Category Archives: law school

Why Should a School Support Blogs

Cathy Gellis, a BU law student and blogger asked for my opinion of whether the BU law school should support a blogging infrastructure like Harvard’s. I thought I’d answer that here rather than in an email.
I think every school should consider supporting/providing blogs. In the 90s, it was popular for universities to offer web space to it’s students. Presumably to both (1) encourage students to dabble in web technologies (ie to learn some html) and (2) to foster communication and personal identity (ie to share some ideas). Those 90s systems are still in place at schools like BU, but at least BU’s version (people.bu.edu) does not support the newer technologies needed to run some of the more advanced blogging software. It would not take must to update some of the tools that are already in place at most universities to make blogging easy for students.
That said, the low cost of hosting and availability of cheap and free software to support blogging is precisely the reason it is so easy to start a blog using a private service like blogger or typepad. There are no technological limitations preventing everyone the BU law school from starting a blog tomorrow, but there are some advantages to supporting/providing blogs at the school level. School-provided blogs offer convenience and a sense of shared identity in a commerce-neutral setting – the same factors that I think have lead to wide-spread success of university email systems (evidenced by the fact that many students still prefer their .edu email accounts over feature-rich free commercial services). By taking the affirmative step to provide blog technology to students, a school is actually encouraging blogs.
Whether a school wants to encourage blogs is up to the school, but I think it is a great idea. I think the essential purpose of educational institutions is to foster the exchange of knowledge and ideas, and I see blogs as one of many forums available to accomplish this.

LSAT Madness

When I took the LSAT in 2000, I took it alone. I didn’t know anyone else that was even contemplating law school, and I had to have some friends drive me from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles with the understanding that the LA record store selection justified the trip. I had no idea that there were websites about the LSAT, and I certainly hadn’t envisioned starting one of the biggest LSAT gathering places online.
Law School Discussion saw a bit of a spike in traffic after the LSAT in June, but the October LSAT made me glad I moved that site to a dedicated server. Sunday and Monday each had over 2,500 new postings on the Pre-Law board, and Monday had a record (I think) 8,200 visitors. Topics range from canceling LSAT scores to the specific LSAT answers and answer choices. I think that, given the right software tools, this many people could actually re-write the LSAT purely from collective memory and create an answer key.
More on the October 2, 2004 LSAT.

New Princeton Review Law School Rankings

The Princeton Review have released their 2005 law school rankings. They stopped doing these for few years and I’m pretty sure this is their first year back.
Before the hiatus, Boston University had come in first-place for best faculty for six straight years, a fact the administration mentioned quite frequently. Unfortunately, BU has now slipped to #2.
BU also ranked highly (#4) for best career prospects. Are you kidding me? Don’t Yale, Harvard, and Stanford students have better career prospects than BU students? I guess the real question is whether students at those schools realize that they have better career prospects, and whether they care to fill out the Princeton Review survey.
Despite that most of these rankings are ridiculous, I have to admit they’re kind of fun. I’m also happy to see more ranking systems out there as US News alternatives. Each new ranking system slightly dilutes the excessive authority granted to US News. I’m still surprised that more publishers don’t try to compete with US News in the rankings market. Where are the New York Times’ rankings?
The relationship between institutions and US News amuses me too. The institutions always talk about how the rankings don’t matter, but then they emphasize them whenever they’re highly ranked. Last weekend in New Haven I saw a billboard by the freeway for a Yale Hospital with a US News cover on it. When you’re #25, the rankings are meaningless. When you’re #1, you put up a billboard next to the freeway.

BU Law Student Cheats, Then Sues BU

It’s always a little bit amusing to me when I hear about law students suing their law schools. It’s the perfect paradox: they teach us to find legal causes of action, but we find a cause of action in that teaching itself.
The latest lawsuit has been filed against my very own alma mater: Boston University. The claim: discrimination and breach of contract for not allowing the plaintiff to graduate after finding that she had committed plagiarism in four papers.
Now, call me crazy, but I don’t think people that cheat in law school should be able to get the degree. Law school isn’t easy, but it would be if cheaters were allowed to graduate, and that would effectively invalidate the honest majority’s hard work (we’d be fools to earn a degree that could be obtained by cutting and pasting the paragraphs of others).
There’s a little more to this story, so I’ll let you decide for yourself (or wait for the courts to decide). Articles here, here, and here.

