Check out the Comedians at Law latest podcast where you’ll hear, of all things, an interview with me.
I didn’t pass either bar exam. I came close. Close but no cigar. I normally wouldn’t be so quick to advertise such disappointing news but I feel it’s necessary when my Facebook is seemingly exploding with these:
It’s easy to feel alone when so many classmates are enjoying the fruits of their hard work. It’s tough for those of us planning to take another stab at it to find each other when, well, who wants to admit they didn’t make the cut?
That being said, I would really love to hear from people who are struggling right now. Jobs, the bar, money, whatever. You can message me privately if you want. The point is that I think we need to come together. There’s no shame in taking a little longer to land on your feet and it certainly would be easier for those of us who need it to be in touch with each other.
Kicking the tires. Kicking the tires. Kicking the tires. That’s how Elazar Guttman, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, describes the topic of the final component of Basics of Acquisition Agreements; Due Diligence. The “Digging In” exercise aside, this last series of video lectures does a great job providing a practical application of an important element of everyday legal practice. Or so I would imagine.
Keep in mind, I am not coming from years of professional experience but that’s the beauty of LawMeets. I would urge the program organizers to extend its reach, to position itself as a tool for helping recent graduates stay sharp as well as to law students who are eager to prove themselves in the classroom.
Due diligence seems like a fundamental component of corporate practice. Taking into consideration the fact I analyze everything from a Contracts perspective, the various layers of due diligence (Legal, Accounting, Financial, etc.) arguably require expert lawyering, especially when transactions veer into the millions of dollars for buyers and sellers. How do the parties protect themselves?
That’s both Contracts and Corporations 101: every law student remembers the hypothetical scenarios we study in 1L. (Fiduciary duty of loyalty, anyone?) What you don’t get, unfortunately, is a lot of practical examples or experience. I suppose that comes later, in clinical coursework or internships. But still, you can probably never have enough introductory materials which is why I feel comfortable taking what I’ve learned from the LawMeets modules and speaking about the concepts with prospective employers.
Featuring Michael Poster, partner at Vandenberg & Feliu, LLP; Dr. Donald Cooper, Director of the Event Safety Alliance; Eric Kert, Executive Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, Live Nation Global Touring; and Jim Cooperman, Executive Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs, MSG Entertainment.
This panel began with a practical, if not disturbing, notion. The likelihood that you could get hurt by faulty pyrotechnics, wind-strewn hydraulics, a rickety stage, nearly anything that could go wrong in the course of a live music performance. Perhaps more importantly, from the lawyers’ perspective, how do risk issues associated with live event productions affect the different industry players? Panelists discussed the biggest risks in live entertainment today, how they have changed, and how awareness has drastically affected how often disaster strikes.
I enjoyed this panel because it wasn’t steeped in legalese. It almost followed my note on indemnification agreements, namely how venues and promoters protect themselves from the endless number of things that can go wrong during a show. The panelists even named incidents you wouldn’t expect, such as concert patrons who overdose and other cases you wouldn’t expect to implicate non-obvious parties.
Dr. Donald Cooper of Ohio’s Event Safety Alliance, the only non-lawyer on the panel, spoke about regulating emergency management procedures at small venues. Smaller venues don’t necessarily mean smaller promoters, however, or greater safety precautions, as international players such as LiveNation also operate locally.
Regardless of who’s behind-the-scenes, Dr. Cooper said his organization works tirelessly to promote best practices. He urges event producers not to skimp on account of cost or rely on insurance for that matter. “Smaller venues can often be the most dangerous,” he explained. “Everyone’s got to allocate risk accordingly. From EMS to security and properly-worded contracts, it is often in the best interest of the deal for the venue to assume liability.”
This panel differed from the others because it urged every player in the live performance business to expect the unexpected. To fine tune the skills which are crucial for being an effective attorney and, I think, part of the fun of being a lawyer.
Is anyone out there following LawMeets? I would love to know the general opinion out there of this program and whether law students feel it supplements (or detracts from) their coursework. Anyone?
The latest addition to the online course is led by Drexel Professor Karl Okamoto, the founder of the program. I think he does a good job of speaking about the importance of indemnification agreements in broad terms. But it works. To understand these provisions more specifically, one would have to apply them to the hypothetical business situation in the modules online. Something law students should do in droves.
Clinical coursework is, without a doubt, the best way to learn in school what lawyers do all day. I didn’t do enough of it. One enjoyable aspect (if there even is one) of the interviewing process, I’ve found, has been the clinical exercises. They’ve helped expose me to what I’d actually do all day on the job. That, and the skills I took from my clinical coursework in law school have been crucial in showing employers exactly how I would perform on the job without the benefit of years of experience or on-the-job training.
Exercises like marking up provisions and learning to retool indemnification sections in a way where the deal gets done and the party signing my paycheck walks away happy. It’s like crafting a blog post which doesn’t run 4,000 words and yet still covers everything I want to say. Sort of.
Of course, I could very well realize on the job that the skills I’ve fine-tuned over years of writing may not lead to my career success. There’s no way of knowing though without real world experience. In a market where few employers are willing to take a risk on an inexperienced law grad, clinical coursework is the way to better yourself and I’ve seen no better alternative to classroom simulations than the overview provided by faculty in the LawMeets modules.
During this past Rosh Hashanah service, the rabbi gave an impassioned, if cliched, sermon about technology: “iPhones have made it easier for us to ignore each other! We are merely connecting (or poking or tweeting or whatever “twerking” is) instead of relating!” We’ve all heard it a million times. FaceTime makes it easier for us to avoid face-to-face conversation. Texting and iMessage make it easier than ever for us to say what we have to say to each other without engaging in, well, you know, actual conversation.
If I could, I’d like to take some of the rabbi’s points one step further. And it’s not the iPhone’s fault, even if Apple and Facebook have helped move us along to where we are today on this one: We are, at the highest level possible, a nation of voice mails. It’s never been easier than it is today for us to ignore each other.
Who hasn’t collided headfirst with the guy walking in Manhattan, plugged into his music and deep in iMessage-thought, not looking where he’s going? Who hasn’t left voice mail-after-e-mail-after-voice mail, trying to get a hold of someone, to no avail?
I think our ambivalence toward reaching one another on a personal level doesn’t rest solely on the heels of technology, though. Individuals (along with their digital inboxes) are overworked, overloaded, and underpaid. One person does the work of three people in many areas, from offices to department stores, and staying on top of every individual correspondence isn’t just not a priority; in many cases, it’s impossible.
So what’s the solution? And is it fair to distinguish between making a successful connection at someone’s work as opposed to between friends? Is it possible to get back to the days when we had fewer means of reaching people and yet, undoubtedly made more of an effort to speak to one another? Of course it isn’t.
On the corporate level, there probably should be policies designed to implement more personalized customer service. I’m talking about actually making representatives available when you call, whatever it costs. How about prohibiting employees at CVS from answering customers’ phone calls when customers who actually made the effort to travel to the store stand in line? More personally, how about Apple, Gmail, and Facebook making it easier to stay on top of weeks-old unanswered messages?
As far as reaching people online goes, I think LinkedIn’s got the right idea. For only the monthly cost of their premium service, of course, LinkedIn will ping recipients of your notes until they respond to you. Sort of. In actuality, LinkedIn allots premium users a certain number of “InMail” credits to use per month. InMail credits allow users to message others with whom they may not have personal relationships, refunding those InMail credits if the individuals don’t respond within seven days. It’s a start.
I would love to see the day we move beyond being a nation of voice mails and technology’s never going to stop providing us with new ways to connect with each other, to borrow the rabbi’s phrasing (case-in-point: an episode of Seinfeld from 20 years ago). Technology can’t help us relate to each other, either. That has to be more of a personal priority and I don’t know if I see that ever changing.
I apologize for the aside but I couldn’t resist.
I am not taking this course as seriously as I should be. (Or should I?) Taking a look at the second component, released just the other day, I noticed the format is completely different. If I were still in school and preparing for an upcoming meet, I would be all over these video responses that are the lifeblood of LawMeets. For those of you out there still in law school, studying for, say, Professor Franklin’s Negotiation Clinic at New York Law School, I highly recommend jumping headfirst into LawMeets. For the rest of us, the second component of the online course, entitled Anatomy of an Acquisition Agreement, is a fantastic overview of 1L Contracts as well as many essential elements of intro-level Drafting courses. It’s also, ahem, not as dull as the first module.
I came across a program I wish I’d been a part of in law school. A program where the emphasis seems to be on practical experience, dealing with adversaries, and understanding complex transactions one step at a time. That program is called LawMeets. I read about it in the ABA Journal in a section entitled, appropriately enough, Legal Rebels. (Which goes to show you how unusual these types of programs are.)
“This course is an overview of how acquisition agreements work. It will provide aspiring and practicing deal lawyers with an understanding of the deal process and their role in it.”
The brainchild of Drexel University Professor Karl Okamoto, it’s “moot court for those interested in transactional law.” It’s about deal making, and just from watching the beginning tutorial in the program’s online course, “Basics of Acquisition Agreements,” the practice of this type of contract law seems, well, complicated.
LawMeets attempts to break “the deal” down into digestible chunks. Participants can respond to video interviews with “clients” by submitting their own three-minute recorded answers. Students provide each other with feedback, along with marked-up drafts and other reviews just as they would in practice. Professors and expert attorneys jump in later, offering insight and, I suppose, confidence to the students who plan on competing in any one of the live conferences conducted at law schools across the country.
The LawMeets format, while arguably designed to help law students, should help those of us on the job market strengthen skills and stay connected to the legal community. In fact, my efforts to flex the skills I plan to use on the job have made me miss school. You read that right. I miss school, sort of. I don’t plan on feeling that way too much longer but it’s been tough staying on top of some semblance of structure outside the confines of law school.
No professors. No classes. And, toughest of all I think when seeking an opportunity, no feedback. These past few months I’ve been feeling around in the dark. Trying to make the best use of a limited number of hours each day to reach a goal I can’t quite visualize.
