Category Archives: 1L

Life of CCK Law Student, in East Coast American Law School

American law school: the single most inefficient, arrogant educational system I’ve ever experienced.

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The title says it.  I finished my 1st semester.  It’s officially the lowest GPA I’ve ever received (and no, I’m not using the Asian standard here), and you all know I’ve been unhappy with the program from the mid semester.  Indeed if my grades were a bit better, I wouldn’t be this upset.  But now that most of my grade rolled out, it’s like throwing a gas bomb into a burning house, burning house being my complaints which started from mid 1st semester.  Here are my point-to-point complaint about the law school system as a bit older student than average.

1. Do they know this is 1st year and all of 1st year students have no idea what the law is?

With very few exceptions, law school doesn’t teach anything in 1st year, which is ridiculous. They just throw you bunch of cases with zero context explained.  Then, in class, most of the professors talk about whatever they think is relevant or important.  Are you being tested on it? Hell no.  The exam is about how to apply the rules (which is rarely talked about in class) to the given situation (again, rarely done in classes).

If this is psychology or political science grad program, ok, I get it.  It’s legitimate to assume that 1st year students know a thing or two about the subject because they learned it from undergrad, and thus professors can throw materials and their ideas as much as they want.  Law? no.  There is no “law” undergrad major in America.  Many of us don’t know anything about the law.  Think it this way.  There is a group of people who have no idea about American football.  A chaperon takes a group to a game, without much pre-game explanation.  The game starts, and all the chaperon talks about is “that John Smith is an awesome quarterback,” “the linebacker is useless here” when people have no fucking idea about the general rules of football, let alone what is quarterback or linebacker.  After viewing one or two games without much explanation, all of sudden, the chaperon pushes the kids to the field and play the game, or makes them to write an analysis about a game strategy as a whole.  Then you are graded on that one thing.

I get, to some degree, why the law is taught in this way.  Lawyer’s job is to find a bunch of relevant cases and rules and draw a summary from it.  Oh, was this explained in my class? NO.

2. Ridiculous schedule

Yeah, okay, professionals are paid that much money to work under pressure in a tight schedule.  I get it.  But, I don’t know whether it’s efficient to work 1st year noobs under such a schedule.  Shouldn’t a school be a training institution, where you can practice and make a lot of mistakes and learn from it?  As I said before, because the nature of lawyer’s job, I think it’s essential to give the students some time to think about the material in various ways.  Then, as you get used to it, it will get faster.

Sadly, the law school doesn’t allow this.  From day 1, it’s assignment assignment assignment.  If you really follow what your professors say and their syllabus accordingly, you just do your reading assignment, go to class exhausted, and read for next class.  That’s it.  There’s no time to think.  And your grade depends on one-shot exam.  As the students got little bit more used to the law school system, the internship period rolls in, so you’ll have to send out your resume like crazy when the semester is still running.  And your first-ever grade in law school will affect that your first-ever internship.  In only 4-months timeframe of your 1st experience.

Look, I’ve had some BS, and I worked under pressure schedules.  Thing is, I was getting paid and actually worked on something, progressing toward a tangible result.  Here, you paid (a lot of $$) to learn and be a competent professional.  Do I think the system can achieve this goal? NO.

3. What’s most important carry the least weight. 

So far, the only practical and make-sense course is legal writing and research.  This is the class that is most closely related to the actual work of lawyer.  Yes, it’s a lot of work but I somewhat enjoyed it, because I really felt like I’m learning something practical.  I wanted to enjoy it more and put more time on it.  Well, you can’t.

So this single-most important class (and mostly taught by people with a lot of professional experience) gives far less credit than other courses.  In my school, all the other theory courses (which roughly falls under #1) are given 4 credits.  Legal writing? It’s a shit ton of work and 2 credits.  WTF. And, here’s the most ironic thing – because of the ridiculous workload and schedule, now I wish it was pass/fail course like some other schools, while not hating the course.  And most of these courses are taught by non-full time professors. WTF again.

4. It’s professional school but thing is sooooo geared to academics.

It’s professional school.  IMO, the professional school is a high-end trade school.  You are there to learn skill, and after learning, you should be able to use that skill to either earn your own $ or contribute something to the office.  When you sit in the class and listen to the lecture, you realize so much of the class is geared to the nerd academic side of the law.  I’m not downplaying the academic/philosophical side of a knowledge.  But, if more than 50% of the class is geared toward that way, in a school that doesn’t aim for purely academic career, there’s something wrong.

