Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Special Comment - On Using Movie Quotations for Commemoratory Purposes; on “ATL,” on Cyber-bullies, on Entering a “TTT” at a Time of Economic Turmoil

It has been a long time but here is the first new post on Flying Houses since August. This probably isn’t the best time to be doing it, either, as I should be taking down the notes I just wrote on Compulsory Joinder and Intervention, and transcribing them into my computer. But we can only be such machines when it comes to legal work as may be reasonably expected.
This is a not a personal check-up 9/10 of the way through the semester. This is a response to a (now not so recent) post on a popular website for the legal profession. Here is a link to that post:

For those uninitiated, Above the Law is an online legal tabloid that is basically the TMZ or Perez Hilton of the legal profession. It is something to read on a lunch break, something to laugh at, nothing to be taken seriously. However, this post in particular affected me in such a personal way that I seriously wanted to go out and kill myself, and I would entertain a claim against them for negligent infliction of emotional distress, but I know that would probably not be a very good claim (perhaps it would be protected by the first amendment? perhaps I could not prove any direct physical injury?). Why do I have such a “thin skull” you might ask?

The post itself is nothing particularly untoward. It merely claims that the Class of 2010 made a mistake in the quote they decided to put on a plaque in the library. The quote is from A League of Their Own, a film about women in the 1940’s who decided to form a baseball league to counteract the suspension of Major League Baseball and its many players signing up for service in World War II. There are many quotable moments in the film, but the one the Class of 2010 chose happened to be this: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it…The hard is what makes it great.” Automatically, this is turned into a sexual reference, which doesn’t really make sense given the second sentence, but this is immaterial. Should quotes from movies be plastered on the walls of law schools? Don’t we have “higher values” than those of popular culture? (Please don't let us start believing that there are better quotes to be found in film than literature--even judicial opinions would be better fodder). The class has asserted that it strove to begin a tradition, whereby students would touch the plaque as they pass under it while coming down from the second floor of the library. I have not seen anyone do this and I am afraid that if someone was seen doing this, they would be laughed at.

However, there were many comments to this post that were certainly untoward, and a source of my emotional distress (one other article on ATL, written by a psychiatrist who had also been through law school, bemoaned the opportunities of those holding J.D.’s but seeking employment apart from the legal field, which also contributed to said distress). The very first one reads “Crooklyn = TTTT.” Now I am not sure what the fourth T signifies (TTT signifies “third-tier toilet,” a derogatory term for a school not ranked in the top 50 in the nation), but the statement itself, posted by someone known as nothing more than “$$$,” certainly sends a harmful message. The next comment, posted by “Wow,” points the reader to Brooklyn’s budget planner page on its website. It reads, “Lulz at the price tag for this dump!!” Is “Lulz” some variant of LOL or is it something more nefarious? BLS is expensive, but so are most law schools. Scholarships are the only way a student can justify the enormous price tag after already having been through so much previous education. The next comment is from Kenny Powers who is a character on the HBO series Eastbound and Down and he offers the prescient wisdom (for those of us walking into final exams as an already uphill struggle), “If at first you don’t succeed then maybe you just suck.” A couple others joke about how much Kenny Powers sucks, then someone makes fun of the “living with parents” column of the budget (taking housing out of the equation) because that is what students will be doing after graduation. From here on in, the comments become more sporadic and less focused. Apparently, “Watch your head,” was another option for the quotation. This would have been sort of eloquent given the state of legal hiring patterns in 2010. Someone brings up a better quote from the same movie: “You know, if I had your job, I’d kill myself. Wait here, I’ll see if I can dig up a pistol.” This would also have been better, but dark, very dark, and law schools should not be propagating dark thoughts, though they inevitably must.

