Archive for ""
It’s campaign season, the time of year for personal reinvention.
On Monday morning, 6:56 a.m. EST, the IT Team announced the launch of a remodeled BLSConnect. As is often the case with such declarations, the tone of the missive flitted between modesty and self-approval. The IT Team, after all, was eager to demonstrate its mettle, especially after months of dickey servers and log-in problems.
In the e-mail, fancy tech features were trotted out like show dogs. The new Connect would boast “improved search and navigation functionality.” There would be more links, an innovative calendar. And because the revamped interface was modeled according to student “feedback,” a refined navigational dashboard would now guide meandering users compass-like where its predecessor had merely spun about.
But, alas, the inaugural ticker tape was deployed too early. When students awoke from their fitful dreams, they found the good old BLSConnect “welcome screen” transformed into a hideous error message. User names and passwords were rendered useless. Pretty soon the IT Team had sent out another e-mail, this one an apology. Apparently, it conceded, people were experiencing “log-in problems.” Many people.
How well does this auger for the new BLSConnect? Surely in its race to win over the student body, the IT Team had wished to start anew, to put behind them not only the widely reviled original Connect, but the persistent sentiment around campus that the Team itself couldn’t handle user demand. Premiering the new system simply to have it crash, like a maiden cruise liner listing toward the jetty, could only undermine the IT Department’s credibility.
Yet politics, whether national or campus-wide, are all about comebacks. By Tuesday, the Team had sent out another e-mail. They had seemingly corrected the problem, whatever it had been. Students could now log in and explore the new Connect. Gone were the clunky interface, the crowded menu bar, the dizzyingly unintuitive navigation options. Missing, too, was the Public Interest tab, apparently a relic from a more compassionate time. In their place, users found softer edges, sharper connections. And like a luminous Arkansas presidential nominee having weathered a scandal, the Connect site emerged reborn.
Inaugurations are odd. They’re celebrations of the untested. The newly elected politician is met with jubilation and good cheer, despite having pronounced nothing but promises. So too the announcement of a new tech product; it’s only a vague assurance of improved performance. The real test begins once the ticker tape is swept from the public square.
Maybe it’s simply my American affection for the underdog, but the IT Team, one of BLS’s most recognized and publicly discussed departments, has all the makings of a great politician. They disappoint, they fail, they flounder. Sometimes we wish them ill. But they always apologize, dust themselves off, and try to win us back.
Over the past few weeks, while trying to get my new organization, Monthly Expense Project, recognized by the SBA, and while trying to advertise for my Open Mic event, I have been exposed to the bureaucracy of the student body. That’s right, the student body– not the administration—and I believe I have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. (It is important here to note that I take no issue with the SBA in regards to MEP, as they were actually quite supportive of my proposal).
I posted an ad on the window of the student lounge on the first floor, and the student lounge in the library 1M floor. Both were up on Friday morning (and had been up for two days), and down Saturday morning. I asked the guard what happened and he said that a dean probably complained and asked a maintenance worker to take it down. I’d like to investigate this because I actually think a student did it.
I am going to avoid the argument that my First Amendment rights have been violated by the removal of this ad because I don’t have enough space in this column for that (and because BLS is a private institution, not a public one). But someone, a friend of mine, stated that we “signed something away” when we signed up to go to school here, and one of these freedoms was the ability to post an advertisement on glass. This was a two-sided ad, which is to be sure, a rarity in the advertising world. How do we reward creativity? We ban it.
I understand the prudential arguments – that other members of the co-sponsoring clubs did not want to be seen to be associated with someone so unstable and crazy as to post an ad with hundreds of words of text, and several “controversial” statements about religion, sexuality, how no one would show up to the event, and how no one would even read the ad. Never mind that the co-chair of this special sequence of events read the ad and saw no problem with it. Even after I revised the ad and put up a huge disclaimer, the complainants felt this was even more offensive in a way. I can’t win.