I see a young professors who actually practiced and new to the teaching trying to avoid this.  They try to throw in the stories of actual world and show a lot of real docs in use.  I thank them, and it’s a good change.  But still, it’s unsatisfactory.

If I can build a law school of my own, here’s what I would do.  I would make all 1st year students to take legal writing and research courses for a full year.  After they finish the course, then I would move on to the theory courses.  I would make each theory courses as 2 semesters long, so people can actually have time to think and discuss about the material.  I would definitely make more mandatory practical courses (with much more credit), like how to write formal documents, how you should behave when submitting the docs/face officials and what to do when bring the plaintiff/witness in, etc.  I would use commercial outlines and study aids as main textbooks, and then make the students read the case relative to that day’s class.

People did warn me about the ridiculousness of 1st year.  I thought I can just get over it, since I’ve taken some BS too.  It’s harder than I thought, because I paid a lot of money to be a competent professional, not an academic.  Yet I really don’t feel like I can acquire practical skills that can get me working from 1st month on the job.  The system is so flawed – on the top of the expensive tuition and useless classes, you have to buy bunch of study aids, and then you have to pay again for your bar exam (it’s well-known fact that schools are somewhat useless when it comes to bar exam preparation).

My 2nd semester stared, and I’m just not sure what to do.  If the market is good and my citizenship/visa isn’t an issue, I know what I do.  I’d fucking quit,or switch to part time program.

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Should I Quit?

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It has been a bit more than a month since I started my law school.  Maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but as the time passes, I am disappointed on a daily basis. Fast.

I was warned, but the 1st year of law school education is so inefficient and broken.  It’s a lot like South Korean public education system, which has been malfunctioning for a good 10-20 years.  In South Korea, learning doesn’t happen in schools.  The actual learning happens outside of school – tutoring, study aid books, and hagwons.  These are all for to be graded in school.  The entire education is focused on one-shot-per-year college entrance exam.  In sum, you don’t really learn anything from a school.  You learn through out-of-school institutions, and the school is there to grade you for your out-0f-school efforts (and, arguably, financial means to do that).

People say it has to be reformed.  But the more you delve into the problem, you realize it’s such a complex problem.  The whole “prep” industry is based on the broken system, and I bet there are so many strong ties between the Ministry of Education, schools and the prep industry.

1L is so much like this.  You don’t learn jack shit in class.  All the professors talk about is how this case is related to that case, the history of such-such concept, how certain element is related to the case, etc.  There’s too much material to be covered in the short amount of time.  It’s not about what the law is, what the principles of law application, let alone the technical skills of a lawyer.  There are schools that are more focused on practical skills, such as learning how to interview and write court documents from day 1.  But, a lot of these schools are out of ranking system.  They are not highly deemed, and for a foreigner like me, with high possibility of getting a job in oversea (and I don’t mind that), it’s a highly risky choice.  If I had a proper residence-ship, I wouldn’t mind going into one of these schools and be a mom-and-pop lawyer.  Well, I can’t.

Just like South Korea, there is a massive industry leaching on the system.  There are myriad of study aids, advisory service and exam preps, charging students.  I don’t know how many study aids I bought this time.  I have never bought this many study aids during my journey in the American education system.  Everyone does buy.

And the only practical course of the 1st year – legal writing and research – gives you far less credit, if not ungraded.  I honestly think it would be better if all 1L students take the legal writing and research first and then do all that “mandatory” courses.

So, I don’t know.  If I were an American, I would have quit and look something else.  But I’m not an American, and I really don’t want to be tied down in Korea.  I really don’t know – should I just quit and go to interpretation school? Or just suck it up and wait for a brighter day, where I can actually socialize with more like-minded people and take more practical courses?

Let me know what you think, please.

Drama Kings. Ugh.

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As a student who is slightly older than the average, the stress from law school isn’t only from the workload, psychotic professors and oh-so-breached system (which is a lot like Korean public education).  Social dynamic is one of them.  It’s not about me being a CCK or the only Asian person or the only international student in the lot.  So many people here don’t have any work experience, and their life and social interaction are limited to the school they are attending.

