Saturday, August 28, 2010

Justice Sotomayor's Biggest Sacrifice

Wow, I really should blog more often...you know or else people stop reading. And since I base all of my self worth on Google Analytics, I then feel quite crappy. Er,um, something like that.

Anyway, it's been a busy few weeks. Classes started, work continued, I decided to move, and the organization I work for helped bring Justice Sotomayor to the University of Denver Sturm College of Law last week. Busy but fabulous.


Justice Sotomayor was fantastic. She spoke to an audiance of about 450 people; mostly high school, college, and law students. She couldn't address questions about matters of law (but that's the boring stuff anyway right?), instead she spoke for 50 min. about her background, trials, and successes.

During one of the final questions a student asked the Justice what her biggest sacrifice has been. "Taking this job when I know I'm on the tail end of my mother's life," she responded. I just about cried. The entire talk was a Q&A from the audience and there were definitely other moments that resonated: when she talked about dealing with cultural differences, working during college and law school because even with scholarships the money isn't enough; but balancing family with profession really hit home.

All of my family is in one state, and missing out on events that I'd always been to before has been one of the hardest parts of law school. When I made the decision to take a scholarship and move 1200 miles from my friends and family I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it to every family bbq the I had in the past, but I don't think I realized how important those bbqs were to me. Just this summer I've missed an aunt's 50th, my dad's 51st and I was only able to come in for 48 hours when my mom's sister passed away. It's a price you pay for an education or career...but it's rough when you don't have the finances to travel home regularly. I don't have the statistics but I think the closeness I used to have and the expectation of familial participation is amplified in Latino families.

Justice Sotomayor's mother went into the hospital a few days before her talk at DU. I hope she's feeling better soon.

You can view the entire Q&A session in CSPAN's video library.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rita and KIND


I'm always so impressed by the amazing people in my life.

I was Rita's supervisor in college and now she's out saving the world...read more here.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Attention Progressives: "Crazy" Ideas Wanted

Here's pretty much the only thing I like about republicans: they have the confidence to present their bat shit crazy ideas and actually have them gain traction.

For example, retooling the 14th amendment!?!? Are you insane!? Suggesting that someone who is born in the US isn't actually a citizen shouldn't be something we give any mental energy to. How are we even talking about this?And yet... we are talking about this. In fact, I'm blogging about it.

Even if HB 1868 goes no where...it's still effecting the dialogue. And probably moving that dialogue to the right. So here's my question: Why aren't we (progressives) throwing out our "crazy" ideas? Sure they might not take hold but they might challenge the status quo. Universal child care? Yes please. The end of drilling? Let's do it! Teachers that get paid what CEOs make? I'm in. Mandatory men's, women's, and gender neutral bathrooms? Make it happen. Free university and grad school all around? I'm on board. Let's do it people.

...or at least let's talk about it and take control of the public conversation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Little Bit O'Panic

When a friend recently talked about the panic he had when he finished undergrad, I couldn't relate. During undergrad I'd made a conscious decision to graduate with a balanced life and a healthy resume. My grades were average to good but my experience and self confidence were flawless. I graduated with a relationship I thought would last forever (oops!) and two job offers.

5 years later I find myself approaching my final year of law school with, well, a little bit of panic (note to above mentioned friend: I feel you).

I think the panic come less from economic woes and more from not having a path. When I finished undergrad I had an idea of what I wanted to do and how to get there. I couldn't see the whole path but the trail head was in clear view. Now, I feel a little...lost.

With two years of law school under my belt I wish I felt a little more steady, but here's what I do know:

I'm angry at the career center. Admittedly, this anger comes from a place of jealousy. I' m jealous (and angry...angrous?) that other students have a clear path, literally handed to them by the career center. When I went in looking for non-legal, grassroots, or policy minded jobs they...wait for it...told me to google. Awesome. They did however, send about 150 emails about On Campus Interviews with major firms. Thanks career center. In the interest of "giving everything a chance" I actually went on a couple big firm interviews my first year. During one of them the employment law recruiter said, "You know we squish the little guy right?" Clearly I needed to get out of there.