BLS does state a policy [pdf] on advertising on bulletin boards: students may utilize bulletin boards if their flyer complies with all requirements. My flyer complied with all requirements – except I noted my address at gmail, not brooklaw. What a mistake. Nobody mentioned the *beverages* line in it, which was arguably the most “illegal” thing about it. Moreover, I was told, we cannot advertise on glass. While this provision mentioned bulletin boards specifically, we can get into a kind of statutory construction argument here – does the omission of glass in the policy statement imply that it is allowed, or not? In this case, not, so long as it advances your argument.
I know the ABA is coming to visit soon, and believe me, if those ads were taken down the day before this visit, I would understand and not complain. But we have about 8 days until the event, and it is necessary to get as much interest as possible.
Even so, I do not believe that advertising on glass is something that an ABA representative would see and consider it so offensive that it would negatively criticize BLS – it would show that students have an interest in making their voices heard – which is something that law school implicitly encourages. We have a class on the First Amendment, and we consider which forms of speech are protected, and which are not. I have not taken First Amendment Con Law, but let me try to make an educated guess, and you can comment and tell me if I’m wrong about it:
I think the question to consider is this: does the school’s interest in restricting my speech outweigh my interest in making that speech? In the case of an ABA visit, perhaps, but even that is a speculative assertion. The ABA might, perhaps, care more about post-graduation employment data, or the cut-backs on summer public service grant funding, or whether BLS intends to keep their incoming classes smaller, like the current 1L class.
I think I’d lose this case because my opportunities to advertise elsewhere are ample. Regardless, I can’t help but feel that this underscores the hypocrisy of the institution – not BLS itself, but the institution of law school. It is not the time and place to take the administration to task – that will be next week – but schools that want to encourage free and open debate should not remove posters without any notice to the student responsible. It’s possible that the students I had these “free and open debates” with removed them, and I’d like to know if the administration had any problem with them. In general, while I am unhappy about losing 45% of my funding for this year, and $2,000 for funding next summer, the administration has not seriously “screwed me” on anything (negligent misrepresentation aside, for now), and in general, has never aimed to hinder my interest in free speech. It has always been students. Until the truth about the removal of this ad comes out, the burden is on the defendants to rebut my presumption.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He does not enjoy getting into fights. Please e-mail him at Christopher.email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (if you prefer the chat thing) for any comments, criticisms, or interest in performing at the Vagina Monologues/Open Mic event on April 5, 2012, from 7:00 – 10:00 PM at Geraldo’s.
It’s official: Nicholas Allard will be the new dean of Brooklyn Law School beginning on July 1st of this year.
On Sunday, January 29th, members of the faculty met to discuss their preferred candidate to take over the reins from Interim Dean Michael Gerber. The faculty submitted their choices to the Board of Trustees for final approval, and inside sources told The BLS Advocate that members of the faculty submitted Allard’s name as their first choice.
Brooklyn Law School President Joan G. Wexler notified the BLS community this morning via email that Allard, partner at Patton Boggs, LLP, will be the next dean.
“Nick’s talents and experience will be great assets in helping us prepare the next generation of Brooklyn Law School lawyers,” said President Wexler. “He will be an inspirational leader.”
Allard, endorsed by the editorial staff of the Advocate on January 25th and currently leading in an informal poll of the Advocate‘s readership, had stiff competition, beating three well-qualified candidates. Russell Osgood, who had originally placed first in the poll, had already been dean of Cornell Law School, as well as one of two finalists for the deanship at Boston College Law School. Janet Levit is currently dean of the University of Tulsa College of Law. Lawrence Solan is Brooklyn’s own Don Forchelli Professor of Law.
Allard was the only candidate to come directly from private practice. His extensive lobbying experience shows through his demeanor—overtly chummy, yet serious. At his question and answer session with students, Allard spoke extensively about his family and his hopes to hold many events to get to know the students of BLS.
