Blog Ipsa Loquitur

I am not a lawyer. You know, yet. Therefore, I’m not allowed to give out legal advice. So this isn’t what you’d call legal advice: don’t put incriminating photos on the internet. That’s just advice from someone who’s not a gigantic idiot.

There are some really dumbfounding stories in that AP article. Boy crashes car while drunk, injuring woman. Woman lies in hospital. Boy goes to halloween party dressed in an orange jumpsuit. Boy gets photographed and put on Facebook. Prosecutor searches Facebook. Prosecutor uses incriminating photos to put boy in prison for two years.

sidebar: I recall a number of stories a few years back with college kids caught drinking in their dorm rooms because they posted pictures of themselves drinking in their dorm rooms on MySpace or Facebook or whichever. That’s stupid in and of itself. They cried foul because, like, bro, no grown-ups allowed.

But these kids have already committed a crime, and they’re still leaving fantastic evidence for prosecutors. Some are even posting new evidence for prosecutors during the trial. One girl got her recommended sentence increased from probation to two years in a DUI car crash that killed her passenger. (I’d say her lawyer was doing a fantastic job in the first place.)

As if the internet weren’t enough of a public place already, when you put yourself on Facebook and Myspace, you are quite literally advertising yourself to the rest of the world. That’s fine. Cute girls have to find you somehow, I’m certain.

To be fair, we’re really the first generation for whom this problem has come up. I’m sure at some point, someone has accidentally mailed incriminating photos of himself to a prosecutor. These things are bound to happen. But it’s a whole new world with the internet involved. My generation’s going to have to figure this stuff out quickly.

But how long does it take, really?

Filed on under The News

The “sit in class and listen to a brilliant professor talk about something you’re struggling to understand” part of law school is hard enough.

The “read the homework three times because you’re afraid the brilliant professor is going to grill you about it tomorrow” part of law school is hard enough.

And nothing is harder than exam week: in law school, you don’t take tests or get grades during the semester. Your only grade for the entire semester is your final exam grade. This would make exams incredibly stressful even if they weren’t so damn stressful.

But there’s more to law school than just book-learnin’ and exam-writing. Going from “college kid with philosophy degree” to “lawyer man with J.D. and crippling student loans” is a big step. You can’t just add the J.D. to your résumé and be done with it. During law school, you have to work a few jobs in professional environments, to show a future employer that you’re worth hiring.

At my school, we actually signed a form during our 1L Orientation promising not to work more than 20 hours a week, and indicating that we understood the grave consequences of working at all during the year. So during the first year, precious few students do more labor intensive work than volunteering a few hours a week to organizations like the Unemployment Action Center. The bulk of us law students go for the summer internship.

Beginning with the second semester, you revise your résumé (with your one semester’s G.P.A.) and you wander out into the wilderness, foraging for internships for the summer. Ideally, you want to have this wrapped up before Spring Break, lest your search eat into your study time for exams.

Personally, I didn’t have any relevant legal experience before law school. I was terrified that this would make me impossible to hire, especially when I was compared to my classmates, many of whom have been planning this whole “law school” thing for years. They have worked in law firms, legal offices, or at least in office environments. Many of them have postgraduate degrees, as well. My employment consisted (up to that point) of waiting tables and working cash registers. I have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from a state college. I don’t think I was particularly irrational in being nervous.

Hell, all of that was downright panic-inducing. You have to have a summer job. You have to have a summer job in the legal field. (No more waiting tables, alas!) This summer job after your first year compensates a whole lot for the fact that your résumé is may be sparse on (or even devoid of) prior legal experience: it will vastly increase your stock with future employers. It is a statement by a Real Live Lawyer that says you’re a safer hire for next time around.

So even if you haven’t been planning this whole law school thing for more than a couple of months, you won’t be handicapped if you can find a summer internship and do well there. For the record, even a total lack of legal experience isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker when you’re interviewing for that summer internship. It’s a handicap, sure, but it’s not a death sentence. It’s also just the beginning.

I’m currently knee-deep in preparing for fall recruitment: the mass interviews all the choicest firms and government agencies hold as they forage for interns for the fall. Yes, in a wonderfully masochistic (but strangely constructive) way, after worrying all spring about what you’ll do all summer, you spend the second half of your summer worrying about what you’ll do all fall.

To me, the craziest thing about fall recruitment is its finality: do well enough at the internship you accepted during fall recruitment, and you’ll be invited back to that firm as a summer intern after your second year of school. Do well enough at that summer internship, and you could be invited to work for the firm after graduating. The fall recruiters will be keenly interested in your legal experience, (to say nothing of your grades) and for many people, the first real legal experience they’ll have is the first year summer internship.

