Saturday, March 24, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: Censorship, Paranoia, Etc.

For some reason I doubt that this will be published in BLS Advocate.  It is my 8th weekly column and it is, by far, the most personal, the most controversial, and the angriest column I have written yet.  People don't like angry people.  But I want to remind you: anger is a gift.

Over the past few weeks, while trying to get my new organization, Monthly Expense Project, recognized by the SBA, and while trying to advertise for my Open Mic event, I have been exposed to the bureaucracy of the student body – not the administration—and it has certainly given rise to a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  (It is important here to note that I take no issue with the SBA in regards to MEP, as they were actually quite supportive of my proposal).
                I posted an ad on the window of the student lounge on the first floor, and the student lounge in the library 1M floor.  Both were up on Friday morning (and had been up for two days), and down Saturday morning.  I asked the guard what happened and he said probably a dean complained and asked a maintenance worker to take it down.  I’d like to investigate this because I actually think a student did it.
                I am going to avoid the argument that my constitutional rights as an American have been violated by the removal of this ad because I don’t have enough space in this column for that.  But someone, a friend of mine, stated that we “signed something away” when we signed up to go to school here, and one of these freedoms was the ability to post an advertisement on glass.  This was a two-sided ad, which is to be sure, a rarity in the advertising world.  How do we reward creativity?  We ban it. 
                I understand the prudential arguments – that other members of the co-sponsoring clubs did not want to be seen to be associated with someone so unstable and crazy as to post an ad with hundreds of words of text, and several “controversial” statements about religion, sexuality, and whatever other b-s arguments they came up with to restrict my speech.  Never mind that the co-chair of this special sequence of events read the ad and saw no problem with it.  Even after revising and putting up a huge disclaimer, they felt this was even more offensive in a way.  I can’t win.
                BLS does state, at, a policy on advertising on bulletin boards: students may utilize bulletin boards if the flyer complies with all requirements.  My flyer complied with all requirements – except I noted my address at gmail, not brooklaw.  What a mistake.  Nobody mentioned the *beverages* line in it, which was arguably the most “illegal” thing about it.  Moreover, I was told, we cannot advertise on glass.  While this provision mentioned bulletin boards specifically, we can get into a kind of statutory construction argument here – does the omission of glass in the policy statement imply that it is allowed, or not?  In this case, not, so long as it advances your argument.
                 I know the ABA is coming to visit soon, and believe me, if those ads were taken down the day before this visit, I would understand and not complain.  But we have about 12 days until the event, and it is necessary to get as much interest as possible.
                Even so, I do not believe that advertising on glass is something that an ABA representative would see and consider it so offensive that it would negatively criticize BLS – it would show that students have an interest in making their voices heard – which is something that law school implicitly encourages.  We have a class on the First Amendment, and we consider what is protected speech and what is not.  I have not taken First Amendment Con Law, but let me try to make an educated guess, and you can comment and tell me if I’m wrong about it:
                I think the question to consider is this: does the school’s interest in restricting my speech outweigh my interest in making that speech?  In the case of an ABA visit, perhaps, but even that is a speculative assertion.  The ABA might, perhaps, care more about post-graduation employment data, or the cut-backs on summer public service grant funding, or whether BLS intends to keep their incoming classes smaller, like the current 1L class. 
                I think I’d lose this case because my opportunities to advertise elsewhere are ample.  Regardless, I can’t help but feel that this underscores the hypocrisy of the institution – not BLS itself, but the institution of law school.  It is not the time and place to take the administration to task – that will be next week – but schools that want to encourage free and open debate should not remove posters without any notice to the student responsible.  It’s possible that the students I had these “free and open debates” with removed them, and I’d like to know if the administration had any problem with them.  In general, while I am unhappy about losing 45% of my funding for this year, and $2,000 for funding next summer, the administration has not seriously “screwed me” on anything (negligent misrepresentation aside, for now), and in general, has never aimed to hinder my interest in free speech.  It has always been students.  Until the truth about the removal of this ad comes out, the burden is on the defendants to rebut my presumption.  
                Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School.  He enjoys studying bankruptcy law.  He does not enjoy getting into fights.  Please e-mail him at or (if you prefer the chat thing) for any comments, criticisms, or interest in performing at the Vagina Monologues/Open Mic event on April 5, 2012, from 7:00 – 10:00 PM at Geraldo’s.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress - Super Priority Administrative Expense