A Rhodes Scholar, Allard’s credentials are impeccable, having clerked for two federal judges and served on the staffs of both Senators Daniel Patrick Moynahan and Ted Kennedy. Allard was also recently named as a finalist in the University of Baltimore Law School’s dean search.
“I am not Roscoe Pound. I am not Brandeis,” he said to students during his visit.
But hopefully, our new dean will do great things for Brooklyn Law School.
Ah, Prom Night – all we are missing are pretty corsages, a crowned King & Queen, and white SUV limousines. At least we compensate with our 21+ ability to booze as much as we want (or at least until midnight). I openly admit here that I love getting decked out, getting sloshed, and showing off my dance moves to the best of my non-legal abilities. The tension between old BLSGs culminates as we eye each other across the dance floor, while new BLSGs are simultaneously discovered at the open bar or buffet table.
The set-up seems to always stay the same (cocktails, dinner, DJ) but each Barrister’s I’ve experienced always has a different feel to it. Perhaps this is due to what point I was in my life when I went (unlike my first year, I ran to get a table this year once the main room opened). Or, maybe it’s because I was dealing with different BLSGs each time. As a 1L, for instance, I went just to make a post-BLSG jealous…obviously, he didn’t even bother to show up.
SBA (halfheartedly) attempted to instill a “masquerade” theme, but due to the sheer volume of jobless 3Ls, they should instead have opted for: “I can actually afford to have fun!” Indeed, there were several reports of students using their potential employment status as a bona fide flirting mechanism (only at BLS would this happen). And as our student government neglected to lower the price of admission, many noticed the low attendance this year – perhaps they should keep this in mind for future balls…
Besides the monetary concerns, there are always the general “dissenters” who refuse to attend a school-sponsored function that requires “school bus” transportation and has “alcohol police” to make sure you don’t rock out while holding onto your drinks (oh the liabilities!). And why socialize with students you already spend all your time with? For this, I have no clear-cut answer: maybe some of us are making up for a poor prom experience (cough cough), want to practice some people skills rather than remaining holed up in the library, or just want to spend time with some pretty awesome people they formed strong bonds with during their years here. Long after my journey at BLS ends, Barrister’s Ball – the law school version of prom night – will forever be one of my favorite memories.
They may no longer have the iconic neon sign that once read “Pizza Salad” or the prized location at the five-way intersection – Fulton Street, Willoughby Street, Adams Street, Joralemon Street and Boerum Place – in Downtown Brooklyn that made Tony’s Famous Pizza such a frequent destination for Brooklyn Law School students, but at Antonio’s, the newest of Antonio Casaccio’s family-owned pizzerias, they’re still serving up the same delicious pizza that earned Tony’s the reputation for the best slice in the neighborhood.
Originally hailing from Sicily, the Casaccio family maintained the corner storefront for twenty years, growing a loyal customer base and a brisk business in the process. Over that time, the day-to-day operations were passed down through the generations of the family, eventually resting with Mr. Casaccio’s grandchildren, Frank and Giovanna.
However, when the most recent lease on the property expired, the owners of the building chose not to renew it, no doubt in search of a new, higher-profile tenant to better mesh with the myriad of changes coming to the Fulton Mall. Accordingly, the location has since been taken over by a certain hamburger establishment which, although popular, has been the subject of some recent criticism.
A few weeks after shutting down in February 2011, Tony’s Famous Pizza reopened on Dekalb Avenue, just west of Flatbush. Although this allowed the family-owned business to keep its culinary tradition alive, the new location didn’t have quite the same foot traffic as the original Tony’s, and the longer walk from BLS made it difficult for some students to eat there as often as they had once enjoyed.
So, it was to the considerable delight of many that, just last month – almost exactly one year to the day since the neon lights went out at Tony’s – Antonio’s opened its doors at 32 Court Street. The initial reviews from customers have been excellent. John Cleaver, a third year student at BLS and frequent customer at Tony’s, said he felt the pizza at Antonio’s was even better than before. “The crust is crispier and the sauce is tastier. I guess they decided to step up their game, even though their old slice was legitimately good,” said Cleaver.
