Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sex, money, juries, and administrative bodies


I don’t mind when a juror is deadpan or stone-faced.  What does bother me, however, is when I see jurors sighing, eye-rolling, sleeping (literally), and complaining in the courthouse hallways about how they don’t want to be there.  (Is watching a jury trial and protecting a fellow citizen from a wrongful conviction really that much worse than their regular jobs?)  Some jurors just don’t seem to realize that it could easily be them sitting at the defense table, instead of in the jury box.  If they understood this, they would instantly appreciate the importance of having an alert (or at least conscious) jury.

But despite my own feelings on the subject, one recent criminal defendant must have been furious with his jury.  The evidence showed that he had taken a passing interest in a woman who—oops!—was an undercover cop.  He was then criminally charged with propositioning her for sexual intercourse, which required the state to prove that, roughly speaking, he (1) requested sexual intercourse (2) in exchange for money. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The law school industrial complex: “Will somebody please incentivize me?”

Law professors have it pretty easy.  First, they make a lot of money—sometimes "between $320,000 and $410,000 per year" when you count their stipends, bonuses, and other creatively-labeled cash payments.  (In fairness, though, a prof’s total salary at most law schools typically falls within the $110,000 - $225,000 range.)  Second, they teach only three or four courses per year—that’s right, per year—and the word “year” in law school-speak equates to about eight months out of the calendar year; in other words, summers off.  Third, while requirements vary, typically a law professor will only have to publish four articles in seven years in order to get tenure.  (To put this into context, in my most recent seven-year span I’ve published more than three times that much—ten articles and two books—in addition to actually practicing law.)

Now, high pay and lax job requirements are fair game for criticism (especially if you’re a recent, unemployed law grad who had to foot the bill for the professors’ laidback lifestyle), but what really upset me was that two professors actually published an article about how to “incentivize scholarship”—something that is already part of the highly-paid law prof’s job.  Stated another way, professors are publishing articles about how to get professors to publish articles.  No kidding.  According to this summary, here are ways for law schools to “provide greater institutional support for their faculty's research efforts”:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The difference between doctors and lawyers


Thursdays on NBC
A law degree is really just a second bachelor’s degree.  Sure, you need a B.S. or B.A. (or B.-something) to get admitted to law school, but there are no other prerequisites.  In other words, a B.F.A. in puppetry with an emphasis in children’s theatre from the University of West Virginia will get you into law school just as easily as a B.S. in bioengineering from Cal Tech.  (In fact, the law degree used to be called the LL.B., or bachelor of laws, but its name was changed to J.D., or juris doctor—probably in an effort to gain respect and prestige.)  But medical schools, on the other hand, require very specific and rigorous coursework before an applicant can even be admitted, let alone graduated and licensed.  (Puppetry majors need not apply.)   

In addition to education, another thing that separates lawyers from doctors is supply and demand.  Due to a massive oversupply, law graduates today have very limited employment opportunities, and, for those who are "lucky" enough to land law-related jobs, they often earn very little money.  Doctors, on the other hand, remain highly employable.    

But despite all of this, a brilliant television show called Community hit the nail right on the head about three years ago.  The following exchange between characters Jeff and Abed, in the episode “Beginner Pottery,” brilliantly and succinctly captures the difference between doctors and lawyers: