Earlier this week, my Securities Regulation class had a conference with a law firm about a stock offering that one of their clients did in the past. The day started by proving the adage, technology is great, when it works. The class was being given via video conference with the firm’s office in New York. Unfortunately, the IT guys on each side of the feed couldn’t seem to get it together. After twenty minutes of tinkering, and some help from the more tech savvy generation in the class, everything was up and running. The talk was actually amazing, for those of us planning to play in the corporate law pool. I won’t go into details, due to issues of confidentiality, but it was great to see practical application of the abstract rules we study each day. On top of that, the two attorneys that we were speaking to were Suffolk Law alumni, showing that our alumni really do like us. Anyone listening definitely learned that it is better to talk to your attorney before you do something stupid. It is much easier for us to be your wilderness guide around the pitfalls of the world, rather than your ER doctor trying to put your deal back together after falling off a cliff. Overall, this was an engaging talk with two experienced attorneys that really left you wanting more, and considering heading into a life of corporate law.
We have come to that time of the year again, when everything starts to ramp up for us law students. It’s kind of like the home stretch of the marathon, where the runners tap into whatever reserves they still have, to run even faster towards to the goal. For me, the reserves are currently devoted toward legal writing. It’s amazing how much time it takes to do legal writing. I spent last week essentially under a rock, working on an appellate brief for an appellate practice class. Once it was done, I met with my professor, to find out that there was a great deal of room for improvement. Although, to be fair, it is easier for me and my fellow upperclassmen, than our first year brethren. They are already moving into their final exam thinking mode, as they come to the end, for every class. For the upperclassmen, usually we have one or two classes pour it on at the end, but not all of them. That being said, I am positive the first years will make it through, just as the rest of us had to, and they will be tougher for it. As they say, what doesn’t get you, just makes you stronger.
Everyone in Boston comes out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, reveling in their Irish heritage, or adopting the background they never had with a whiskey in hand. The Irish American Law Students Association today had their annual Irish American of the year event. The festivities are always a blast, and this year did not disappoint. Our Irish brethren supply a selection of Irish beers, and invite Alumni, faculty, and students alike to join in celebration to honor the members of the community receiving their Irish American of the Year Awards. This event was a great opportunity to spend some time talking with attorneys in the field, as well as the faculty outside of the classroom. I once again had the pleasure talking to Judge Greaney, a law professor, retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and one of the toughest Mock Trial Judges based on his questions during this year’s Clark Competition. In the background of this scene was a live performer singing such classic Celtic songs as “Wild Mountain Thyme”, and merry drinking tunes like “Whiskey in the Jar”. The event gave all of us at Suffolk another opportunity to embrace the Irish in us, while celebrating the accomplishments of what has been a great year.
The Clark Trial Competition is a battle that is held every year here at Suffolk, and is one of the few mock trial competitions open to all levels of students. Anyone that wants to play the game has to find themselves a partner, submit an appellate brief (not an easy piece of writing if I do say so myself), and then argue it out in the courtroom. Once you get past the preliminaries, then it’s winner take all to the end. The final round of the fight this year had an amazing panel, including three Massachusetts Appellate Court judges, a Bankruptcy Court judge, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge, one attorney, and was led my our own Judge Greaney (retired Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court). The panel was brutal to the competitors, constantly challenging them on their position as to whether the strip searching of every inmate at their intake was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The competition was fierce, and all the advocates showed the kind of mettle that every courtroom attorney needs when they face such a panel. The lesson of the day about this competition is that regardless of how brilliant the judging panel, and intimidating the competition, if you want to spend time in court, these are the exact kinds of fires you should walk through before you get there. Having been a competitor in many such competition myself, nothing really teaches you like taking the plunge. Trust me, you will make plenty of mistakes, but now is the time to iron them out, because no one’s dignity or freedom is on the line when you lose in law school. Out in the real world, not so much.
For those that don’t know, the Massachusetts Bar Exam was administered last week. Several of my friends that graduated in December had been working harder than they ever had before to prepare themselves for the test. On Friday and Saturday, I went drinking with many of them, and asked them what they thought. Every one of them thought the review class tests that they took were harder than the actual exam. I am not sure whether that should be a relief. Regardless, it was clear that it had not really hit any of them quite yet; the Bar Exam was over. No more studying, no more being constantly short of time, but rather relaxation. At least until they move on to their legal jobs, where anyone who has every worked in the field knows, that you are always wishing you had another day to get things done. It is my hope that every one of them passes the test, and that each of us future bar exam takers will agree with them that the test wasn’t that bad. At this point in the game, I am not convinced that is going to be true. But, hey, I was wrong once, so it may happen again.
