Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reveling in the random

Today is the last day of class! That means that finals are rapidly approaching and I am woefully short on time for all the things I need to be doing. But in the past couple days I've come across a few headlines that sparked my interest; here they are for anyone else looking to waste some of the time they don't have.

Investing in death
Tuesday's WP had an article about rich people selling their life insurance policies to investors for cash. I had no idea you could do that, but I guess the glory of capitalism is that you can do pretty much anything you want to make a profit. Basically, you can buy life insurance as you'd normally do, and then you can sell that policy to a settlement firm for a lump sum. The sum will be less than what you'd get if you died, but more than what you'd get if you settled with the insurance company. The firm takes over the premium payments and gets the benefits when you die. The firm has investors who get paid some percentage of the annual return of the death benefit. It seems like a good situation for everyone except the life insurance company: because more than 80% of life insurance policies lapse, insurance companies set lower rates. If more people sell their policies to investors likely to hold on to them and collect, the theory goes, insurance costs will go up for everyone. This isn't a new thing: people with HIV have been selling their life insurance (called viatical settlements) since the '80s, and BusinessWeek reported on this issue in 2005. even has a FAQ page on the process. For better or worse, the WP article is stacked with quotes from the life insurance industry. (Hat tip: the guy sitting in front of me on the metro, over whose shoulder I was covertly reading.)

Barry Bonds Watch continues
Three links over at How Appealing.

I am not alone...
The ABA Journal selected the 100 best websites by lawyers for lawyers, and has a category for JDs in training. Obviously I am not on that list. But the five blogs are worth checking out:
Nuts & Boalts
Overheard in Law School
The Frugal Law Student
There's No Competition in Law School
Transnational Law Blog
You can vote for your favorites in any category, so head on over and make your voice heard! (Hat tip: Concurring Opinions.)

I'll try to be posterrific during my moments of procrastination over the next couple of weeks, so check back often.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fair warning for unsuspecting first-years

There's been a fair amount of discussion in the law blog world recently about jobs that law school grads get. Some of it is terrifying for someone in my position - a 1L at a school that's not Harvard, Yale, or Stanford - but also, some of it is just plain dumb. Simple Justice on criminal law careers here; WSJ post and comments here.

The biggest thing I noticed is a complete and total preoccupation with what they call BigLaw jobs. I can't really blame them, either, since these are the famous jobs - the ones that pay the oft-quoted $160K/year. Above the Law had an ongoing feature, Associate Bonus Watch 2007, with some absurd-sounding bonus figures from the big NYC firms. The NYT had an article about perks available at these firms, including someone to pick up dry cleaning and guaranteeing the first $100K of associates' mortgages. These things sound great. Like, really great. But nothing in this world is free: in exchange for in-house nail salons and yoga classes, these firms will keep associates at their desks for a minimum of 1900 billable hours a year, working over Thanksgiving and other holidays, never giving them a chance to spend all the dough accumulating in their bank accounts. (I think, actually, that the in-the-office perks are and have always been a way to keep people from going home.) Why are people obsessed with these jobs and this life? The way I understand it, the work isn't even really interesting for the first couple of years; maybe they'll let you out of the document review warehouse for a memo or two at some point.

Along these same lines is a (long) post by Paul Gowder at Law and Letters arguing why you shouldn't go to law school. His titles sort of speak for themselves: (1) the jobs suck; (2) lawyers are unhappy; (3) you'll be surrounded by jerks; (4) have I mentioned the debt? (5) the law will make you the worst kind of person. It's clear that the post is stacked on the "con" side of law school and lawyering (in an attempt to "balance the scales," since so much of the information we get from schools about being a lawyer is stacked on the positives). But still, reading all of that from a lawyer - as opposed to an irate poster on the WSJ law blog - was a little rattling.

So, what's someone like me to do? The thing is, I love what I'm doing right now. I enjoy my classes, I am really interested in the material, I love solving legal puzzles, and I seem to be doing okay at it all. What are the prospects for someone who loves the law, wants to be a moral and ethical person, and doesn't want to be in debt for the rest of her life? I'll be honest: I like money, I like being comfortable, I like being able to live alone and save and go on trips. I've lived in New York on $30K a year, and those things are not possible at that kind of salary. I don't want to have to choose between a job I like and a job that affords me a life I like. This is a plea to the (two?) people who read this blog: help me out, y'all! What should I do?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Barry Bonds hullaballoo explained

So Barry Bonds got indicted. For something. Having to do with steroids.