Just a few weeks after opening, business has already begun to pick up as more and more people in the neighborhood take notice and come to remember the warm embrace of a slice of Casaccio family pizza. And the family, which extends its gratitude to the students and staff of BLS for their many years of patronage, is more than ready to welcome everyone back.
Though the décor in the new restaurant has added a distinct touch of class, Antonio’s thankfully retains the same atmosphere as Tony’s, and many of the same faces as well. Besides Frank and Giovanna, former patrons will also recognize the familiar presence of long-time employees like Victor and Carlos. They make up a group that has worked together for years, in essence creating a family within a family business. And, while their boisterous, uninhibited personalities may sometimes come as a surprise to the uninitiated, they also help to make Antonio’s something which – much to this author’s chagrin – has become increasingly rare today: a truly authentic Brooklyn pizzeria.
Like the other Casaccio family establishments, Antonio’s offer a wide variety of delicious specialty pies, custom smoothies, and salads made-to-order. None of these offerings has ever failed to satisfy this seasoned patron.
However, as any real lover of pizza knows, the mark of a truly great pizzeria is the quality of its plain, cheese pie. Anybody with access to an oven and New York City tap-water can heap toppings on a pizza and make it palatable. But these days, few and far between are the pizzerias that can consistently create simple, elegant perfection from just cheese, sauce and crust. It is, quite simply, an Italian-American art form, and it is what makes Antonio’s so truly special.
That is certainly the sentiment that seems to be returning to Brooklyn Law School. “It’s good to see the old faces there,” noted Cleaver. “I look forward to eating pizza from Antonio’s far more often than I probably should.” And considering the 20% discount offered to BLS students, who could really blame him?
Around this time of the semester, it’s important that you keep your priorities straight. As a 2L, I can only speak to my present experience and my experience last year. 3Ls, I will attempt to anticipate your priorities.
In order to measure this model appropriately, I am going to use the inverted pyramid that Dean Gerber has supplied us with in his Business Reorganizations class. The inverted pyramid is the priority scheme for Chapter 11 claims. There are 9 levels. If you are at the bottom (equity/shareholders) you stand the greatest risk of receiving zero, so any task at the bottom may in fact, not be given any time at all.
We will start with 1Ls, as I know them best. Now, as a BLSPI mentor, I was recently instructed to e-mail my mentee and tell him/her to “stay strong” during this week, as it’s a particularly brutal one. Moot Court Trial Division tryouts were this week, and if you participated, it was likely that you could not do any other homework until your tryout was finished. The anxiety of it all was crushing. And then, when you entered that room, the judges told you to “have fun.”
Moot Court is probably a senior secured claim/senior lien for anyone dying to get the chance to act like a lawyer before they officially become one. Almost everyone I know on Moot Court (trial, at least) has told me that it has been the most rewarding experience in law school for them, period.
For individuals such as myself, who were 2Ls trying to do the impossible –that is, make Moot Court and a Journal through an open note —who had the draft of the paper intended for the open note due Friday – it presented a quandary. Clearly, for me, moot court/open note occupy high rungs on the inverted pyramid. However, I doubt I will be advancing to the next round (I ended up the one getting crucified on cross, not the defendant—and update: I did not advance), and so one more claim will be allowed to fit.
For the sake of simplicity, I will offer my suggestions for prioritizations now. You may fill in your own pyramid if you like, but I include my own personal one in the illustration, and the “generic one” for all 2Ls in the text below.
