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A typical hackathon consists of coders convening for an intensive weekend of writing software, explained Brooklyn Law School professor Jonathan Askin as he opened the BLIP Clinic Legal Hackathon on Sunday, April 15th. The few lawyers who go to coding hackathons do nothing more than observe, as they don’t have a clear role to play. But this event, organized by students in the clinic, was the first of its kind. The day revolved around bringing a hacking ethos to the law, and about figuring out how lawyers can participate in that ethos. Most importantly, it was about building projects that would endure long after the event was over — just like any coding hackathon.
In his keynote speech, law professor, activist, and inventor of the term “net neutrality” Tim Wu explained how many profound technological innovations historically came about as a result of ignoring conventional wisdom and law, and stretching the limits of what was thought to be possible at the time – i.e. hacking. For example, Alexander Graham Bell “was not a great electrician,” said Wu. Bell was a teacher of the deaf who understood sound well. He believed you could carry voice over a wire, but the popular sentiment of the time said that it was impossible to use electricity to carry sound. Despite his poor understanding of electricity, or perhaps because of it, he was able to ignore naysayers and create the telephone.
Another example came out of the film industry. In the early days of film, the American film industry was dominated by the Edison Trust. “Under the rules of the Trust, the ideal length of a film was 10 minutes, and plots had to be simple and not controversial,” said Wu. “One film had a burglary and the Trust decided never to have a crime in a film again.” Hollywood as we know it today was built by Lower East Side immigrants, including William Fox of Fox Entertainment. Wanting to make feature films like the French were making, these ‘hackers’ moved west in order to avoid copyright and Trust rules.
Moving further down the timeline of innovation, Wu highlighted the example of modern cable television. “Cable TV companies started out as small local operations,” he said. “People in rural, mountainous Pennsylvania could not receive broadcast television, so they put up towers and got the signals. The broadcasters tried to sue them out of business.” But as time went on and the broadcasting industry became deregulated, cable TV flourished. “In the ultimate revenge,” said Wu, “Comcast just bought NBC.”
“Many inventions started with humble outsiders who broke the law (or were oblivious to it),” Wu explained. “Why do we get inventions from unlikely sources? Because it’s tough to think about what you’re not thinking about. Few things cloud the mind as much as bundles of cash.” Finally, in a statement that captured the tone of the day, Wu remarked: “The most powerful motivation for innovation is fun.”
Hacking our Government
With 57% of the eligible population voting in the last presidential election, less than 30% voting in the last NYC mayoral election, and a powerful lobbying system in place, many might debate whether we truly have a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The Hackathon’s message was consistent: we live in an Information Age. The Internet and social networking have made communication easier than ever. Lawyers and coders should be able to work together to exploit this ease of communication and to create a more democratic government.
It will take courage and ingenuity. Professor Askin emphasized that for lawyers and law students, the process requires realizing we live in a “why not” world. In the tech world, lawyers must evolve from being “yeah but lawyers” to being enablers of innovation. Today, many areas of the law remain unchanged by the Internet revolution, presenting an opportunity for young lawyers to wade into muddy waters and find ways to drive progress.
In a panel examining the recent demise of SOPA and PIPA, two proposed bills that would have drastically affected the way intellectual property rights are enforced online, panelists questioned how the Internet should respond in the face of controversial legislation. Some viewed this legislative battle as a traditional clash of moneyed interests, with the content industry on one side and the technology industry on the other. But the massive backlash from web users and content creators also played a significant role in shelving the bills. The challenge going forward, the panelists said, is enabling web users to have their say in legislation. Tech attorney and BLS alumnus Amyt Eckstein, ’01, noted that this is important now because the lobbyists currently influencing Congress are paid by the traditional content industry, not by web users and individual content creators. It is also important for the future, panelists warned, because Congress will certainly consider legislation similar to SOPA and PIPA again. In such future legislative battles, legislators may be able to co-opt the Internet industry, making it even more necessary for web users and content creators to be mobilized.
So how do we mobilize the citizens of the Internet? This question was addressed in a panel on “Government 2.0.” John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge, noted that some members of Congress are already starting to use technology to engage with the public at large. The 2008 Obama campaign effectively harnessed social networking to generate awareness and get people to vote, said Benjamin Kallos of New Roosevelt. Obama’s 2012 campaign will rely on the Internet even more. Similarly, the anti-bullying movement has used the media’s interest in bullying to generate large public support and to influence the direction of anti-bullying legislation. Jed Alpert of Mobile Commons pointed to this as representative of “a move towards crowdsourced policy-making.”
Digital platforms that allow the public to actively participate in the creation of legislation would strengthen such a movement, said Bergmayer. Such platforms have a natural user base in the most tech-oriented junior members of Congress, who could promote their use in D.C. While it is unlikely that statutory language itself will be crowdsourced in the near future, said Matt Wood of Free Press, what matters most is having a loud voice in the political process. Art Chang of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee and Tipping Point Partners noted that if we can use technology to reach out to enough people and to aggregate their voices in a way that resonates with the elected officials who represent them, we can influence the entire political process.
In his keynote speech, “From e-Gov to WeGov,” Andrew Rasiej, founder of TechPresident and chairman of the New York Tech Meetup, argued that technology has a fundamental role to play in fixing our broken political system that goes beyond making the public’s voice louder. He argued for the need to use technology to build WeGov – a government that not only listens to its constituents and takes their viewpoints into account when framing legislation – but actively partners with the public in improving the entire governmental process. Such a government would need to be highly transparent and must make data about what it does and how it does it publicly available. “Technology is getting robust enough that people are building tools better than any government agency could,” said Rasiej. Large amounts of publicly-available government data, coupled with the public’s ability to build effective government tools, would help ensure both a more democratic and more efficient government. Rasiej ultimately envisions a democracy based not on money or the influence of lobbyists, but on the ability of people to connect to each other and to oversee and build a better government together. The technological capabilities are there. Now, he argued, it’s up to us.
Hacking the Law
After the two keynotes, participants broke into separate workshops to “hack” new versions of laws and policies for the digital world.
A surprise guest, incoming BLS dean Nick Allard, gave an impromptu speech at lunch that described his vision for the twenty-first century law school, and suggested that events like the Hackathon indicate that the school is on the right path in that regard.
The day closed in Subotnick, with presentations from attendees about ideas they had worked on. These included a few proposals for the Hack the Act competition, which encouraged people to submit new proposals for intellectual property legislation. Finally, in a brief “secular benediction,” Tumblr General Counsel (and former Head of Global Public and Government Affairs for Google) Andrew McLaughlin exhorted the crowd to find new ways of doing good through law.