Now comes the painful part—an alum from BLS posts and sticks up for the school, and legal education in general, saying that it will pay off over time, and not amortize or depreciate like a car. They then get taken to task for failing to discern that student loans accrue interest and therefore may be considered technical amortization/depreciation. Another person says the plaque is fitting for BLS students because women baseball players ended up unemployed and broke. Other potential quotes are considered from the movie: “There’s no crying in law school” and “You’re gonna lose. You’re gonna lose.” There is then a discussion of a possible typo on the plaque in the use of the ellipsis. Blue-booking rules are debated. Someone else points out that all of the comments are cynical, and that everyone posting is an a-hole. A very dry reply read “Law students generally are not cynical. You have to graduate and realize the harsh realities of life and being unemployed/underemployed with massive student loan debt before the cynacism (sic) kicks in.” Another person named “<2012>” simply writes, “You are DOOMED.” Another person suggests the school hang a plaque saying, “See 11 U.S.C.A. 523(a)(8).” This was fairly clever as it forced me to use WestLaw to look up what it meant. Here is a quote that seemed particularly appropriate: “Let me sum up what I think of you when I hear you go to Brooklyn Law (particularly class of 2012 or 2013): (1) You weren’t smart enough to get into a better school, and (2) you’re even stupider than I would have thought otherwise because you’re paying an exorbitant amount of tuition. WTF are these people thinking, particularly those who enrolled this year in the middle of a recession?”

The other contenders for the quotation for the plaque are then listed near the end of the thread. (none of which I like very much, except for this one: "The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity." -Seneca) And there we are. I luckily did not post anything myself on this thread, because then I would know the pain of a direct attack. I have had enough experiences with that on the Speakeasy at to know better.

I don’t know if a legal education is worth it or not if you go to a TTT school and this post has given me certain doubts. Of course, one can always tell themselves to buck up and give it their best effort regardless, but can you really forget you’ve seen something awful? Or does it pay to not have an “Ostrich problem?” If I am substantially certain that my education is a waste of time, but I insist on pretending that everything is going alright, aren’t I just as guilty of wasting an education? This is like whether or not I wanted to check my Torts midterm grade last week. I could have not looked, and felt better, but because I did look, I know I am in grave danger, and some drastic measures must be implemented if I am to recover and not waste this opportunity I’ve spent years putting together.

Or are cyber-bullies just out to get everyone regardless, to hide behind their computers and make acid-tongue comments in an effort to convince strangers that they are witty or intelligent, when they really just come off as mean. Or is it just a way to blow off steam? I do know one thing. I don’t feel very good about where I am or what I am doing. It’s not the website that made me feel this way, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Assumption of Risk would be their defense in an action. Law students attending less prestigious schools or with poor academic performances should enter ATL at their own risk. If you want to ride “the Flopper,” you should know that you may fall down. You may not sue ATL for NIED because it is on the internet, and the internet should not be able to hurt you physically. Also, cyber-bullies are not within the exclusive control of ATL. They are not employees—they are followers, they are fans.

I have to bring in the personal element and decide whether or not BLS is a good choice or not. There are a few frustrating elements about this school.

#1: The Bookstore. Admittedly a minor issue, but 1Ls had a rude awakening this year when they found that few of the books they ordered would be available from the bookstore until the second or third week of class, forcing us to find the people with the books, xerox assignments, and generally feel that we did not have the tools to properly comprehend the material. However, the bookstore apologized and offered to pay shipping costs incurred from books bought from outside sources.

#2: The Halls, The Claustrophobia: I always preface this complaint with the statement that, for me, the choice came down to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, or BLS. I do not think Loyola has the same problem as BLS as their campus has nearly a dozen buildings or so and everything is very spread out and aesthetically pleasing. BLS, by contrast, slams more than 1,200 students together in a giant rectangular building, and puts most of the major classes on floors 4, 5, and 6, resulting in bottlenecks at elevators and sometimes stairwells and hallways—not to mention a generally cramped atmosphere inside the actual classrooms. This underscores the fact that we are all competing for a very limited number of positions and that all of this hard work and discipline and struggle may end up as the ultimate nightmare yet.