1Ls (Who Want to Work for Skadden, et. al.):
1 Studying/Outlining/Exam Practice – GRADES (note: Moot Court may be occupying #1 if you are called into the 2nd round) – YOU MUST BE IN THE TOP 10% TO BE CONSIDERED FOR OCI
2 Class Participation
3 Getting a Summer Internship
4 Making Friends and Influencing People (partying, dating, etc.)
5 Journal Competition
6 Getting to Know Professors
7 Getting Involved in the City Bar
8 Thinking about Transfer Opportunities
9 Staying Sexy.
(A short revision for those 1Ls that have no interest in the big paycheck (because, you know, about 1-3% of the classmates in our year will actually be getting those jobs): becoming as involved in Pro Bono Projects as possible is probably the best thing you can do if you are a public interest person, and that should be in your top 3 — probably #3, as it’s possible for the internship to follow naturally from the Pro Bono work.)
1 Grades/Moot Court/Journal (if you didn’t make OCI, and you’re not working as a summer associate, grades should still be top priority – if you are on Moot Court or Journal, I believe these take top priority—If you are on both, Moot Court takes priority in terms of time over Journal, which varies by deadlines)
2 Getting Internships or Clinics for the Fall and Spring
3 Getting a Summer Internship/Job
4 Making Friends and Influencing People
5 Defining Your Area of Focus
6 Pet Projects (Writing Contests, Clubs, Shot-by-Shot Remakes)
7 Building Relationships with Professors
8 Staying Sexy
9 Making Yourself Stand Out
1 Securing a Job after Graduation
2 Moot Court/Journal
3 Getting Internships or Clinics in the Fall and Spring
4 Making Friends and Influencing People
6 Staying Sexy
7 Chilling Out (if you are so lucky to be able to!)
8 Publishing Articles
9 Defining Your Reputation/Leaving Your Mark
Of course, dictating priorities is always controversial, but I do believe there is one generic, straightforward, guiding principle that controls: law school can be extremely boring at times, and you need to find the part about it that you love, and put yourself in that happy (or, more accurately, “fun”) place as often as possible. For me, it is being 29 and getting to hang out with 23-year-olds and getting to act immature. Those lost years I spent working in the wilderness of the low-wage sector with few friends or similarly-situated co-workers have been recompensed by making new friends in the same situation, with a slightly wider age range. No matter what priority scheme applies to the “reorganization” of your professional persona, appropriate management of priorities is a simple, yet useful method of reducing stress.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L with very strange priorities. One of them is to hold an Open Mic on Thursday, April 5th, in Geraldo’s, from 7-10 PM. He hopes you will consider performing, or at least attending. The event is free but there will be voluntary $5 donations taken for Sanctuary for Families, and free food and beverages. There will also be performances of Vagina Monologues. Please e-mail Christopher.Knorps@brooklaw.edu if interested in performing or reading or singing or dancing or playing.
Imagine this: You’re at work one day long after law school has ended. One of your clients comes in for a meeting and asks you to assist him with his latest project: writing the basic rules for his new country. You’re a little skeptical about this because you work in family law, but it’s been a slow week and he’s paying in cash.
A week passes. You’ve dotted your “Is,” crossed your “Ts” and everything looks great. Your client asked for democratically elected leaders, so you gave everyone the right to vote. And that’s what he calls you about, the next day, in a panic, saying, “Well, you know, I’d like to make sure my friends and I stay in power. Can you do that for me?” You now find yourself with two choices: Refuse on ethical grounds and take the money that he owes you, or make the changes because you knew he wasn’t serious to begin with (despite reading that 1,500 law students got together somewhere and bought an island). History shows that our leaders have asked, “how do I stay in power” from the beginning. Current events show us they still do.
There are two, and only two steps to winning an election: (1) convince people to vote for you, and (2) prevent people from voting for your opponent. Step (1) is fairly straightforward. The candidate presents himself (or herself) to the people via TV commercials, in-person appearances, debates, and The View in an effort to convince voters that he (or she) will be a good elected official. When we think of step (2), most of us probably think about attack ads and unsavory former acquaintances that either push candidates out of the race or make voters think twice about the candidate. However, our politicians have been far more creative than that:
- During the Constitutional Convention, the Southern States gave the Northern States a choice: write protections for slavery into the Constitution, or have more than one country. The North took the first choice. Among these protections were the creation of the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Population determined representation in both. Free persons were counted as one person and slaves as 3/5 of a person. Therefore, any state with slaves received extra votes in the House and the Electoral College. The result: 10 of the first 15 U.S. Presidents were slaveholders. (Which may partially explain why the number of slaves tripled by 1845.)
