Friday, December 19, 2008

Halfway and Home

The forty-five or so of us who took the Criminal Procedure II test yesterday weren't the last people to finish the semester—some classes have paper deadlines that extend beyond the finals period—but we certainly had the last final exam. It's over, thank goodness. I'm halfway done with law school. Last night at the gym a 3L congratulated me and remarked on the halfway mark. "I hope that was the harder half," I said. "Oh yeah," he replied. Next semester will include the defense and revision of my Law Review Note, a criminal trial for Legal Skills (Feb. 5), an ACLU trip to D.C. (Feb. 6), the Students for the Innocence Project's Death Penalty Symposium featuring my boss from last summer (Feb. 7), a second straight Spring Break trip to New Orleans with our awesome Student Hurricane Network group, and more fellowship research for my professor on First Amendment issues. My class schedule is not finalized, but it will certainly include the Death Penalty Seminar, with the same judge teaching that I had for Crim Pro II. I'm stoked about that class.

An update on my last post: Yesterday the Public Service Fund, the student-led W&M Law group that raises money for people like me who insist on working unpaid summer internships, sent an email to all public service-oriented students which said that only 15% of my class has secured a job for next summer. To contrast, the email said that 40% of the 3L class had jobs at this point last year. (This is an issue for PSF because when people who do not find paid jobs, more request public service funding.) I should mention that our class is not 25% inferior to the 3L class in any substantive way; quite the contrary, I have heard from classmates who have secured jobs with some of the top D.C. firms. No, the legal job market sucks in a very real way. Go, go gadget Congress. Is it January 20 yet?

Oh, and we lost the hockey game to the Marine Science graduate school team, 3–2, with :27 left in sudden death overtime. We had led, 1–0, after the second period, but the VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) team scored off the face-off in the third, and followed with what seemed to be the dagger goal with under 2:00 to play in regulation. One of our amazing hockey players, though, took control and scored a goal with under 1:00 to play, tying the match at 2–2. We were almost to the shootout when VIMS scored, dashing our hopes of an IM title. Maybe next year.

My flight to Iowa leaves in 4-1/2 hours. My brothers have been sending me weather reports that have prompted me to pack a pillow for what could be a long trip home (Richmond to Chicago to C.R.). I can't wait to get there, whenever it happens.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Almost halfway done

Many of my classmates are celebrating the halfway mark of their law school lives, having finished first-semester finals. It's an exciting moment of relief for many of us, but not for all. Maybe you've heard that the economy isn't doing so well these days. Turns out that matters even to law students, who have found that employers have cut back on hiring, big-time. I blame people like Rod Blagojevich, who can't seem to find the money to pay his $500,000 in legal bills. (No wonder he was trying to sell that Senate seat.) But apparently the problem extends beyond our nation's most troubled governor. "Even the best clients were holding payment," says one law firm chairman. If people can't pay their bills, law firms can't pay their lawyers, let alone hire new ones.

This is troublesome for law students across the country who spent all fall interviewing with potential employers, and still don't have job offers. Many of us came to law school with the idea that taking on thousands of dollars in debt would pay off not long after graduation. These tough times are hitting most everyone hard — even those entering the legal profession, which once seemed a surefire way to get a high-paying, rewarding job.

Fortunately for me, I've landed a public service job in San Francisco next summer, working on death penalty appeals. Though I won't be making big bucks, I'll have a small stipend through the law school, as I did last summer, and I'll be doing the kind of work I can feel good about. More on the job later, though. Must get back to studying. Almost halfway done with law school, and it feels pretty good.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finals mode

Tomorrow is the last day of first semester classes, with finals starting the middle of next week. Seasoned law students are retreating to their comfort zones, finding the corners of the library (law or undergrad; I prefer the latter this time of year) they like best, bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop, or holing up in their study spaces at home.

I have three final exams: Evidence, on Dec. 11; First Amendment, on Dec. 15; and Criminal Procedure II, on Dec. 18. Some people are done on the first day of exams, having turned in papers or finished take-home tests early. Others, like me, will remain in the law school on the last afternoon of the exam period. My Crim Pro professor, a federal magistrate judge, assured us that exam scheduling was not within his ... ahem, jurisdiction. Anyway, it's fine with me. I like the spacing.

As a brief reprieve from studying, I'm privileged to be on a stellar intramural floor hockey team. We went 4-0 in the "regular season" and won our first-round playoff Monday. The semifinal is at 6 tonight, and if we win, the final is at 8. If we advance, we're likely to meet the W&M undergrad hockey team. Hardly fair, if you ask me, but if anyone can match their competitiveness, it's law students in finals mode.