Around this time of the semester, it’s important that you keep your priorities straight.  As a 2L, I can only speak to my present experience and my experience last year.  3Ls, I will attempt to anticipate your priorities. 
                In order to measure this model appropriately, I am going to use the inverted pyramid that Dean Gerber has supplied us with in his Business Reorganizations class. (Please see to see all images).  The inverted pyramid is the priority scheme for Chapter 11 claims.  There are 9 levels.  If you are at the bottom (equity/shareholders) you stand the greatest risk of receiving zero, so any task at the bottom may in fact, not be given any time at all.
                We will start with 1Ls as I know them best.  Now, as a BLSPI mentor, I was recently instructed to e-mail my mentee and tell them to “stay strong” during this week, as it’s a particularly brutal one.  Moot Court Trial Division tryouts were this week – and if you participated, it was likely that you could not do any other homework until your tryout was finished.  The anxiety of it all was crushing.  And then, when you entered that room, the judges told you to, “Have fun.” 
                Moot Court is probably a senior secured claim/lien for anyone dying to get the chance to act like a lawyer before they officially become one.  Almost everyone I know on Moot Court (trial, at least) has told me that it has been the most rewarding experience in law school for them, period. 
                For individuals such as myself, who were 2Ls trying to do the impossible –that is, make Moot Court and a Journal through an open note —who had the draft of the paper intended for the open note due Friday - it presented a quandary.  Clearly, for me, moot court/open note occupy high rungs on the inverted pyramid.  However, I doubt I will be advancing to the next round (I ended up the one getting crucified on cross, not the defendant—and update: I did not advance), and so one more claim will be allowed to fit. 
                For the sake of simplicity, I will offer my suggestions for prioritizations now.  You may fill in your own pyramid if you like, but I include my own personal one in the illustration, and the “generic one” for all 2Ls in the text below.
1Ls (Who Want to Work for Skadden, et. al.):
 1) Studying/Outlining/Exam Practice – GRADES (note: Moot Court may be occupying #1 if you are called into the 2nd round) – YOU MUST BE IN THE TOP 10% TO BE CONSIDERED FOR OCI;
2) Class Participation;
3) Getting a Summer Internship;
4) Making Friends and Influencing People (partying, dating, etc.);
 5) Journal Competition;
6) Getting to Know Professors;
7) Getting Involved in the City Bar;
8) Thinking about Transfer Opportunities;
9) Staying Sexy.
  (A short revision for those 1Ls that have no interest in the big paycheck – because, you know, about 1-3% of the classmates in our year will actually be getting those jobs – becoming as involved in Pro Bono Projects as possible is probably the best thing you can do if you are a public interest person, and that should be in your top 3 (probably #3, as it’s possible for the internship to follow naturally from the Pro Bono work).

1) Grades/Moot Court/Journal (if you didn’t make OCI, and you’re not working as a summer associate, grades should still be top priority – if you are on Moot Court or Journal, I believe these take top priority—If you are on both, Moot Court takes priority in terms of TIME over Journal, which varies by deadlines);
2) Getting Internships or Clinics for the Fall and Spring;
3) Getting a Summer Internship/Job;
4) Making Friends and Influencing People;
5) Defining Your Area of Focus;
6) Pet Projects (Writing Contests, Clubs, Shot-by-Shot Remakes)
7) Building Relationships with Professors;
8) Staying Sexy;
9) Making Yourself Stand Out

1) Securing a Job after Graduation;
2) Moot Court/Journal;
3) Getting Internships or Clinics in the Fall and Spring;
4) Making Friends and Influencing People;
5) Grades;
6) Staying Sexy;
7) Chilling Out (if you are so lucky to be able to!);
8) Publishing Articles;
9) Defining Your Reputation/Leaving Your Mark.
     Of course, dictating priorities is always controversial, but I do believe there is one generic, straightforward, guiding principle that controls: law school can be extremely boring at times, and you need to find the part about it that you love, and put yourself in that happy (or, more accurately, “fun”) place as often as possible.  For me, it is being 29 and getting to hang out with 23 year olds and getting to act immature.  Those lost years I spent working in the wilderness of the low-wage sector with few friends or similarly-situated co-workers have been recompensed by making new friends in the same situation, with a slightly wider age range.  No matter what priority scheme applies to the “reorganization” of your professional persona, appropriate management of priorities is a simple, yet useful method of reducing stress.
             Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L with very strange priorities.  One of them is to hold an Open Mic on Thursday, April 5th, in Geraldo’s, from 7-10 PM.  He hopes you will consider performing, or at least attending.  The event is free but there will be voluntary $5 donations taken for Sanctuary for Families, and free food and beverages.  There will also be performances of Vagina Monologues.  Please e-mail if interested in performing or reading or singing or dancing or playing.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