#3: The Competition. Brooklyn may be ranked #67 in the nation or whatever, and #4 or #5 in New York City in general, but that does not mean that its students are less intelligent. Oh sure, we scored lower on the LSATs, that is probably a given—but I’m sure there’s some of us that didn’t score that low, and are receiving a full ride. I’m guessing the majority of my classmates, however, are in the same position as me, which provides reasonable tuition assistance, with the stipulation that you must finish in the top 40% of your class (roughly a B to B+ overall GPA) to reclaim it in subsequent years. When I put in my seat deposit and signed my promissory note, I thought I’d coast through law school, I thought I’d be a star, I thought I’d get straight A’s and get offered a big law firm job at OCI and pay off my debt in no time and pay $3000 a month in rent, or even buy my own place. A few months later, and reality has given me a swift kick in the rear again. I will say this about my classmates—sometimes, it can be awkward, if you know someone by face, and you maybe even know their name, but you have not introduced yourselves, for whatever awkward reasons you have. And it may be the case at every law school, but my classmates constitute the smartest, most hardworking group of people I have ever been surrounded by, and I thought I could throw down, I thought I could keep up with anyone, but they are a tough group to be scaled against on a curve.

But maybe we aren’t that intelligent, as the one comment that seems particularly more harsh than the others states. Maybe we have truly nebulous reasons for being here in the first place. People ask me what kind of law I want to practice, or what kind of lawyer I want to be, and I have no idea. I think I am going to start saying “any area that will hire me” or “the kind that has a job.” I thought that going to law school would open up more career options, but it has really just opened up one new area—and one that is extremely competitive. I did not fully realize the gravity of this situation until a couple months into the semester, when we started discussing internship applications.

I will apply for internships starting now. My grades will be out January 15th. There is still hope that I could ace all of my exams, have an awesome GPA, get an awesome internship, get on the awesome law journal, keep my awesome scholarship (maybe even get a better one), and live an awesome life in Brooklyn Heights. [Which reminds me that I never pointed out the positive qualities of BLS. I do think it is the best area to go to law school in New York City because of its proximity to the courts in Brooklyn. I do think that the receptions, events, and other school-sponsored activities it hosts are some of the best I have ever attended (but this also has a negative effect—I have personally spread myself thin between the activities, the clubs, the job search, reading assignments, outlining, and all of the other facets that make up a law student’s life). I do think Brooklyn Heights is a great area (though not as “exciting” or “fun” as the Village may be for NYU students).] But there is also the reality that this is a pipe dream, and a dream that will end when my exams are finished and I see my grades, which, if my first midterm is any indication, will prove horribly depressing and provide material for the most difficult period of my life yet. For now, I can grind, and I can hope that I can change my approach, and I can pray that a miracle will occur, and all of my classmates will suddenly become extremely stupid the morning of the exam, and we will all do very poorly, and it will be okay. But experience knows it is not so.

So I will press on, and I will not think about how tenuous this life may be for me, and I will focus, and maybe it will all work out yet. I don’t even want to express a doubt on the matter (!) because it seems like throwing in the towel, or setting yourself up for disappointment. Let me say this: as frustrating as the whole law school thing may be, if you can’t get into a top 14 (or even top 50) school with any kind of funding, it is no more frustrating than any other technical training for any other job. The main difference comes with the price tag, and it’s the element that can cause serious breakdowns. When cyber-bullies know what is at stake, they should think before they post something harmful or injurious. I am sure there have been suicides because someone has posted something mean about someone on Facebook, and maybe this will constitute a tort action. But when the postings are anonymous, other questions of privacy may be raised. I am going to end this long and rambling post by saying that I am very proud that Flying Houses has always had positive, happy comments. If this “special comment” receives any comments, I hope they will engender a real and beneficial discussion, and not a laundry-list of urban dictionary-isms meant to make others “in the know” laugh in appreciation.


Houston Lofts said...

Carefully calculated angles allow the south-facing windows to provide complete shading during the heat of summer but allow for solar heat gain during the colder winter months.

JK said...

I published this comment because I wish the windows to my apartment here in Brooklyn had such an intelligent design. The heat trapping in the summer was awful, and now the heat loss in the winter is expensive---but I bet these houston lofts have better A/C (which would be having A/C period!) and heating too (as opposed to electric baseboard heating).