MPRE results are in.

I passed with a score of 119. That means I overprepared by 40 points. Boy, I’m an idiot. Remind me to be less fastidious when it’s time for the bar exam. That’s valuable time I might’ve used for more important pursuits, like ... you know ... stuff.

05 Sep 06

Comments

Scenes from an Italian restaurant.

Things have been improving since the first day. Somewhat.

I almost made the terrible mistake of taking Business Bankruptcy. It’s not every day you get to take a course from Ken Klee, UCLA’s resident energy healer. But I thought it would be fun, like federal income tax was fun. Instead it was fun, like bad-sushi food poisoning is fun.

I swapped Bankruptcy for Evidence and Advanced Legal Research. Evidence involves watching a lot of TV and movie clips, which I’m grateful for, since I don’t get out much.

ALR is sort of the summer-camp version of a law school course. It’s taught by the law librarians, not professors. So, they still live with some vague idea that their job performance matters to their continued employment. I’m going to bet $1 it ends up being one of the two most useful courses I take in law school.

...

OCIP is in full swing. I can’t really chronicle all the fashion disasters. Quick tip for women: tall ladies shouldn’t wear giant heels. And nobody should wear open toed shoes. Quick tip for guys: if you can fit your whole hand in between your shirt collar and your neck, it may be too large.

I overheard one 2L in the JD/MBA program explaining to a mere JD candidate that he expects his joint degree to fetch an extra $10K over the usual $135K offered to JDs. Dude, on behalf of everyone else in the law school, please shut the hell up.

All of you who are trooping to interviews, I don’t want to rain on your parade, but do pause to ask yourself something. Why do big firms recruit on campus? Answer: because they have a lot of seats to fill. Why do they have a lot of seats to fill? There’s two possibilities. Either they’re growing at a really astonishing rate, or–how do I put this delicately–they have a lot of attrition.

While growth may explain some of it, law firms don’t grow by adding associates, because new associates don’t have any clients, and hence any revenue. That’s why big firms grow through mergers: when you add partners, you add their clients.

That leaves attrition as the only logical option. And why is there so much attrition? You know these jobs pay a lot of money. So associates aren’t quitting because of that. Why, then? Any ideas?

Anyone?

...

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas for the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) convention. I went because I’m interested in practicing in plaintiff-side consumer law.

I was one of the very few UCLA people there. And this is true in general: if you ever investigate plaintiff litigation firms, you will very rarely see UCLA or USC lawyers there. That industry is dominated by Loyola grads, with Southwestern and Pepperdine close behind. This has always puzzled me. Why do UCLA grads go out for public interest jobs in droves (we gotta protect the little guy, after all) but not plaintiff work (which often involves protecting the little guy)? I can guarantee you it pays better.

...

The LuValle store has added Chick-O-Sticks. These are only 15 cents, and offer an incredibly delicious combination of toasted coconut and peanut butter. Like a Zagnut. Or a coconut-ified Butterfinger. Did I mention it’s 15 cents? What can you get at law school that’s only 15 cents? Please, buy as many as you can, so they’ll continue to stock them. They’re on the candy shelves near the register, in the lower right corner. Yesterday, I’d never heard of the Chick-O-Stick. Now, I want to marry it.

11 Sep 06

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Powerpoint in class.

Dear UCLA Law Faculty:

I’ve had four classes at law school that have been really boring. I don’t mean occasionally dull, I mean memorably, continually, numbingly boring.

And I’ve had three classes at law school that featured daily Powerpoint presentations.

100% of these classes appear on the most boring list.

Boring isn’t a synonym for bad–the worst classes I’ve had at law school were not boring. They were evil in other ways.

Based on the best available data, I’m prepared to theorize that Powerpoint-based classes are always boring. As a public service, I call on you all to stop with the freakin’ Powerpoint already.

I can see the appeal of Powerpoint. It helps you organize your lectures, it saves you from having to draw on the board, it lets you make snazzy infographics like the one above.

But let me give you an audience member’s perspective. As a threshold matter, has anyone really ever sat through a Powerpoint presentation they enjoyed? Have you? If you’re at a faculty meeting and someone flips on the projector, do you think “oh, goody”? No, of course you don’t. You probably wish you could slink away unnoticed and write some footnotes.

Now, think how it is for us. Every damn day we come to class, we have to endure another Powerpoint. It has an accretive soul-destroying effect, for which the only reasonable antidote is Spider Solitaire. Can you blame us?

Some of the specific problems with Powerpoint:

1. It’s overly rigid. The best law classes have a give & take between the students & the prof. But when you use Powerpoint, it dictates the form, sequence and substance of the class. You can’t really go out on a tangent from slide 7 because you’d screw up slides 8, 9, and 10.

2. It’s much more helpful to you than us. I feel like these Powerpoints are mostly organizational tools for the prof. Maybe you should put it on YOUR laptop so only YOU can see it during the lecture.