LawMeets seems to be the profession’s way of pointing those of us feeling around in the dark in the right direction. Even if the program is primarily geared toward law students, it’s important to stay anchored even after the law school cuts us loose.
I’d do well to stay on top of these materials, even if they may not necessarily connect me to my future employer. If I could share one piece of advice I’ve heard more than any other in the countless informational conversations I’ve had lately, it would be to keep plugging. Easier said than done but free, online courses like these should make it easier to keep my eye on the ball.
Not gonna lie. I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to have to share that I’m looking for a job. That I don’t know what to do next. What I’m learning from the experience.
How could I not though? Emily convinced me back around the time I graduated that the blog should be complete. “From the beginning to the end,” she said. “From 1L to employment.” I’m dying to publish this thing already but I have to take care of a few things before that can happen.
I wrote about the experience of taking the bar exam in my last post. About how I wished I could walk out of there not only feeling satisfied that I did well but that I’d have an easy time waiting for the (positive) results, enjoying my “vacation,” and finding work I enjoyed within a reasonable amount of time. I’m still there, sort of.
The family’s done all they can to ease my transition back into civilization. I’m living comfortably in my parents’ new home in northern New Jersey, albeit with plenty of subtle (mostly self-imposed) reminders that this time too is temporary.
My interest in the entertainment industry hasn’t waned, I’d say. Rather, it’s been displaced by more of an interest in making money and launching into a career. I could go down a long rant-and-rave about how hard it is to gain professional experience when no one wants to give it to you but that’s been done to death. I could rail about the economy, that law schools pulled the wool over our eyes, debt, etc. but I’m not going to do that, either.
New York Law School, I thought, was fairly straightforward about what we were getting ourselves into. Also, law schools are a business. Their job is to sell themselves to students first and to educate us second. If they didn’t, they’d have no students to educate. Besides, even if New York Law School did sugarcoat our prospects, any person who didn’t take five minutes to sit down at the computer and read any one of the countless articles published almost daily (ahem, Above the Law) about how risky of an investment a legal education is, well, would you hire them?
What am I going to ask for is anyone reading this to please pass my name along. The interest in transactional law’s still there, in its many forms, but mainly I’m looking for a position that puts my JD and work ethic to good use. Hopefully, I should hear some good news come November that will allow me to add yet another weapon to the arsenal of resources I bring to the table.
There’s a saying that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s true. And I only had to go to New Jersey to sit for the third day of the bar exam to inspire a post that sums up the ridiculousness that was this experience.
The exam itself wasn’t that bad. Of course, I hope to not have to bite my tongue when the results come out in November but I’m not that worried about it. It is what it is. Every lawyer I’ve ever met who sat for a bar exam told me I wouldn’t forget the experience.
What I think they meant is the peripheral stuff: the stress of taking a timed exam that determines the course of your career under close surveillance with a few thousand people, the time spent studying, all of that. The exam itself really wasn’t that bad. It covered what we studied. The same dumb fact patterns. The same dumb “tortfeasors.” The same dumb unrecorded mortgage secured by a property littered with easements and adverse possessors.
What I’ll take from these past few days, once the exhaustion subsides, is the pure ridiculousness of all of it. I’ll start with the end of the exam, the morning of which inspired me to write a post called “A Pocket Full of Almonds.” First of all, people taking the bar exam are irritable. We want to take the damned thing and go home. Not be hassled about our bags of “quiet snacks.” (yes, we were only allowed to bring “quiet” snacks into the testing rooms. To go along with our “quiet” shoes, i.e. no flip-flops. Not making this up.)
I thought I would have no problem bringing my Board of Law Examiners-approved bag of almonds (in my clear, quart-sized plastic bag, no less) into the testing room. Quiet, yes. It was the printed wrapper that had to go. What was at first irritating is that these same snacks didn’t prove a danger in New York. It was when I crossed the river to New Jersey that my snack became a hazard, a potential casebook of answers I might surreptitiously try to sneak into an essay answer.
So, it was with a pocket full of almonds (mixed with about 27 cents’ worth of loose change) that I walked into the testing room at the Meadowlands. Interestingly enough, the password the law examiners gave us to access the morning session of the exam on our computers was “almond” and a bunch of numbers afterward. There was no doubt in my mind that meant I’d pass the test.
I could run down the list of other ridiculousness from these last few days but I won’t, save for the girl who had to argue her lactation pumps into a testing room at the Javits Center and a proctor interrupting me during the multistate portion to rip the Poland Spring label off my otherwise BOLE-approved bottle of water. Wasn’t a problem the day before. Couldn’t tell you why.
The bar exam had to be an appropriate end to a very long three years. It’s an exam that forces you to memorize broad concepts of law, their 14 exceptions, the 27 exceptions to those exceptions, and remember them long enough to hear them announce at the end that “Congratulations, you’ve completed the bar exam.”
I don’t know how I feel about having surpassed this last hurdle. A hurdle that arguably has no correlation to life as a practicing attorney. Say what you will about legal education, the hazing, having to surpass one rite of passage after another. I still look forward to getting my law license. To being sworn in. To joining the profession in some shape or form. Hopefully, they’ll let me bring my bag of almonds.