The school population is pretty small.  I see almost every one of them every single day.  There’s not much to talk about.  I don’t necessarily want to see them even in the weekends.  When asked, “hey, how was your weekend?” all they did was either work or drinking with yet another classmate.  I never enjoyed hardcore drinking even in college, and I don’t like drinking with people I don’t know well.  So, so far, I spent my weekends with my college alumni club, a friend living nearby with two kids, and another friend who is working nearby, happy with his partner for 10 years.  At week 4, people started to talk about who dressed trashy and who is sleeping with whom.  Not my thing since high school, especially so if you are well over mid 20.

Today, a great exemplary event has occurred.  Ken, a Korean-American classmate of mine, sits next to me.  He’s nice, but he is still pretty immature young – never serious, talks a lot, somewhat careless.  I never went out with him for a meal or drink, but I tried to keep things friendly.

So today, as I sit down, take books out and getting ready for the class, he started talking.

Ken: Yo, I went out with this Chinese kid, and he thinks you are Ajumma.  We were talking about you, and he was like “yeah I think she is Ajumma.  She looks like one.”

For those of you who doesn’t know what Ajumma means, here’s the link.  It’s not the most flattering word.  I can’t say I was in the best mood after hearing this, but honestly I really don’t care what these kids do or say.  I replied, “well, I’m older than most of you guys anyway.”

Then Ken said, “see, that’s why you have to come out and hang out with us more often.”

Oh wait…I think I’ve been in this situation.  Back in the college, a b*tch in Korean students community did pretty much same thing.  The difference is, she meant bad.  Ken just doesn’t know better. Oh lord, forgive this naiveté.  There’s a reason why you should not pass bad words, because it gets you in trouble, not the person who said it.

And, if you want to make someone to hang out with you, you should keep passing positive things, not “hey, so-and-so said you are like a pot dealer.  That’s why you should come out more.”  It should be more of trying to please the person – “hey, come on, it’s gonna be fun.  I know you like video games, we’ll play Wii.”  I wasn’t mad at Ken – but my frustration with these “young kids” was let loose.

Me: Well, why do you pass such words to me? They aren’t necessarily good words.  Why make troubles?

Ken: No, no, it was just that, nothing more than that.

And then he started to think I’m mad at him.  He messaged me how he is sorry.  Well, that’s not the point, is it? So I replied again:

You don’t have to be sorry because it’s not your fault. It’s just that if you expect someone to hang out with you, you guys should think twice and not pass the words, or talk things about people who are not present with you guys.

Then, like 10 hours later, he sent me an e-mail: details about how the conversation went, how they have better things to do than talk about me (then why pass the words to begin with?), how he was just throwing jokes and that’s what friends do, and how he’s going to keep things strictly ‘professional.’

First, I don’t care about what went on at their drinking table.
Two, I don’t think we are friends.
Three, even if you thought it as a joke, if the person hearing it isn’t very pleased, that’s not a joke.
Four, “professional?” since when we are “professionals?” Are we in the same workplace?  To my knowledge, we are full time students.
Five, if you want to apologize, drop all the bullsh*t and stick with your apology.  No background, no explanation, no sh*t.
Lastly, why sending me all these details 10 hours later?

I guess this is what guys feel when a girl they dated once or twice send them some long, mad letter with all these details and BS.  But hey, I gotta thank that he figured we are not BFF and how to leave me alone.  If I were a few years younger, I would send some long reply.  But as I age more, one of the life wisdom I realized is that it’s just not worth it.  Some people just don’t understand no matter how hard you try to explain.  If you see the sign, just walk away and leave it there.  As the Beatles said, let it be.

Drama Kings are no better than Drama Queens.  Boy I just can’t wait until the first year ends.

Rule of Good Biz 101: Don’t be an Ass.

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My law school has started, and the first month has been absolutely crazy.  Thanks to the superb infrastructure and service industry of South Korea, I’ve been taking a lot of things for granted.  For instance, Comcast installation took a good three days.  DHS took forever to update my status.  DMV registration took almost two full days (I never stayed more than 1.5 hrs in DMVs of Seoul).  Insurance took forever.  ‘Nuff said.  And then professors kept throwing assignments.  They don’t really explain things in class.  I feel very fortunate to have some friends living nearby (one of the benefits of CCK!). Though many students are nice, it can be frustrating because I see them every day, and majority of them are kids fresh out of college.  On the other hand, I’m the “unconventional student” with several years of work experience.  I feel more at ease when chatting with other “unconventional students” (no offense, but teaching English for 1-2 year doesn’t really count unless you really meant to be a professional teacher).

