VOICE

The newspaper for discourse and dissent.

9/10/11

Selwyn Chu

J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

 

Today is of no moment

though there remains

a power in numbers

in the way they recall

already familiar images

in clearer more vivid color

that familiar burst

of orange

those black plumes

that blue canvas.

 

Tomorrow the air rings

with names, the night

shines, wise men peddle wisdom

to muted hearts and muted minds

shuffling and shuffling

back and forth

between all the things that

matter nothing and everything

that breed no consequence

but time.

 
 

I have heard the narrative that all

is changed, changed utterly

seen circumstance give way to ceremony

a chance to say again what never needed saying

before, save those who do not need saving

as if faith had need of reason

love, need of object.

 
 

Tonight in that hour of night when silence

humbles the smallest thought with meaning

your phantom fingers unfurl across

my palm, linger there like ivy.

I clutch at them clumsily, lightly as if

like tiny castles

they might crumble

in my grasp.

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Lollygabber: Law School to the Liberal Artist

Lauren Davis

J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

 

    I consider myself a “liberal artist”—a play on my liberal arts background and liberal political ideology/artistic interests. When I came to law school at UCI, I was most excited about the interdisciplinary curriculum. I became interested in interdisciplinary studies as a middle school student. Our English, social studies, and science teachers coordinated their lesson plans around particular themes and learning objectives. Even at a young age, I appreciated how the readings and projects from each class spoke to the others. But law school can frustrate and even deter the liberal artist.

    I struggled during my first semester of law school because I became increasingly distracted by the sociopolitical implications and normative questions behind the doctrinal concepts we were learning. Memorizing and applying black letter law seemed unimportant compared to the actual people and issues behind the cases. When I crafted my outlines and prepared for exams, my creativity and individuality reached an all-time low. After turning in my last exam, I walked across the street to a used book store at the University Center and bought a near truck load of old course books and readers. I immediately recalled the excitement associated with learning and the relaxation that came from reading for fun.

    Over my first winter break as a law student, I had a vivid and intense nightmare about final exams. In the dream, I was in the middle of taking my last exam when I suddenly forgot how to write in English. I tapped my pen rapidly on my blue book as I tried to figure out what to do. Finally, I began to write my answers in Spanish. Unfortunately, after a page or two, I forgot how to write in Spanish as well. Absolutely distraught and humiliated, I grabbed a giant crayon from my backpack and scribbled over the rest of the blue book until I woke up in a cold sweat. I felt I had lost my voice in a sea of stare decisis and penumbras of emanations.

    Fortunately, the anxiety and disorientation associated with law school began to fade. Pro bono projects and oral advocacy assignments gave life and meaning to the doctrinal and analytical skills we were learning. Our course on the legal profession began to explore ethical and legal issues and professional opportunities through multiple lenses. Ultimately, I had not seen the forest for the trees—the legal, cultural, social, and economic forces that shape legal doctrine and the profession.

    Most of the upper level courses I have taken in law school have involved interdisciplinarity—particularly Memory and the Law, Negotiations and Mediation, Consumer Bankruptcy, and Legal History. This semester, I had the pleasure of taking a seminar called Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Law with Professor Tomlins. From works by Michel Foucault to Ann Southworth, the course readings provide an array of intellectual frameworks to explore some of the most fundamental themes of our legal system—stare decisis, property, democracy, normality, and even immortality. It bridges the gap between the philosophical and academic underpinnings of a liberal arts undergraduate education and legal indoctrination.

    While Tomlins’s course exemplifies the interdisciplinary study of law—in name and in substance—threads of multiple disciplines are woven throughout the UCI Law curriculum. I recommend taking as many interdisciplinary courses as possible during our short time here.

 


 

DC in DC: “At the Firm This Summer”

Denny Chan

J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

 

If I had a penny every time one of my UCDC classmates began their sentence with, “At the firm this summer…” I might have a dollar. Maybe it is because many of my close friends at UCI did not work at BigLaw over their 2L summers, but it certainly feels like many, if not most, of my UCDC classmates did, and they will return after graduation. As someone who did not participate in on-campus interviewing and who has a marginal, if any, interest in working for a large law firm, the conversations about BigLaw amongst my classmates have been extremely eye-opening.