3. It’s stretched beyond its useful limits. Sure, sometimes it helps to have a visual aid, or put up a segment of a statute, and for that Powerpoint can be useful. But 90% of Powerpoint slides don’t really need to be up there. They just act as connective tissue between the 10% that are useful.

4. It’s fatiguing to look at & distracting. You are the star of the show. You have the skills and experience to engage the audience purely through speaking. Why do you need a software program that’s well-known as the favored sanctuary for uncharismatic morons? Powerpoint in class is like TV in bars–regardless of how interesting the conversation is, your eyes keep moving to the screen, and you zone out.

I had one prof who not only used Powerpoint for the whole lecture, he actually stood in the projector beam. This made him look physically pale and 2-dimensional against the screen, as if the slide were absorbing him. It was creepy.

5. Your slides are not exactly miracles of effective information design. Nuff said.

6. It makes you look boring too. In all three of my Powerpoint experiences, the prof was plenty smart and interesting. But the Powerpoint was so bad that it infected them, and made them seem much duller than they were. If Powerpoint enhanced you, I’d say go for it. But it never does. You are smarter, funnier and better looking than Powerpoint. When you hang out together, it just brings you down.

7. It’s not really what I’m paying for. If I got tickets to see Barbra Streisand and she sang off a teleprompter the whole evening, I’d feel like I was deprived of some of the performance that I bought. Similarly, to see excellent profs hobble themselves with Powerpoint makes me feel like I’m getting a slightly inferior product compared to the old-school undiluted version.

In sum: you don’t need it. We don’t want it. Let’s dump the chump and move on.

14 Sep 06

Comments

My guilty pleasure.

The great thing about my fall schedule is that I can tune in to Dr. Laura every day on the way into school. (12-3pm, M-F, KFI 640 AM)

I didn’t listen to Dr. Laura until I had to spend a lot of time in my car every day commuting. The longer I’m in law school, the more I like her.

That’s because Dr. Laura’s act has two levels. One one level, she’s dispensing common-sense, usually socially conservative advice on family, children, dating, etc. Some of her advice is good–e.g. women who want to marry their boyfriends shouldn’t get pregnant and live together. Some is impractical–e.g. single parents shouldn’t date until their children are out of the house.

But almost all her advice is based on the concept of incentives. Law school changes your brain to make you more appreciative of incentive-based rules and more skeptical of ideologically-based ones. The problem is, many of our cherished social / moral / political beliefs have no basis in incentives.

Dr. Laura exposes this gap. This is the first reason many people dislike her. “What do you mean women shouldn’t live with their boyfriends and get pregnant if they want to?” We hang on to “personal choice” as this social ideal. But let’s face it, if those women want to get married, they’re not creating any incentives for their boyfriends to get their shit together. Dr. Laura’s show is really about The Science of Getting What You Want Out of People Through Incentives. Or, if you prefer, Law and Economics.

The other level of the show is the adjudicatory theatre. Dr. Laura is a one-woman ex parte court of social justice. To do this, she employs the same basic formula as other great jurists: 1) Simplify the case to its determinative facts & issues. 2) Use a consistent set of rules. 3) Apply the rules dispassionately and rigorously to the facts.

Dr. Laura is like audio IRAC. She’s not interested in talking to callers about their “thoughts” and “feelings”. She just wants the facts. Once extracted, she clearly states the rule that applies. Then she announces the verdict.

She is hard on her callers. This is the second reason many dislike her. That’s when you have to remember that the show is not for the benefit of the callers, it’s for the benefit of the listeners. Like an appellate court selecting cases that create opportunities to extend the law, Dr. Laura chooses callers to make an example out of them.

Part of her message is the consequences of bad choices. But the other part is the importance of picking rules, sticking to them, and not getting distracted by the surrounding noise. How, she asks, can we make principled decisions about anything without being rigorous and consistent?

Though substantively I prefer Dan Savage, procedurally he’s got a long way to go to catch up to Dr. Laura.

22 Sep 06

Comments

I agree with your point about incentives, but Dr. Laura references morality too often for me to view her as simply advancing a “sex and economics” outlook. Take the pregnant live-in girlfriend example—I’m willing to bet that most listeners walk away thinking, “It’s wrong to get pregnant and live with one’s boyfriend before marriage,” not “If my goal is to marry my boyfriend and then raise a child together, which is a neutral desire, I should not get pregnant and live with him before getting him to marry me.” If her goal is to convey the latter, she’s not doing it very effectively. If her goal is to convey the former, she’s irritating.

Posted by: at September 23, 2006 03:41 PM

The show would be pretty boring if Dr. Laura were amoral (“Yeah, sure, do whatever you want. Thanks for calling!“) But her preferred rhetorical technique is not to bring down some hammer of moral righteousness. Rather, she simply asks callers “If you had a daughter in your position, what would you suggest she do?”

Usually she’s not imposing a moral code; she’s pushing people to act consistently with THEIR moral code. It goes back to incentives: do you want to be exposed as a hypocrite?

Posted by: MB at September 23, 2006 04:39 PM

matthewb @ ucla
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