classes, have respectable (or better) standardized test scores, and balk at the intellectual spade work necessary to comprehend a more-difficult-than-ordinary legal opinion. Not all, of course. Our best students would do well anywhere, and  no part of teaching is more enjoyable than helping a struggling student shift their academic performance to a higher gear. They light up, learn to trust their abilities, and revel in the excitement of learning.  But enough view their business education as a transaction with measurable deliverables–how will learning this material translate into income?–to affect the intellectual climate of the classroom. I push some, pull others, and try to generate enough momentum with the rest for inertia to keep it all moving. Melissa Korn’s WSJ piece discusses changes afoot in other schools to integrate liberal arts lessons and intellectual values into the business school curriculum. Revisions to our curriculum will increase its focus on broader topics. I’m curious how students will respond.

Challenging Legality of Internships

In class a few days ago we discussed that many–or most–unpaid internships the college students use to pad enhance their resumes fail to satisfy the U.S. Department of Labor’s criteria for unpaid trainee positions and should therefore be compensated positions. (For background see here, here, and here.) Almost all students who spoke on the topic agreed the system was exploitative but they were willing exploitees, willing to work for free to get the company’s name on their resumes. There was no Norma Rae ‘”Union” moment. While one student was sharply critical of these practices most accepted it without complaint and, indeed, with little apparent recognition of why I would raise it as an issue–a small reminder of the differences between students today and my college classmates. Talking about this at dinner a few nights later a friend noted that the reaction likely would have been different at, say, Bunker Hill Community College, where many students could not afford a summer of unpaid work. She noted that some interns have sued over internships that did not provide bona fide educational experiences and expected companies would soon change their internships practices. Based on my students’ passive acceptance of the way things are I don’t share her belief in the imminence or inevitability of change. Unless the change that occurs is revision of the Department of Labor’s rule to ratify most current practices.

Life Imitating Law?

Internet law students who remember Jones v. Dirty World, involving a federal court defamation suit by Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones against gossip website The Dirty (the Eastern District of Kentucky ruled that it could exercise long-arm jurisdiction over the Arizona-based defendant) may be interested in this news report that Jones has been arrested.  It’s a bizarre twist if the allegations are true.