    The first order of business, of course, is to acquaint oneself with the myriad of BigLaw names. Similar to acronyms and alphabet soup, the names of large law firms can easily blend together and get mixed up to the untrained ear. Still, there is hope for those who still get confused; although I hardly claim to be an expert now, I’ have found that you can eventually pick up many of the BigLaw names through osmosis if you are around long enough.

    Once you have got a basic grasp of the key players, you can focus on the substance of what people are saying. I was privy to conversations that would have seemed unfathomable – and perhaps slightly ridiculous – prior to law school. I distinctly remember one conversation where a group of UCDC students were fully engaged in the minute details of their office: whether they each had their own administrative assistants, how large their own offices were (whether there were windows became a sign of status), the extravagant wine and dine experiences all on the firm’s tab, etc. Having worked at a medium-sized private public firm my 2L summer, where the four summer associates all shared one windowless office the size of a large closet and where we were our own administrative assistants, I found myself with little to say during these conversations.

    Don’t get me wrong: there is legitimacy in BigLaw. It would be far too easy to simply vilify it. Many public interest folks have repeatedly emphasized the importance of working as an associate at a large law firm; the litigation training can be invaluable. There is also the amazing pro-bono work that many firms do, partnering with legal services and advocacy organizations on critical and groundbreaking cases (although one can question to what extent firms are in it for marketing and to make themselves feel better, and whether such organizations would have to rely on BigLaw if adequate funding and resources existed). And some firms even organize fellowships for young, public interest lawyers working on innovative projects. BigLaw has the power to effectuate social change.

    I wish, however, that we as a group of young, fresh-faced pre-professionals engaged more critically in our socialization into this profession. It is fine – albeit maybe slightly pretentious – to talk about the luxuries of wining and dining on the firm’s tab and compare office sizes, but can we at least concurrently ask and discuss where the money is coming from to pay for these perks and to fund critical pro-bono projects? Is it coming from clients who are large corporations that regularly underpay their blue collar workers and who engage in unfortunate employment discrimination? Some public interest-minded people believe that working for BigLaw necessitates selling one’s soul. I am not sure I fully agree. With great power (and money, there’s plenty of it in BigLaw) comes great responsibility, and change can come from within and outside of systems. As students at the law school of the 21st century, if we train ourselves to be critical and ask hard questions, we can start some meaningful and worthwhile conversations, souls intact.

Standing for Equality

Mallory Sepler-King
J.D. Candidate 2013, UCI Law
For OutLaw

    The California Supreme Court recently granted standing for the Prop 8 Campaign to appeal last year’s holding that the proposition, which implemented a state constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. On an emotional level, the granting of standing was frustrating at first—a further delay for California couples waiting to wed. But, the Court was clear that their basis for standing was the necessity of allowing someone to represent the state’s interest in defending any initiative when the state itself declines to do so—and left no doubt that their decision did not express a view on the validity of the proposition itself. The result of this decision is that the appeal will go to the Ninth Circuit—and, with all reasonable assumptions standing correct, will continue on to the Supreme Court. While we cannot know for certain what the Supreme Court will do, there is good reason to be optimistic—society is moving toward equality, locally and worldwide. It seems unlikely that the justices will fail to recognize the backward legacy they would create for themselves by acting as a roadblock to a movement that ultimately promises to be successful. At worst, marriage equality is integrated further into the national lexicon, and passion is ignited in supporters who are not yet involved. At best, a major victory, and one that’s been a long time coming.

    The ball’s in your Court, Kennedy. Don’t drop it.

 

 

 

The 1L Transformation

Professor Susannah Pollvogt, UCI Law

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    Stress is “[a] constraining force or influence . . . a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part . . . the deformation caused in a body by such a force . . . [or] a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.”