Yesterday was the Suffolk Public Law Interest Group’s (SPILG) auction, which is one of the largest events put on by a student organization. This is always a really fun event. Things actually started on Tuesday, with the silent auction. The club takes over the Great Hall on the first floor and places out over 150 silent auction items for the students, staff, and faculty of the school to bid on. Then after the silent auction ends, they hold their live auction, where they sell off dinners and drinks with professors, as well as vacations and other expensive items. The live auction is always very energizing, because they get an actual auctioneer to pump up the crowd. There is tons of food and free beer, so as people get a little tipsy, they start spending more. I personally bid on several things, but was not the winner. I was sad to see that there was no pool game and beers being offered from one of our professors. I won’t name names, but trust me when I say there is a pool shark hiding among the professor sea life. One of the best things about the auction is that the proceeds go to cover scholarships to students for their summer internships that are not able to pay them, so even if you overbid on an item, you can have that to comfort you.
As a member of the SBA, my last Wednesday of the month is always sacrificed at the monthly meetings. The meetings start out with updates from the Executive Board members, like myself, so that the Section Representatives know what is going on, and can report it back to their sections. These meetings always show me why becoming a politician is difficult to stomach and survive. The amount of politics that go into the local level of things is so intense that it always makes me wonder how people survive it to move up the ranks to a higher echelon of politics. Now that being said, the meetings are actually really useful, because I wouldn’t know half of what is going on at the school if we didn’t have a forum like this. As an example, the date and location of our Spring Fling (in law school lingo, that is our spring dance) was announced for the first time at the meeting. We also make funding determinations about which student organizations are getting what money for their events, which often takes quite a bit of discussion to hash out. When it is all said and done, most of us go get a beer together and are still friends, even if we don’t agree with each other’s position on a point. Well, sometimes its more than one beer, depending on the meeting.
On Thursday, the Journal of High Technology co-sponsored a panel about patent litigation, which focused on the “nuts and bolts” of trial work. The panel consisted of two esteemed sitting judges. First, was Chief Judge Randall Rader of the US Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Rader has taught law around the country, as well as teaching in Tokyo, Beijing, and Munich. He has released several preeminent books, and received many awards for his contributions to the law. The second member of the Panel was Judge Young of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Judge Young terms himself as always being “a spear carrying trial judge”, and is known for being one of the most active judges in the patent litigation field within Massachusetts. As the discussion about trial work progressed, the conversation turned to the question of case management, and exactly how one goes about paring down, what are often, bloated patent litigations. Chief Judge Rader proposed using summary judgment motions to do the work, and Judge Young retorted that time limits are the way to go. By the time it was over, although they were always respectful of one another, they were both getting rather animated. After Chief Judge Rader said that poorly argued summary judgment claims can still be useful to limit what goes to trial, Judge Young retorted, “You can’t shoot just to wound the King, you have to shoot to kill him. So, I would dismiss the whole case if it was a weakly argued motion for summary judgment, not just pieces of it.”
It just goes to show you that even judges, who everyone thinks are a stuffy bunch, can get just as passionate about things as everyone else, even over seemingly boring topics like case management.
Let it be known that those research skills that we pick up as law students really do come in handy. As part of my MBA program, I received a fellowship to work as a research assistant for the Business Law and Ethics department of the Sawyer Business School. They love having us law students because we can quickly break down a topic, research it and tell the professor whether or not a topic is a good one to write about. I just got done doing a literature review for one of the professors, and will be giving them the good news about their topic this coming week. As students, we often have difficulty gauging exactly where we are, because we either have weeks to do the assignment, or know that the professor is eventually going to tell us which cases to use. It really is refreshing to have someone trust the skills you have acquired, and working under the gun certainly helps to hone your confidence in those skills. If you get the opportunity to work as a research assistant in law school, I say take it. It is better to understand if your skills need help before your career is on the line for a major screw up.
The time of year has come again for my editees at the Journal of High Technology to submit the first full drafts of their notes for review. For those not up on law journal lingo, a note is not merely a short passage informing me of something that they want, but rather a grueling 30 to 40 page work of intellectual might. It is the culmination of the work that our members do trying to get published. The notes are always interesting, but trust me when I say that by the time they are done, the writers are often sick of their notes. You work on it day in and day out, for the whole year, so you tend to get tired of it. It is not fun, but it is great to see your name in print if you get to have your note published. Well, in digital print for us, since we publish our works online. We are the Journal of High Technology after all, so of course we can bend technology to our will. Regardless, you know I am going to have a fun weekend with these notes. But hey, making sure that we are producing high quality works is what they pay me for. Wait, they don’t pay me…I think it may be time for renegotiation, since it appears that I got the raw end of this deal.