Update: as I have recently attended the informational seminar about Fall Recruitment at my school, it turns out that Fall Recruitment is for getting a job for next summer. If you interview well and are offered a position, it’s not during the school year; it’s for the following summer.  This demonstrates the importance of knowing what you’re talking about before you start writing.  The rest holds true, though. You could get offered a position following your graduation if your summering goes well.

Filed on under A Day in the Life

The Supreme Court, by way of Justice Scalia, says the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun to some extent. What extent? That’s a damn good question. And there’s only one way to find out: more lawsuits! There’s apparently been one already filed in Chicago to see if the ban extends beyond Washington D.C.

The ABA Journal has a very well-written article on the topic. The case turns, as ever, on the very specific language of the Second Amendment:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

According to Scalia, it’s properly translated (from Ye Olde 18th Centurie Englishe) to:

“Because a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

On the face of it, I would assume that because a well-regulated militia is not, in fact, necessary to the security of a free state any more, neither is the right to keep and bear arms so inviolable these days. But I haven’t taken constitutional law yet: maybe it’s well-established precedent that the part about a militia isn’t all that important.

The court makes it sound like this right extends only as far as law abiding citizens possessing handguns within their home, for the purpose of defending that home. The court also hinted that a ban on “dangerous or unusual” firearms may still be constitutional. Although in reality, I have to assume that if your handgun isn’t dangerous, that’s a little unusual; you should get your money back.

On a somber note, it’s a pity that Charleton isn’t around to see this. He’s shooting angels in heaven right now.

Filed on under The News

When you file a lawsuit, you (hire a lawyer to) draft a letter to a court. This letter is called a complaint, and it is very long and obtuse and boring. Following receipt of the complaint, the court will issue a summons to the people named as defendants in the complaint: this means that a lawsuit is officially almost underway, and [...]

Filed on under A Day in the Life

One of the largest investment banks in the world was a company by the name of Bear Stearns (seen here with their stock prices in complete free-fall). I say “was” because they were throwing money into the sub-prime mortgage market. That was the cause of some very noteworthy short-term success: investors love to hear about bold new acquisitions and investments. But nothing that stupid can last.

I can aimlessly wander around a discussion of sub-prime mortgages and securities in general, and why it’s a really bad idea to overload your portfolio with sub-prime mortgages, and so on. But I’m fairly certain that the internet is about 70-80% “poorly informed ramble” by volume, and I can’t in good conscience add drops of water to that particular bucket.

The real story that I’m interested in discussing is called “Prosecutors build Bear Stearns case on e-mails.” This is noteworthy because it was newsworthy. Allow me to start from the beginning.

Discovery is the process by which one party can compel another party’s disclosure of information related to litigation. If I were to sue my doctor for not giving me a lollipop after my checkup, during discovery, I could force the doctor to show me how many lollipops he buys a month, and thereby prove that he must be giving them to all his other patients. And assuming there were some kind of egalitarian legal principle regarding lollipop distribution, I might even win.

(I don’t take Evidence until the fall, so that may well be horribly backwards. This is in addition to the really strange hypothetical that I came up with.)

Now, there’s this new thing called “E-Discovery.” It seems that at some point, compelling disclosure of electronic media became legally viable under the rules of discovery. The big thing that everyone wants to know about is your email. For certain specialized cases, this could include spreadsheets and text messages.

(The latter is actually a really bad example, because the mayor actually signed a directive stating that electronic communications sent on city equipment were not considered either personal or private.)

Anyway, getting back to the Bear Stearns bit, the International Herald Tribune writes:

Yet, despite the drama, there is no guarantee that cases that rely on e-mail exchanges and unclear states of mind result in jail time. In one prominent case involving e-mail exchanges, for example, charges were ultimately dropped against Frank Quattrone, the high-level Credit Suisse banker accused of interfering with a government investigation.

Despite the publicity surrounding the Enron scandal, some high-profile cases, which like this one were based on e-mail exchanges and complicated financial arrangements, were successfully challenged.

Essentially, the two guys who just got indicted lied to their investors, and then chronicled their misgivings about said lies in a series of emails. One of them allegedly took steps to hide their correspondence. I’m kind of excited to be a gigantic nerd heading into the practice of law at this point. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the guy at the meeting that asks, “why don’t we subpoena their emails?” If you know how to sift through a computer, and where to look for potentially incriminating evidence, it seems like a great time to be a lawyer.

Personally, I’m surprised this is still newsworthy. People these days may be smart enough to not leave behind physical evidence (letters, credit card trails, et cetera) when they’re up to no good. But the world is full of people who leave red paint all over their mouse: there are so many ways to figure out what someone’s been up to. The value of e-discovery is immeasurable. At least until people take a more vested interest in computer privacy, to the extent that’s possible.

Filed on under Legal Theory