One of my professors is quite a character (I’m using politically correct statement here).  Here’s the history of our interaction.

First.

I sent e-mail to all of my professors to explain my every-delaying Comcast installation situation, how I’m new to the area and there isn’t really any place to use internet, so it would be great if they could provide me some hard copies of online reading if there is any.  I said it is likely to be sorted within next 1-2 weeks and added an apology.  Most were friendly.  One provided hard copy.  Another reserved a book in the library.  Another said the readings are from textbook so I shouldn’t worry.

Well, this…”special” professor’s reply was: No, I can’t.  You just have to figure out.

So as you can tell, my first impression of him wasn’t the most positive one.

Two.

He posts on the webboard constantly, from his iPhone, 9 pm, whenever wherever.  Then one night, he sent the whole class an e-mail with a picture of his puppy, and how it’s late Friday and how his spouse is working late so it’s only his dog and him in the home, so we all need to post on the webboard.

Why an earth would you send everyone an e-mail about your spouse, life, and pup?  To STUDENTS?

Three.

He started to bring beam projectors.  I don’t know why, but he doesn’t use screen.  He doesn’t turn off the lights completely.  He doesn’t really use zoom in features.  He projects it right on the board.  The board reflects light.  So unless you are sitting right across from the screen, it’s hard to see. He restricts seating to first four rows.

I knew what’s going on and what’s being projected, but I couldn’t really read.  Then he called me and asked question.  I answered, “the thing is…I can’t see it from here.”  So he said to come up.  I came up and answered his questions.  That evening, he personally sent me an e-mail, saying I should sit up closer.

I couldn’t help thinking “what the fuck…” I’m not a pre-schooler.  I replied:

Dear professor,

Yes, the same thought has occurred.  I guess it was the lighting and small letters, because I can see the board mostly fine.  But I will sit up closer.  Thanks for your concern.

Kind regards,
Ceberus

And next class, I pulled up two rows closer.

No change in lighting.  No zooming.  He called me again.  Same thing happened.  I was thoroughly annoyed.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only person having this trouble.  One girl was called, and she, too, answered: “professor, I can’t really see.  Could you zoom in?”  Now that I think about it, most questions and answers came from the other half side of the class, but not my side.  So I posted on the class webboard:

Dear Professor,

When you are using the beam projector, could you please either turn down the lights further and utilize zoom in, or provide us hard copies of what is projected?  I know I’ve had the most problem regarding this matter, but I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem…

Kind regards,
Ceberus

Guess what his answer was:

Sit closer or speak up, otherwise I wouldn’t know.  Lights are already turned off, and hard copies are useless.

And then his TA told me he was annoyed, and somehow thought it’s rude for me to post it on the webboard.  His TA’s word of wisdom was, that that’s just the way he is, he wants his students to treat him like God (btw, Miss TA, teaching English in Korea for a few years…doesn’t really count as “work experience.”)

If I were a few years younger, my reaction would be fighting it.  But now that I have a bit more life experience, I know I’ll just have to suck it up.  After all, he’s the grader and I’m being graded.  I hate such kind of people.  I don’t readily give my respect.  I’ve seen a lot of not-so-respectable sides of big name people and wealthy family.

I bet he would love to be a professor in Korea.

Few weeks ago, a classmate of mine – another unconventional student, ex- Marine recruiter – had a chat, wondering why this professor left his job at some big Philadelphia firm after 7-8 years of practicing.  I said he’s the hard type to work with.  The classmate was basically thinking the same thing. “You see, even the law firm, in the end it’s business.  He talks and writes e-mail in a very condescending manner.  It’s hard to do business with that kind of person.”

After those three interactions, I think my classmate is right.  And it was a learning moment (even if it involved emotional roller coaster ride).  Even if you are a professional with the best performance and skill, or seller with the best product in the world, it can only take you to a certain point.  In the end, it is human interaction.  As long as you are not doing hopelessly lousy job, a lot of people will end up doing the business with someone who might be less in terms of the performance but has better personality and listens to you.  I certainly would.  If he was attorney and I am his potential client, I think I will go to someone else.

The success of business, or anything, isn’t a hidden skill or higher knowledge: be nice.  Don’t be an asshole.