Case No. 2433504, Knorps, 7/18/08, Los Angeles Board of Appeals

ALJ = Michael Abzug (Administrative Law Judge)
J = Christopher J. Knorps (Ex-Temp)
A = Alexandria Watson (Accountemps)

A: This is Alexandria Watson!
ALJ: Yeah Ms. Watson this is Judge Abzug, are you ready to proceed?
A: Yes I am.
ALJ:  Alright, the record is open, the case number 2433504, the claimant, Mr. Christopher Knorps, is present.  Also present on behalf of the former employer, Accountemps, is Alexandria Watson.  Ms. Watson what is your job title please?
A: I am a Metro Market Manager.
ALJ: The Administrative Law Judge is Michael Abzug, today’s date is July 18, 2008, the time is now 10:00 AM and the hearing is being conducted at the Los Angeles Board of Appeals.  The claimant has filed a timely appeal from a department (indistinct) determination, mailed to him on May 23, 2008, that held that he was disqualified for benefits under code section 1256.  The issue that we are going to be addressing today is how and why Mr. Knorps became separated from his most recent work.  If I find that he voluntarily abandoned work that was available to him, then the issue will be whether he did so with good cause.  “Good cause” is a legal term that is defined as a real and compelling reason to leave available work, the kind of reason that would have caused somebody in Mr. Knorps’s situation, who genuinely wanted to retain employment, to take similar action.  If he voluntarily left with good cause, he will not be disqualified for benefits, and the employer’s reserve account will be subject to charges.  Mr. Knorps, do you understand the issue that we are going to be addressing?
J: Yes, I do.
ALJ: Do you as well, Ms. Watson.
A: Yes.
ALJ: Ms. Watson, was a copy of the appeal file mailed out to you?
A: Yes.
ALJ: Did you review it?
A: Yes I have.
ALJ: Mr. Knorps, did you review….
J: Is this it? 
ALJ: The documents in the file?  The reason I ask that is because in a few moments I am going to mark certain of those documents as exhibits so that I can consider what they say as part of the basis on which I am going to make my decision eventually.  My decision is also going to be based on what other evidence is introduced at this morning’s proceedings, which, at a minimum I expect will include the sworn testimony of Mr. Knorps as well as Ms. Watson.  After I mark these documents as exhibits, I will ask each party if they have any objection to their admission into evidence.  You’re not required to make objections of course, but if you do I will consider them.  After I have considered those documents (indistinct) I will then take testimony.  It at least preliminarily appears that Mr. Knorps is the moving party of the separation, and we will begin by taking testimony from him.  I will ask him to swear to tell the truth which I am required to do by law, I will ask him a few questions about the issues that I have outlined a few minutes ago, and when finished, he can add to his proof either by supplementing his own testimony, introducing documents, calling witnesses, in case he thinks there is something I have inadvertently overlooked that I need to know in order to make a good decision.  I will also give Ms. Watson the opportunity to question Mr. Knorps if she likes.  Ms. Watson you are not required to ask the claimant any questions – I am going to give the employer a separate opportunity to tell me its side of the story – but if you want to ask any questions, I’ll give you that reasonable opportunity to do so.
A: Okay great, thank you.
ALJ: When we’re finished taking testimony from the claimant, we’ll take the testimony from Ms. Watson that will follow the same order of proof, that is I’ll swear her, I’ll ask her some questions, I’ll give Ms. Watson the opportunity to add to her proof the same way I gave Mr. Knorps the opportunity to add to his proof, and then we’ll conclude by giving Mr. Knorps the same right that I gave to Ms. Watson, that is if he wants to ask her questions he can do so, but he is not required to.  When we’re finished I’ll thank everybody for their appearances, I’m not going to make my decision today, I’ve got to make it later in writing and a copy will be mailed to each party, clearly (?) EDD, probably in about 20 business days.  Mr. Knorps do you think you understand the procedures?