That was the state of my understanding about the whole fiasco... until I read this pretty hilarious post that cleared things up. For results-oriented folks like me, here's the final answer:

Count one: Perjury. Barry Bonds knowingly took steroids and lied about it.
Count two: Perjury. Barry Bonds received injectable drugs from a BALCO associate, and lied about it.
Count three: Perjury. Barry Bonds knowingly took HGH, and lied about it.
Count four: Perjury. Bonds received various other illegal substances from BALCO and Greg Anderson before 2003, and lied about it.
Count five: Obstruction of justice. All of Bonds’ lies in the grand jury testimony were an intentional effort to impede the administration of justice.

How serious are these allegations?
Each of the counts of perjury carries a maximum of 5 years, and the obstruction of justice carries a maximum of 10 years, so it’s possible that Bonds could go to prison for 30 years.

Will he?
Of course not. Each of the charges also says that Bonds could be fined, or imprisoned, or both. There is a chance that Bonds will be found guilty (or plead guilty) to all of the charges and get off with a $25,000 fine: chump change to Barry Lamar Bonds, Inc.

Wait, if they can prove that Bonds lied about doing all these illegal things, that means that they can charge him with taking steroids, right?!
Wrong. Bonds received immunity from all charges except those related to perjury and his false testimony, so the charges against him will end here.

Check out the post for more details. And Barry Bonds Watch continues...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Belgium: Who Knew?

As it turns out, Belgium has been functioning for the last 161 days with no government. I have no idea what's going on. This article (hat tip: The Morning News) does its best to explain the state of things, but I'm still pretty confused. Check back for updates as things become clearer...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bad day for DC traffic lawyers

The word on the street is that DC (along with a couple of other cities in the Northeast) is phasing out in-person hearings to contest parking tickets. Instead, poor souls who want to contest their tickets will have to settle for mail or email adjudication. I'm sure it's more convenient to be able to send in your complaint by email instead of having to wait for hours in line for an in-person hearing; maybe, given both in-person and mail options, some people would choose to contest unfair tickets not worth the trip to the DMV. But what DC is doing is phasing out the hearings (by December 2008), removing that option completely. And it's probably not entirely for the sake of customer service, either: in 2004, more than a third of those who contested tickets won their cases, which cuts into the revenue the city makes from the tickets. Simple Justice has an interesting comment on the due process implications of the policy - something to watch out for as the change takes effect.

You can read the DMV's FY2008 plan, including this and other changes, here.
For the (limited) news coverage of the change, see here and here.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apparently, civil procedure matters

We went over venue rules in Civil Procedure today. They're pretty boring. But apparently they actually do matter: just ask Wesley Snipes, who just filed a Change of Venue motion in his upcoming tax-fraud case. (He's the defendant, in case you were confused.) The WSJ Law Blog has details here.

In a nutshell, Snipes is being sued in federal court in Ocala, FL. He contends that the venue will be biased towards him because he is black, and he would rather have the trial in the Southern District of New York (AKA Manhattan). He is backing up his claim with a phone survey that asks, among other things, what percentage of people believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of "pride, not prejudice." Unsurprisingly, that percentage is much higher in Ocala (63% agree) than in NYC (22% agree).

It's always funny when I'm sitting in class learning about something and reading about it online at the same time...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Top 10 Law Blogs

Apparently the 2007 Weblog Awards have a category for Best Law Blog. (Who knew? Obviously I'm still new to this.) If you care, you can see the list and vote here. I figured I'd reproduce it in this space for my own and others' reference. I haven't looked at all of them, but so far I think I like the WSJ law blog the best. Volokh is #1 in the voting by a clear margin so far.

1. Volokh Conspiracy
2. Above the Law
3. SCOTUS Blog
4. Balkinization
5. How Appealing
6. Ms. JD
7. WSJ Law Blog
8. Sui Generis
9. Simple Justice
10. Likelihood of Confusion

I must have missed the deadline, but next year I'm sure my legions of fans will be voting me into the Top 10... Right.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Go read Amy Hempel

I don't know exactly why I love Amy Hempel's writing, but I do. I love it. It's beautiful and funny and sad and true. Her books are full of short stories in the truest sense. It's not a novel condensed into ten pages. It's a slice of life, one scene, a few moments, deliberately chosen details that break your heart without really ever letting you know why. Even now, having read her stories seven times over, they still give me chills.

I managed to find "The Harvest" online. Read it. You can spare the minutes.

In her collected works, Hempel thanks Gordon Lish, her teacher of minimalism and her first editor. Slate has a piece (sort of) about Lish on their front page today that was a fun read.

I've had urges to explore the other minimalist writers whose work Lish has guided. But part of me knows that, if I do, I may never be able to read a normal novel again.