Extended adolescence.

Friends know I am occasionally prone to sermonize on a bête noire of mine: adult children who are financially dependent on their parents. I’m not talking about 23 yr olds moving back home for 6 months. I’m talking about 33 yr olds who have marketable skills but choose to rely on mom & dad to prop up their standard of living, as opposed to earning more money themselves.

Somehow the type is especially prevalent in LA. This was a class of people formerly known as “trustafarians” but it has been expanded widely in recent years.

My basic problem is this setup removes the primary means by which people develop a sense of social accountability early in their adulthood, which is by supporting themselves. Hey if it were purely personal & financial I wouldn’t care, it wouldn’t affect me. But invariably these folk carry this adolescent approach into work life, friendships, etc. and have a skewed level of expectation.

There was a piece in the Wall St Journal today about this phenomenon, tracing it back to how children of the current generation experienced more divorce, and consequently hang on to their parents longer financially. Or so they speculate. It ended with this choice item:

A judge interviewed a young law-school grad for a job. When the judge asked whether the applicant had any questions, he had only two: “How casual is casual Friday?” and “Can I leave work early to ride my bike home before rush hour?” ... the young man didn’t get the job.

06 Jan 05


Back in black.

“Spring” semester begins today amidst biblical-scale rain & flooding in LA. A good sign for sure.

10 Jan 05


Casebook zen.

“To help you prepare for class, this book provides Questions and Notes every few pages. Pause after you have read a case and see whether you can answer the questions. Sometimes one cannot give an answer because something is missing. Other questions simply may have no answer.”

10 Jan 05


Schoolhouse Rock.

As I start in reading the constitution for this semester’s con law class, I can’t read the preamble without hearing the Schoolhouse Rock melody in my head. That and Conjunction Junction are probably my favorites. I assume thse have gone off the air long ago, and thus may be unknown to many of my classmates.

Here’s the lyrics at least.

UPDATE: in the first lecture, the professor admitted he was also infected by Schoolhouse Rock, but sadly refused to attempt to sing it.

10 Jan 05


same thing happened to me. and i was so proud of myself that i could remember the whole thing... of course, i dated myself by being able to do so. but still. small victories run deep.

Posted by: amelia at January 22, 2005 04:11 PM

FreeCell ahoy.

Time to first sighting of solitaire on a student laptop: 23 minutes into the 2nd lecture of the semester.

Last semester internet access was left on during lectures unless otherwise requested by the instructor. This semester, no doubt in response to complaints by professors, they have inverted it into an opt-in system: net access is off unless explicitly turned on.

One of my classmates already found a giant loophole in the system that means her internet and AIM access during class has not been impacted. Out of respect for her ingenuity, I won’t disclose her method.

12 Jan 05



2 out of 4 grades have arrived. I will do a full report when they’re all in but I’ll at least say that my prediction came true: through curve magic, I did better in torts than civil procedure.

12 Jan 05


Con law.

I had the luck to be selected for the first in-class quizzing of the semester by Prof Conlaw. “Mr. B, why is Marbury v Madison an important case?” Now that’s the softest of softballs.

Fortunately he tells 4 people the day before that they will be on the spit. The bad news is if you muff it, you really have no excuse. Other things being equal I suppose I prefer having done my class participation duty early.

I’ve decided this semester, perhaps to the relief of my classmates, to ask fewer questions in class. I’m always going to have another question that interests me, I don’t need to bore everyone else with it.

13 Jan 05


Turn of the screw.

The arrival of grades has subtly but unmistakably altered the mood of the class. Mostly it is the fruit of suppression: those who didn’t do so well are putting on a brave face (successfully); those who did well are trying not to openly gloat (with mixed success).

Having completed the first major milestone of law school I can feel my expectations rising in the 2nd semester—of myself, of the school—and my patience for certain types of mediocrity getting shorter.

Based on the first week of classes I’m thinking I’ve got two professors who are on the ball and two who are not. I want to see the good in people, really I do. But the more experience you get with things, the harder it is to suppress your bad vibes, because, well, they’re usually accurate.

Not that I want to be the guy with the black cloud on his head. In any environment you can be required to work with people you don’t have a favorable impression of. Perhaps it’s a frustration inherent to not having choice in your subjects or professors in the 1L year. If I chose a mediocre professor, at least I’d feel accountable for the error in judgment. When the school picks the professors for me, the accountability is diffuse.

16 Jan 05



Law school is a little like the guy in your office who needs everything ASAP. Right away. Emergency. There’s the people who take him at face value and get burned out acceding to his demands. Then there’s the others who don’t get caught up in the perceived emergency, filter it out, and go about their business.

Law school wants to move you smoothly from one state of hysteria to another. First the hysteria about the LSAT; then applying & getting in; then first semester; then first exams; and now that first exams are over, the 1L summer job; and coming this fall, on-campus interviewing for the 2nd summer job; which leads to your 3L job offer; which leads to the rest of your life as a lawyer.

Whew. Don’t forget clerking for a judge for a year after law schoool. So you need to arrange that & the job offer simultaneously.

There’s a part of me that wants to respect the process. It may not make sense that things are done as they are, but that is the methodology, and you can’t redraft the rules by personal fiat. You have to do your best to color inside the lines.

There’s another part that finds it absurd. Because as you pass through each allegedly hysteria-quality milestone, it wasn’t really as bad as you thought. So that’s when you get to thinking—maybe the next one isn’t as bad either. Maybe I should just relax.

It’s easy to get into a mentality of telling yourself “I’m sunk if ____ doesn’t happen” over and over again. Invariably _______ won’t happen at some point, and you’ll deal with it, and everything will go back to being fine. Why not just start with that attitude & enjoy it longer?

17 Jan 05


Grading summary.

