Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Does size matter?

So someone asked me what I thought about Above the Law’s recent postings that first-year associates in New York big firms are making $160,000 plus $30,000 annual bonuses. When you add in benefits and maybe paying for parking and health insurance and whatever other perks basically you’re making $200,000 a year in your first year out of law school.

Wow. That’s a lot of money (cost of living in New York notwithstanding) but the way I see it, it’s not like the people in these jobs are beating the system. When a firm is paying you $200,000 a year, they’re getting $200,000 a year’s worth of work out of you. It’s not like being an assistant coach in the NBA and working six-hour days but being paid several hundred thousand dollars a year…that’s an easy gig. Just like I have some friends here who have jobs lined up at Miami big firms and are starting at about $120,000, well, those people are going to sweat for every penny they earn.

What I’ve started to wonder about is the breakdown of these salaries as compared with smaller and mid-size firm salaries. (Looks like Above the Law is also wondering how hard these people work with a highly unscientific poll). I honestly have no clue how much the 10 lawyers at my firm make and I don’t know if they’ll make me a job offer so I don’t know if I’ll ever find out. I’m sure that they make less than lawyers do at big firms. Probably a lot less. I’m confident that if I did get an offer, my first-year salary would be far lower than $120,000, but I don’t know if it would be $55,000, $80K or what. (I do know that these lawyers aren’t struggling; one drives a Porsche Cayenne, one partner lives on one of those gated islands off South Beach and has a cabin in Aspen).

So you’d think that they work a lot less hard, right? I’m not so sure about this. At this office, they work from about 9:30 until at least 7-7:30. I guess two or three times a week they take hour or hour-and-a-half lunches, but the days are still long. By no means are these people punching a clock from 9-5. It’s not uncommon for them to have dinner meetings or after work work-related events. And they often take work home on weekends. I also have no idea how many hours they're supposed to bill because no one has ever told me. But generally, it seems like the 1900-2100 is standard when I hear about firms down here that talk about their expectations for billables. I don't know how it works in the real world but based on 50 weeks a year, 2000 billables means you have to bill 40 hours a week. I don't know the Big Firm ratio of hours worked to hours billed, but 2000, while a lot, probably doesn't translate into 70-80 hour weeks; it's probably more like 50-60 hour work weeks. I could be way off base on this; I know I can usually bill about seven hours during the nine hours I'm at work; presumably I would eventually become more efficient at it. (Oh, and here are some other blogs about how many hours associates bill. I think, as with all polls, we have to take this stuff with a grain of salt.)

How does this differ from being at a big firm? Once when I went out to lunch with a bunch of the lawyers they were talking about how they’d hate to work at one of the big firms. For the most part, the stuff they talked about not liking is that with a large organization and so many layers of red tape, they would have much less control over their work and their lives. They also talked about their friends at big firms working long days, but other than one of the young lawyers (two years out of law school) who claims her friend works until 11 p.m. almost every single night – which I think is probably a huge exaggeration – no one could really specify what “long hours” really means and how it differs from the 60- or so hour work weeks they put in at this small firm.

On the one hand, a guy I worked with once over the summer at a government job used to work at one of the mega firms here and he said the majority of the time – about 75 percent of the days – he worked 9-6. He claims this was common at his firm and other big firms. He worked at a Really Big Firm. My sense is that the lawyers at my firm put in almost as many hours as those at big firms and probably get paid significantly less. It seems like they chose the small firm environment because they want more control over their lives – specifically their work. As far as I know, this firm has no committees to decide what you can or can’t do.

I guess it comes down to control, or at least the illusion of having some control over your lives, because I can’t think of any other reason why you’d want to work at a small firm for the same number of hours you’d work at a big firm, but for less salary.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Administrative Law

The three hour admin law class is going to be as excruciating as I anticipated.

And, as the professor said during the first class, "Just like we used to say in the military, you volunteered for this" so he's not going easy on us just because the class is three hours long. I know, I know, I did volunteer. That doesn't mean it's interesting. I thought taking this would be more beneficial to me than Family Law at the same time because although family is on the bar, I'm more likely to work in or with an administrative agency than I am to practice anything related to family law.