    It’s something I observe every year: how 1Ls, over the course of their first semester of law school, transform from healthy, fresh-faced, enthusiastic novices into hardened law students with pale skin, brittle hair, and lingering coughs. After first semester they start to bounce back.  But the first semester of law school involves unique forms of stress that take their toll on us physically and otherwise. I remember reaching the end of my own first semester of law school and wondering why I didn’t have any energy, given my winning diet of bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner—accompanied, of course, by copious amounts of coffee. As time went on I learned how to better balance the demands of school with the health of my body and mind. But it takes some figuring out.

    Some of the stresses of law school are unavoidable. It is true, as Elizabeth Mertz (author of The Language of Law School) and others have noted, that becoming a law student involves an act of personal transformation that is profound and, at times, violent. We are asked to abandon our common-sense notions of fairness and instead think about justice in ways that are sometimes counterintuitive. We are required to leave behind our natural approach to solving problems and instead embrace and adhere to a rigid set of rules with which we may or may not agree. We go from being objects acted upon by the law to subjects empowered to leverage and sometimes even author the law. We come to see that the world does not necessarily work in the way we once thought it did.

    Thus, becoming a law student and a lawyer necessarily involves acquiring vast amounts of new knowledge and—to greater and lesser degrees—putting on a new identity. One cannot undertake such important changes without enduring a certain degree of stress. Stress is a result of force, and some amount of force is necessary to work these changes upon our person.

    But other stresses associated with legal education are avoidable, or can at least be mitigated.  Larry Krieger describes these in The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress. This title often makes students laugh, because of course it is no secret that law school is stressful, and the sources of stress hardly seem “hidden.”  But Krieger emphasizes that the most damaging sources of stress are often not those that are the most obvious or visible. Rather, Krieger notes that while heavy workload is a real and understandable stressor, it is also something that most of us have dealt with before and are capable of responding to.  More insipid stressors include things like false values (Krieger’s term).  

    For example, a student who perhaps came to law school with the goal of becoming a public interest lawyer gets swept up in the frenzy surrounding OCI and jobs in Big Law. Another student who is more passionate about the world of business than about constitutional law worries that he is “selling out” in the eyes of his public-interest-minded friends. Yet another student, the first in her family to graduate from college much less obtain a professional degree, struggles with how to fit in with professors and employers who are firmly ensconced in the upper-class.

    When students become preoccupied with externally imposed priorities not their own, they lose sight of themselves and their original goals. This alienation from self, in turn, causes persistent stress, which undermines optimal performance.

    At the end of the day, Krieger finds that students succeed—on both an objective and subjective level—when they focus on the process of learning itself, rather than on narrowly defined/externally validated outcomes (GPA, class rank, prestigious job offers). There is not only one path to personal and professional fulfillment; there are many. But this is easy to forget in the high-pressure fish bowl that is law school (and especially a small law school).

    One of the goals of Academic Skills Program at UCI Law is to help students find the path to optimal performance on their terms.  We do this in part by trying to de-mystify the learning process of law school, making certain that all students have access to the core skills required to perform confidently in their classes, extracurricular activities, and work environments. We encourage students to focus on process–the best way to study for exams—instead of outcomes—getting an “A” in a particular class. We also seek to support students in identifying their individual academic and professional goals, and coming up with creative ways in which they can achieve them.

    Law school changes us—and it should. It is through law school that we are admitted to an immensely powerful profession. It is a profession defined by strict standards of competence and ethics. These standards exist to ensure that we are vigilant in serving our clients. Conforming to these standards is the price we pay for the privilege of entering the profession.

    But just because law school changes us does not mean that it occupies the entirety of who we are, evicting any identity that existed before. Rather, each of us faces an individual challenge in determining how to become a law student and lawyer while remaining, on a fundamental level, ourselves.

Fall Semester in Review

Asian Pacific American Law Student Association

UCI Law

 

    In its second year, APALSA has more than tripled in size. Taking advantage of our increased membership, we have reached out to and maintained relationships with APALSA chapters at other schools, making connections with law students at UCLA, Pepperdine, USC, Southwestern, Chapman, and Whittier. We have also continued our connections with the Orange County Asian American Bar Association, sending members to local networking events, mixers, and career events.

