Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thomas Hagan

Thomas Hagan, the only man who confessed to killing Malcolm X, was released from prison yesterday at age 69. Mr. Hagan had been on work release since 1998 and, as of 2008, he'd been working at a fast food restaurant and spending time with his wife and kids.

Generally, I'm not pro-incarceration but I have mixed feelings about this.

How would America have felt if James Earl Ray had been released from prison?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Spirit of Indenture

Prof. Jeffery Williams recently published an article in Dissent Magazine comparing educational debt to indentured servitude. In it he states:

Although [student debt] has more varied application, less direct effects, and
less severe conditions than colonial indenture did (some have less and some
greater debt, some attain better incomes) and it does not bind one to a
particular job, student debt permeates everyday experience with concern over the
monthly chit and encumbers job and life choices. It also takes a page from
indenture in the extensive brokerage system it has bred, from which more than
four thousand banks take profit. At core, student debt is a labor issue, as
colonial indenture was, subsisting off the desire of those less privileged to
gain better opportunities and enforcing a control on their future labor.

I encourage you to read the rest of the article or the accompanying blog post over at Equal Justice Works, they are both interesting and worth the read.

I don't know if I entirely agree with Prof. Williams. Indentured servitude required a person with few other options to do very specific and undesirable labor. I don't think I'm willing to equate my law school debt to those kind of confines. The analogy might be a little more applicable when you talk about people in the lowest SES bracket and the rising cost of even community college. But in that case we're not talking about the $150,000 of debt some of my law school colleagues have taken on.

Obviously Prof. Williams acknowledges all of this.

Where I agree with Prof. Williams is that the students loan system does serve to reinforce class divisions and that reinforcing unfair class segregation and systems of oppression is bad for society.

When I was considering law school I knew that I was going to work in public interest law. I knew I probably wouldn't ever make "real" money and that I definitely wouldn't make it right out of law school. In fact there was a good chance I would have made money if I'd stayed in my JD-free career as a grant writer and fundraiser. But I wanted a law degree. So I did a balancing test and chose to go to a respectable school that gave me (almost) the most money. I didn't think that going to a second or third tier school would inhibit my job opportunities as much as debilitating debt. When I put my deposit down I was gambling on the fact that I'd be employable with a local community org when I graduated...and that it would be more risky to take on 2-3x the debt to go to a "better" school b/c I would then have to take a job I didn't want b/c it was the only one that could cover my repayment expenses. That would have felt like indenture.

My wealthier classmates, those who have parents that can either help with their tuition or living expenses, didn't have to make those decisions.

I'd also be interested in reading more about the effects of debt on low-income, working class, and lower-middle class students during school. Students who are looking at six figure dept often work or think about working when their higher income peers don't. I wonder if there's a correlation between income level, or level of external financial help, and academic performance (or even level of satisfaction with the law school experience).

All that being said, I do feel like this was a choice I made. I'm not sure I fully appreciated the reality of law school culture or the effects the education debt might have on me when I decided to accept my admissions offer, but I have more of a clue than did colonial era indentured servants. The debt is a burden, and if I wanted to attend graduate school of any kind I had to take it on, but I like to think I had some agency in the process.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Class Registration Season

I just registered for the first semester of my final year of law school. Four semesters under my belt and I still hate registering. Three years is just short enough to feel make me feel like I'm "cramming" stuff in. I worry that I wont take the class I really want, that I wont get to know the professors that I'll really want in my life, that I'll have no idea what the hell is happening on the bar exam, that I'll make the semester really difficult or really easy.

It doesn't help that I can't find descriptions for half the seminars that are being offered.

Last year I dropped all of my classes and registered for new ones 2 days before the semester started. I dropped all the bar-prep stuff I "should" take and signed up for stuff that looked interesting. As a result I was a lot happier my second year than I was my first. And I don't really think I'm planning on practicing anyway.