I don't "just" want to litigate. I usually tell people I "don't want to be a lawyer," but that's not entirely true. I could see myself practicing but only if it were only say 25% of my job...and the rest was the hands on social change work I'm jonesing for. I intern at a GLBT center where the legal director there does mostly policy and education work...sign me up.

I want to be an architect of social change...and I'm proud of that. I found today's Ms. JD post about alternative careers really inspiring. It's an interview with Jessica Silverstein, a woman who always knew she wouldn't practice law. She went to law school with the goal of doing social justice work and stuck to it (no easy feat sometimes). When asked how she dealt with the risk inherent in not following the "traditional" path she responded, "I was not afraid to take risk, in fact going into law school knowing I would eventually not practice law probably made the entire process less stressful for me."

I probably shouldn't freak out. In a way, not freaking out seems irresponsible. Part of me thinks that things don't just "work out" preparation and hard work makes them work out. On the other hand, my life is nothing like the five year plan I drafted when I finished undergrad...and in a way, things have...worked out. I'm currently employed and there's no reason to believe that I can't at least hold this job (and hence, have some income) after I graduate. If nothing else, that buys me time... I should probably put the freaking out on the back burner for a bit.

I'm going to take the freak out energy and start dreaming. Part of what made me successful at jobs that I should never have been able to handle at 21 was that I didn't know better. I didn't know that I shouldn't be able to do them. That I shouldn't have been able to handle the responsibility or that I should have needed more sleep. I just jumped...fearlessly, the way only 21 year olds can. Maybe I don't see the path right now because I haven't dreamed it up. I've let this exclusive profession and it's cockamamie career centers tell me that I have limited possibilities. If I could jump at 21, why not now?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Other-than-legal Immigrants


The Senate just approved $600 in border security funds. This 10 percent increase got me thinking not only about what other valuable programs this money can be spent on; but also, what benefits the United States gets from undocumented workers.

Thanks to the The Root, I found this interesting 2005 NY Times article. According to it, undocumented workers contribute about $7 billion (yes, billion) to social security annually. Further, that money is actually factored into social security budgets. According to Social Security's chief actuary about 75% of "other-than-legal immigrant" (their term) pay payroll taxes. Those taxes amount to billions of dollars of benefits that the workers themselves will never claim.

As The Root points out, it's looking more and more like the government actually needs these so called "illegal" people.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

U.S. News and World Report Rankings

The ABA's Special Committee on the U.S. News and World Report Rankings Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released a very interesting report last month and Best Practices for Legal Education did a perfect summary. According to Best Practices, the report points out three major concerns about the way the rankings are created:

First, “the current methodology tends to increase the cost of legal education for students.” The rankings award schools that spend more money per student. Therefore, a low cost school will be punished despite the quality of education.

Second, “the methodology tends to discourage the award of financial aid based upon need.” Financial aid is now used to attract students with high GPA’s in order to satisfy that component of the rankings. The result is that students with the greatest financial need are required to borrow heavily to attend law school.

Third, “the current methodology tends to reduce incentives to enhance the diversity of the legal profession.” Racial diversity is ranked among law schools in a separate report and not included in the official rankings. Therefore, diversity is forsaken in order to focus on GPA and LSAT scores. And because the cost of law school continues to increase, other forms of diversity, like family financial background, are further ignored.

Today, I staffed a booth at a regional ALA expo. The woman sitting next to me was working on her masters in legal administration after practicing law in South Carolina for years. She decided to leave her well paying gig in SC because the legal environment there was so exclusive.One of the major barriers for her was that firms told her that they didn't really hire associates from the HBCU she'd graduated from; even though she'd done well in law school and had previously worked for those same firms as a paralegal (interestingly, most did offer her her old job back).

The law school she'd attended was no doubt lower ranked (and much more affordable) than others in the area. But many of the professors at her HBCU taught at multiple schools, all with vastly different rankings. So, if the education is literally the same, why are the rankings so important? Why do firms refuse to hire from schools that aren't in the top tear? As the report says, we are clearly favoring some institutions over others simply because they are more expensive (and, hence, less accessible to lower income students).

And, needless to say, I've long thought that U.S. News needed to include diversity in the reports.