- After the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, the former Confederate States found themselves with zero slaves, and a lot of new citizens. These new citizens outnumbered their former masters in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and made up a sizeable chunk of the citizens in the other Confederate States. The elected officials, legitimately concerned with the possibility that former slaves were likely to vote former slaveholders out of office, invented ways to prevent them from exercising their right to vote. Among these were poll taxes, threats, and intimidation. There were also tests. Voters would be asked questions such as, “how many bubbles are in a bar of soap?” Amazingly, none of the black voters could answer this question correctly, but all of the white voters could.
- Poll taxes were eliminated in 1964. The Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, ending official race-based discrimination. President Nixon began the “War on Drugs” began in 1970. How does this correlate? The Fourteenth Amendment provides that the right to vote cannot be denied for a citizen over the age of 21, but that it may be denied if the person has participated in a rebellion or “other crime.” The U.S. prison population was near 500,000 in 1970. Today it is 2.2 million. Another 3 million people are on parole, probation, or otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the penal system. In 2009, 12% (1.6 million) of all arrests were for drug abuse violations. Almost all of these people cannot vote. The prisoners? Disproportionately minority and disproportionately poor. Before 2008, only two states allowed all of their citizens the right to vote: Maine and Vermont. Kentucky and Virginia bar people with felony convictions from voting for life. The rest of the states fall somewhere in the middle.
Since 2008, the Republican Party has made no secret of its desire to see President Obama voted out of office in November. What has been less obvious until recently are some of the steps being taken to accomplish this goal:
- In June 2011, Maine’s Republican-led Legislature passed a measure ending Election Day voting registration. In November, the citizens of Maine voted to overturn the new law.
- Nine states introduced bills to reduce early voting periods. These bills [pdf] became law in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Florida’s law specifically ends early voting on the Sunday before the election – a day historically known for its high turnout of Black voters.
- An Arizona law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship was struck down. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to make a similar measure effective before November. In all, 12 states have introduced proof of citizenship legislation [pdf]. Only two states previously had such laws.
- Florida and Iowa used to end felons voting rights for life. Within the last few years, both restored the voting rights of their former prisoners. Recently, these restorations were overturned, affecting 200,000 former prisoners.
- Before 2011, only two states required photo IDs to vote. However, 34 states introduced legislation requiring photo ID to vote. Seven of these bills are now law. 21 million citizens do not possess a government-issued photo ID.
All of these measures are more likely to affect people voting for Democrats.
Our elected officials tell us that they introduced these bills to protect us against voter fraud. In the words of Stephen Colbert, “What fraud?” Voter fraud happens .00004% of the time. This means that if all 300 million U.S. citizens (including babies) voted, only 12,000 of these votes would be fraudulent.
Voting is not simply a way to choose leaders. Voting provides people a chance to directly impact how their government is run and express an opinion that might not otherwise be heard. Regardless of whether you consider voting a privilege or a right, one thing is clear: our elected officials want to win, and the voices of people who don’t vote, can’t vote, or are less likely to vote simply don’t matter.
My proposition: give all citizens over 18 the right to vote, without restriction. Allow your favorite politicians to take losses if they aren’t good enough at their jobs to get re-elected. Give them little incentive to win by displacing the competition or scaring us with false information. After all, I bet that most of us prefer our elected officials be honest with us rather than having us realize that their logic is insane.
I admit that you don’t have to go along with my proposition. But, you can petition your elected officials on the state and federal level, and ask them to consider ways to make sure the 2012 election is as fair as possible. For example:
- Don’t discriminate against equally valid forms of ID. The Texas ID law makes concealed carry permits acceptable, but student IDs unacceptable. Both are government issued IDs (at least in the case of public schools). However, the students are more likely to vote Democrat and the gun carriers are more likely to vote Republican, helping one party at the expense of the other.