J: Yes I do.
ALJ: Do you have any questions about them?
J:  No.
ALJ: Ms. Watson, do you understand the procedures?
A: Yes I do.
ALJ: Do you have any questions about the procedure?
A: No I do not.
(ALJ reads the various exhibits he is marking into evidence, exhibits 1-7, asks if there are any objections, to which Mr. Knorps replies no.)
ALJ: Ms. Watson, have you reviewed 1-7?
A: I have – I do have to say that the record of claim status interview is not legible to me – I can’t read the writing on the document….(A short discussion about this follows)
ALJ: Claimant states that he voluntarily quit because the company did not offer him permanent full-time work at the company.
J: That’s not, really….
ALJ:  Well just a second, I’m just reading it.  I’ll give you a chance to comment in a moment.  Claimant states he is looking for full-time work, not willing to do temporary assignment work.  Claimant states he did not want to be working there anymore.  He wanted to do something different.  He wants to write a book or novel.  Or technical writing, screenwriting.  If he does not have the experience
J: (scoffs)
ALJ: He wants to work in the writing industry.  Um.
A: Now just….
ALJ: One second, please.  I’m just reading it, and then everyone will be given a chance to comment, I’m not going to cut anybody off.  The employer said that the claimant is no longer working with the company and cannot provide any additional information.  The EDD basically concludes that claimant’s decision to voluntarily quit to look for work was personal, a personal decision, therefore, in their opinion, he is disqualified.  So that is the substance of the interview that occurred on May 22, 2008.  Now that I have read that to you, Ms. Watson, any objection to the admission of exhibits 1-7.
A: No, just so I completely understand, so this is the information that was gathered from my company, by the EDD is that correct?
ALJ: No, that’s not correct.  What happens when somebody separates from work for any reason and applies for benefits, there is what’s called a “claim status interview” which is a telephone interview conducted by the EDD to figure out whether the circumstances of the separation merit benefits under the law.  What I just read you were the notes of the department representative who spoke to the claimant and who spoke to the employer representative. 
A:  Okay, so the claimant let the EDD know that he was interested in writing screenplays, because that’s what I’m trying to confirm.
ALJ: That’s the allegation, yes.
A: Okay, then I understand.  Thank you.
ALJ: Any objections to the admission of 1-7?
A: No.
ALJ: Mr. Knorps, now that I’ve read that exhibit, would you like to raise any objections to the admission of 1-7?
J:  Well when I did that interview, I really don’t think the proper scrutiny was paid attention to.  I just feel as if the separation from the company was not as clear cut as being a “quit” or a “fire” or a “laid off,” okay?
ALJ:  Alright, well excuse me for interrupting you, I’ll try not to do it again, I’ll construe your remarks as an objection to the exhibits and respectfully overrule them, as I mentioned to you before the fact that I admit them into evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that I believe every word they say, or that they’re accurate, and it certainly doesn’t mean I am going to rule against you, it just means that I think the documents may be relevant – how relevant I won’t make up my mind until I’ve heard everything that you and Ms. Watson have to say so, 1-7 are received.  Mr. Knorps, please raise your right hand.  Do you solemnly swear, or affirm, that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
J: I do.
ALJ: State your name please.
J: Christopher John Knorps.
ALJ: Alright Mr. Knorps I’m going to ask you a few questions.  How long were you registered to work with Accountemps?
J: Roughly six months – between October 28 to May 2, October 28, 2007 to May 2, 2008.   
ALJ: Alright, on May 2, 2008, where were you assigned, who was the employer at the time?
J:  Jefferies & Co.
ALJ:  What was your job title with Jefferies & Co.?
J: I was accounts payable clerk.
ALJ:  Full time work?
J:  Yes.
ALJ: And what was the wage at the time of separation?