During the first class I considered gouging out my eyes just for fun, but decided against it. Maybe next time I'll take up cutting? Or give myself a tattoo?

Although I don't agree with his politics, he seems like a decent professor, so I don't think it's his fault that the class is so boring.

And although he mentioned that his wife is who everyone thinks she is, he failed to mention her latest disgraceful shennanigans that are embarrassing even by Miami standards. Yeah. Wow.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Yawn, yet another celebrity sighting

I was thinking about how the Super Bowl is in town next week. For some people in my neighborhood, where my house is one of the only English-speaking houses on the block, I'm guessing they have no idea that the eyes of hundreds of millions of people will be on Miami this week. When stuff like this happens, it really hits home how the Miami you see in TV or the Miami you visit is nothing like the Miami you live in. At least not the one that I live in - I know plenty of law students live in South Beach and live a much different life than me. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that I'm disappointed or surprised by this; it's just something I'm observing. I mean I knew when I moved here that I wouldn't be rubbing shoulders with celebrities at the supermarket or bumping into those people during the course of a regular day.

So anyway, one of the things you quickly get used to about going to this school is the celebrity sightings. I'm not saying that celebrities are everywhere, but so many famous athletes went here that it's just par for the course. Even famous athletes who didn't go here like to hang out here -- just ask A-Rod, who is on the Board of Trustees.

Still, today for some reason I was a little thrown off by my celebrity sighting because the guy I saw isn't just famous -- he's a terrifying, and yet oddly compelling figure, although not necessarily in a good way.

I was walking across the intramural fields on my way to the gym and came upon a group of large African-American men unloading a truck full of boxes, sound equipment, drinks and uh, a bunch of other stuff. One of them looked vaguely familiar but as I walked past him I couldn't quite place him. Then on the way back, the event they were preparing for was all set up and I realized I just had a brush with one of the strangest and yet scariest alumni of this institution: The man I saw was Ray Lewis, alternately known as God's Linebacker and uh, well, let's see, how should we put this delicately...the man who stood by and um, obstructed justice while his posse may or may not have murdered a couple of people. Just as quickly, Lewis "rehabilitated" his image by winning a Super Bowl and MVP a year later and decided that the media and public was at fault for making such a big deal of the double murder.

Yeah, so that's my celebrity sighting for the day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

no parking, no grades

The latest announcement telling us they're planning on cutting off a few parking spaces got me thinking. See, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to the law school early, park in the lot, go work out at the gym, then leave to go downtown to work. So what that means is that at about 8:30 a.m., when the parking lot is completely full, I vacate my space. Every Tuesday and Thursday without fail, someone is following me as I walk down the row to get to my car. Hey, I don't blame them -- the lot is full so if there's a chance of getting a spot, they're all over it. I do it too, but just not early in the mornings. (And let me tell you - no sarcasm here at all - it's cool when you're driving through the lot in the middle of the day, you know there's no chance you'll get a spot and it looks full, so your suspicions are confirmed, but suddenly someone comes slowly walking up the row toward your car and she stops somewhere in front of you and yes! You've scored! (yeah, the little things get me excited, I know, I know, my life isn't that thrilling)). So I was thinking that I should find a way to auction the spot off to the highest bidder. Hey, I got there early, right? So if you're not going to get there early, more than likely, you have to park in the garage and take the shuttle. Fine. But for one lucky stiff every Tuesday and Thursday, he or she gets a prime spot -- my spot. You're welcome

Speaking of parking, why do the HurryCanes shuttle drivers talk on their cell phones while driving the shuttle? Surely there's a policy against talking on their cell phones while driving. Maybe the 15-minute breaks - taken only when large numbers of students are waiting for a spot - and the cushy job (how hard can it be to drive in a circle 20 times a day?) aren't stimulating enough...

Still no sign of two grades, which means that more than five weeks after the last exam, I have only one grade. Awesome. What are these professors doing? I was talking to a friend of mine who goes to law school in Boston and he said that two weeks after his last exam, he had all six grades. Six! Two weeks! I'm sure grading isn't fun and you probably have to be disciplined by blocking off several hours a day until you get it done, but this is ridiculous.