- Make the proof of citizenship laws go into effect after November. Otherwise, the government is asking its citizens to (1) learn about the law, (2) locate birth certificates and naturalization papers, (3) in the case of married women, change their birth certificates and passports to match the married name, and/or (4) obtain a U.S. passport, which requires several proofs of its own all in nine months! Not only do these actions take time and money (harder to get for poorer people, who generally vote Democratic), only 30% of U.S. citizens have passportsbecause there is no reason to get a passport unless you leave the country.
- If voter fraud is the basis of the new law, request a stronger factual basis for the existence of rampant voter fraud, instead of telling us 31 people in Florida voted fraudulently. After all, the last time we agreed to something with scant evidence, the U.S. military ended up in Iraq for ten years.
Granted, your elected officials may not listen to requests that are against their own interests. Further, you may actually prefer that fewer members of the other party vote because it gives your guy a better chance of winning. (Of course, this means you can’t complain if the party you dislike does the same thing in the future.) But, if you choose to contact your representatives, they will know a potential vote is paying attention to their actions, and that check on their power is what democracy is supposed to be all about anyway.
Alternatively, I just heard of an island for sale…
Two months after the final candidate spoke to students, Brooklyn Law School is still waiting for its new dean. Although the faculty-led dean search committee has since sent its recommendations on to the Board of Trustees for approval, no decision has been announced and little information has been released on the status of the search.
Professor William D. Araiza, who is a member of the search committee and has become a liaison between students and the dean search process, said he remains optimistic: “Negotiations like these are complicated, and are conducted by very busy people; thus, they tend to take longer than one might think at first blush. We remain hopeful that things will work out.”
Yet one BLS professor, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Advocate that the search committee has no new information about the dean search to report, and that “the situation is causing frustration.”
Nicholas Allard, the last of four candidates to speak to students, answered questions on Wednesday, January 18th—in the last formal step before the faculty members in charge of the dean search sent their final recommendations on to the Board of Trustees for approval. Yet as of March 17th, the Brooklyn Law School’s official Dean Search page still lists Russell Osgood as a candidate, despite the fact that he has since dropped out of the running. Another one of the three remaining candidates, Janet Levit, is also one of three finalists for the deanship at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. ASU announced their finalists on February 28th.
Brooklyn Law School is now the only law school in New York City without a dean, and one of three in the state. Touro Law also hopes to have a dean by July, and Albany Law has also been on the hunt. Much like BLS, neither of Albany’s two 2011 finalists ended up in the position. Albany, however, made two offers to its finalists while it is unclear whether BLS has made any thus far.
On February 29th, Anthony W. Crowell, Counselor to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Public Library, was named the sixteenth Dean and President of New York Law School by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees. NYLS had been looking for a dean since Richard A. Matasar announced his controversial departure in June 2011. NYLS’s search took approximately nine months – but Matasar did not leave until January 1st of this year, so the school was only without an official dean for three months. By contrast, Interim Dean Michael Gerber has served for fourteen months at BLS since President Wexler stepped down.
The BLS media relations office did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the dean search.
The current finalists for the position are Dean Janet Levit, Professor Lawrence Solan, and attorney Nicholas Allard. The Advocate endorsed Allard, a partner at Patton Boggs LLP, on January 25th.
On the first day of my preliminary “introduction to the law” class last year, our instructor asked us, in the first minute, if we knew any good lawyer jokes. Half a dozen classmates offered their best, and I put my head down in shame. Really? This was the way we were going to start law school? After about a year, it made sense to me.
Your classmates are not here because they want to be your friend. Your classmates are here because they happen to be at the same school where they hope to earn a J.D. Of course, many of us have similar reasons for coming to this particular school (*cough*scholarship*cough*) but many of us have divergent interests.