J: $13 an hour.
ALJ:  And how long had you been working for Jefferies & Co.?
J:  Six months.
ALJ:  Alright well what caused the separation on May 2nd?
J:  Well previously, about a month previous, my supervisor Maria Magpantay kind of talked to me about leaving.  It was kind of a mutual agreement to leave.  I did not tell her that I wanted to quit.  She didn’t tell me, that you know, she didn’t think my performance was up to standards.  I asked for a full-time position because there was one person who had recently left, and she said she wasn’t able to hire me full-time….
ALJ:  You mean a permanent position?
J:  Yes, with Jefferies & Co.
ALJ: I understand, okay.
J:  She told me that wasn’t going to be possible.  And when I started working there, Accountemps had told me it was going to be a 6 month temp-to-perm position, so my understanding was that at the end of the six months I would be offered a permanent position with the assignment company.  So when they told me, you know, we just kind of have to leave May 2, I didn’t really have any objection to that, because I had already started looking for new work – I had had a friend who tried to get me a job with UCLA and I was looking for something else, and it’s true I was trying to change careers from accounting, so there is some truth to that, but there is also just, the way it ended was ambiguous I guess, and it wasn’t properly communicated in the interview I guess.
ALJ:  Alright let’s back up a little bit, who at Accountemps assigned you the job?
J:  Shezzad Allaudin.  But Jessica has been my representative.
ALJ:  The person you spoke to about the offer was Shezzad?
J:  Yes.
ALJ:  And what did she tell you about how long the job would last?
J:  He said it would be six months.
ALJ:  Six months?
J:  Yes, but it was temp-to-perm.  And I guess maybe that wasn’t properly explained to me what temp-to-perm meant, but I was under the impression that it meant that, after you were there for six months, they would hire you full time.
ALJ:  The person you spoke to about a month before the separation, what was her or his name?
J:  Maria Magpantay, she was my supervisor at Jefferies & Co.
ALJ:  When you spoke to her and she told you that they weren’t going to hire you permanently, did she tell you that May 2 would be your last day?
J:  Well we agreed.  She said do you want to make it for a month, just say a month from now, and I said yes, I think it’s best if I leave in a month, I want to try to find something else.
ALJ:  Alright, I’m going to ask you a hypothetical, what do you think would have happened if you had said, no, I want to stay on past May 2nd?
J:  She probably would have said that was okay.  If I had wanted to do I could have stayed.
ALJ:  Alright, so why did you decide to leave on May 2nd rather than stay?
J:  Well, this is going to be…Well, I switched apartments from the West Side to Silverlake, and the offices were about a 5 minute drive from my place on the west side and now it was going to be like a 45 minute drive, so…
ALJ:  One way?
J:  Yes, I had commuted for a few days doing it, and it was just kind of assumed that once I moved to a new apartment I would move to a new job….In hindsight it was a mistake.  (laughs)
ALJ:  Well I’m not trying to confront you or make you uncomfortable.  I’m just trying to get information.  So you were living in Westwood and you were moving where?
J:  Silverlake.
ALJ:  Oh you were moving to Silverlake.
J:  I live there now.  But I was living in Palms before.
ALJ:   Where the new jobsite is.
J:  Yes.  The new job site is in Beverly Hills.  I just started working there this week.
ALJ: No, no.  I meant, they moved you from the west side to Silverlake at Jefferies & Co.  Is that right?
J: Oh no, no, their offices are on the west side.  I am talking about my personal apartment.
ALJ:  So you moved to Silverlake before May 2nd?
J:  Yes, I moved there, like, April 28, that’s when my lease began.
ALJ:  Okay, anything else, did you have any other job to go to at the time you abandoned work on May 2nd?
J:  No.
ALJ: Anything else you want to tell me?
J:  I believe that’s all the relevant information.
ALJ:  Okay, thank you.  Ms. Watson are you still with us?
A:  Yeah, I’m still here.  I only heard bits and pieces of Christopher’s testimony, I don’t know if it was my phone or if he’s on a cell phone that’s cutting out.
ALJ:  Well I wish you would have told me that before this time, we could have tried to make the testimony more audible to you, what is it you want me to do now that you haven’t heard it?
A:  Well I think I got the gist of it, I just want to tell you that I don’t think I heard everything, I just didn’t think I was allowed to interrupt.  I apologize. 
ALJ:  That’s fine.  Let me do this, what I will do, is attempt to accurately summarize what Mr. Knorps has said, and Mr. Knorps why don’t you listen carefully and if I’ve left out anything material at the end you can add it so that Ms. Watson is fully informed.  Okay.  Here’s what he said.  He said that he had been registered to work for Accountemps for six months.  He had one job only – apparently – and that was with Jefferies & Co., which was located on the west side.  He was accounts payable clerk, full-time, and his wage was $13 an hour.  He was given the assignment by a man named Shezzad who told him that it was a six month temp-to-perm assignment, so that, for about five months, he went along and worked, and then had a conversation with his supervisor at Jefferies & Co., Maria Maganya, about whether he was going to be given a permanent position.  Ms. Maganya informed him that he would not and asked him basically what he wanted to do, and whether he wanted to make May 2 his last day, and he said – he agreed.  He agreed.  I asked him whether he believed that continuing work was available to him if he had told Ms. Maganya if he had told her that he wanted to continue working as a temp, and he said that he believed continuing work was available to him, if he wanted to work as a temp, but he decided to leave work on May 2, 2008, because he moved from the west side to Silverlake on April 28, 2008, and he found that the switch from a 5-minute commute to a 45-minute commute one way was burdensome, and that he just generally felt that since he had switched apartments, he should probably switch jobs too, which in retrospect he believes may have been a mistake.  At the time he left available work on May 2nd, he did not have another job, although he was hoping to switch industries.  Mr. Knorps have I summarized your testimony accurately?
J:  Very accurately.
ALJ:  Anything else you want to add to the record?
J:  Just Maria Magpantay, was her name.
ALJ:  Anything else I material I missed?
J:  No.
ALJ:  Ms. Watson, did you hear me?
A:  I did absolutely, thank you so much.
ALJ:  Any questions you want to ask Mr. Knorps?
A: No, I think it’s pretty clear cut to me.
ALJ:   Then raise your right hand.
A: Right hand raised.
ALJ: Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
A: Yes I do.
ALJ:  State your name.
A:  Alexandria Watson.
ALJ: And your job title?
A: Metro Market Manager.
ALJ: Alright Ms. Watson is there anything that the employer wants to add to the record that you think I need to know before I close it?
A:  The only thing I would add is that Jefferies & Co. is a consistent client with us, and they pretty much never convert candidates to permanent.  So the documentation in my system for this particular assignment states that it was long term, comma, possible temp-to-hire, and we always let candidates know that there is a possibility that things will go temp-to-hire, but this particular candidate…we’ve had candidates work out there for three years on a temporary engagement and not convert.  So I just wanted to make sure that was stated clearly, that I know that we did not assure that this was going to be a temp-to-hire.
ALJ:  Well, okay, that’s fine you have stated it, and I don’t have the impression from Mr. Knorps’s testimony that he was in any way guaranteed a permanent position.
A: Okay.
ALJ:  Alright, anything else?
A:  No.
ALJ:  Alright Mr. Knorps any questions for Ms. Watson?
J: No.
ALJ:  Anything else you want to add to the record that you think I need to know?
J: No.
ALJ:  Alright, okay, well Mr. Knorps good luck out in Silverlake.  I hope things turn around for you, and that your switch to a new industry is successful.  Take care of yourself.  This record is closed. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: Trust No One, Dr. Jones (The 50/50 Rule)

