A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: law school

An Open Letter to the ABA

NYC Sandy Blackout

By Ryan Morrison

Earlier today, New York Law School students received an e-mail from our administration telling us that the American Bar Association has decided not to waive any required class hours after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Instead, students will be attending regular and makeup classes nearly every day for the next three weeks, including weekends. Students of all the law schools in the tri-state area surely received similar notifications.

Boo hoo, right? Any complaints about the schedule will come from entitled law students who just need to suck it up and get down to work.

Well, actually, no.

Some of those people with no homes are the law students, or their families, or friends. Over the past long and terrible week, many, many law students headed to the Rockaways, Staten Island, and Long Beach to volunteer and help however we could. And if you’ve seen the devastation in these areas, you know that help is needed, desperately.

I am the first to defend New York Law School as a great institution. Our new dean, Dean Crowell, is a good man who cares about his students. Our professors reached out to their students to make sure we were all okay while our facilities were closed (we are located in TriBeCa and our building had no power). While I don’t know any ranking members of the ABA, I doubt they have anything but our best interests at heart.

I just think the ABA’s decision was shortsighted, and a bit tone deaf to what’s happened.

It’s rather like Mayor Bloomberg’s desire earlier in the week to go ahead with the New York Marathon.  He initially believed that keeping the event on would show the resilience of our city and the spirit of its citizens, and would allow the world-class athletes, many of whom had already traveled here, to put on a performance that would make our city proud.

And normally he’d have been right. But before we can afford to make symbolic statements of how tough we are, our city had — and has — some practical matters to address.

Many people, in the hundreds of thousands, are still without food, power, heat, or running water, as temperatures dip into the 30s in the evenings. The faces of the folks living through this show a pain that I’ve never seen before up close. As my friend Christine said after dropping off another carful of donated goods to Staten Island, “This can’t be reality.”

(more…)

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The World, and Law School, According to Dilbert

business_race

By Nadia-Elysse Harris

“If all you know is how to be a gang member, that’s what you’ll be, at
least until you learn something else. If you become a marine, you’ll
learn to control fear. If you go to law school, you’ll see the world
as a competition. If you study engineering, you’ll start to see the
world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking.” – Scott Adams, Dilbert.com

If what Mr. Adams proposes is true, then law students learn more than just how to draft contracts and analyze cases in their three years of law school. Also learned:  it’s a rat race out there.  A dog eat dog world.  There’s only so much of the pie to go around.  If you aren’t winning, you’re losing.

You get the idea.

I’m a law student, so I have an opinion about the kind of person I’ll be when I have a an “Esq.” appended to my name.  But sometimes you have to get a second and third and15th opinion before making any concrete assertions. So I took to the halls of my law school and asked the class of 2012 three very specific questions: (1) Who were you when you walked into law school on Day 1? (2) Do you think you’ve changed and if so, how? and (3) Do you think law school has made you more competitive?

All of the 15 students I asked had different stories to tell about what brought them to law school and who they were when they first entered. They were artists, recent college grads, accountants, single moms, poets, college history professors and Wall Street businessmen. But on who they are on the way out of school and headed for the bar exam, their stories were remarkably similar.

I questioned all the students individually, and all their responses were made independently of one another

More numb to the horrific. Eight of the students I interviewed mentioned that after reading rape and murder cases and having to reconcile this country’s history of discrimination against certain groups of people, they’re not as shocked at injustices in everyday life as they used to be. Brad Smith, a 3L who took a very Criminal Law intensive curriculum, said, “I watch the news and I’m less sensitive to horrific crimes.  I like to pick them apart and see if there’s a strong case on either side.”

More detail oriented.  Sure, it’s the thing that each and every one of us wrote in our entrance essays for law school and will continue to write in cover letters as we apply for jobs in the future: “I pay attention to detail.”  But, after dedicating full class periods and countless study hours to the difference between “or” and “and” in a statute, 12 of the 15 people I spoke to told me that they pay much more now attention to small details; I know I do — even when reading for pleasure.  Katherine Smelas, president of the NYLS Chapter of Lawyers Without Borders said, “I am way more meticulous in how I write. Actually, I think I’m more thoughtful about how I present myself generally, too.”

More confident.  This is a win for the Socratic method, I think. Thirteen of the students I interviewed stated they will leave law school more confident than before embarking on their legal education.  “I’m a quicker learner in general, a better writer and a more confident person overall,” said Nyasha Foy, a third year student and research fellow with the Institute for Information Law and Policy.

But are we, as Dilbert’s Mr. Adams would have it, more competitive?   (more…)

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