Brooklyn Law School prides itself upon its students’ commitment to public service, and indeed there is a very high percentage of students that are members of BLSPI, that participate in Pro Bono Projects, that become involved in other clubs, and that generally have no problem volunteering, provided it is not such a burden that it causes other parts of their lives to suffer.
I made the point earlier, in my application for a BLSPI fellowship, that about 50% of the students at BLS are cool, and the other 50% are un-cool. I did not get offered an interview. This apparently has nothing to do with my commitment to public interest – but I promise to show you that it does.
What makes someone a “cool” BLS student? First, they are not snobby in who they talk to. You know what I am talking about here – you have about 100 classmates in your “big” classes, and you may sit next to someone for an entire semester and barely speak a word to each other. It’s possible you’re both just shy (indeed, this was the case for me my first year) but it’s also possible one of you is a member of the “un-cool contingent.” Members in this class look upon students that they consider unfocused, lazy, stupid, wasted, or “unclean” in some other way and decide that it is not in their best interests to associate with this person. This is what I mean when I say that the social life of law school is like a weird cross between the pains of high school cliquery and the freedom of experimentation that college nurtures—hearing new ideas, having an open mind, and making friends with people that you never might have associated with in high school.
Law school is a reversion backwards from college. Though we are still interested in hearing new ideas, supposedly, finding students with an “open mind” is more difficult, because by now many of us consider ourselves “informed, responsible adults” who choose our friends wisely and have a firmly set stance on the issues that matter to us. Public interest students clique around with other public interest students (though they are, actually, really nice…), bankruptcy law students clique around with other bankruptcy law students (and we are the coolest of the cool), IP students clique around with other IP students, public defenders hang out with public defenders and prosecutors hang out with prosecutors. Of course, reality is hardly so simple – but my point is that, sometimes a law student’s area of focus will affect their personality to a degree that renders them incapable of friendship with non-like-minded individuals.
The second factor that makes a BLS student “cool” is not judging someone for being cheap. Some of us have rich parents that float us money and we can go clubbing and buy fancy shoes and dresses and suits and look like a million bucks at the Barrister’s Ball – but some of us are nearing 30 (or older) and feel a bit, oh, childish relying on our parents for so much. Whether it be pride or necessity, our savings accounts are mostly depleted, we have no income, we carry significant debt, and it’s important that we “spend like law students” and not like lawyers. This may seem like a petty complaint but I do not think I am the only one who feels left out when they miss out on a birthday party because people would rather have it at a bar than their house. I am preaching at the top of my lungs from this soapbox: HAVE MORE HOUSE PARTIES, PEOPLE!
Finally, if law students are un-cool, part of the problem is that lawyers are un-cool. The 50/50 rule is in effect not only for law students, but also for lawyers. Lawyers who lie, tell their secretary to tell callers that “they’re in a meeting” when it’s convenient to do so, or act like they’re an expert in the ways of the world and refuse to waste their time giving a thorough explanation of why this argument is going to work and that argument will not, may be considered un-cool. Lawyers that rent out a shoddy house in clear violation of the Implied Warranty of Habitability and tell the tenants that, if they don’t like that the stairway to the basement has no railing, “Tough.” Un-Cool. Professors that talk for 90% of class time because really, WE HAVE SO MUCH MATERIAL TO COVER, and really just like to hear their own voice, and thereby intimidate students out of speaking with them for extra help, creating an unfair subconscious exam handicap, are un-cool.
My hope is that this “problem” will be remedied by cold, hard experience in the real world. Once you get out there, and you realize that really, you are not that important, maybe you go broke once or twice, maybe you move back in with your family, maybe you have a bad break-up – maybe then you’ll wake up and realize it’s better to be compassionate (cool) than fiercely self-interested (un-cool).
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law and finds the psychology of human emotions fascinating. Please join him in such explorations at the Open Mic on Thursday April 5, at Geraldo’s, from 7:00 – 10:00. Please e-mail him at Christopher.email@example.com if you are interested in performing.