The “Hack the Act” contest continued for a week after the event. Winners were competing for a lunch with Bloomberg executives.
The BLIP Clinic livestreamed the event, and video from almost every part of the day is available here.
Disclosure: Julie Adler and Warren Allen, ’12, both edited this article and also played significant roles in producing the Hackathon.
So what’s gonna happen in 2015?
I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen in 2015.
I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone, we’ll all be gone (unless you are doing the joint-degree thing).
“You” means current BLS students – whether friend or enemy.
The school’s tuition will be, oh $52,000? Maybe?
Most of the same teachers will be here.
The 50/50 rule will still apply*.
90% of the class will be employed 9 months after graduation.
$106,000 will be the median salary.
The time is now 5:01 PM (date: 4/15/12) and I’ve just gotten off the phone with a senior in high school from Loomis Chaffee—my alma mater. I told her, after an extremely long-winded monologue about my one-act play that was banned at Loomis, the classmates at law school that I have from Loomis, this election, and the election that took place my freshman year at Loomis, that I would give her $20 on the condition that someone at the Loomis Chaffee alumni relations department put me in touch with a Chapter 11 attorney at a big law firm in New York City for the purposes of an informational interview so that I will know (since I can’t get in their doors through OCI) how I can transition into that job in three or four years, so that I will know what I must accomplish. I told her that if no one ever got in touch with me, I would not donate next year.
If BLS does the same thing, we can solve our funding problems. The school must make an effort to implement this permanent solution to a purportedly temporary problem. If it does not, then BLS in 2015 will look exactly the same as it looks in 2012.
The Cubs will not win the World Series in 2014 (or 2015 – the image from Back to the Future Part 2 is unclear—though ostensibly, the World Series is not yet over by October 21 of any year, so it seems as if 2014 is the intended year) because the Miami Marlins will not be in the American League. However, it is not for this reason that this prediction will be inaccurate.
The prediction will be inaccurate because the Cubs are a team that is fundamentally based upon the idea of lovable losing and ridiculous drunken celebrations of victories that are inconsequential in the long run, but oh-so-sweet in the moment. The prediction will also be inaccurate because Theo Epstein is at the helm.
Theo Epstein is regarded as a wunderkind that will implement “moneyball, etc.” strategies in order to win. Profits will go up if the payroll is kept relatively low and the team is successful (though, the Cubs will always be popular).
The Cubs are basically the same thing as Brooklyn Law School. Except they are a for-profit corporation. Remember, Wrigley v. Schlensky, people [that have studied Corporations]?
We don’t want to put the lights on because we don’t see how that’s going to increase our revenue. Our neighborhood is opposed to evening games. Moreover, you haven’t provided sufficient evidence that if we put your plan into effect, we’re guaranteed to profit.
For the sake of not getting into a long-winded analytical breakdown, assume arguendo that the next sentence is accurate: Nicholas Allard is basically the same thing as Theo Epstein. However, we know less about him. Theo took the Red Sox to their first championship in many, many years. The Cubs got Theo because they wanted him to take them to their first championship in 106 years (most Cubs fans are in agreement that Theo’s “system” will “pay off” in 2014). The General Manager of a baseball team is like the Dean of a law school. You’re in charge of building the team. The Professors at law school are more like the coaches of the baseball team. Obviously, the students are the players. Some of us have to spend a bit more time in the farm system—and indeed some of us will never leave the farm system—but we will be called up when it is clear that we are able to perform at the Major League level. The President of a law school is most like the owner or controlling stockholder of the baseball team. (I am not going to follow up this sentence with anything.)
More problematic, as a friend recently pointed out to me, is that Theo came to a team that was already pretty successful. They hadn’t gone to the Series, but they had consistently battled with the Yankees for the top spot in their division (until those pesky Rays did their own “strategic overhaul”). After it seemed inevitable that Theo would be leaving, the Red Sox suffered a collapse of monumental proportions at the end of the season, thwarting their playoff prospects. The Cubs have dismantled their team (just yesterday, Marlon Byrd was traded to the Red Sox, ironically). Prospects for the future are speculative at best – so we must simply have faith that things will work out for us, eventually.
Here’s hoping the world still doesn’t suck in 2015 for the Cubs, and for BLS students.
Christopher J. Knorps is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. He enjoys studying bankruptcy law. He is a die-hard Cubs fan.
*As of 4/19/12, the 50/50 Rule is hereby amended to the 40/60 Rule (cool students are now outweighed by un-cool students). Please note that it has not been amended to the 5/95 Rule.
The BLS Advocate sat down with Nick Allard, the incoming dean of Brooklyn Law School, when he was in town on April 2nd, for a casual lunchtime Q&A at Panera Bread. We were fortunate that he brought along his lovely wife and high school sweetheart, Marla, who helped us get to know the real Nick. This is the final part of our 4-part interview by David A. Shapiro, ’12, with additional questions from Julie Adler, ’12. Parts 1-3 are available here.
NA: Marla has three superpowers. One is that she can get anybody to talk about anything at any time. The second superpower is if we go to a restaurant or any place else, there could be a huge line—she’ll walk right in. And the third superpower is she can return any item to any store at any time without a receipt, even if the store doesn’t sell the item.
DS: That’s a powerful skill.
NA: She can return a prom dress to a hardware store.
DS: Will you guys be at the rope-line at Cipriani? Will you guys be lobbying the big firms and stuff like that on behalf of students? Where can we spot you?
NA: I don’t know what kind of mythical idea you have there, but we will be lobbying—I will be lobbying on behalf of Brooklyn Law School period, full stop. In all the different arenas. Maybe that’s why the Board and the faculty thought it was a good idea to, you know, hiring a professional advocate, it’s not such a bad thing.
DS: What do you say to a student right now who is unemployed and very worried about getting a job?
NA: It’s very hard. Don’t give up. It’s not easy and we will give you all the possible support that we can. We can’t get the job for you, can’t guarantee a job, but we understand how tough it is, and we know finding a job is not about numbers, it is about individual people.
DS: What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
NA: Why choose? Look at me—you can tell I’ve got plenty! There are a lot that I really like. I like Queen!
DS: I have not been there yet.
JA: Me neither.
DS: How many times you been there?
NA: Just look at my waist-line. Tip: The Caprese salad is to die for, but there is enough Mozzarella for the defensive line of the Jets. And, uh…
MA: We tried Noodle Pudding.
NA: Noodle pudding I like.
MA: And the Happy Diner on Montague Street.
[cross-talk about Diner’s correct name]
NA: I love Happy Days. Happy Days is well-named.