Currently I'm registered for an employment law survey (I like employment law), a seminar about Asian Americans and the law (sort of in line with the diversity work and seminars tend to go well for me), a class on the Federal Courts (people say amazing things about the prof who teaches it), and Con Law II (this could be scary). Hoping to also add on some directed research. As far as bar prep...that's what BAR BRI is for right?

Odds are I'll change the whole thing 6 more times before August anyway.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Diversity Summit

I'm excited to be presenting at the 9th annual Diversity Summit on Inclusive Excellence at the University of Denver. This year's summit is on "Creating Inclusive Excellence" and my workshop is titled, ""It’s Not Me, It’s You" An Argument for Breaking with Tradition: How Law School’s Endorsement of the Dominant Culture Disenfranchises Students of Color"

I'm excited to present on a topic I'm so excited about. Hopefully folks show up to participate.

For more information on the summit click here.
For registration information click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


"In sum, if you are a male lawyer, invest in a well-fitting suit (and be grateful). If you are a female lawyer, invest in a well-fitting male suit and a male who will wear said suit and speak for you, Cyrano style."

Amazing Artilce from Feministe about what women are told to wear to legal interviews can be found here.

I'll probably update with my thoughts later.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Saving the world, one email at a time

I get over 100 emails a day. And, like most law students in April, I'm surviving on less and less sleep thanks to the impending finals season. A fantastically out of touch faculty member and administrator at my law school felt it necessary to add this to the pile of already overwhelming email:

Good morning,

One of our faculty members has lost a purple ceramic cup.
We would greatly appreciate if you could please return it to me, Pat , or my
assistants in 407, should you track it down.

Thanks much,

Law School Administrator

Awesome, thanks for that very important email, Pat. I shutter to think about the *lovely* email this woman is probably receiving from stressed out students just looking for some innocent soul to unload their wrath on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big Pockets, Little Clinic

I just read this scary article and opinion piece about law school clinics coming under attack.

The University of Maryland's legal clinic has come under fire after suing Perdue, on of the state's largest employers, for environmental violations. Republican legislators are alleging that the legal clinic has a political bent and should not receive public funding.

I don't believe that clinics have a political bent. They represent people who cannot afford to hired attorneys and those people tend to have problems that certain political persuasions don't want to acknowledge. Yes, I guess you could see helping the poor as political...but that's the kind of politics I want my tax dollars supporting every day of the week. Equal access to the legal system is essential for a functioning government. Professor Steinzore from the University of Maryland said it well when she asked, “If Maryland has a clean environment, a fair legal system and an unpolluted bay, doesn’t that help the financial productivity of the state?”

Call me crazy but I think an environment free of corporate pollution is good for everyone, and without legal clinics and nonprofits many pro-environment cases would never be litigated. Unfortunately, capitalism rarely lends itself to industry self-regulation.

I've mentioned before that my clinical experience has been my favorite part of law school so far. Hands on experience in a cooperative environment has been a breath of fresh air in the often toxic law school environment. Law school clinics often provide some of the only accessible legal assistance available to low income people and local environmental causes. Not to mention training for social change attorneys. They may do things that are politically unpopular but the causes are necessary.
If you're interested in chicken pollution here are some interesting links:

And, finally, a well written blog on political pressure and legal clinics from ACS:

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I recently attended the Asian Pacific American Bar Association's annual dinner, which also served as a 20th anniversary celebration. The event was enjoyable; beautiful venue, solid food, and lively entertainment (that encompassed diverse aspects of the Asian American/Pacific Islander culture!). The part that I found most enjoyable, however, was the story of the organization.

APABA was founded at a time when there were almost no Asian American/Pacific Islander attorneys to speak of in Colorado. There were approximately 30 attorneys who identified as Asian American in the entire state, 13 of whom became founding members of APABA. That's insane to think about...1990 wasn't that long ago. Today, APABA has over 100 members and a foundation that has raised over $85,000 for the community. Last week, over 350 people attended the banquet.

So exciting to see how far we've come... to see what 13 people can see a community come together.