I saw Prof Crim on campus today so I suspected (correctly) he was there to turn in his grades. So the final tally looks like this:

Crim law
Civ pro
Dreaded exam:
Afterwards felt:
Similarity to prior exams:

My grades were in the narrowest possible range. So I can’t complain. But as for correlation between how I felt before & after the exam and my eventual performance, there is none. But there is a correlation between performance & whether the exam was similar to past exams posted by the professor. I guess I crave consistency.

18 Jan 05


My all time favorite school joke.

Q: Why do Harvard art history students avoid looking out the window in the morning?

A: So they’ll have something to do in the afternoon.

(Substitute the matriculators of your choosing in the Q. That’s the way it was originally told to me. I think of it every time I pull open the blinds on one of the very few windows in the UCLA lecture rooms.)

20 Jan 05


Class rank.

UCLA hasn’t ranked its students since 1970. Nevertheless, since everything is graded on the curve, you might reasonably wonder how you did relative to your peers.

I kinda figured it out. Grades in each class were given out 20% A, 60% B and 20% C. There’s no stipulation for how many + and - grades within each tier so we leave those off, those rounding errors will tend to even out. Then we assume the grades were randomly distributed—a little bit of error there too since consistent performance is more likely.

In my section, crim was 4 units (compared to 5 for torts and civpro) so its effect on GPA is proportionately underweighted. But you take your grades, find which row you’re on, and the rank tells you approximately where you are as a percentage from the top. If the row doesn’t have a value, go to the next one down; it means the GPAs are tied and thus there’s no way to distinguish them.

civpro	torts	crim	GPA	prob	rank
A A A 4.00 0.8% 0.8%
A A B 3.71 2.4% 3.2%
A B A 3.64 2.4%
B A A 3.64 2.4% 8.0%
A A C 3.43 0.8% 8.8%
A B B 3.36 7.2%
B A B 3.36 7.2% 23.2%
A C A 3.29 0.8%
B B A 3.29 7.2%
C A A 3.29 0.8% 32.0%
A B C 3.07 2.4%
B A C 3.07 2.4% 36.8%
A C B 3.00 2.4%
B B B 3.00 21.6%
C A B 3.00 2.4% 63.2%
B C A 2.93 2.4%
C B A 2.93 2.4% 68.0%
A C C 2.71 0.8%
B B C 2.71 7.2%
C A C 2.71 0.8% 76.8%
B C B 2.64 7.2%
C B B 2.64 7.2% 91.2%
C C A 2.57 0.8% 92.0%
B C C 2.36 2.4%
C B C 2.36 2.4% 96.8%
C C B 2.29 2.4% 99.2%
C C C 2.00 0.8% 100.0%

20 Jan 05



Ah, the summer job search is in full swing. I was planning to be low-key about my search for legal employment but my alumni mentor has, rightfully, pressured me to step up the activity.

The common wisdom is that working for a judge is the best way to go. Ah, but there are so many judges. At the federal level there’s appeals judges, district judges, magistrate judges, bankruptcy judges, etc. Then you get to the state, where the judicial population explodes.

In a couple weeks UCLA has its public interest job fair, which I imagine involves many students interviewing for what are probably a tiny number of actual jobs. Which by the way have no pay—you have to go get a public interest law grant on your own from a 3rd party if you want to avoid working for free.

There’s a smattering of big-firm jobs out there for the truly ambitious / masochistic. I’d be interested to hear how similar the summer job experience is to the permanent position experience at a big firm. If they have any sense they’d make the summer job like a dream vacation so that people would think “Damn, I’m getting $2000 a week to wear a suit and eat catered lunches? I could do this for the rest of my life no problem ...”

24 Jan 05


A stroke of G.

I’d like to throw some respect in the direction of my 3L friend who, in his last semester, is getting 5 credits (same number of credits as I got for Civil Procedure) for writing a screenplay for a legal thriller with a classmate.

I salute your ingenuity sir. If this is what 2L and 3L are about, it may be worth the trip. I see myself writing a rock opera ... about permissive joinder ...

25 Jan 05


Here is the new entry.


28 Jan 05

I’m really a law student now.

A professor of mine from last semester has asked me to work on a project with him as a research assistant. Being now familiar with the complications involved in sending a check to UCLA, I can’t imagine what it will be like to get money out of them.

In the years before I was in law school I had a number of professional activities, one of which was information design. So this project involves converting research data into useful charts & displays. Since law school involves feeling dumb & confused much of the time, it’s kind of relaxing to revisit a topic where I have expert knowledge.

Meanwhile I went to Barneys today to get the obligatory interview suit. I have neither owned nor worn a real suit for ... an improbably long time. But according to the female suit critic who accompanied me, I’m lookin’ sharp.

29 Jan 05


Public interest.

Public interest summer jobs are supported by grants from a student organization called PILF that spends most of its time raising money for the grants. OK, fair enough, and I try to put a couple bucks into the can whenever they have their random, low-rent fundraisers (“Buy a spool of thread from PILF! Only $5”)

But I got a good chuckle out of the unadulterated chutzpah of this class-wide email:

This year, for the first time ever, the 1L sections are going to compete against each other to see which 1L section can bring in the most money for the PILF Auction.

Wow! I was just thinking “gee it would be great if in addition to grade and job competition, there was financial competition among 1Ls.” Wish granted.

HOW TO WIN: Solicit donations from new donors! All of the donations will be added up, and the section with the highest total will get a party from PILF (pizza? ice cream sandwiches? your choice!)

Damn, when PILF says “party”, they are not screwing around. I say, let’s get those ice cream sandwiches in here and get this joint crunked up.

The total from the winning section must exceed $500.

Remember, lawyers: always read the fine print.

30 Jan 05

matthewb @ ucla
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