JA: I always pass by it and I’ve never been inside it.
MA: You order there and boom, it’s there. It’s like magic, you order and in three seconds, it’s there.
NA: I like Happy Days and I like the St. Clare.
MA: Oh, have you been to St. Clare Diner on Smith Street?
MA: Can you tell we like it? We’ve been there three times recently—that is how much we’ve been there.
DS: Which one is that? Is that the 24-hour one? Oh I haven’t eaten there, either.
MA: Guys, if you get a dinner there, you can take home enough for three nights.
JA: Really? I have to go [there]!
DS: So you guys have been around here.
JA: Yeah, you guys know this place better than we do.
NA: You may forget this, but first of all, my son recently worked for a summer in the Brooklyn DA’s office. I was sworn in at Cadman Plaza for the New York Bar.
MA: Our son lived in Brooklyn.
NA: Park Slope.
MA: Now he’s in Manhattan, but he worked one summer at the DA’s office.
JA: Where is he now?
MA: He’s at Columbia [Law School].
NA: My mother was born in Brooklyn and my grandmother worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was a navy nurse.
JA: That’s where we have our annual Barrister’s Ball. The law school prom.
MA: The Barrister’s Ball! How fun is that?
DS: Yeah, you are invited to that, as well.
MA: What exactly is the Barrister’s Ball? A formal dance?
DS: Yeah, it’s our prom. Law school prom.
MA: You have a law school prom! Aww!
DS: Yeah, I wore a tux and everything.
JA: You’re going to be there next year, so get excited.
MA: Is it a real big deal?
DS: Yeah, lots of people go.
MA: We are the world’s worst dancers, I will say that.
JA: That’s okay. Normally the deans don’t dance, so…
DS: You won’t be expected to dance. You could start a tradition.
NA: A man has to know his limitations.
MA: We’re really bad dancers.
DS: That’s all right—come up with a dance.
NA: I’m like the Priest Brother in Saturday Night Fever.
MA: We’re Chatty Cathy’s. But we’re bad dancers.
JA: Yeah you’ll just schmooze at the ball, that’s okay. They won’t make you dance.
DS: I think that’s all.
JA: I think we’re done!
MA: I think getting to know the students is so fun, I really do.
The average incoming 1L has little idea how much time is devoted to gaining prowess in the tedious and mundane exercise of legal research. Conversely, after having spent three years getting familiar with legal research, it would be an awful thing for the soon-to-be lawyer to suddenly have to adapt to a new legal research platform. Mastering Lexis and Westlaw should be enough, right? Depending on your position in the law school or legal journey, the answer is maybe.
Lexis and Westlaw have put in so much effort to seduce law school students to their respective products that it would seem impossible for a third contender to appear in the legal research wars. All of the introductory training sessions; free printing, highlighters, and pizza; endless streams of email reminders and advertisements; the research points that lead weary students to do fake research in the hopes of being compensated with electronics; and the orgy of both hard and soft candies. These are all the hallmarks of a lasting relationship, and Lexis and Westlaw are looking for commitment.
The plot thickens with the increasing resources that Bloomberg L.P. is pumping into its legal research platform, Bloomberg Law. Originally, Bloomberg Law was an extension of the DOS based terminal system for which Bloomberg is famous. Given the tremendous market presence of its parent company, Bloomberg Law is going to be viable just because of its ability to amalgamate case law and news sources—not that Lexis and Westlaw cannot do that as well, with Westlaw getting a boost from Thomson Reuters.
I met with Bloomberg representative Pamela Haahr, and she showed me some of Bloomberg’s features and how this platform differs from the status quo.
To those accustomed to Lexis or Westlaw, Bloomberg Law is a barebones platform, relying on its search bar to get results. Without the voluminous headnotes of Lexis or Westlaw, cases are unaccompanied by proprietary content. However, Bloomberg recently purchased the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. which provides legal commentary and content. One gets the impression that Bloomberg will continue to bolt-on features by acquiring legal information sources, and will also try to integrate content into its existing platform.
For first time users, Bloomberg Law has distinct and esoteric features. On the right-hand side of the screen is the citator, as opposed to the left-side for Lexis and Westlaw. The hypertext of cited cases is also foreign to the eye in that it only highlights the citation to the reporter (xxx U.S. x).
The intuitive aspect of Bloomberg Law is the user’s ability to store and organize research information. The “workplace” features allow users to gather and aggregate almost every type of information, from case law to news stories to court dockets, as well as make your own annotations of the material.
So why should anyway take the effort to explore Bloomberg Law? Nothing mentioned about Bloomberg so far is going to revolutionize legal research. Especially, if you’re a third-year student—an old dog not looking to learn new tricks—it may not seem like the best use of your time, to spend the summer learning a new research platform. Plus, to most, it probably does not appear that Bloomberg Law is going to be a big market force anytime soon. Nor is Bloomberg going to have an on-campus presence, with a lab or printing stations, like the competitors. However, Pamela said she is looking to hire two student representatives.
No matter which legal research platform you end up falling in love with, it comes at a price. Lexis and Westlaw seldom, if ever, advertise their price to law school students. But at some point the law school student graduates into the practicing lawyer, and the honeymoon ends, while that phrase being repeated in the distant future begins to get louder and louder as the time draws near: “cost-effective research.”
If you go with Lexis or Westlaw, you are (or your firm is) looking to pay around $200 to search a single federal case or $24 per minute ($1440 an hour). This is where Bloomberg Law beats the competition by miles. Full access to Bloomberg Law is only $450 per month! Granted, large firms can afford to pay heavy research fees; but if you are working at a small firm or are thinking about going solo in the future, $450 is impossible to beat if you don’t mind losing some of the frills and content of Lexis or Westlaw.
To answer the question initially posed, is it worth it to learn Bloomberg Law? It would appear to be a good investment of your time; if not for legal research, then just to have it as a news source. It is one more skill that can be added to your resume (you never know, maybe your prospective employer has a Bloomberg subscription). Getting access to Bloomberg Law is free and can be gained by clicking on Request a Trial on the Bloomberg Law website.
Let’s start at the beginning: FV = PV(1+r)n
There are two things for which law students are stereotypically well known: hating math and graduating with a lot of debt. If both are true for you, then I may have recently been within earshot of you saying something along the lines of “I have no idea how I’m going to pay my debt off when I graduate” to your friend. Fortuitously (don’t you just love the thesaurus?), I happen to be one of those people who likes math and hates debt. As such, I’d like to share some tips on paying off your debt.