We talked the other day in my ADR Law & Policy class about disputes between professors and students in trying to get grades changed. Apparently at other schools, it's not an uncommon practice. I can sort of understand why it's not commonly done here. I mean, I get it. There has to be some standard. I could also live with it if it was the other way, too. But this discussion reminded me of my one fun experience when I asked a prof about a grade -- didn't even really want him to change it, either, although obviously I wouldn't have minded. Professor Property was so condescending, rude and nasty in his response that you'd have thought I'd insulted his children or his grandma. I had the audacity to disagree with him, so he let me have it. If I remember correctly, he also took almost two months to turn in his grade. Cool.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Just not much happening

Classes started. I still haven't had a full week of school because most of my classes meet on Monday. ... Still only one grade. Yeah, that makes sense that Prof. Mediation took until yesterday to get her grades in even though the exam was in November. ... Really nothing else is happening, so that means I have nothing to blog about...

OK, since nothing here in law school land is interesting or blog-worthy, here is some entertainment for you. So I have this friend who has been really happy lately. But wow. Just wow.
And apparently it's 100 percent true. I asked her...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Now, THAT'S experience

So Prof. Admin Law, who is an adjunct, included his resume with the syllabus.

I knew this guy was the former U.S. Attorney and married to a member of Congress, but his list of accomplishments are impressive, to say the least, (although they are somewhat confusing in trying to figure out the timing of things): a JD from Stanford in 1975, an MBA from Columbia in 1974 (huh? An MBA from a different school the year before graduating law school?), a state legislator for eight years, a reserve police officer in California from 1973-1975 (while he was in law school, I guess, but how did he get his MBA from Columbia while living in California) and an officer in the Special Forces of the U.S. Army Reserve (specifically, the “Green Beret” commando/guerilla warfare unit). He also saw combat in Vietnam and was wounded in action.

Ok, wow. I'm impressed. He’s done a lot, been around the block a few times and has some real-life experience, which many law school faculty members lack.

But here’s the million dollar question: can he make administrative law interesting?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A little of this and that

So I could tell you where I've been the past 10 days or so, but I won't. I'll tell you this, though: I saw a famous baby named Violet (and her Mom) last week in a place you would absolutely not expect. I'm not saying that was the highlight of the last 10 days but it's something.

My first class isn't until a week from Wednesday so I'm still enjoying my last ever extended vacation (although it's not entirely a vacation since I'm working a few days here and there). I'm headed out west later this week, which should be fun.

Once again I'm thinking of killing off this blog. I thought about this last summer. I'll probably keep it and see if any inspiration strikes during the semester and while I'm studying for the bar exam but I'm getting less interested in the blog and based on the sitemeter stats, you readers are getting less interested, not including the loyal four or five who I know check almost every day. (Yeah, you know who you are...). The Lawfool once said that blawgs have a shelf-life of about 18 months and I often think I've outlived my shelf-life, which would mean that this whole venture is rotten...

I noticed yesterday when I got back and checked 10 days worth of accumulated e-mail that this week is the start of "spring orientation" for 1Ls. How come we didn't have spring orientation? All we had was a Lexis and Westlaw class and some stupid waste of time by our LRW prof. I haven't thought about that incompetent, big-headed loser in a long, long time. I think that's a good thing, right? I just thought of him again when I read about the spring orientation. Seriously, it was the first time in several months I'd thought of him. Then I was reminded that I wanted to keep this blog for the express purpose of naming him and calling him out once I graduate and am admitted to the bar. Maybe that's not such a good idea. But he was just so incompetent, lazy and stupid that I'd probably be doing a disservice to the legal community if I didn't call him out. Yeah, maybe not. I'll see.

I have yet to check any grades. According to an e-mail from the registrar, some have been posted. This is an impressive display of willpower on my part because it's easy to say that I don't care. But I do...

Are you going to see the movie The Hitcher? The previews look good but movies like that are sometimes so inane that you feel like you were robbed of your $9...