Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Legally-Themed Halloween Costumes on a Budget

Halloween is just a couple of days away.  Still need a costume and tight on cash?  Here are a few quick and easy Halloween costumes that are likely to meet your budget and be a hit at any law school Halloween party.

Solo Costume Ideas
  1. Lady Justice/Socratic Method: Got a bed sheet?  Great!  Turn it into a toga.  Become Lady Justice by adding a blindfold (or a sleep mask from the dollar store) and a string, attaching each end to small paper plates to create your Scales of Justice.  Or, become the Socratic Method by adding Socrates name tag.  Be particular about how your drinks are made or the way you eat something and say, “Hey, it’s my method.” 
  2. In-House Counsel: Become your own In-House Counsel by taking a large box and decorate it to look like a house. Create holes so you can wear the box.  Dress in a suit and hold a briefcase. 
  3. Miss Trial: Be the beauty at your party by becoming Miss Trial.  Fix up your hair and make-up, put on a dress or a fun ball gown from a local thrift store.  Create a sash that says “Trial” and wear a tiara from the dollar store. 
  4. eCard:  There are tons of law school eCards out there.  Take a bright colored poster board and write a quirky law school-related message.  Put the eCard logo on the bottom.  Dress like one of the caricatures and attach the poster board to your back.  Use this one for inspiration.

Couple Costume Ideas
  1. Assault and Battery:  This pun-inspired costume has become pretty popular, but if you’re out of time and cash, then it’s still fun!  One of you can decorate a poster board or box to look like a Morton’s salt container.  The other can decorate the poster board of box to look like a battery. 
  2. Any Court Case:  Slap on a pair of red mittens (or, if you have them, boxing gloves) and with a few extra props you can become a court case name.  For instance, International Shoe v. Washington – one person can dress up like George Washington. To pull off an international shoe, just tape a fake passport to your boot or cut a magazine picture of a shoe, pin it to your shirt and put on a beret. Another more elaborate example might be Roe v. Wade.  Check out this couple’s version.  Any case involving the United States would be pretty easy, with one person wearing a USA shirt or red, white and blue. 

Group Costume Ideas
  1. The Supreme Court:  Dig out your college graduation gowns (most are typically black), add a few accessories, and you and your friends can dress as the U.S. Supreme Court! No one can dissent to your clever group costume! 
  2. Swim with the Sharks:  One bold person wears their bathing suit, while the rest of the group wears suits, clasps briefcases, and throws on one of these inexpensive shark hats or wears a fin out of construction paper pinned to their back.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rural Attorneys Needed

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Only 64.4% of the Class of 2013 was able to find jobs that required bar passage – and not all jobs were expected to last after one year.  While up from the years before, this is still a low employment for new lawyers.  Is it still the market that is causing hardship or are new graduates looking in the wrong places?
In the past, I’ve noted opportunities in South Dakota where subsidies were offered to lawyers who live and work in a rural area. I’ve discussed other available opportunities even while still in law school such as Minnesota’s part-time hybrid legal education for which students can even receive funding.
According to the National Association of Counties, roughly 20% of U.S. citizens live in rural areas and only 2% of law practices operate from these locations.  Now, Nebraska is another state who is expressing its need.  Presently, some Nebraska residents have to drive as far as 100 miles in order to find an attorney.  The Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy created the Rural Practice Loan Repayment Assistance Program.  Law grads who commit to serving under-served areas for at least three years are being offered up to $6,000 per year to repay student loans.  The commission is considering paying those in the program for up to seven years.  So while the assistance may not help pay off the entirety of your loans, it certainly would help.  Additionally, you’ll definitely have business and the cost of living in rural areas is much better than in more urban areas.
Imagine the possibilities – job, loan repayment assistance, and experience.  It may be worthwhile at least for a few years.  You could be steady on your feet financially and have the experience that Biglaw or bigger cities are looking for while your law grad counterparts are still looking for their first job and are buried beneath their student loan debt.  Or, you may decide the country lifestyle suits you.  Rural areas across the country are in need and are providing opportunities definitely worth considering.  Make sure you keep them in mind!
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Student Debt: An International Crisis

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Apparently America isn’t the only country with a student debt problem.  As America attempts to avoid the crisis by looking to taxpayers for assistance or changing the types of repayment, the UK is taking a different approach.
The UK is tired of the burden European students are putting on the taxpayer.  In order to claim assistance from their government, currently students have to be a resident of the EU government for three years, which the UK is thinking about changing to a five-year requirement.  Additionally, the amount that students used to be able to claim for tuition and living expenses was rather substantial, and seems to have been taken advantage of as the student population went from claiming £75 million for the 2009-2010 academic year to £162 million for the 2012-2013 school year.  The government hopes that the new five-year requirement will cut back on the amount of students who can make these claims, decreasing the total amount borrowed from taxpayers.
Interestingly, the repayment system is run through the tax system.  Therefore, British students automatically repay their loans through the UK tax system.  Unfortunately, this same system is not in place throughout mainland Europe; therefore, many Europeans are leaving the UK without repaying their debt, causing a multi-million pound tight spot for the UK government.  They expect the residency requirement to also help solve this problem.
What do you think of the UK’s student loan approach?  Should we implement any of these ideas to our own federal student loan system or do you think this just opens a whole bunch of other issues?

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Double-Dipping is More Than a Party Foul

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“Did you just double-dip that chip?"
"Excuse me?"
"You double-dipped the chip."
"Double-dipped? What are you talking about?"
"You dipped the chip, you took a bite, and you dipped again."
"That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. Look, from now on when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it."
"Well, I'm sorry Timmy, but I don't dip that way."
"Oh, you don't, huh?"
"No. You dip the way you want to dip, I'll dip the way I want to dip."
- Timmy and George, in "The Implant" Seinfeld

Recently, a student division of the American Bar Association argued to allow paid internships count for class credit.  Currently there is a ban, which only permits academic credit for unpaid externships.  Joe Zeidner, representative of the 35,000 members, fought to change the ban citing the major financial stress students are under while graduating with unprecedented debt and low job prospects.
The ABA eventually turned down the proposal, arguing that a conflict of interest arises when students are taking orders by an employer and simultaneously managing requirements from the school.  However, the ABA did make some changes that could help students with some of their financial and educational issues such as removing the work hour cap during the school year and offering more online classes.
Although the ABA is said to still be considering revising the ban, I’m not so sure the ban should be lifted.  While I would usually be all in favor of double-dipping time in law school to both minimize your debt and maximize your opportunities – which having a paid internship that simultaneously counts as course credit would be the epitome of that – I think it would set a dangerous learning precedent.  Teaching students that it’s ok to get paid essentially twice for the same hour contradicts what is allowed in the Code of Ethics.  It’s not like you can bill a client for your time in a Continuous Legal Education (CLE) class or multi-task your time and bill multiple clients for that same hour.  You’d lose your license. 
Further, claiming that it is “unfair” that students have to choose between unpaid externships for class credit and paid internships for money is ridiculous.  You have to prioritize.  If you’re worried about money, take the paid internship or budget your finances better.  If you need more class credit, maybe you should be taking more hours during the semester.  With the twenty hour working cap removed, there should be no reason to have to choose one over the other.  No one said law school would be easy – and if someone said those words to you, they were lying.  Learn to hustle now, and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re faced with a poor job market or competing for partnership and won’t be looking for some arguably unethical loophole to give yourself a step up.  Just take one dip and end it.

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