Step 1- Review Your Debts: For most of us, our debt after graduation will consist of credit card bills and student loans. The review process is simply a way of figuring out what you owe, and to whom. I suggest this format:
Owed to: Amount Interest Rate
School $100K 5%
MisterCard $5K 12%
Shack’s Sixth Ave $300 19%
Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to begin.
Step 2 – Ask for Lower Interest Rates: As a general rule, lower interest rates are always better than higher interest rates. This is because for each period that interest accrues on your debt, it accrues on the entire amount you owe. So, if you owe $100 and you have a 10% interest rate, at the end of the first period you will owe $110, and at the end of the second period you will owe $121. Change the interest rate to 5% and you will owe $105 at the end of period one and $110.25 at the end of period two. As a result, if any of your banks lower your interest rates, you will be able to pay off your debt faster because you will have less interest to pay off.
The procedure: Call the number on the back of your cards and just ask. It is entirely possible that they will say no because banks have been less willing to give favorable rates since the financial crisis. If they do say no, feel free to explain your situation (law student, trying to pay off debt as quickly as possible, etc.), and ask again if there is anything that either the person you’re on the phone with or their supervisor can do to lower the interest rate on your card. I understand that it may be uncomfortable to ask this way, but sometimes a company will put a policy in place that says they will only offer a product after a customer has asked to speak to a supervisor. By asking to speak to a supervisor and making the request to that person (if needed) you can be sure that you’ve done just about everything you can to lower your interest rates.
I say “just about everything” because –
Step 3 – Investigate Balance Transfers: You may have seen these before – fake checks in the mail, offering you lower interest rates on balances. There are two ways to receive these: one is if your company is already sending them to you. The other way is to request them from your credit card company. If you choose to ask your credit company, always ask to receive the information in the mail. This will allow you to review the terms and conditions so that you can decide for yourself whether using the balance transfer makes sense. For example, transferring $400 then paying $12 to make the transfer makes no sense if you were going to pay off the $400 two months from now. A balance transfer may also make no sense if the interest rate is scheduled to change to more than what you’re paying now. Because situations vary, you may or may not wish to pursue this option.
However, you will want to –
Step 4 – Consolidate Your School Loans: If I understand correctly, BLS’s financial aid staff covers this in detail before you graduate. The purpose of consolidating your school loans is simple: one lower payment. Less work, and less money you are required to spend every month. Go for it.
Now that you’ve gotten the preliminaries out of the way, you will want to –
Step 5 – Review Your Debt Again: After the first four steps, the picture may have changed. Therefore you should make the appropriate changes. You should also add on a new column, so that it now looks like this:
Owed to: Amount Interest Rate Minimum Payment
School $100K 5% $1000
Shack’s $300 10% $25
MC $5K 11% $100
With the preliminaries out of the way, you are now ready to pay off your debt. But how?
Step 6 – Pay off the Highest Interest Rate First: If you’ve made it this far into the article, I suspect that you’re one of those people who don’t like math. Therefore, out of respect, I won’t use any formulae. However, paying off by interest rate is mathematically the fastest way to accomplish the goal of paying off your debt. Here’s how:
- Pay the minimum due on all of your debts.
- Pay the minimum plus any extra money you have to the debt with the highest interest rate.
- When that is paid off, use the entire amount you were paying to the debt with the highest interest rate, and apply it to the next debt.
- Repeat until debts are paid off.
If you look at my list, you’ll see that Shack’s is only $300. Honestly, I know it’s not mathematically correct, but I’d just pay it and any other small amounts off right away because it’s such a small amount and devote that $25 to the MisterCard bill.
Okay, so you’ve committed to this course action – what’s next?
Step 7 – Pay Your School Loan Biweekly: School loans, car notes and mortgages work a little different from credit cards, and you can use this difference to your advantage. You don’t have to call the bank. You don’t have to make any special arrangements. All you have to do is look at the monthly payment (here $1000) and start paying half of it every two weeks. Many of us get paid every two weeks, so it should be relatively easy. Why would you want to do this?
- The total amount that you pay over the life of the loan will be lower.
- You will pay off your loan faster. Paying biweekly turns a ten-year loan into a nine-year loan, and a 30-year loan into about a 17-year loan.
- You will be paying ahead. As such, your next payments will be lower, and eventually zero. And while you won’t have to pay, you should. Save not paying for an extreme emergency.
The reason all these things happen is by paying part of the amount due 15 days early, the amount of interest that accrues is lower, and more of your money goes to the actual loan. Additionally, paying bi-weekly causes you to make 13 months worth of payments instead of 12 during the year. So, if nothing else, by the end of the first year, you will be one month ahead.
Starting this process off can be a little tricky. My best suggestion is to pay 1 ½ months on the first due date. A week or two later, when your next check comes in, start paying that $500. That way you can be sure you won’t accidentally get charged late fees.
You can actually employ this strategy with credit cards as well, but because they reset every month, you will not be able to miss a payment, and they will, of course charge late fees. The best trick to avoiding late fees here is to simply make all of your payments at least the minimum payment that you’re starting off with. So, if, as of today, your minimum payment is $40, make payments of $40 every two weeks. This way, you’ll never have to worry about that rare five-week month that throws everything off. However, this strategy is less effective if the card in question is your everyday use card. Don’t forget to make adjustments for how much you’ve used it during the month.
Once you’ve successfully paid off your debt, you will notice a few side benefits, specifically extra money to spend on dinner with an old classmate, and an increased credit score (which will help you secure a really low interest rate when you decide to treat yourself to a shiny, bright red Mustang). But, as with everything else, there are–
Things to Look Out For: While I sincerely hope for the best for everyone, life sometimes isn’t so fair. People lose jobs, get sick, get divorced, etc. Any of these can put you in a situation where you’re not able to pay off your debt. In the absolute worst case, the credit cards can be discharged in bankruptcy. Your student loans cannot. Therefore, if you find yourself with reduced income or no income, here are a few things you should know.
- The advantage of paying ahead is limited to how far you’ve paid ahead. Keep track of how far ahead you are, so that you know how long you can go without making a payment.
- Before your cushion runs out, find out whether you are eligible for forbearance or deferment. Currently, Stafford Loans and Perkins Loans may be deferred for up to 3 years if you cannot find full time employment, or are otherwise suffer from economic hardship. They are also deferred if you go to school at least part-time. However, you must keep making payments until the deferral is granted.
Granted, if you are going through the stress associated with unemployment or lowered income it may be hard to remember that these options are available to you. But, the consequences for forgetting that these options exist are far worse. If you do, in fact, default on your loans, the following things may happen, as explained by FinAid.org:
- Your loans may be turned over to a collection agency. If so, you’ll be liable for the costs (such as attorney’s fees) associated with collecting your loan.
