Sunday, July 29, 2007

Winding down

My summer at the evil legal enterprise is winding down. It has been a good summer overall. I've been treated well, had fun with the other summers, wrote some (expensive) memos, and didn't make too much a fool of myself. Not too much a fool of myself, apparently, as I received a standing offer to come back next summer for another 10 weeks of the good life. And I enjoyed it so much that I'm actually considering it. Regardless, I'll still do OCIP, but it feels good to have a job [I know I'll actually enjoy] for next summer before OCIP begins.

Anyway, as the summer winds down, I'll be getting on a jet plane soon headed for some R&R before law school version 2.0 starts. I'll be back on campus the 16th to (a) buy my books and (b) hit on the 1Ls.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Math time!

I've never been very good at math--which I guess is the reason I went to law school.

But in the spirit of the upcoming 2L recruiting season, where law firms sell to law students the idea that you can earn a lot of money working for a law firm, I felt it was compelling to share a little math lesson with other mathematically-challenged law students that a 1st year associate recently shared with me. After all, most of us decided to go to law school because we thought that law was the best paying profession we could enter with our worthless English degrees [I'm not knocking English majors here--I was one too].

So, we all know that the pay for 1st years at the top firms in the top legal markets is $160,000. Let's take the example of New York, the largest legal market in the country by far. I was pointed to the following site, where one can check how much a salary translates to take-home pay after taxes. [FYI: $160K nets you $100,335.70 in LA/SF, $108,470.25 in Chicago, and $100,970.25 in D.C.]

$160,000 in New York City ends up netting only $96,511.71 after taxes (New York City has its own city taxes on top of federal and state ones). Still--pretty good money, right?

I'm not that familiar with the NYC housing market, but a quick look for a 1BR on Craigslist in Manhattan averages around $2,500/month (and we're talking really basic stuff--a hotshot biglaw lawyer would probably want something better). 12 months of rent leaves our pockets $30,000 lighter. So we're left with $66,511.71. Still doable.

Now, let's figure in food. Groceries and eating out I estimate averages out to $200/week. 52 weeks of groceries leaves our pockets $10,400 lighter. We're left with $56,111.71.

Now let's figure in the yuppie entertainment (to compensate for the billable hours): alcohol/ membership/ waxing/ porn/ coke habit/ yoga class/etc.: we'll say another $200/week. That's another $10,400. So, we're left with $45,711.71.

Now, let's throw in an annual vacation to the tune of $5,711.71 (the dollar is dropping more and more against the Euro now, making European vacations more and more expensive): So, we're left with $40,000 flat.

Now, we've still got to make our monthly student loan payments. Plus the car payments. Plus insurance. Or saving up to make that down payment on that white picket fence house in the suburbs (we can't be sending our precious kids to NYC public school after all!). And after all that, basically we'll be left with nothing.

[read with sarcasm]--Not trying to denigrate the law profession here--I hear that, believe it or not, entire families of 4 in the majority of the U.S. sometimes live on under $50,000 a year. I admit--law allows us to live comfortable yuppie lives.

For the critics out here of my math--I understand I am leaving out the average $10K $30K bonus. And that salaries rise about $15K on average for every year you put in the firm. But realize that the big money doesn't come until partnership, a very uncertain proposition that most associates will, based on sheer numbers and probability, not experience.

Anyway, that was the math lesson a 1st year at the evil legal enterprise gave me over lunch recently. Lessons to draw from all this: (1) I should have gone to business school instead (Dooh! I'm in law school precisely because I suck at math) (2) Move to Texas, where there is no state income tax.

Hopefully this has been a cheerful, upbeat lesson for all us 2Ls in preparation for OCI. This lesson rings true in any of the other major legal markets as well. I'm off now to update my resume and prepare more cover letters. And figure out this bidding mess on symplicity.

Thank you, come again!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What it takes

I got the following, semi-satirical email about biglaw hiring, and I found it pretty accurate.

Ivy+crack an appropriate joke+arrogance=hired
1st tier+law review+joke+humility=hired
2nd tier+law review+GPA+joke+humility=hired
3rd tier+law review+GPA+unique work experience+joke+self deprecation=hired.

[EDIT: I would modify "law review" to "law journal." I would also add nepotism as an feasible alternative. Or change your name to Paris Hilton, because we know any hiring partner would be stoked to say that "Paris Hilton works at our firm," even if you're not Jailbird Paris (since DUI+jail time+multiple sex tapes on the internet will severely hamper one's chances of passing the character portion of the bar).]

Saturday, July 14, 2007


So apparently, I have a way with words.

At one of the summer cocktail events, I was chatting to a rather important person in the legal world, i.e. a judge on the COA from the Xth circuit.

During our smalltalk, he/she asked me why I decided to go to law school at UCLA. And my response, and I quote, was "When I was applying, I heard that law school sucks, so I decided to go to the school with the least amount of suckage."

Not exactly the best answer, I realized as soon as I said it. Making up a word in front of a judge is not smart. Neither is sounding like a overgrown frat boy.

I'm not sure if this is an indication of things to come for me in open court in the future.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Res ipsa

I cleaned my apartment during the July 4 holidays. The following photo speaks for it self:

These supplements (note: there is not a single casebook on my shelf) are what got me through 1L year, after spending most of class playing spider solitaire.

Soon to be 1Ls: massive supplement buying is what you can look forward to in a little more than a month.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A dozen of one's peers

Two related items on the same topic:

One thing I've learned more about during this summer is with juries in our legal system. I am currently on a litigation rotation, and the trial I am on recently finished the jury selection phase. I personally think juries are great in principle, as they serve as great equalizers on our legal system, that despite all the efforts of evil legal enterprises around the country, defendants are dependent on a dozen of their peers. And in large metropolitan cities, a jury of their peers likely would consist of the poor and brown. And at least the trial I am on, the litigation guys are deathly afraid of the jury, and used all sorts of frivolous challenges to disqualify people that are viewed of as too defense-unfriendly. There's a unique sense of irony that the biggest baddest defense lawyers charging $500+/hr are scared to death and feel powerless when they have to defend a case in front of a largely poor and brown jury.

The second point is what happened today. Scooter Libby's appeal with the DC Court of Appeals was denied. And a mere hours later, his 30-month sentence in federal prison was commuted by Dubya. According to W: "I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." So, the lesson of the day is that juries generally are powerful and strike fear in defense lawyers. Unless the client knows the president.