    In addition, APALSA has focused on community service this semester, organizing volunteers to staff multilingual general legal clinics hosted by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center as well as weekend immigration and naturalization clinics targeting low-income and limited English proficient Asian Pacific American communities in Southern California. These legal clinics have been a rewarding way for APALSA members to connect with and assist our surrounding communities as well as allow us to put some of the lawyering skills from 1L year into practice.

    In October, APALSA was delighted and honored to receive funding to organize UCI Law’s 2012 student-run conference, and we have started the invitation and organizing process for a symposium to be held on March 15 and March 16, 2012. The UC Irvine Law Review has agreed to collaborate with APALSA to publish the papers presented at the symposium, and we are thrilled and excited to work with the entire student body to host this symposium next semester.

    To conclude the fall semester, APALSA collaborated with the Career Development Office to host a school-wide summer job fair designed to give 1Ls an opportunity to chat informally with 2Ls and 3Ls about their summer experiences. 1L Kevin Chi found the fair helpful, saying: “There are plenty of events involving speaker and faculty panels, but this was the only event where we could hear from fellow students that recently went through the summer job process.” Another 1L, Erica Choi, echoed these sentiments: “It was great to have a list of where 2L/3Ls had spent their summers, because we could ‘target’ those who had jobs that sounded interesting to us. I liked the informal aspect of the event. We got to chat and gather information over a slice of pizza.”

    Spring 2012 will be an exciting semester for APALSA – we will be calling on the entire UCI Law community to support us in the symposium-planning process and look forward to this effort. We also hope to maintain our community-building efforts outside of the conference by continuing to organize opportunities for APALSA members and UCI students generally to connect with the larger Orange County community through networking and community service events as well as learn and explore the many issues facing Asian Pacific Americans. It will be the final semester of law school for our inaugural class members, and we are energized and eager to make it a good one.

Grades Don’t Matter

Elizabeth Levy
J.D. Candidate 2012, UCI Law

I got a C+ in high school chemistry. I will admit that at the time, it felt like my life had shattered into a thousand (carbon-based) smithereens. Crying, I broke the news to my mother, who simply said, “I think you’re brave for taking chemistry at all. You’ll still get into college. And the good news is that it’s over, and you won’t have to study it anymore.”

My mother was wrong about that last part. Driven by an insatiable curiosity and a gluttony for punishment, I would go on to take courses in things like organic chemistry, biochemistry, immunochemistry, neurochemistry, and pharmaceutical chemistry. I emerged alive each time, with a deepened appreciation for the physical elegance of our cosmos, swearing that I’d never open a chemistry book again.

In retrospect, the lasting lesson of my high school chemistry class has been this: grades don’t matter. At least, they do not matter nearly as much as I thought they did at the time. If I could talk to my high school self on the day I received that report card, I would happily share the good news—and then implore myself to get some sleep.

Our existence is like a divine bar exam, a ceaseless fact pattern framed by the prompt, “What, if anything in life, actually matters? Discuss.” Our efforts to do well in school are part of our attempt to answer this question. We strive for grades because we believe they matter: we wish to be excellent, we want others to think we are excellent, and we are told that grades are highly relevant to securing the futures we badly want for ourselves. We may be stardust contemplating stardust, but a spotless transcript is still essential for landing the interviews that will get us the jobs that will nourish our souls and fund our iPhone data plans, right?

Well…maybe. This question assumes a simplified reality, a frictionless vacuum in which our futures are predictable like chemical equations, and good grades are the limiting reagents. In reality, the grades we get are like rocket blasts: their purpose is to launch us, and good ones will set us on courses for bright stars. But once we are in orbit, our experiences, priorities, and character will keep us going. We may learn that the stars that sparkled from afar lose their luster up close, or we may find ourselves having to change paths for reasons we could have never imagined. We may even go on to discover other galaxies, with stars more luminous than the ones we left behind.

If you remember nothing else during finals week, remember this: the questions of whether or not grades have meaning to our futures as legal professionals, and whether they are meaningful in the grand scheme of everything, are at their core the same question. And when you get your grades, regardless of whether you feel thrilled or sucker-punched, take a deep breath. Resolve to stay focused. Hold your work close to you and your loved ones closer. Remember to rekindle your romance with the universe every day.

And get some sleep.