- You can be sued for the entire amount of your loan.
- Your wages and income tax refunds may be garnished.
- Part of your Social Security payments may be withheld.
- The default will appear on your credit history for up to 7 years after the default claim is paid.
- You won’t receive any more federal financial aid until you repay the loan in full or make arrangements to repay what you already owe and make at least six consecutive, on-time, monthly payments.
- You will be ineligible for assistance under most federal benefit programs.
- You’ll be ineligible for deferments.
- Subsidized interest benefits will be denied.
- You may not be able to renew a professional license you hold.
- You may be prohibited from enlisting in the Armed Forces.
And of course, you will still owe the full amount of your loan.
Epilogue: If you’re a non-math person, I hope you find this information useful. I wish the all the best in life for my graduating friends, including the hope that you can use your paycheck for something other than paying off debt as quickly as you possibly can. Of course, there’s always –
Option 2: Marry a Millionaire
Writing for The BLS Advocate (and a few of my friends) has inspired me to start a blog. Check it out at www.blindedbycolor.com.
[CC Image by (RambergMediaImages) via Flickr]
Not all student organizations are meant to succeed. Some are never meant to be started at all. Yet they proliferate at colleges and graduate schools around the world, most likely because the founders want a couple more lines of throat-clearing nonsense to fill up space on their resumes. Let me say this: if some poor sod hires you because you were the Vice Treasurer for the Bluegrass and the Law Club, you better wear a hardhat to protect yourself from that business or institution collapsing around you.
Brooklyn Law School, to be sure, boasts a variety of well-run, well-intentioned student organizations. BLSPI, among other noble deeds, provides one of the choicest spectacles of the academic year: the site of law students spastically flinging their arms in the air before one of 20 BarBri tuition coupons reach fifteen hundred dollars at the BLSPI auction. The ACLU and the Federalist Society host thought-provoking debates on almost painfully relevant topics. Organizations like these do things such as hold regular meetings, assign their executive board duties, and send several e-mails per week to those present on their listserv. I am sure the Brooklyn Law School Class of 2010 is equipped with more knowledge than they can handle about the massive amount of Thursday-night debauching their successors are engaging in at local watering holes.
This article is not for those organizations. This is instead a missive – a pamphlet if you will – for how to run a student organization operating on the very precipice of dignity. Those organizations that wondered how they ever passed the rigorous vetting process of the Student Bar Association.
1. “Co-Sponsor” Events with Other, More Responsible Organizations
It’s April, and you are slurping on another repulsive cup of street coffee. As you reach the lumpy chunks of congealed instant coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup, it strikes you: “Oh boy, I am the co-chair of a student organization! And we have neglected to hold a single event! Oh, the humanity!”
Don’t panic. There are other student organizations that are holding events, and they want you to co-sponsor their event with them. Why? Because it looks way cooler that way.
You must act quickly, for time is ticking away. Scan BLSConnect for any random event you observe. E-mail the organization’s leader, and express to them some attenuated connection your organization has to the event. Are they the Securities Law Organization (SLO), and are you the BLS Bingo Society (BLSBS)? Hey, both of your financial fortunes are contingent on old people regurgitating random numbers. Offer to chip in for sandwiches or soda or plates or something. Demand co-sponsorship in return. Do not back down.
And presto! Your organization has held an event.
2. Get Creative With E-Board Responsibilities
So, you at least have an e-board. Granted, that election you ran had all the democratic zeal of one run by Robert Mugabe, but still. But what do your e-board members do beyond bury their position in a discarded resume draft? Likely nothing. This, however, is where the framing and persuasive argument skills we all learn in law school come into play.
Does your treasurer have nothing to do with the financial affairs of the organization? You close-minded fools, our treasurer “treasures” the organization, in the affectionate sense!
Does your elected secretary fail to keep any sort of records or book event rooms? Cretins! Don’t you know that secretary also means “a writing desk with shelves on top of it” and that one’s brain could, in a metaphorical sense, be considered a desk with files and information inside and that, therefore, the secretary fulfills all their responsibilities by possessing any level of consciousness or sentience?
Just use these descriptions at your election meeting, if you even host one, and you’ll do just fine.
3. Set Unrealistically Ambitious Semester Goals
One way to benevolently sabotage your organization is to shoot for the stars. Lure students to one of our fine classrooms at the beginning of the semester with the promise of greasy food. And then, you soliloquize. You soliloquize about how your organization will have its “best semester yet” and “get guest speakers from inside the industry.” You’ll take field trips to relevant locations, and host networking events at rooftop speakeasies. Pump the room full of a vigorous, yet ultimately empty, energy.
Then, you wait. You wait until about March, or November, and send an e-mail to your listserv. You write something like “Sorry guys, we really shot for the stars this semester but we just couldn’t make it happen.” Do not provide any explanation as to what exactly you mean by “just couldn’t make it happen.” This will invite unnecessary questions and suspicion. And then, you commence recommendations one and two.
4. Promote Events That No One Actually Wants to Attend
The more involved cousin of tip number 3, but it will prove just as effective in (excusably) flat-lining your organization, while still allowing you to say “Hey, we tried.”
Brainstorm event ideas that not only will be difficult to execute, but also are either boring, uninteresting or weird. This provides the perfect excuse for cancelling your event “due to lack of interest” or because of “campus outcry.” Promote a screening of the movie “Plan 9 From Outer Space” without the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary, or a movie about a racist dog. Plaster fliers all over campus about an underwater bingo in the fifth-floor men’s bathroom. The Meta-Club can shout from the mountaintops about a “Panel Discussion about Panel Discussions.” You get the idea. Your organization will be visible, yet largely ignored and marginalized, which means less work for you.
I wish you the best of success in running your student organization into the ground.
The BLS Advocate sat down with Nick Allard, the incoming dean of Brooklyn Law School, when he was in town on April 2nd, for a casual lunchtime Q&A at Panera Bread. We were fortunate that he brought along his lovely wife and high school sweetheart, Marla, who helped us get to know the real Nick. This is part 3 of our 4-part interview by David A. Shapiro, ’12, with additional questions from Julie Adler, ’12. Parts 1 and 2 are available here.
DS: Brooklyn Law School also has a very vibrant public interest community, foremost after CUNY in all of New York, and one of the top five probably in America.
DS: Recently this past year they actually cut the summer grants for public service—
DS: — from 5 to $3,000. That makes it very difficult, if not impossible for several students to do public interest work. Will you be able to restore the grant size to 5,000, or will you work to make sure that happens?