For my sixth column for BLS Advocate, I decided to write about an issue that's been bothering me a lot this year - the problem of un-cool classmates.  This column is a brief explanation of the 50/50 Rule.  For those that have not heard me speak of it, the 50/50 Rule is the theory that 50% of law students (and lawyers) are cool, and the other 50% are not.  Please note this is a 1,029 word post, thus 279 words longer than my cap allows - and this is by no means a comprehensive exploration of the topic.  

                On the first day of my preliminary “introduction to the law” class last year, our instructor asked us, in the first minute, if we knew any good lawyer jokes.  Half a dozen classmates offered their best, and I put my head down in shame.  Really?  This was the way we were going to start law school?  After about a year, it made sense to me. 
                Your classmates are not here because they want to be your friend.  Your classmates are here because they happen to be at the same school where they hope to earn a J.D.  Of course, many of us have similar reasons for coming (*cough*scholarship*cough*) but many of us have divergent interests.
                Brooklyn Law School prides itself upon its students’ commitment to public service, and indeed there is a very high percentage of students that are members of BLSPI, that participate in Pro Bono Projects, that become involved in other clubs, and that generally have no problem volunteering, provided it is not such a burden that it causes other parts of their lives to suffer. 
                I made the point earlier, in my application for a BLSPI fellowship, that about 50% of the students at BLS are cool, and the other 50% are un-cool.  I did not get offered an interview.  This apparently has nothing to do with my commitment to public interest – but I promise to show you that it does.
                 What makes someone a “cool” BLS student?  First, they are not snobby in who they talk to.  You know what I am talking about here – you have about 100 classmates in your “big” classes, and you may sit next to someone for an entire semester and barely speak a word to each other.  It’s possible you’re both just shy (indeed, this was the case for me my first year) but it’s also possible one of you is a member of the “un-cool contingent.”  Members in this class look upon students that they consider unfocused, lazy, stupid, wasted, or “unclean” in some other way and decide that it is not in their best interests to associate with this person.  This is what I mean when I say that the social life of law school is like a weird cross between the pains of high school cliquery and the freedom of experimentation that college nurtures—hearing new ideas, having an open mind, and making friends with people that you never might have associated with in high school.
                Law school is a reversion backwards from college.  Though we are still interested in hearing new ideas, supposedly, finding students with an “open mind” is more difficult, because by now many of us consider ourselves “informed, responsible adults” who choose our friends wisely and have a firmly set stance on the issues that matter to us.  Public interest students clique around with other public interest students (though they are, actually, really nice…), bankruptcy law students clique around with other bankruptcy law students (and we are the coolest of the cool), IP students clique around with other IP students, public defenders hang out with public defenders and prosecutors hang out with prosecutors.  Of course, reality is hardly so simple – but my point is that, sometimes a law student’s area of focus will affect their personality to a degree that renders them incapable of friendship with non-like-minded individuals.
                The second factor that makes a BLS student “cool” is not judging someone for being cheap.  Some of us have rich parents that float us money and we can go clubbing and buy fancy shoes and dresses and suits and look like a million bucks at the Barrister’s Ball – but some of us are nearing 30 (or older) and feel a bit, oh, childish relying on our parents for so much.  Whether it be pride or necessity, our savings accounts are mostly depleted, we have no income, we carry significant debt, and it’s important that we “spend like law students” and not like lawyers.  This may seem like a petty complaint but I do not think I am the only one who feels left out when they miss out on a birthday party because people would rather have it at a bar than their house.  I am preaching at the top of my lungs from this soapbox: HAVE MORE HOUSE PARTIES, PEOPLE!
                Finally, if law students are un-cool, part of the problem is that lawyers are un-cool.  The 50/50 rule is in effect not only for law students, but also for lawyers.  Lawyers who lie, tell their secretary to tell callers that “they’re in a meeting” when it’s convenient to do so, or act like they’re an expert in the ways of the world and refuse to waste their time giving a thorough explanation of why this argument is going to work and that argument will not, may be considered un-cool.  Lawyers that rent out a shoddy house in clear violation of the Implied Warranty of Habitability and tell the tenants that, if they don’t like that the stairway to the basement has no railing, “Tough.”  Un-Cool.  Professors that talk for 90% of class time because really, WE HAVE SO MUCH MATERIAL TO COVER, and really just like to hear their own voice, and thereby intimidate students to speak with them for extra help, creating an unfair subconscious exam handicap, are un-cool.
                My hope is that this “problem” will be remedied by cold, hard experience in the real world.  Once you get out there, and you realize that really, you are not that important, maybe you go broke once or twice, maybe you move back in with your family, maybe you go through a serious depressive episode – maybe then you’ll wake up and realize it’s better to be compassionate (cool) than fiercely self-interested (un-cool).

Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law SchoolHe enjoys studying bankruptcy law and finds the psychology of human emotions fascinating.  Please join him in such explorations at the Open Mic on Thursday April 5, at Geraldo’s, from 7:00 – 10:00.  Please e-mail him at if you are interested in performing.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress - It's Six O'Clock - Do You Know Where Your Internships Are?

For my 5th column for BLS Advocate, I decided to write about the anxiety of failure to secure a summer internship by spring break.  This is also the first time there has been substantive editing of my column, so here on Flying Houses, you get the un-edited "crappy" version with run-on sentences, tangential parantheticals, and just plain awkwardness.

I do think the version on BLS Advocate will be vastly superior to this (the opposite of the Facebook incident...) but I choose to present this for its "cheekiness."  

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress: It’s Six O’Clock – Do You Know Where Your Internships Are?

                I am writing this on March 4 (and it may, or may not, be published by March 7th).  Either way, at present we are two months, or sixty days away from the end of the year.  If you are one of those fortunate individuals who knows what they are doing this summer (or, in the case of 3Ls, after this summer), congratulations, you can live with slightly less anxiety than the rest of us.  However, I don’t think I’m in the minority of 2Ls when I say I don’t have one yet, and I’m getting a bit concerned. 
                I have a theory: with each year of law school comes diminished opportunities.  I believe that it is surprisingly, perhaps remarkably easy for 1Ls to obtain summer internships.  You’ve just been burnt out, and now it’s time to see if you can be a good office worker.  If you are a 1L and are not sure what you are doing yet, don’t worry. 
                Last year, I spent most of Spring Break applying to jobs on Symplicity and doing a bit of reading for class.  I did not concern myself with outlining (nor do I plan to do so this Spring Break).  Last year, I probably sent out about 40 resumes and cover letters.  Here, I can check how many….
                  67.  67 last year.  And 34 this year.  However, I was surprised to see that many of the places I applied to last year were also applied to this year (which is, in large part, a result of the PILC Fair), and so I probably have many more cover letters that I can easily craft—except I must admit that I now I take a very different approach to writing cover letters.  At this point I am able to pop one out in 5-10 minutes.  I’m not sure how I feel about the “fine paper” distinction for resumes and cover letters – I spent $24 at the Court St. Office Supply store, mailed out 9 applications to judges with fancy envelopes, fancy resume and cover letter paper, transcripts and writing samples, and I heard nothing back.  (I should also note here that – one should be able to infer from my comments two columns earlier, that I was not so fortunate in what I thought would be my “big break”—but this is not a column about my life, but all of our lives – and such specificity should be discouraged—unless you want me to tell you in person…)
                The point I was trying to make before I got all caught up in numbers is that I did not have an internship at this time last year either.  And then, without warning, it hit.  After a preliminary interview to be a research assistant that I bombed on March 21 last year, I was contacted by a flurry of organizations (all governmental – none non-profit) around April 4th.  Four different places called me in two days, and I ended up taking the internship that I interviewed for first.  (Additionally, I was formally offered an internship with KCDA sometime in early May, about a month too late.  And I look at my e-mails now from a coordinator that say, “Are you interning at KCDA?” and I remember writing back, “I have not heard anything yet – but yes, I would accept the internship if offered it.” A former roommate interned there last summer and he said that there were like 100 interns from BLS at KCDA.  I had a friend from University of Michigan come in to intern there.  It would have been great – but I cannot say that it would have been as fun as NYCTA).  By April 6, I knew I would be working there.
                So 1Ls: Relax.  If you don’t know what you’re doing by May, you may still get an unexpected last minute offer from KCDA if you applied for that a couple months back….
                2Ls: I don’t know how we’re supposed to feel at this point.  I will say I have noticed two trends: (1) Overall, more 2Ls have internships at this time than we had as 1Ls last year; and (2) If we do not have an internship by now, we are freaking out a little bit more than last year.  My theory is that, with each year, securing summer employment becomes more difficult—but for those that do secure employment, they secure it earlier each year.  Thus, increased anxiety at earlier points is only natural for those of us that don’t. 
                3Ls: If you don’t know what you’re doing after the summer yet….um……I really don’t think I’m in any place to offer you any advice, except to say (1) I won’t be surprised if I’m in the same position as you this time, next year; and (2) if you’re under 30, don’t worry so much–you’ve got time.  Oh, and start planning for bankruptcy, and a killer argument that you suffered an undue hardship and therefore deserve a discharge of your student loans – join that class-action, or start a new proceeding and remember your basics on collateral estoppel from civil procedure.
                Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School.  He is Treasurer of the Health Law & Policy Association, and would like to invite you to its Open Mic event on April 5.  Please e-mail if you are interested in reading or performing.