Moving Servers (again)

Moving servers is a big pain, and Law School Discussion apparently plundered the resources available on my new Cedant server within a couple weeks and has been asked politely to move out within a week. It’s been a mad scramble to find a new host that won’t crash or kick me off and after just two days I’m happy to say that things seem to be working on my new dedicated server from servermatrix.

Yet Another Law School Discussion Update

It’s been two weeks since the first day of the bar exam, and I think I’m fully recovered. Now I’m facing the strange situation of having nothing to do (nothing to study at least), and thus I turn my attention to the web (of course).
I’ve been addicted to improving Law School Discussion over the last few days, but you’d hardly know it. I spent an entire day moving the site to a new server which should better deal with the 40+ GB of daily traffic. I learned that SQL databases are both easy and hard to move – easy because they’re smartly designed and hard because they can get to be too big for my measly technological resources.
I also upgraded the message board software to the brand new SMF 1.0 forum, the first non-beta release of SMF, and I fixed some style issues so the site looks nice in Firefox, which is fast becoming my browser of choice. (“The only true browser,” says Nick Aster, who showed me this awesome toolbar which lets one edit style sheets in real time.) I’m still working on some changes to the forum interface to make things a little easier to use and a little more compact.
Of this stuff, you care not, but it’s been my life for a few days and I felt like sharing.

Bar Exam Report

The bar exam is over. It was torture. The studying is one thing, but the exam-day stress and six hours of actual exam taking each day really takes a toll. After three days I was rendered mentally and physically useless, and am only now (three days later) coming to my senses.
There were many unpleasant things about the exam, but I think the hundreds of other Massachusetts applicants who shared my misery last week would agree that the worst aspect of the exam was having to sit in these $12 chairs. My back is still a little bit stiff.

Bar Exam Logistics

wallet on a scaleAs the BarBri bar exam class draws to a close, it’s becoming clear that the bar exam is indeed real and not just the confusing nightmare I was hoping to wake up from at any moment. Actual logistical preparations are now taking place:
The Democratic National Convention is happening at the same time as the bar exam in Boston. I keep hearing reports on the news about how bad it will be. By “bad” I think they mean crowded. Crowded I can handle. The way it’s presented on TV you’d think a tornado warning had just been declared. When I ask people about this, they mention the fact that many of the roads will be closed. Well sure, that will certainly cause a bit of a mess. I’m completely confused as to how the closing of roads will facilitate transportation to and from the convention. Maybe I just don’t understand what the DNC is all about.
Time will tell, but not for me. I’ll be busy being examined in beautiful Albany, NY for the first couple days of the convention. Seat assignments are in and I’m happy not to have been placed in the Pepsi Arena on a football field (see here). “The New York bar exam is brought to you by… Pepsi. Take the Pepsi Challenge!”
In fact you’d be allowed to have a Pepsi at the exam as long as it’s smaller than 20 fl. oz. When I first read this 20 oz. requirement (I added the “fl.”) I thought it referred to the maximum permitted weight of one’s wallet (my brain mis-processed the two column layout – it was late). It didn’t seem that outlandish that the bar examiners would limit the permissible weight of one’s wallet considering the specificity of the other requirements and the seriousness of the bar exam. My wallet weighs in at 4 oz. I think you’d have to be (1) rich or (2) blatantly cheating to need to bring a 20 oz wallet to the bar exam, but it turns out there is no explicit rule against having such a hefty bulge in your pants.

Law Firms Recruit with Junk Food

bar exam recruiting giftThere are lots of companies that print logos and brands on otherwise generic products to help spread corporate messages through molded plastic junk. At least one such company knows law firm recruiting departments comprise a big class of potential customers. For creative ways to spend that recruiting budget, Big Frey Promotional Products offers a variety of cups, pens, and toy balls. Such products help ensure that a firm hires only the most competent future lawyers.
To maintain a candidate’s positive image of the firm after acceptance of the offer, the firm may wish to follow up with one of several exam support care packages. The Classic Exam Survival Kit packages together about $5 worth of junk food and bills the firm $25. That’s all fine and dandy for regular exams, but to get through the bar exam you’re going to need a little more. The Classic Bar Exam Survival Kit contains almost all the same items, but includes one notable addition: Advil.
If you happen to be legal recruiting professional, I suggest that nothing will make as big an impression on candidates than a new tortfeasor shirt.