NA: I know that the faculty and administration (and I) are not only very committed to the importance of public interest work, they’re very sensitive to the impact that having to reduce those funds had, and so we’ll do everything we possibly can to provide adequate funding. Finding a way to support public interest law is very important to me personally – it’s something I’ve written about. You’re talking to someone who, given my family background and our resources growing up—we had to figure out how to pay for everything, our rent and everything else—so we know about making it on a student budget. People look at my resume and they see Princeton, Oxford, Yale, and they just assume I was born with a silver spoon in my ear. But that’s not the case. And so I appreciate the importance of people helping you along the way, but also appreciate in a practical way how you have to figure out how to pay for everything while you are getting your education and training. You know, Marla and I have been at this for a long time. I asked her for some cash the other day, and she said, “what are you talking about—I gave you three dollars yesterday!” [NA and MA laugh] So, you know she has a very tight fist on the family fisc. Fist on the fisc.
DS: So we just got, I think, a million dollar gift—was it for federal judicial internships for the summer?
NA: I don’t know. I know that came in, and that’s great! The more the better.
DS: And will you continue to seek out those grants and—
NA: Fundraising is one of the things I do, and I do think that President Wexler has been very successful at that and I intend to support her and help her and the law school turn over every stone to find every dime we can. And, you know, for example, helping you with your auction.
DS: I guess, well, that leads to two more questions about your relationship with President Wexler. So as far as we understand it, she’ll be stepping down in two years time — is that accurate? — and so you’ll become the Dean and there will be no more President position?
NA: Here’s what I’m focused on—I’m going to be the Dean of the law school and, you know, she is the President of the law school. And what the future holds, I leave that to the Board. And I want to tell you that Joan Wexler has had a remarkable impact on building this law school and an impact on the community. And she deserves a tremendous amount of credit over a long period of time—I mean it’s been twenty-five years that she’s been making a contribution. And at a time when she was really a pioneer. And so I give her a huge amount of credit. I deeply respect her and I look forward to learning from her and working with her.
DS: Do you understand that many students are skeptical of her leadership?
NA: Well I have a great amount of respect for her and for her leadership.
JA: Do you think the dual power structure is a good thing, and do you understand the need to have a Dean and a President filling two different roles?
NA: I actually see it as an advantage for me in ensuring a smooth transition and so I have no problem with it, and if I did I wouldn’t be here. I’m quite enthusiastic, and she has enormous strength and savvy which I don’t think she’s given enough credit for. And so I really think there are a lot of advantages. Most independent law schools have this President and Dean structure. And often it’s one person, but it doesn’t have to be one person. I think the fact that the Board is willing to have two people, you know, work on these things—actually, it’s pretty impressive that they’re going to, at least for the foreseeable future, have somebody attend to, you know, whatever the Presidential functions are specified in the bylaws, and then have the Dean who is freed up maybe from some of the day-to-day financial management, real estate work, and be able to devote attention to career services and education, curriculum, all of that–it’s great. I mean can you imagine just starting from ground zero and not having your predecessor there. It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on everything.
DS: If you don’t agree on things, how do you foresee that taking place?
NA: He’s such a good reporter.
DS: Thank you.
NA: We’ll find out. You know, if we don’t agree on something, we’ll work it out—we’ll keep working until we reach agreement. You know it’s—I haven’t been married for 38 years without having some experience with give and take. Though one thing Marla and I agree on is the give and take isn’t even steven. About the only thing I think I learned and remember from studying moral philosophy at Oxford is this: When I am alone in the woods and Marla is not there, and I say something, I am still wrong.
DS: Do you plan on creating or reshaping a school identity?
NA: Well here’s what I plan: I plan on facilitating Brooklyn figuring out what it wants its future to be and then getting there. It’s not for me to come in and say “this is who you should be.” It doesn’t mean I don’t have ideas. In that regard, I mean I really do believe that Brooklyn Law School can aspire to being the 21st century—the model of a 21st century law school by combining critical scholarly thinking with the very best professional training. And what I mean by that—is that BLS can produce the leaders of the future who will have the capacity not only to be leaders today, but they can anticipate how law is changing, look around corners, look ahead, and find solutions to the problems no one has seen before. And that’s a wonderful aspiration for the law school and for me.
JA: Do you feel like you have a better grasp of this, given the fact that you don’t come from a background of academia? Because I feel like a lot of, you know people from your generation who went to law school around the same time you did—if you ask them for career advice, they’ll say, “what do you mean? Just get good grades and go through OCI and get into a big firm—that’s how you do it.” And I feel like you have such a deeper understanding of how things are right now; is that because you’re so immersed in practice everyday, as opposed to somebody who’s coming in from academia?
NA: I—my DNA makes me—distrust conventional wisdom. I mean, you can’t be the author of an article titled “Lobbying is an Honorable Profession” and be somebody who just goes along with mainstream thinking. And my own career—my own career has been very fulfilling and worthwhile, but it hasn’t been traditional. When I started out after two clerkships, I went with the Washington office of a New York firm. It was at a time where everybody with my kind of background was told if you’re serious, you have to go to the main office, not the branch office. I didn’t listen. I thought there was more opportunity at the branch office. Then I went into public service from a law firm. I mean, you know, working in the Senate. And then I went from the Senate working for another Senator, which is unconventional—you usually don’t change senators—and then only back to private practice but with time off from politics. I am just giving you personal examples. I’m always sort of—have a different view about career options. And then I think the capstone of that is having the sheer audacity to believe that I could go from private practice into academics. So, you know, I’m not someone whose followed the traditional career myself. So I‘m very skeptical of narrow thinking about careers and jobs. I hope that answers your question.
DS: So you mentioned the auction—so how do you foresee participating in the auction and with other pro-bono events and longer-term projects?
NA: Well I expect, look, first of all, we’re going to be fully engaged in not just education but also the life of the law school. Now you kind of teased me—I think it was you when I first met students—about mentioning Art Fleming, which really dates me by referring to Fleming instead of Trebek. [laughter] But we’ll certainly participate in Jeopardy. I mean all of that stuff—because we like those activities—and love it because that’s the way [Marla and I] are. And so we’ll be fully engaged. But certainly for the auction, you know, it could be—Marla and I could cater and serve a dinner at your place for you, so you have two of us as caterers and servers—these are examples, don’t hold me to these—or, you know, a weekend in Washington at our place with tickets to the Shakespeare theater in Washington, and, or, you know, lunch at the Palm in Washington with three legendary lobbyists: Tom Boggs and Senator Breaux and Senator Lott. You know, stuff like that, which I’ve done in the past. I’ve participated in auctions before. Another thing that might be of interest and maybe, in fact, some alumni who [have high school-aged children might] contribute is I can auction off three college application counseling sessions—because I’ve been very involved and I do this and I’ve written about “Navigating the College Admissions Process”—so three one-hour counseling sessions for a student. So David and Julie, you can buy that for a brother or sister…
DS: Don’t feel limited. Feel free to donate all of that.
NA: Well we might, we might do that. I mean I have to spend some time being your Dean. I mean, those are just some ideas. We understand the concept. It’s fun, it’s fun to do.
[We explain that the auction already happened this year.]
NA: Good because [Marla] was getting nervous about catering and me dropping dishes.
DS: Next year, next year.
The BLS Advocate sat down with Nick Allard, the incoming dean of Brooklyn Law School, when he was in town on April 2nd, for a casual lunchtime Q&A at Panera Bread. We were fortunate that he brought along his lovely wife and high school sweetheart, Marla, who helped us get to know the real Nick. This is part 2 of our 4-part interview by David A. Shapiro, ’12, with additional questions from Julie Adler, ’12. Part 1 is available here.
DS: In terms of your relationship with professors, there are some young professors rumored to be considering leaving, either because of family or for other reasons. Do you have ideas to keep them here or raise salaries or do anything like that? Have you heard the same rumors?
NA: So, the prospect [of departure] and the attractiveness of the faculty [to others] is a healthy worry to have. If that wasn’t a possibility or concern, then you’d have a big problem. And I don’t mean to be flip—[it is] just like [the way] I’m leaving my law firm, and my firm is completely embracing that. They’re not happy to see me leave, but they say that it reflects well on them, and that we’re going to continue to have a positive relationship. The fact that other law schools want the Brooklyn Law School faculty is an emblem of respect. But, now having said that, I will tell you as a law dean, two things that will keep me up at night and have already kept me up at night, [are:] one, how to retain and attract top legal scholars, and two, how to make career services work even better for the students. Those are the two—there’s many, many things, but those are the two big things [that might cause sleepless nights]—and so, I will tell you, and without getting into great, great details, that I have already had several conversations with leadership in the faculty and administration, about faculty retention and recruiting, and I’ve also, the very first meeting I’ve had since they made the offer—this morning, [for my] very first meeting I went over to career services, sat down with them [and discussed the future]—and so, this is not an idle, intellectual concept. I really mean it.
JA: Is there anything you can share about your meeting with career services?
NA: I think it was very positive. I really appreciate the challenges of this difficult time over the last three years. I think I made it clear to them by showing up that career services was a priority for me. And that I wanted to hear from them what they needed to succeed. I made it clear to them that I’d like to innovate. And I think that they were very receptive to innovation. And that includes opening up new opportunities beyond traditional ones for jobs. I can help personally with outreach. And I tend to be very hands-on in assisting, in giving additional help with that— I am very committed to helping individual students. And one of the things I liked to hear from them, which I heard from them loud and clear, and which I believe, is that career counseling and support is not about numbers—it’s about individuals, it has to be customized. And it’s quite personal. And it takes a lot of effort. So I really like that message that I heard from them. And that is something specific I can share with you: that they understand that career services is not about numbers, it’s about people.
DS: What do you feel about the lawsuit filed against Brooklyn and other law schools and especially as incoming dean, and how will you face that in the future?
NA: Um, I’m not going to comment on the litigation. I will note that in New York, the lawsuit was dismissed already [against New York Law School] — I’ll just note that, I’m not going to comment on it. What I embrace is the message that law schools need to provide effective career services, and also that you can’t just do what you’ve always done, because the nature of the legal profession and legal services is changing, and so law firms and public institutions and governments are going to be hiring law school graduates to do a different array of things than they’ve done in the past, and so how do you address that? Plus, there’s untold new opportunities. Frankly, I think that the future for young lawyers to use their legal muscle, which is their brain, is more interesting and more challenging. Because you can find more economical ways to do law research or document handling and the other kinds of tasks, and so there will be more of a premium for people who can do the three A’s—analysis, advice, and advocacy. Analysis, advice, and advocacy. Everybody thinks, oh you know, “we’ve never seen a tougher time,” and “everything is so bleak,” and for years, lawyers [have been] saying “oh, it’s no longer a profession.” And the work is more business and drudgework. Well I think that maybe because of the economics and new technology, we may be headed into an era where lawyers are the people that you rely on for using your brain, for critical thinking, for advice and counseling, and effective advocacy, and not just, you know, papering a deal, or, you know, doing document work – which, although incredibly important, [there are more satisfying aspects of practicing law that involve creativity and critical thinking.]
[At one point during our interview, Nick mentioned that there are five BLS graduates working with his law firm, Patton Boggs, and that he expects there will be more in the future and that his firm will continue to interview at BLS. We emailed him for clarification.]
NA: With respect to BLS representation at [Patton Boggs,] I would note that there are four grads and the incoming Dean at Patton Boggs, including two colleagues in D.C., the head of recruiting for our New Jersey Office and a colleague in our growing New York City office… Patton Boggs already interviews on campus at BLS and I expect that effort to expand and have already pursued that at the firm. Moreover, I have already begun to speak to colleagues at other firms about interviewing at BLS for their D.C. offices. I believe Washington practice is a good match for the skills and interests of BLS students and what the firms are looking for. I want to expand recruiting there. And this is interesting—I have heard from BLS grads working on Capitol Hill—they reached out to me on their own initiative—they want to get involved and help students find jobs in public service and I am following up with their offer immediately.
Does This Final Make Me Look Fat?: A Simple Guide to Avoiding Glut and Maintaining Gumption During Exam Period
Whether at the gym or watching an infomercial for Nutrisystem with Marie Osmond, we constantly hear from January to June: “Summer’s on its way, and that means bathing suit season!” While that mantra may be enough to keep some people health-conscious– eating well and working out– being a law student can certainly prevent us from prioritizing our health. We simply require a more sedentary life and have a whole set of exams to get through before hitting the beach.
Additionally, the stress of being a full-time legal encyclopedia, not to mention searching for jobs, triggers our bodies to want to eat like we’re in famine mode, and that type of eating means storing sugar and fats. My friends have often heard me joke that when I have so much to do, “I just want to eat my feelings,” a la Cathy Comics, but the bitter truth is that we can address our need to snack while studying without worrying about having no time for that work-out at the gym.
Here are a few tips to prevent the “Finals 15”:
1) Don’t Eat Less; Eat Better. Our minds and bodies need a certain amount of calories to get us through the day. Sure, you could eat a burger and a concrete at the Shack to get you through 6 hours of studying, but you’re going to be just as hungry afterward as if you ate that same weight in leaner protein, fruits and vegetables.
Solution: Have your shake and eat it, too. Balance your meals with water-rich foods (apples, oranges, celery, zucchini, lettuces) to curb your hunger by making you feel full for a few hours and boost your energy with lots of vitamins. Then, reward yourself with what you really want. Remember, while you might want both the burger and the fries, or sweet and creamy dessert, your body will be just as satisfied with healthier sugars and proteins. Save the combo for after an incredible cardio/fat burn.
Tasty and Tasteful:
- Chocolate: dark chocolate is rich in flavanols that boost blood supply to the brain and help improve cognitive skills.
- Nuts: rich in Vitamins E and B6, folate, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants, these small food items boost your brain power and improve your mood. The whole nutty family of cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts and pecans brings some benefit to your brain.
- Quiet foods for the library: raisins, chocolate, cashews (softer, less crunchy), bananas (although one of the librarians is allergic, so please refrain from eating or throwing peels out within the library confines).
- Juices and smoothies (don’t slurp!) are great ways to pack in those vitamins, curb hunger, and get that boost to keep plugging away at the books and practice exams.
- And don’t forget to drink water! Much of the time we feel hunger pangs, we are actually just dehydrated. A bottle of water before and then during a meal will help increase your energy and reduce the ancillary calories we only think we need. Also, drinking water is good for the immune system, not to mention using it with soap on your hands (see Hygiene).
2) Exercise/Alternatives: You’re not going to the gym today because you got to the library at 8am to hold that room on 2M for your study group. Instead, use the stairs to get to your floor and to exit the school, and get some fresh air to the brain by taking a walk to grab your meal (don’t order delivery). Simply getting up and stretching is helpful too.
3) Rest. Period. Even though you’re just sitting while studying, your mind is getting a workout, and your adrenaline is pushing you into “fight or flight” mode (I certainly opt for flight). You need real rest to rejuvenate the memory and let everything else slow down to avoid too much stress and more eating. Studies show that people who sleep more eat less. This makes a lot of sense because when you’re awake you need energy to stay up (read: calories), but you won’t burn what you consume when you’re tired the same way you do when you first start the day. Sleep is the better energy solution to optimize both your hours at the library and the calories you consume when you are actually hungry.
From Glare to Glaze: What the HR people say is true: spend a solid 15 minutes away from your computer within every hour you’re on it. Your eyes will appreciate the break and keep up with the amount of information you need to cram.
(Did anyone think “donut” after glaze?)
4) Hygiene. Have the good kind. This goes beyond showering on a daily basis. I mean the regular routine of keeping everything clean: your apartment, your hands, your clothes, your produce, your conscience, etc. Letting hygiene go to the wayside exposes you and your library peers to getting sick and/or distracted (i.e.: What’s that smell? When was this last washed? Is that gum alive, and should I sit there?). Further, letting things get dirty only means using more time to clean and less time to study.
Ultimately, there is no one standard for everyone. However, it is important that you listen and react appropriately to what your body and mind need: if you’re exhausted, take that nap; if you’re still hungry, eat the other half of that sandwich. The point is, we need to take care of ourselves during the most important time of the semester–finals– and the reward may very well be feeling more relief and less lethargy as we make our way out of school and into our summer plans.
Meredith is a 3L and former co-chair of BLSPI. She hopes to use the above-mentioned tips as a way to secure passing her classes and getting the hell out of law school. She is not a medical professional or nutritionist, but is notoriously “mom-like” when it comes to law school physical and mental fitness.
Alexander Gross, ’06, is working late nights and weekends at a startup that could become an alternative legal career. At his second job, he works on business development for Pearescope, an app that lets you know if any of your Facebook friends — or their friends — are nearby. The app is currently available for iPad, iPhone, and the iPod Touch.
The goal of the app is to help people make connections. “When people attend an event, and log into the Pearescope app they essentially share their living Rolodex, which is Facebook, then if there are any mutual friends nearby, the app will in real time facilitate an introduction.” Pearescope has been present at networking events, including a night with Fulbright Scholars at the UN, at a media agency sponsored scotch tasting, a local BNI meeting, and, recently, at a BLS SBA event.
“Event planners are now asking us to come. They see how the technology can help the event. It helps us promote the app and it enhances their event, too,” says Gross.
The idea for Pearescope came to Whit Schrader in 2006, while studying in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He kept meeting friends of friends, but he felt that he was meeting people inefficiently. Technology could improve the process. In 2008, Whit incorporated Schrader Labs while he was working on a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, in Tennessee. Schrader soon dropped out of the degree program, filed provisional patents in 2009, and has patents pending as of 2010.
The company is undergoing furious and constant development that focuses on simplicity and security. Eventually, the company hopes to add numerous other features, but for now, it is focusing on providing simple networking technology that works.
Pearescope will launch the app at a new conference for startups here in New York City called New York Tech Day. “This will be the first trade show to implement a new networking technology in real time,” says Gross.
Gross got involved with the company through networking of his own. A fraternity brother introduced him to Pearescope and Gross loved the idea.
Is Pearescope imitating Facebook’s launch strategy? Not really, but the company does plan to launch on college campuses across the United States this August. The back end of the app is designed to withstand exponential increases of users. Of course, as more people use Pearescope, users will shrink the search radius, because otherwise the app would deliver too many hits. On a college campus, users might search only their immediate area for friends and friends of friends.
As the company’s name suggests, the app is not designed to be on all the time, “although it could be on all the time for the eager networker, such as myself,” says Gross. Instead, it’s designed for people who go to an event to meet other people. Once there, they can turn it on and starting making friends. Once they leave, they can turn it off. It lets the user resemble a submarine (with a periscope) in that the user will only be visible when they choose to be visible.
Gross is of course very excited by the latest valuations of social networking companies. Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and shares (but some of these tech companies are sitting on cash mountains: Facebook has several billion dollars in cash on hand and may earn $1 billion per year). Some pundits say that Pinterest could sell for more.
Gross is focusing on the basics, talking to event planners, trade show operators, bar owners, and anyone else who could see value from the app. He hopes that users find serendipitous value in it too. “You could be on a bus and going home and you might see that your friends or friends of friends are in a bar, so you’d drop off the bus early and go there,” he says.
Pearescope will be at Brooklyn Law School again this weekend as a sponsor of a networking competition at the BLIP Clinic’s Legal Hackathon. See you there.